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Cubs Tue Aug 20 2013

Three Cubs Pennants Since '45? Imagine That!

Cubs_200.pngIf you haven't read Mike Chamernik's post about replaying baseball history with the pre-playoff rules -- where team's with the best record from each league met for the World Series -- I encourage you to do so. To quickly refresh you what he did, he created a document [PDF] showing the actual World Series matchups had the playoffs not been expanded in 1969, and played out the White Sox World Series scenarios in 1983, 2000, and 2005 using a fantastic website that allows you to do such things: WhatIfSports.com.

Whether you believe it was Oscar Wilde speaking of writers, Picasso talking about artists, or T.S. Eliot describing poets, the thought process is the same: Good writers borrow, great writers steal. So I took Mike's idea (with his permission), and ran simulations for the potential Cubs World Series trips (let's all spare ourselves the usual stupidity about the Cubs reaching the Series, shall we?) in 1984, 1989 and 2008. The results were pretty fantastic.

Like Mike (who I wanna be like), I plugged in the teams' common late sesson/postseason lineups and pitching rotation (based on what actually happened in the playoffs), and conducted simulations for each game, complete with play-by-play and box score.

1984

What actually happened: The Cubs took the National League by storm. After finishing the '83 season 20 games under .500, the North Siders hit the throttle from the start, and won the league by four games behind a Cy Young performance by Rick Sutcliffe and an MVP winning Ryne Sandberg. They solidified the depth in their rotation with a late May trade of Bill Buckner to bring Dennis Eckersley into the fold, along with a multi-player deal that netted them Sutcliffe in June, and were primed for a shot at their first title since 1908.

Detroit, the American League's representative, provided the Cubs a chance at ending their World Series drought against the team they lost to in the Fall Classic 39 years earlier. The Tigers, however, were easily the top of the class in baseball. They won 104 games, and won the AL by a wide margin of 15 games. They started the season 9-0 and never looked back. Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris were the best of an above average crop of players from top to bottom on their roster.

Hypothetical build-up: THE CUBS ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES! Harry Caray's lying somewhere in Wrigleyville on the floor of a bar, and the city is brimming with hope that the 76 year drought would come to an end.

Alternate World Series: The Tigers were a juggernaut team, but the Cubs had Sutcliffe. He matched Morris inning for inning through the first four in Game 1, and narrowly escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth after an error by Sandberg. He even got two quick outs in the sixth before a double and walk gave Chet Lemon an opportunity to do some damage -- and that he did. The two-run triple was all the help Morris needed in a complete game six-hitter in which he struck out four and needed just 109 pitches.

The Cubs bats wasted no time in Game 2, though. After falling behind 1-0, the Cubs got a three-run bomb from Leon Durham that barely cleared the right field wall, followed by RBI hits from Ron Cey and Larry Bowa to put the Cubs ahead 5-1. Durham was the only Cub not to record a multi-hit game, and the contest never even seemed that close despite the 11-7 final to tie the series at 1-1.

Returning to Detroit for the next three games rejuvenated the Tigers. They took Game 3 3-2 despite Chicago jumping out to an early lead after a two-run, first inning double by Keith Moreland. The Tigers had men on in every inning, but couldn't crack Eckersley until a Johnny Grubb single in the fourth. A sac fly in the seventh tied the game at 2-2 following multiple squandered opportunities by the Cubs. A leadoff double in the eighth spelled doom, despite a sensational play by Sandberg that saved the winning run for what turned out to be only a few minutes. Grubb again came through with a two-out RBI to seal the deal.

Game 4 needs just two words: Jack Morris. The line: 9IP, 2R (on back-to-back solo homers by Jody Davis and Richie Hebner in the second), 5K, 116 pitches. His second complete game in a 10-2 drubbing put the Cubs in a 3-1 corner.

Game 5 became an all-time classic. The Tigers led 1-0 after a second inning homer by Darrell Evans held up all the way until the ninth inning. Tigers starter Dan Petry tried to finish off the Cubs himself after eight brilliant innings, but he gave up a game-tying homer to Jody Davis to tie the game 1-1. A flyout and walk ended Petry's night, but Aurelio Lopez couldn't hold it there. A two-out single to right with runners on first and second by Bowa put the Cubs ahead, and a stolen base attempt during the next at-bat forced a wild throw into center, allowing an insurance run to score, giving the Cubs a 3-1 victory to cut the series lead.

