10/05/07 8:02 PM ET
Weight on Cubs' shoulders in Game 3
D-backs one win from adding chapter to Chicago's history
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
The Cubs are down two games in a best-of-five series. Bad as this is by itself, it seems worse when it enters the age-old litany.
Whenever the Cubs lose big games, like the first two in the National League Division Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, they are reminded that they are part of a progression, or perhaps a regression, dating back nigh unto a century now. The two losses to the young, underdog Diamondbacks do not exist alone. They are part of the sweep of history.
So when the Cubs return to Wrigley Field on Saturday for the resumption of this series, they will not be returning alone. They will be carrying the baggage of history. They say that this is not right. They are correct. It is not fair. But the weight remains and somebody has to tote it.
Pick an event. Pick a person. Pick a team. Pick an animal. The 1969 New York Mets. The fly ball to Don Young. The ground ball to Leon Durham. Bartman. The black cat. The curse of the billy goat.
"What's transpired in the past is really of no significance now," manager Lou Piniella said. "We're going to try as hard as we can, and I think what's happened in the past has happened. I don't [think] it has any bearing and it shouldn't."
Technically, logically, of course the manager is correct. None of the 2007 Chicago Cubs are responsible for any of the catastrophes of the past. But people keep asking them about that stuff, as though they were the direct heirs of somebody who left behind a lot of outstanding debts. It is not right. But it is pervasive.
But you have seen this happen time after time to talented Cubs teams. At the first sign of difficulty, people start asking the players: "You understand that you're supposed to lose, don't you?" You have to say publicly that you shrug it off. But it's like the itch that can never be completely scratched. It refuses to disappear.
The Cubs are coming home now, which should be worth something. In fact, this circumstance is the slender reed to which the Cubs are currently clinging. It is not like waving a magic wand at this situation, but it can't be worse than going 0-2 at Chase Field.
"Look, we're going home," said Piniella after Thursday night's loss. "We've got our home fans and we've got a chance to get it back here with a couple of wins, and that's exactly what we're going to try to do.
"We're going home and we've got our home fans, and we'll go from there."
Not exactly Winston Churchill's "blood, sweat and tears" speech, but this is what the Cubs have left. We're going to Wrigley, we're going home, life should get better.
But as noted by Mark Grace, a man who has a rich history with both of these franchises, the Friendly Confines aren't so friendly anymore. When expectations rose, defeat became less forgivable. The losing is no longer lovable. The public patience is no longer inexhaustible.
In a bit of a role reversal, the Cubs will be younger in a critical role for Game 3. Rich Hill, 27, will start for the Cubs, opposed by Livan Hernandez, 32, for Arizona. Hill had better numbers this season than Hernandez, but then again, Ted Lilly had better numbers than Doug Davis going into Game 2.
What has to happen for all this to change? These 2007 Chicago Cubs have to win three games in a row over the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is that simple, although not that easy.
The weight of history can be removed. You saw it in 2004, when the Boston Red Sox, down 0-3 to their historical nemeses, the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, won four straight games and forever altered the reality of their franchise.
The Red Sox, one game at a time, took just another disaster in a long line of disasters against the Yankees, and turned it into the opportunity of a lifetime. The Cubs could do that. This would be the one way that they could prove conclusively that the 2007 team had nothing to do with anything that came before.
What an accomplishment this would be. Since the three-tiered playoff system began 12 years ago, 27 teams have fallen behind, 0-2, in a best-of-five Division Series. Only four have come back to win a series. And none of those four was from the National League.
Or the Cubs could lose, thus adding one more chapter to a story that was getting old some time ago. These are the choices offered to the Cubs starting with Game 3: same old, same old, or break the mold.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.