It’s getting close to put up or shut up time in three of the Division Series. Only one part of the current round has reached its conclusion, and that denouement brings into sharp focus the true fundamentals, the A-B-Cs, of the current postseason:
Anybody But the Cubs.
This has been building for a while now. Given their longstanding futility, the Cubs have rarely been the target of most anyone’s animosity; it would have been pointless to hold a grudge against them. I, like almost all other baseball observers, like and admire Joe Maddon. Nor do I have any particular beef with the Cubs’ players (though Jon Lester will get no Christmas cards postmarked from the East Bay anytime soon after last season’s subpar Wild Card performance). But the current landscape has conspired to make the Cubs, if not the new Evil Empire, then at least something of a rogue state through guilt by association.
The problem is that the Cubs, thanks largely to the presence of Theo Epstein (and Lester, to a lesser extent) have been adopted by ESPN as the Red Sox West, and now every Chicago victory now elicits a gush of ecstasy from The Worldwide Leader…in Spurts, the likes of which has not been seen since…oh, February, when their other man-crushes (Team Floating Demon Head) won the Super Bowl.
Longtime readers will know that I’m not exactly a fan of ESPN; you don’t label an outfit the “Connecticut Clown College” as a term of endearment. I’ve long had my bias against Bristol’s biggest employer, largely because of a belief that the network shapes the games as much as it covers them, to the detriment of fair competition.
I’m not sure if the rise of the Cubs is another example of ESPN’s power to affect outcomes, or if their breathless delight over each Chicago advance is merely a byproduct of the team’s rapid development. Certainly, listening to the Dodgers-Mets game on ESPN radio on the way home from work yesterday and hearing the network’s commentators report on Chicago closing out the Cardinals was like hearing a teenage girl’s squealing delight over being asked to the homecoming dance by the captain of the football team.
One might counter-argue that ESPN has not adopted the Cubs as their new Red Sox; after all, they didn’t adopt the Indians these past couple of years despite the presence of former Boston manager Terry Francona, who guided the Worldwide Leader’s house team to two Series championships not so long ago. But remember, Francona was shown the door in Boston after the team’s unsightly collapse in 2011; despite his prior success, he was largely discredited around Red Sox Nation.
Not so with Theo Epstein; the denizens in Bristol are still busy getting lost in their boyfriend’s eyes, even after he shifted west to the shores of Lake Michigan.
It’s all just a little too much to take. So someone, please, take out the Cubs in the next round, before the hysteria really reaches a peak if they make it to the World Series. Any of the AL teams would be preferable, and at this rate, even either of the normally contemptible Dodgers or Mets would be a better choice. Anybody But the Cubs.