Eckersley and Milt Wilcox dueled through four innings of Game 4 at Wrigley Field, but Wilcox blinked first. Eckersley (who shouldn't be hitting, but was because the simulator doesn't allow the DH in NL parks as the World Series was played up until 1984) looped a single to score Davis in the fifth, and Davis turned around and did all the work himself with a bomb in the seventh en route to a 4-0 win via a shutout from three Cubs pitchers.

Game 7 at Wrigley Field. The good news: the Cubs had a chance to bring a title back to Chicago's North side. The bad news: it meant Morris was back on the mound for the Tigers.

Surprisingly, Chicago jumped on top 2-0 after a pair of bloop singles got Morris frustrated early. He gave up another run in the fifth, and the Cubs were ahead 3-0 with just four innings before choking out that bastard goat. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. After getting a pair of outs sandwiching a single to center, the floodgates opened on Sutcliffe in the sixth. The Tigers pounded four runs onto the board, and added three more in the seventh to make it 7-3. The Cubs responded with a miracle three runs in the bottom half via an RBI double by Sandberg and possible series-saving two-run bomb by Durham to make it 7-6, but a three-run dinger by Dave Bergman ended the Cubs chance at slaying the curse.

Tigers defeat Cubs 4-3, MVP Jack Morris

1989

What actually happened: The Cubs had no business being where they were. Greg Maddux and Sandberg provided their usual star performances, but their bullpen was a mess coming into the season, and nobody thought their rotation would hold up enough past Maddux and Sutcliffe to go anywhere. The season was crazy, but the Cubs somehow reached the World Series after finishing first in the NL at 93-69.

The opposing Oakland A's had no trouble getting back to the World Series -- hoping to avenge their loss to the Dodgers just a year earlier. The Bash Bros. didn't have quite the year as they had in '88, as Jose Canseco was battling injuries and Mark McGwire wasn't doing much of anything if the balls he hit didn't leave the yard. A mid-season trade with the Yankees to bring Rickey Henderson back to the club was the jolt they needed to get back to baseball in October. Oh, and Eckersley was playing out West now.

Hypothetical build-up: THE CUBS ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES...AGAIN! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?! JUST FIVE YEARS AFTER THEIR PREVIOUS TRIP!

Alternate World Series: It wouldn't be the Cubs unless they lost Game 1, right? Of course they did. Dave Stewart and Maddux each gave up a pair of runs, and Oakland had the 7-8-9 hitters coming coming up in the bottom of the ninth of a 2-2 game. Calvin Shiraldi took over for Maddux, and on the second pitch hung a breaking ball to A's catcher Terry Steinbach that hasn't landed yet. Ballgame.

Nobody expected much out of the Cubs after that. A crushing defeat in Game 1 would certainly cause the team to crumble, and it started to look that way. After taking a 6-5 lead in the ninth on a Mark Grace single, McGwire responded with a laser shot to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth off Mitch Williams. While able to record two outs, Williams loaded the bases after some bad defense and lucky hit placement. Cubs manager Don Zimmer brought in Shiraldi with the bases jammed to face Canseco. A deep drive to left appeared to have the distance, but settled into the glove of Dwight Smith to keep the game tied. After trading baserunners in the 10th, the Cubs wasted no time in the 11th. A single by Jerome Walton followed by a two-run blast by Ryne Sandberg put the Cubs on top, and Shiraldi hung around to finish things off all by himself.

Shortly before the start of Game 3 at Wrigley Field, disaster strikes. The Bay Area is hit by a massive 7.1 earthquake. With millions awaiting the start of Game 3 across the country, stations turned their coverage to the carnage that took the lives of 63 people. Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, on the job for just weeks at the time, decided to postpone the game because of the effect the quake had on many fans in Oakland and San Francisco. The series resumed three days later with another duel between Maddux and Stewart. Despite allowing a solo homer in the first to Canseco, Maddux spun a gem, going seven innings and giving up just the one run. Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston banged out a two-run shot in the second, and an insurance solo homer by Walton in the fifth was more than enough in the 3-1 win, and now a 2-1 series lead.

