Monday, September 8, 2008

Remembering The Past...

... so, to paraphrase George Santayana, perhaps the Cubs will repeat it.

After blazing through the first five months of this year with nothing worse than a four-game losing streak, the Cubs have now lost seven of eight. What we wonder, then, is how recent championship teams have fared. Have they gone through stretches like this? Some of you have posted this in the comments, but I thought I'd consolidate all the information here, to console and bring optimism back.

The answer to the question above is decidedly, yes. Here's how each of the last eight World Series winners did down the stretch:

2007 Red Sox: Had a 7-game lead on September 4. Then, they lost 8 of 12 and saw their lead drop to one game on September 19. Finished the season 6-3 to win the AL East by two games and had an 11-3 record in the postseason.

2006 Cardinals: Had a 7-game lead on September 19. Then, they lost 7 in a row and 8 of 9 to see the lead drop to a half game with three games left. Won two of the three and clinched on the season's last day even though they lost. Had an 11-5 record in the postseason.

2005 White Sox: Had a 9-game lead on September 7. Then, they lost 10 of 14, including two in extra innings; the lead dropped to 1.5 games on September 22 (and would have gone to 0.5 games if Grady Sizemore hadn't lost a ball in the sun vs. the Royals). After that, won 8 of their last 10 regular season games and went 11-1 in the postseason.

2004 Red Sox: Went 7-8 between September 9 and 24, but still won the wild card (by five games) and went 11-3 in the postseason.

2003 Marlins: Not to be discussed in polite company.

2002 Angels: Lost 8 of their last 13 regular season games, but won the wild card by six games and went 11-5 in the postseason.

2001 Diamondbacks: Went 10-11 in September and saw a 4.5 game lead dwindle to 1.5 games; won four of their last six regular season games and went 11-6 in the postseason.

2000 Yankees: Stumbled into the postseason by losing six in a row, winning two, then losing their final seven regular season games (overall, losing 13 out of their last 15!) and seeing a 9 game lead on September 13 shrink to 2.5 at season's end, winning the AL East only because the Red Sox couldn't play better than .500 ball in September; had a mediocre 87-74 record (the worst of any of the 2000 postseason entrants) but went 11-5 in the postseason.

That's seven different championship teams in the last eight years; every single one of them (including the 2003 Marlins, who I glossed over) struggled in September, but righted the ship once October started. This Cubs team is at least as good as any of those champions and better than most. They'll get the pitching rotation back in order this week:

Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Rich Harden will face the Cardinals, while Jason Marquis will open the Cubs' series in Houston on Friday -- with Carlos Zambrano tentatively scheduled for Saturday and Dempster closing it up Sunday.

If Zambrano can't go, Sean Marshall will get another substitute start, but all indications are that Big Z is ready. He threw off flat ground Sunday, and his right shoulder passed all the tests. He will have a bullpen session in St. Louis. Harden, skipped as a precautionary measure, is also ready to go.

In a perfect world, Piniella can stay with five starters for the remaining three weeks of the season.

The perfect world starts tomorrow. In the meantime, come in off the ledge and enjoy the off-day.

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