Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Midnight on the North Side

This is not a good day for true Cubs fans everywhere, for the dreaded moment is upon us: The Chicago White Sox have won the World Series - and, far worse, they snapped their WS drought before the Cubs did. This is bad news for Cubs devotees such as myself, not so much that the Sox won their first world championship in 88 years. Truth be told, the White Sox earned this title on the field by narrowly avoiding one of the biggest regular-season collapses in major-league history, seeing their division lead dissolved from 15 games to just one-and-a-half in late September before going on one devil of a late season tear that ended with the team winning 11 out of their 12 playoff games. It was extraordinary to watch. No, what I truly dread are the White Sox fans, whom I fear won't be able to enjoy their team's first title in 88 years. Because, even now, the other Chicago team is in their heads, and many of them will take this opportunity to drag the Cubs and their loyal fans through the mud.

But if the Sox triumph compels (forces?) Cubs management to actually assert themselves and try even harder to bring a winner to the North Side, so be it. And as more than one of my friends has pointed out, there's a trend working here. Last year the Red Sox broke their streak of futility in dramatic fashion. This year, it was the White Sox. Only the Cubs and their 98-year absence from the top of the baseball mountain remain. And, hey, it's got to happen sometime.


Before we put this season in mothballs, a couple of other words about the World Series just past:

* I understand the resistance, in the wake of one of the more poorly officiated playoffs in baseball history, to instant replay, with fears that having that method of judging questionable calls could slow up games even more. But at least, can MLB go back to the old ways of determining umpiring crews for the playoffs and WS, when umps had to earn those jobs through merit rather than a mere rotational system? Because it got pretty embarrassing how many calls these guys were missing, and not just in the Sox' favor.

* If I were the owner of the Houston Astros, I would fire Phil Garner tomorrow. The Astros' manager was totally out of line in the way that he threw his team under the bus last night after Houston lost Game 3 in 14 innings. By slamming his squad publicly to the press instead of doing it to his players' faces behind closed doors - or, even better, holding his tongue altogether - he may have snuffed out the last wisp of hope the Astros had for a miracle. Sure, the team didn't perform in the Series the way they could or should have, but considering where it had come from - being 15 games below .500 and all but dead in mid-May to the National League championship - they didn't deserve to be called out like that to the world. Big-league managers can't lose their cool at such an important time. Besides, Garner should look in the mirror if he wants to assign blame as to why the Astros got swept by the Pale Hose. It wasn't entirely his fault, and the White Sox themselves were an overwhelming force - but, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops here.

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