In Game 4, Mike Bielecki struggled like he did in Game 2 for the Cubs, giving up a four spot in the first highlighted by a three-run smack from McGwire to dead center field that barely made the basket. The Cubs clawed back, with a run in the first, two in the third, and an RBI single by Grace in the fifth to tie the game at 4-4, and it stayed that way until the ninth. Shiraldi had already gone two innings in relief of Bielecki, so Zimmer brought in Steve Wilson to try and hold the game. He couldn't. With two outs and a runner on first, Wilson went 3-0 to Canseco, and Zimmer decided to intentionally walk him rather than giving a hot hitter a chance at a grooved fastball. Dave Henderson then stepped in and popped a liner to right that fell in, scoring pinch runner Luis Polonia. Eckersley did his thing in the ninth, and the series was tied two-all.

Game 5 was another all-time classic. The Cubs finally got action from Andre Dawson via a two-run homer in a three-run first inning, but the A's responded with two of their own in the top of the second. Another run in the fifth tied the game until the ninth. With runners on first and third and two outs, Wilson entered the game after another two-inning scoreless stint from Shiraldi. And again, Canseco was standing in the batters box. This time though, he went right after him, striking him out on four pitches to end the threat and go to extras. In the 11th, Canseco got his revenge, lining a single to left to score Walt Weiss. It was all Eckersley needed to finish a 4-3 win.

The series returned to a ravaged Bay Area for Game 6, where Maddux and Stewart would duel for a third time after splitting their first two. They both pitched lights out through seven, but Maddux stuttered in the eighth, giving up three consecutive singles to put the A's on top 1-0. Amazingly, Eckersley wasn't ready to go for the ninth because of the quick turn of events, so Stewart went back out to try and finish the job. It was a terrible blunder by manager Tony LaRussa. Single, lineout, stolen base, infield single, RBI single, RBI single, RBI single, RBI groundout, popout. Four runs on a barrage of balls in play that gave the Cubs a stunning 4-1 win to extend the series to a deciding seventh game.

Would LaRussa's boneheaded move cost his team the World Series to the cursed Cubs? We'd find out just a day later for Game 7. The Cubs had no choice but to throw Bielecki back on the mound, and it was trouble from the start. A two-run shot to Parker in the first gave Oakland a lead they'd never relinquish. Five more runs came in the fifth via a three-run double by none other than the pesky Canseco. Joe Girardi gave the Cubs a chance with a two-run homer of his own in the seventh, but it was too late. The A's won the series behind a complete game from Mike Moore, while the Cubs couldn't believe they lost another World Series in seven games.

A's defeat Cubs 4-3, MVP Jose Canseco

2008

What actually happened: After narrowly missing the Series in 2007, the Cubs took the National League by storm, finishing 4.5 games clear of the Phillies. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano led a rotation that was deep, but didn't have a dominant ace. They thought if their starters could get them to the seventh inning, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood could take things from there. The offense was incredibly balanced, with six starters hitting 19 or more homers. The lowest on-base percentage in their starting eight was .344 sported by Alfonso Soriano... hitting leadoff.

Three years into their name change, and nobody fully understands why they are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Rookie GM Tony Reagins made a shrewd move at the deadline to bring Mark Teixeira in to bolster his offense and make a run at a World Series. It paid off to the tune of 13 homers and and an OPS of 1.081 in his 54 games in L.A. (Anaheim?). If Tex, Vlad Guerrero, and Torii Hunter could do enough damage to back up their starters and get leads to their lights out bullpen, they figured their chances were good at taking home title.

Hypothetical build-up: SERIOUSLY GUYS? THIS *%&$ AGAIN? YOUR GOING TO DO THIS TO US ON A MAJOR ANNIVERSARY? ARE WE GOING TO CALL IT "THE CENTENNIAL SCREW JOB"? YOU GUYS ARE A BUNCH OF...

