Ahhh.  Now I feel betterIt’s been fifty days since the Cubs ended their season with the resistance of rice paper, and I’m still ANGRY.

When the playoffs began, Kerm had set up a Magic Number=11 thread, in the hopes of counting down the number of wins for a World Championship. Pathetically, for the second straight season, not one goddamned number was taken off.

So I figured I’d put to use the number 11 by reeling of 11 things that pissed me off about this past season. Sure, the regular season itself was a success that, judging by wins and losses, was unprecedented in the lifetimes for almost all of us. However, for now, the only thing I can take out of it was the absolutely meek manner in which the team laid down and let it end a few weeks early, and I feel the best therapy would be for me to get all of this ANGER out now so I can again look forward. So, without further ado, in the hopes of cleansing myself of my ANGER, here is a list of 11 things that pissed me off about the 2008 season.

11. Mark DeRosa—Please shut the fuck up.

Jebus this guy talks more than a caffeine-infused Todd Walker. If there’s anything this town has never had a shortage of it’s the glib, reporter-friendly player who spends as much time waxing poetic about some bullshit as he does playing. From Noah Jackson through Steve Kerr, around James “Big Fat Mouth” Williams, to the more recent trio of teammates Derosa, Ryan Dempster and the King of Not Knowing When to Shut The Fuck Up, Scott Eyre, the city has never had a shortage of wannabe future local media types greasing the skids for a plum post-career broadcasting gig by answering every question in sight. Yes, these guys are every reporter’s dream but I couldn’t care less how affable they are. Sure, DeRosa had a hell of a season this year—arguably the team’s MVP as he rotated all over the field whenever asked–but he’s also sort of a Grand Poobah of player relations, as if we really give a flying rat’s ass what these guys think. What specifically annoys me about DeRosa (and teammates like him) is that they always take the softball-infused bait offered up the Dave Kaplans of the world when asked about the experience of playing in Wrigley Field. God damn I hate these “feel good” questions. Of course DeRosa points out how awesome the fans are, how awesome the park is, and how awesome it would be to celebrate with those awesome fans in that awesome park if they win the World Series. You know what would be awesome, Mark? Instead of daydreaming about such abstractions while rolling into a rally-killing double play on a pitch that would have been an RBI had you left your fucking bat on your stupid fucking shoulder, or being caught completely flat-footed on an inning-ending double play that would have picked up your imaginary World Series team, that you instead put thoughts of a World Series as far the fuck away from your thoughts as possible, and let nibbling douchebags like Livian Hernandez walk you or turn the routine double play that your are expected to turn. I don’t need some player kissing my ass and telling me how awesome I am and how awesome the venue in which I sit to watch them play ball is. Maybe some fans enjoy hearing this empty, saccharine bullshit, but I’m tired of it. Just shut the fuck up and stop playing like an amputee when the money’s on the line.

10. The fact that Scott Eyre has a World Series ring.

Speaking of blowhards, this attention-starved douchrocket managed to suck so badly that the Cubs got nothing for him when they got rid of him, and then he gets picked up off the scrap heap by Philadelphia and does a job that he was largely unable to do in Chicago, despite being highly subsidized to do so. Like Derosa, Eyre was never one to shy away from the reporter’s microphone, and that led to one of the most insanely un-self aware moments in human history after he arrived in Philadelphia. Asked about playing under pressure, Eyre dusted off the ole’ chestnut about how much pressure it was to pitch in Wrigley Field because the fans were so demanding. Holy. Crap. Did this guy overdose on Ritalin or something? He was pitching for Philadelphia when he said this. Philadelphia—a sports town so rough that they booed Santa Claus at Christmastime. A city who celebrated the Phillies subsequent World Series victory by re-enacting every negative stereotype of White Trash America conveyed in an episode of “Cops” This guy couldn’t even retire the 3 foot, 47 pound Augie Ojeda in last year’s NLDS in the laid back atmosphere of Phoenix (he not only couldn’t retire him, but he allowed that walking bacteria to knock him out of the game when he lined one of Eyre’s meatballs off his hand), but now that he’s in Philadelphia, he’s okay? In fact, just off the top off my head, it seems that some of the significant failures endured by Eyre while with the Cubs happened on the road, so what the hell is this asswipe even talking about? Guys like Eyre depress the fuck out of me because this sack of shit is a walking reminder that he belongs to the same species as me.

