Yay Cubbies. Yay.
It's been five long years since Chicago made it to the playoffs, and Cubs fans will get to see their beloved team try to make it to their first World Series since 1945 and their first championship since 1908. The Cubs were quite the world-beaters in the championship series, going 2-2 from '06 to '10.
Since then they've gone 0-6. They haven't played in a National League Championship Series since '89.
Cubs fans expect their team to fall short. Losing is part of the tradition. They know that once they finally hoist that trophy, all those years of waiting will have been worth it. It has to happen. God can't be that cruel.
Astros fans know something else. No matter how many times team owner Drayton McLane flashes that “aw shucks” grin, he doesn't really care about winning. He only cares about reducing the payroll. He'll allow general manager Gerry Hunsicker to sign the occasional free agent to appease the fans (a la Jeff Kent this year), but more often than not he's going to keep that wallet wired shut. He probably uses coupons to get two-for-one deals on minor league prospects.
At least with former Astros owner John McMullen, fans knew they were getting an owner who wouldn't spend a dime. McLane teases the fans. He's the busty girl who flashes the goods but pulls away at the first sign of an advance.
He moans about his rising payroll, makes veiled threats about moving the team, allows productive veterans to sign with other teams and tells players who want to play in Houston to keep walking.
Billy Wagner and Richard Hidalgo are rumored to be on the trading block. So basically, the organization is willing to cut ties with this season's most consistent hitter, best outfielder and the best closer in franchise history.
Octavio Dotel, Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller are up for arbitration. They won't come cheap this time. If they're re-signed, you can bet McLane will cut corners somewhere else. What's going to happen with Jeff Bagwell and his salary of $16 million? Will he be forced to finish his career away from Houston? Probably.
The Cubs won the division for two reasons. One, they won the games that mattered. Regardless of the quality of their opponents, the Cubs realized they were in a pennant race and won down the stretch. The Astros didn't. Two, that organization traded for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton.
Ramirez gave the Cubs a true third baseman who hit .272 with 27 home runs and 106 RBIs. Lofton was someone who had been in a pennant race before.
What did the Astros do? Well, let's see. They uhh, didn't they sign that guy who drove in some runs in that one game? Oh … right. They didn't do anything. McLane just talked about trying and not being able to work anything out.
It's strange how the Cubs were able to work something out and tried to make their team better. Hmm.
There may not have been any significant deals or enough quality pitchers the Astros wanted, but something, anything, would have sent a message to the fans that mediocrity wasn't enough.
Some seasons, the organization makes deals for guys like Randy Johnson and Pedro Astacio. Other seasons, it just twiddles its thumbs.
Former Cougar Woody Williams wanted to come back to Houston, but he signed with St. Louis and won 18 games for the Cardinals. A couple of those wins would've come in handy this year.
Close isn't going to cut it anymore. Losing in the first round against Atlanta isn't enough.
Fielding a competitive club is not the same as fielding one that's built for postseason success. Seeing a Cubs team walk away with a division that was all but layed out in front of the Astros is unacceptable.
Instead of whining about not having enough money, the poor billionaire McLane should do all Astros fans a favor and sell the team to someone who will consistently spend the money it takes to make Houston a winner.
Fans shouldn't be saying goodbye to Hidalgo and Wagner, or be worried about whether Bagwell and Craig Biggio will be allowed to finish their careers in Astros uniforms. They should be kicking McLane back to Baylor. They like inept administrators there.
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