Alternate World Series: Game 1 in Anaheim was exactly what the Cubs had hoped, though they got way more than they bargained for from Dempster. He scattered five hits and two walks while striking out seven in eight shutout innings; backed by a well-rounded Cubs lineup that scored off homers from Derrek Lee, Soriano and Geovany Soto. John Lackey took the loss for the Angels, and the Cubs finally got out to an early lead in a World Series.

Homers dominated the storyline in Game 2 as well. Zambrano and Ervin Santana provided the classic power/power matchup, but both had their weaknesses in giving up deep flies. Guerrero hit a two-run shot to left in the first, answered by the Cubs Jim Edmonds in the second with a solo blast of his own. After trading runs in the third, the Cubs made their move in the sixth with a two-out, two-run double from Mark DeRosa to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead. But no lead was safe with Marmol in the building (as we came to learn). A leadoff double followed by a Howie Kendrick two-run dinger in the bottom of the eighth was the death blow to the Cubs. Marmol then hit a batter, allowed a walk, got a strike out, and then a double play in true #Marmold fashion. Franky Rodriguez shut the door in the ninth to even the series 1-1.

Joe Saunders vs Rich Harden in Game 3 at Wrigley was a matchup the Cubs hoped to take advantage of. Harden had dominated after the Cubs acquired him, and Saunders, despite great ERA and W-L totals, was a gettable pitcher with a heavy right-handed lineup. The Cubs scored first with an RBI single from Derrek Lee in the third, but that was all they could muster off Saunders. Marmol entered in the sixth to try and hold the slim lead, but after getting two strikeouts and giving up a walk, Casey Kotchman hit a pinch-hit two run homer (even though he was part of the trade for Teixeira -- damn simulator) to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead. An insurance homer in the eighth from Mike Napoli made it 3-1 before the heart of the Cubs order was due up -- and they brought the house. After the first two batters reached, Soto cut the lead to one with a double to left center that put runners on second and third. After a DeRosa flyout, Edmonds burned his old team with a bloop double that scored both runners and gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead. Edmonds would come around to score on a Soriano single as the team batted around, and let Wood finish things off with an easy 10-pitch inning to give Chicago a 2-1 lead in the series.

In a Game 1 rematch, Lackey and Dempster started Game 4 with opposite mindsets. Lackey wanted to go six innings and hand the ball to the bullpen and try to get back in the series, while Dempster wanted nothing more than to bypass Marmol and get to Wood to put a nail in the coffin. Ironically, both got what they wanted. Dempster gave up a three-spot in the fourth, and the Cubs had put a run on the board in the second and fifth to leave the game at 3-2 Anaheim going to the bottom of the eighth. Old timer Darren Oliver came on to try to bridge the gap to K-Rod in the ninth, but a pair of singles and a wild pitch to start the inning had already tied the game with a runner on second and nobody out. Justin Speier came on to replace Oliver, but a double by Edmonds and a single by DeRosa put the Cubs ahead 5-3, and another 10 pitches from Wood in the ninth put the Cubs a win away from their first title in 100 years.

Game 5 at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs could close out the Series in a game that set TV ratings records, getting more viewers than any other American sporting event in history. Would they get to see a Cubs win? A first inning-RBI double by Aramis Ramirez put everyone on the edge of their seats for the next few innings, as Zambrano did his usual dance with baserunners galore. He finally got bit in the fifth inning with a two-run double from Guerrero followed by an RBI single from Kendrick to give the Angels a 3-1 lead. Ryan Theriot responded with a two-out RBI single in the bottom half to cut the lead down to one. With Ramirez on in the bottom of the sixth, Edmonds became the man who never has to buy a drink in Chicago the rest of his life, hitting an opposite field homer to the basket in left and putting the Cubs ahead 4-3. Marmol pitched two shutout innings, and a Lee double to score Theriot in the seventh made it 5-3. In the eighth, Theriot added more with a two-run single to make it 7-3, and despite a scare in the ninth, Wood closed out the Cubs first title in a century.

Cubs defeat Angels 4-1, MVP Jim Edmonds

The Cubs finally get the goat off their back in this alternate reality, and Jim Edmonds is the hero of the Lou Piniella-led ballclub to finally bring the World Series title to Wrigley Field. A guy can dream, can't he?

 
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