9. Ryan Dempster

Kerm was right. This guy’s an unfunny dick who this year performed the equivalent of a season-long cocktease. Only instead of simply leaving us with blue balls, he bobbitized us. Seven walks? Holy shit. Such a pants-shitting bookends another low point that Dempster pulled off four years earlier. Many fans remember the infamous Latroy Hawkins/Victor Diaz disaster in Shea Stadium in late 2004 which signaled the beginning of the most painful free-fall in contemporary Cubs history. What fans may not recall, however, is that Dempster started that ninth inning with a three run lead. After retiring the first hitter, he walked the next two guys, Eric Valente and JR Phillips, two guys whose likelihood of ever appearing in a major league ballpark nowadays would be greatly enhanced by their having purchased a ticket. Hawkins replaced this hockey puck after his second walk and the rest is history. So let’s recap. In 5 seasons, Ryan Dempster and his inability throw a goddamn baseball into the strike zone has effectively pitched the Cubs out of the playoffs twice. Twice. If Jim Hendry signs this dickface, after he had a career year at 31 (prior to choking in the playoffs), he deserves to get run over by a Molson Beer truck.

8. Derrek Lee

I guess I shouldn’t focus all of my anger on the white guys. By all accounts Derrek Lee is a class act but he’s also another guy who spends too much time pondering shit that he should be above. Like how the fans spend their recreation dollar. I’m personally not a big “booer”. Generally, I’ll boo for lack of effort rather than lack of results. Nevertheless, I would never pose the argument that is outside of a fan’s right to do so if he pleases. What bothers me about Lee is that he seems to resent the fans for doing so. Fuck that. Don’t like booing? Then block it out. Why would you sit around and actually complain about this? You’re making millions of dollars to play baseball in one of the finest cities in America and you’re brought to tears because a bunch of unathletic jerkoffs who stopped playing baseball in third grade because they could no longer hide their retardedness in right field have the nerve to express their vicarious frustration? Please, Derrek. Shut the fuck up. It’s beneath you.

7. Piniella got too cute for his own good in the playoffs

In 2000, I watched with glee as Sweet Uncle Lou pantsed a confused Jerry Manuel in Game 1 of the ALDS. After Mike Cameron led off the tenth inning with a single, Lou called time and went out to first base to consult with his baserunner. Sensing something was up, Manuel immediately called for a pitchout but Cameron wasn’t running. Basically, Lou played a mind game on Manuel and consequently owned him. Cameron eventually stole second and, having rattled Keith Foulke, Piniella sat back and watched Edgar Martinez take Foulke yard en route to a Game 1 victory and an eventual sweep.

Sometimes, though, Piniella gets too cute for his own good. I’m hardly the world’s biggest Ryan Theriot fan, but the fact is he was the Cubs’ leading hitter and prospered in the #2 hole all season. So why on earth Piniella would suddenly drop Theriot to #8 and put the player who was clearly the worst hitter on the team in the #2 hole is beyond me. I suppose Piniella was hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, but there was nothing in the final 3 months of the season that pointed to Fukudome suddenly “getting it”. Sure enough Fukudome went 0-4 while Theriot had two hits that went unrewarded, as he was batting in front of the pitcher’s spot.

Lou then compounded his mistake by leaving Fukudome in the lineup in any context for Game 2 when Fukudome’s absolutely lost and confused approach at the plate in Game 1 should have compelled Lou to bench his sorry ass in favor of Mike Fontenot. Once again, Fukudome spun his way to an 0-4. After the game, Lou finally threw Fukudome under the bus, but it was too fucking late (and he ended up putting Fukudome halfway in to game 3 anyway).

Now I love me some Lou Piniella, and the colossal disappointment that was the 2008 NLDS falls mainly on the shoulders of Dempster’s inability to throw the goddamn ball over the plate, the little league glovework of DeRosa and Lee, and the godawful hitting by Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, but Piniella hardly did his team any favors by outsmarting himself.

6. Fukudome Ballerina

I cannot think of another player who went from idol to scourge in the same season quite like Fukudome. He gave us hope on Opening Day that we had a player who was going to lead the team through all of the bullshit talk of curses and bad luck and win the whole damn thing. Not having been exposed to any of that stuff, Fukudome would be the calm, studly presence that the team needed. By the time summer rolled around, he was in what appeared to be a funk. By Labor Day, he was looking downright awful. By the playoffs, most fans wanted to see him launched into Lake Michigan. What was most discouraging about Fukudome is that once pitchers adjusted to him, he never seemed to make the subsequent adjustment to them. This was discouraging because by all acounts, he seemed like the type of player who would be able to make such corrections. Instead, by season’s end this guy looked like he’d be better off on Hubbard Street, not Addison. Piniella gave the kid every chance to succeed, and Fukudome rewarded Piniella’s faith by consistently corkscrewing himself into the ground, while missing the baseball. It has been suggested that Fukudome may move to center field next year as part of the platoon with Reed Johnson. That may be well and good, but unless this guy provides a response to the adjustments that pitchers made to him (characterized mostly by throwing him offspeed junk out of the strike zone), get used to see Baryshnikov by the Lake for another season.

5. The “It’s Gonna Happen” retardedness

We’ve already been through this. We know the story; familiar with the guy. More of the same in ’08. This may well be the First Thing That Will Piss Me Off In 2009 as the open-endedness of this opportunistic asshat’s shallow enterprise would seem to allow him the chance to keep running with this crap. May he wind up in debtor’s prison with Randy Myers as his cellmate.

