We have been blogging about the Cubs at GROTA for quite a while now. Through that spectrum, a number of events can be viewed as what they are - cyclic, not surprising, just a part of the game. A good example of this attitude can be seen, right now, in the play of other teams in the league, who remind me an awful lot of some of the better Cub teams that we've looked upon in the past.
What I remember most about our coverage of the winning seasons the Cubs have experienced since we started blogging 8+ years ago is that our cynicism outweigh our clinical analysis. Call it clynicism, if you will. When you follow a team as closely as we Cub fans do, the flaws eventually start to stand out above the merits. We no longer see the team that won 90+ games, including some real nail-biters. We see, instead, the closer who blew 12 of his 50 save opportunities. We see that only the #1 pitcher on the team has an ERA below 4. Or that the leadoff hitter has an OBP on par with Jeter's batting average. Or that the third baseman has an iron glove. Clearly, under such analysis, it should surprise nobody to see the Cubs get hammered by the "good teams" that actually made the playoffs.
Except that such a viewpoint is hardly an accurate analysis, even if it is common and even if it does happen cyclically, not just with us but with all teams.
Every team has flaws, but every good team is better than for which its most cynical fans give credit. Take a look at the Orioles right now. They are shocking baseball fans, because perpetual Oriole sucktitude is as perennial as the grass. It's especially surprising if you look closely. The Orioles, a 91-win-team right now, have one pitcher with 10-or-more wins. Conventional wisdom decries that if the Orioles don't have even a single pitcher with 15+ wins, then they must be a terrible team. Likewise, the Orioles have a sturdy offense which lacks stars. Nobody on their team will achieve 100 RBI this season; in fact no Oriole has more than 82 RBI as of this writing. Only 3 regulars on the team even have an OPS above .800.
And yet, when they reach the playoffs, as unlikely as it is, they could win.
And don't assume that the Yankees, a team that Baltimore is currently outplaying, will do much better. Yes, they have their nine-figure team, and that seems to be enough to win them 90+ games every year. But New York's pitching gets pretty shaky after Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia. And while they are more offensively charmed than the Orioles, New York also lacks a 100 RBI player as of this writing (although Curtis Granderson, who has hit 40 bombs, is 2 away despite his Rob Deeresque batting average of .226).
Conventionally, I've had Cub fans explain to me, almost with glee, how a playoff team inherently sucks if they lack a single player who's driven in 100 RBI. But by now we know - RBI are not the end-all, be-all. It's more important to have a well-rounded team than to have a single pitch-around star who is known for knocking them in.
What I wonder, though, especially in regard to us cynical Cub fans, is what we'd be saying if we had the Orioles roster. Or the Rays. (Or, lordy, the Athletics, who are offensively anemic and whose pitching staff lacks a single front line ace.) I'm not suggesting, for example, that we'd be unhappy to be playing for the post season - I'm specifically wondering what we'd think our chances are with any of the rosters that'll make the playoffs this year. Would any of them make a cynical Cub fan feel confident in his team's chances?
Maybe the Tigers - they are just about the only team with a really dangerous-looking offense, or with more than one reliable-looking starting pitcher.
Nevertheless, perhaps we'd be better off if we just accepted that getting to the playoffs - whether through sprint or by limp - is no indicator to post season success. Maybe we'd be less worried if we just realized that no team is perfect; a team's flaws are evident to anybody who follows them more than just casually. The playoffs are often surprising for this very fact - it's not the best team that wins, but instead the hottest, or the luckiest.
One of these years, that'll be the Cubs.