World Series or bust; place bets on ‘bust’

So. I just watched the Cubs lose the third of three straight losses to be swept out of the playoffs in 2008, a season that from my vantage point most of the way seemed like it had the makings of something special. This team seemed like it had the best chances of a Cub team in a long time. But they got swept out of the postseason in the first round, for the second year in a row.

I gotta be honest right now: I’m mad. I’m disappointed. This series frankly makes me want to puke. It was bullshit. It’s not just that the Cubs lost; it’s the way they lost. You watch a team play so well through most of the regular season, who had the best record in the league, and then you watch them lose to a team that was under 500 just over a month ago. And they lose so definitively, with the first two games total blowouts. And it’s maddening.

I look back at the second inning of Game 2, where the infield uncharacteristically had three errors that led to a 5-run inning, and it makes me wonder how things went so badly so quickly. Well, because it’s the Cubs, of course.

You could navel-gaze a series like this forever. I won’t do that here, because the sports writers and everyone else already has. What I will instead remark upon is the Probability Gods.

Baseball, more than any other sport, is a sport of odds. The whole game and the way it’s played is based on the chances of X happening is situation Y. It’s all about giving yourself the best chances to get on the side of the Probability Gods. In terms of offense, it’s all about doing something that will give you merely the chance of a positive result. A ground ball might go through the gap, or it might be fielded and become a routine out at first base. A line drive might just barely get over the head of the center fielder to become a double, or it might drop enough to be caught to end the 2-out rally.

And the Probability Gods are clearly against the Cubs. How else to explain things like the utter collapse of the 2003 NLCS, or the three infield errors in the second inning of this year’s Game 2 by a team that had such generally solid defense throughout the regular season? Such misfortunes are extremely improbable — much like the possibility of a sweep of the Cubs by the Dodgers seemed at the outset in general.

The Cubs played horribly in this series, but why is that? Had their game plan changed? Could the team simply not handle the pressure and collapsed? Maybe. But it seems more likely to me that the Probability Gods intervened, and turned the team most likely to win into the team most likely to choke by way of unlikely defensive errors and suddenly silent bats.

The Probability Gods hate the Cubs. That’s well documented. But it makes this swift sweep of an oh-so-promising Cubs team no easier a pill to swallow.

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4 comments on this post

Chris L
Monday, October 6, 2008, 5:47 am (UTC -6)

As a once long time suffering (and in the last century there was no other kind) Red Sox fan, I certainly feel your pain. The Probability Gods in our case was in the form of “The Curse of the Babe”, the only paranormal phenomenon I ever believed in. Hang in there though, sooner or later it will happen. If the Sox can do it, so can the Cubs.

Chris L.

Poltargyst
Monday, October 6, 2008, 1:26 pm (UTC -6)

I think you should take out your anger about the Cubs loss and channel it into writing some passionate BSG and ST:TNG reviews. 🙂

misterd
Saturday, October 11, 2008, 11:18 pm (UTC -6)

In the last decade, the World Series has been won by the Angels, Marlins, White Sox, and Red Sox… twice.

The universe clearly is clinging to its last constant.

Elliot Wilson
Thursday, February 11, 2010, 2:47 pm (UTC -6)

I also think what THEY think is highly relevant. For 100 years they’ve lost (it IS 100 right? I’m new to baseball) and that would create a certain mindset that might be hard to break out of. Everyone (who is not deluded about a Cubs victory — I think there’s a difference between wanting with knowing reality and just wanting without accepting than what YOU want might not happen) expects the Cubs to lose, every year, so somehow, they are GOING to lose. They should be more confident, tell themselves THEY ARE GOING TO WIN, none of that “just play the game” crap. Sure, it might only be for fun, but people want to see a team win EVENTUALLY. I foresee two possibilities: Someday they will either win or they will disband. I’m voting for the latter. Now, I live in Chicago. Anyone tell me where I can watch a Cubs game?

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