The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, October 13, 2003

The Perfect Set Up

Yesterday, going into the game, I was pretty pessimistic about the Marlins chances. And while Beckett was in the middle of throwing his gem, it dawned on me – of course this is how it has to play out. The Marlins need some seemingly insurmountable odds (i.e. a 3 games to 1 deficit – mainly acquired at home, with two of the losses acquired via an extra inning heartbreaker and a straight up blowout) to overcome in order to help add to the aura and mystique that is Chicago Cubs baseball.

Think about it. For games 6 and 7 the Cubs are slated to have Kerry Wood and Mark Prior take the hill to face Carl Pavano (in his first ever post-season start) and Mark Redman (a nice pitcher indeed, but a random person in Miami is more likely to assume that Redman is the guy who appears on stage with Method Man than the guy the Marlins would put on the hill for the potential decisive game 7 of the National League Championship series).

The potential pitching matchups for games 6 and 7 are exactly how anyone associated with the Cubs would have drawn it up at the beginning of the year. If Fox posed a Sprint PCS question during the game, the best duo this year for any one team to have pitch in two such important games would be Prior and Wood.

And it’s exactly the opposite for the Marlins. Other than Pavano and Redman’s families, hardly anyone would have picked those two at the start of the year – or even at the start of the playoffs – to be the two to call on in potential elimination games. These are two guys who, not that long ago, the lowly Expos and Tigers didn’t really want to have around anymore.

This is a great set up. Cubs fans are sitting back, happy as can be. The Cubs came into Miami for the weekend, took two of three games from the Marlins, and flew back home to take the pennant in front of the home fans at the friendly confines. That’s what we’re all thinking right now – Cubs fans, Marlins fans, and everyone else who’s watching – that the Cubs will win this series easily, but that the Marlins put up a good fight.

Except that the classic ending, even more classic than the Cubs winning this series in 6 or 7 games and returning to the World Series for the first time since 1945 and possibly winning the Series for the first time since 1908, would be for the Marlins to steal games 6 and 7 from the Cubs. It would require beating Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in those two games and taking two from the beloved Cubs at Wrigley Field. Should that occur, my only problem with it will be that I wasn’t wise enough to predict it from the outset. If the Cubs are to be eliminated at this point, it couldn’t possibly happen in fewer than the minimum number of games.

A storybook ending to the tale of woe for Cubs fans it would not be. But it would be an unbelievable addition to Cubs lore. Imagine how hard it would be to utter “wait till next year” after game 7. This is next year. Can the Cubs close it out?

Yes, I know that they will. They pretty much have to. To win one of two games with those two aces on the hill is pretty much a given – even if you threw the 1927 Yankees, or whoever else, even in their prime, out there to hit against them. But as a lifelong White Sox fan and a Marlins fan since 1995 when I moved out here, I’m allowed to dream… at least until tomorrow night.


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