Sunday, July 29, 2007

Being the hunter

Saturday was another great day to be a Cubs fan. As I am sure most of you know, the Cubs picked up a game-and-a-half on the front running Brewers. Thanks to their win in Cincy and a St. Louis doubleheader sweep of the Milwaukee. This morning the Cubs wake to find themselves the closest they have been to the top spot in the division since April 10th (when they were one game back). Here are the NL Central Standings this morning:

Central W L PCT GB
Milwaukee 57 48 .543 -
CUBS 54 48 .529 1.5
St. Louis 48 53 .475 7.0
Houston 46 58 .442 10.5
Cincinnati 45 60 .429 12.0
Pittsburgh 42 60 .412 13.5

In case you were wondering the Cubs season low water point as far as games back was 8.5. The Cubs trailed the Brewers by that amount on June 21, 22, and 23. That was following their three game set in Texas and the first two game of the Sox series on the Southside. When you look at the standings and understand that the Cubs have made up 7 games in just over a month you really have to understand what an accomplishment this is. Things like this don't happen everyday in baseball, yet alone on the Northside of Chicago. If you look at this from the perspective of Milwaukee. Well it's just not pretty...

As a Cub fan it is very interesting to see the perspective that is coming from Brew City. The Brewers who at one point earlier in the year had pocketed the NL Central are now looking in their rear view mirror. In that mirror they see the big blue express barrelling down on them. The funny thing is the Brewers are already beginning to sound like a club that knows what's coming. John Donovan's article in SI this week paints a grim picture north of the cheddar curtain.

Everyone in Milwaukee with a pulse and a layman's knowledge of baseball is aware of the Cubs these days. It's hard not to be. Chicago's lovable but usually laughable Cubs are 31-15 since early June, when they were a decidedly laughable 22-31. Since late June, when they were still seven games below .500, they are 21-7. They are 9-3 since the All-Star break.

The Brewers' one-time cushy lead in the National League Central, 8 1/2 games barely a month ago, on June 23, has dwindled to a mere two games, which is as close as anyone's been to them since April 22.

Are the Brewers, who haven't managed to make it into a postseason since 1982 -- that's before their first baseman, their second baseman, their third baseman and their shortstop were born -- a little concerned?

Well, yeah. Wouldn't you be?

"We've been watching. We're in a pennant race," admits Bill Hall, the team's 27-year-old extraordinary jack of all fields, a shortstop last year and a center fielder this one. And then, in nearly the next breath, Hall says, "But we also know we have to go out and do our job whether they win or lose. We can't start watching what other teams are doing yet. It might cause a little bit of panic."

Nobody in Milwaukee will admit to full-fledged, flop-sweat panic just yet. The Brewers are still pulling in good and vocal crowds (more than 34,000 fans a game this season, up nearly 6,000 per game from last year). They're still the talk of the town. It's not quite Packers season. Not yet.

But the puffed-up confidence that the fans and the team showed earlier in the year clearly has been deflated. Questions about the team's makeup, which first surfaced during a late May slide in which the Brewers lost 13 of 17 games, are growing more urgent. When the Brewers went 2-6 in July, just before the All-Star break, people wondered more. A 7-6 run since the break hasn't calmed the fears.

LMAO. Never in my life did I suspect the Cubs would find themselves in this position. The folks in Milwaukee are afraid of our nine. What? The young vaunted Milwaukee team is fearing the Cubs as if they were the 64 Cardinals, 69 Mets, or the 78 Yankees. What a turn of events we have seen in the last month.

One of the things that I really find amusing is the notion from Milwaukee fans that the Cubs are some sort of baseball super power. Now we have to remember that the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin usually spend their sports entertainment hours debating all things Packers--from nickelback coverage to anything Brett Favre. Baseball is really just a filler 'til football season. So Brewer fans look south and they see the large market Cubs and all of their playoff appearances--all 4 of them-- and they think the Cubs are some sort of baseball juggernaut. Well, okay I guess. To be fair it has been so grim in Milwaukee baseball-wise for years, that this has to be expected. Brewers fans expect the worst out of their teams because that is what they have gotten since the early 90's.

Somebody should wake the Brewer fans and mention to them that this is the Cubs, not the Yankees. Ehhhh, on second thought they all seem to be spooked in Milwaukee, here's hoping it stays that way.

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