While most teams are still playing interleague games, the Marlins are set to square off against the Cubs at historic Wrigley Field this week. When the Marlins and Cubs get together, one thing comes to mind. The poor guy. True, it wasn't really Bartman's fault. More blame should be given to the other Alex Gonzalez, just to name one person. But still, when you think of the 2003 NLCS, Steve Bartman is one of the first names that comes to mind.
Most of us just go by what we see though. In this case, that's not a good thing to do, as what's really to blame with the Cubs doesn't involve what you can see, or even people. Sadly, for the Cubs at least, their fate is controlled by a billy goat. You know the story.
And this worked out quite well for us. You see, the Cubs don't have a mascot. So we turned to the one the Cubs turned away oh so long ago. Actually, we turned to his great, great, grandson, the current namesake of Chicago's famous and infamous Billy Goat Tavern.
: Welcome to Fish Stripes!
: Thanks! I appreciate the opportunity to set a few things straight.
: Since your great, great, grandfather was turned away from the 1945 World Series a number of things have gone horribly wrong for the Cubs. In recent years alone, we've seen the collapse against the Padres in 1984, the collapse against the Giants in 1989, Brant Brown dropping a fly ball to cost the Cubs the Wild Card, and the "Bartman" game. All of this - plus dozens of other examples - leads many to believe that there's a curse. Is there a curse? And if so, are you/your family responsible for such a curse?
: Next question.
: Okay. Well, this year's Cubs team was set to contend for a World Series title. Then some horrific injuries (most notably to Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Prior) and some run-of-the-mill injuries (like Kerry Wood's) popped up. Despite that, the Cubs are playing great baseball (they'd be the NL's Wild Card team if the season ended today). Is this part of a great set up for this year's manifestation of the curse?
: Next question.
: What about Derrek Lee? He's clearly the NL MVP through the first two and a half months of the season. He's leading the league in all the Triple Crown categories. Is the curse going to jump up to bite him?
Goat: No, I like Lee. Winning the Triple Crown is difficult enough to do. I won't run any interference there. If he wins or loses it, it will all have been his doing.
: Your answer seems to indicate that the Curse of the Billy Goat exists.
: Let's get back to Derrek Lee, okay? How do you Marlins feel about trading Lee away?
: [groan] Lee was definitely underrated as a Marlin. And, as much as I like having Carlos Delgado in the Marlins lineup, I wish the Marlins still had Lee. DLee is younger than Delgado (29 vs 32) and is making less money. While Delgado is doing just fine in terms of Win Shares (9 so far this year), Lee has put up a Bondsian 17 (including one plus in the field).
One of the knocks on Lee when he was with the Fish was that he didn't hit for enough power. Now that he's in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field half the time, we're starting to see that the power really is there - it was just cavernous Joe Robbie Stadium that was holding him back.
So, I'd rather have younger, cheaper, and better defensively Derrek Lee. It's probably a wash offensively, so why not?
Goat: Exactly. Tonight's matchup should be an interesting one - former Cubs farmhand Dontrelle Willis under the lights against former Marlins hero Derrek Lee.
: Maddux and Burnett in the matinee on Wednesday isn't too shabby either.
: True, but your non-Floridian readers are probably most excited about Tuesday night's game, which will be on WGN.
: Gotta love the superstation. Speaking of, how are things going in the booth this year now that Steve Stone is out and Len Kasper is in? Things have gone quite well in that regard for the Marlins. They replaced Kasper with Rich Waltz, who has been compared favorably wtih a young Vin Scully.
: [cough] Kasper's fine. Nothing special. We still miss Harry Caray. I really missed Harry late last season when the Cubs had a double play tandem of Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Grudzielanek. If the Cubs still had Hee Seop Choi (but he was a Dodger by that point), it would have been a thing of beauty to hear Harry call out a "Garciaparra to Grudzielanek to Hee Seop" double play. That would have been the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance of the new millennium.
: Thanks for your time today. Maybe we'll see you at Wrigley this week. Oh, wait - that's right. You could come down to JRS you know. The first Bark at the Park night was last month and there's going to be another in August. I'm sure you could get in then.
: No, thanks. I'll pass.