Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stop and smell the roses

WARNING: I don't think I'm ready to go as far as this guy. But prepare yourselves. Here comes an upbeat post from the darkside.

With the unofficial start of the second half yesterday the Cubs took another positive step in their pursuit of first place in the NL Central. The Northsiders win yesterday combined with the Milwaukee loss moved the Cubs to within 3-1/2 games of the Brewers. As a fan, I have to add that this is pretty unfamiliar territory. Usually I have started counting down the days 'til Borbonnais after the All Star Break. From a historical perspective this marks the first time the Cubs have been this close to the top spot in the division this late in the season since the NL Central Championship season of 2003.

Thinking back on the last few seasons or even the first few months of this season, it is hard to believe that this team could find their way into this position at this point in the 2007 season. Lou Piniella, Jim Hendry's extreme roster makeover, the Cardinals demise, and the worst division in baseball have given the Cubs something most of us would have taken at the beginning of the year: meaningful games the second half of the season. Here is where the Cubs record stood and how many games back they were going into play on July 14th the past four seasons:

2006 -- 34-54, 5th Place, 14.5 games back
2005 -- 43-44, 3rd Place, 12.5 games back
2004 -- 47-40, 2nd Place, 7.0 games back
2003 -- 47-47, 3rd Place, 3.0 games back

In 2007 the Cubs record stands at 45-43 the find themselves in second place. Here is a look at this mornings NL Central standings:

Central W L PCT GB
Milwaukee 49 40 .551 -
Chicago 45 43 .511 3.5
St. Louis 40 46 .465 7.5
Pittsburgh 40 49 .449 9.0
Houston 39 51 .433 10.5
Cincinnati 37 53 .411 12.5

With all due respect to the World Champion Cardinals, this is a two team race until further notice. All we really need to know about the Cardinals is they allow Kip Wells to grab the ball every fifth day. LMAO. The guy is horrible. Watching the Astros yesterday, you see where they are going. The Pirates and Reds are well the Pirates and Reds of recent vintage. So by my back of the napkin math it all comes down to the Cubs and Brewers for the NL Central crown and a trip to the NL Playoffs.

Over the next several weeks it will be easy to find the warts on this Cubs roster. Like every other team in the NL they have 'em. We talk about most of the warts everyday on this crappy/unpopular blog. It's also easy for the Mr. Brightside's of the world to get carried away with the Cubs success and start calling them a team of destiny, fate, next year is this year, blah, blah, blah... In my opinion we have become a culture of extremes and lines in the sand. Personally, I don't operate in black and white or with straight lines. Life for me is many shades of grey and with the Cubs that is no exception. I think the hardest thing to do is to stop and actually watch what plays out. Sit back and enjoy the race for the NL Central crown the second half of the season. It sure looks to this observer like this team is gonna stay close. Can they catch Milwaukee? It sure looks like they can. But maybe they won't. My point is, well I have none. But isn't it fun to actually be watching a Cubs ballclub that has a chance on July 14th?

Enjoy the second half ride my friends, as noted above, division races don't come along too often in these parts.

And I'll end with this question. Sorry, I had to.

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