Ever wonder what it's like for fans of other teams to have everything compared to the Yanks / Sox rivalry? A taste of our own medicine from the NL Central and the perspective of a relatively new Cubs-fan resident of Boston.--B
Beth has offered the keys of her blog to me a couple of times and for various and sundry reasons I haven’t been able to take the ole’ Taurus out for a spin. But with a five game series with the Yankees looming I figured there couldn’t be a better time.
Hi. My name is Brian and I’m a Cubs fan.
Thank you for your applause – lately, that’s not the easiest thing to admit.
I’ve been living in Red Sox nation for the past six months and while, most of the time, I find it difficult to talk sports with New Englanders, I can appreciate their tenacity, knowledge and dedication to their club – even in light of a three game sweep by a team which shall not be named.
But I’m told that Sox fans look forward (instead of backwards to 1908) so I’ll focus on the task at hand: Dismembering the Yankees over a five game set.
I don’t think the Red Sox could have asked the rain and scheduling gods to plan things any better. As I write this, the Sox are one game behind the Empire heading into a three game set with the Tigers before Jeter and his predilection for lemon-fresh scents come to town.
Admittedly, the next week doesn’t give the crimson hose a chance to relax and recharge but that might be exactly what they need. The Tigers are coming of a sweep of the Southsider’s and both teams resolves will be tested down the stretch.
It takes me back to the halcyon days of 2003 when a healthy Kerry Wood and mostly healthy Mark Prior were in the thick of a three way race for the central division crown. Trailing the Astros and Cardinals by a couple of games in the middle of September, the hated Redbirds came to the Ivy Covered Mecca Of All Things Baseball.
The Cubbies had been playing some good ball. Sosa was hitting home runs; Moises Alou seemed to have gotten the 6 Million Dollar Man treatment in the 2002 off-season and hadn’t broken down. Wood was solid; Prior spectacular; Zambranno was on the verge of breaking out. Jim Hendry had recently put on a ski mask, broke into Dave Littlefield’s house and robbed him to the tune of Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton and Randall Simon.
Steve Stone – the best color man in baseball – was still in the booth.
It should also be noted that Matt Clement was having a pedestrian, yet solid season. As I recall he received the fewest run support in the League that year and still managed to win between 12 and 14.
I saw people in Iowa (where I was living at the time) walking around in Cubs jersey’s. You could just feel it in the air.
But the Cardinals were coming to town for a five game set.
What happened over those five glorious days made me believe that the Cubs were going to win the World Series. (Prior’s complete game shutout against the Braves in the NLDS – for which I was in Wrigleyville for-- and Kerry Wood’s home run didn’t hurt that belief either.)
Every day was tense. The Ivy was lush and green. The base paths were pristine. Beer flowed, tobacco was spit. People were passed out under the El tracks after quaffing too many Old Styles. And the Cubs won the first game. And then the second. And then the third.
The fourth game still upsets me. In the bottom of the 8th Moises Alou roped a sure double into the left field corner with two men on and would’ve given the Cubs the victory. But some blind umpire, it was probably Angel Hernandez, called the ball foul even though chalk dust was clearly visible. The Northsiders lost game four but came back to win game five.
I had to wonder if the City of Chicago had dumped LSD into the water supply or if the Cubs had actually taken 4 of 5 from St. Louis and buried them in the N.L. Central race.
(In retrospect, it might have been a little bit of both.)
The Cardinals were never the same after that series. Even though they were only 3 and a half back, they never got it together and may have quit on Tony LaRussa for the rest of that season.
The Cubs went on to out play the Astros and clinch the division against the Pirates on the second to last day of the season in support of a solid effort by Matt Clement.
The Red Sox have that same opportunity in front of them right now. A series win against the Tigers would give them confidence they need heading into a show down with their arch rivals.
Taking 4 of 5 from the Yankees will most likely assure the Red Sox of sole possession of first place in the A.L. East and leave the Yankees battling for a wild card spot which will probably come from a different division.
And while I’m not saying the Yankees would quit down the stretch – I’ll give Torre the credit he is due – a blow like that might be enough to revitalize the Red Sox going into September. If they keep winning and let the grind of the Wild Card race wear down the Yankees, combined with the shot in the arm they’ll get with the return of the Captain, a playoff birth is a safe bet.
Embrace it, Sox fans. Go out to Fenway; frequent the Cask. Be grateful for the opportunity you have. It may be another 100 years before you get the chance to do it again.