4. Bud Selig

The Master of Paralysis, Selig’s inaction with regards to the mid-September Cubs/Houston series contributed to the notion that the Cubs were somehow undeserving division winners while Houston was screwed. This opinion, albeit mostly voiced by the unwashed Houston masses, could have been avoided entirely if Selig had acted in a manner consistent with his duties as the commissioner. While Selig let that selfish asshat of the first order Drayton McClane bully him around while he hemmed and hawed (not hard to visualize ever since Bud’s Ralph Kramden impersonation—“Hommina hommina hommina”—was captured on film at the 2002 All-Star Game), reasonable choices for alternative sites evaporated, convenienty allowing Selig to ultimately do the Cubs a favor by selling seats at “his” ballpark in Milwaukee. It was fun and all—who will forget the “Let’s Travel 1,200 Miles But Leave Our Bats In Houston” 2-game circus kindly put on by those entertaining Astros?—but the Cubs would have done the same thing in Houston. No matter. Some people chose to believe that Houston wasn’t playing out of their ass for a month and the Cubs weren’t coming out of a slump anyway, and Bud’s immobility only made them louder. Thanks.

3 Crane Kenney

Until October, I had no problem with this guy. Unlike some of the previous suits who preceeded him—Andy MacPhail and Don Grenesko swiftly come to mind—Kenney didn’t make me want to wring his neck. Seemed like a nice enough guy who kept in the background. I saw him interviewed on TV after the Cubs clinched the division, and he really came off as cool.

And then Kenney somehow got the bizarre notion in his head to bring more meaningless but annoying superstitious bullshit into the mix, when he brought in a Greek Orthodox priest to slap some holy water around Wrigley Field prior to Game 1 of the NLDS. What the hell? All year long we heard—rightly so—from Lou and the players that they have nothing to do with the past. While the brain-dead dolts in the media can be counted on to beat that goat into the ground regardless, so long as the team didn’t pay it any mind, I was cool. But then the team president actually calls on some witchcraft? Sure, none of this has anything to do with how they play, but why would you plant that seed? Nice sense of timing, Crane. Has this team been sold to Cuban yet?

2. Ron Santo

Good god, will somebody please either shove Ronnie down a flight of stairs or put him into the Hall of Fame, for which he has long been deserving, if not for that obnoxious personality of his that pervades every single Cubs radio broadcast? Scratch that—not every broadcast. There are those couple of series now where Santo goes easy on smothering us with his clown act “analysis” and we get to listen to Dave Otto, who can not only chew gum and throw left-handed at the same time, but who simply does the job for which he is being paid to do. When Santo (along with Bob Brenly) replaced the awful Davy Nelson in 1990, the job was “analyst”, and Nelson’s inability to do it well is why Santo had the opportunity to do it in the first place. And in 19 years Santo has gone from hard-luck ex-player hoping to get into the Hall of Fame to hapless mascot who grovels for it.

I’m not oblivious to Santo’s popularity. This is not a popular view, and it is one that I was not, for a while, willing to express in mixed company, but it has become impossible for me to ignore how much I loathe him now. I suspect I may need to write an entry just dedicated to this subject, but suffice to say that what annoyed me the most about Santo this season was how miserable he would be when the Cubs would be losing. Here they were—on track for 97 wins, and whenever the Cubs would hit a bump, you would hear the fatalistic groans of a man who simultaneously carries the cross for, while benefiting from, the failure that was the ’69 Cubs. And when they win a tight game, he screams like they won the pennant, something he would have no idea about. While I can’t help but wonder if this “every game intensity” approach is what compelled Santo to blow off steam by clicking his heels after regular season wins in ’69, or helped grind down the team as much as Durocher’s overuse (see: Young, Don), I do know that it annoys the piss out of me to have to constantly listen to it today.

Santo is also, in my opinion, at least partly responsible for #1 on the list.

1. The ledge-jumping fans.

While the playoffs were utterly disappointing, the regular season was very enjoyable. It was, in fact, the most successful regular season the franchise had had in 63 years or, put another way, in pretty much all of our lifetimes. A handful of huge comeback wins. A winning record in every month, save for the 0-1 March and a 12-12 September when they were mostly on cruise control. Only four losing streaks of three or more games (broken down further, 2 3-game skids, 1 4-game skid, and 1 6-game skid). Moving into first place on May 11th and staying there the entire rest of the season. Having the best record in the entire National League from late May through the end of the season. Winning the division with over a week to go. And yet. And yet. Every time they’d hit a skid, the pantywaists would come out of the woodwork. You would think these people had never taken in a 6 month, 162 game season before. Bunch of ADD nimrods. As much as I enjoyed the regular season, at least some of the joy was muted by the unaware douchnozzles who complained that they were somehow entitled to a stress-free season. Instead of enjoying the season with a healthy dose of perspective, these “woe is me” jerkoffs instead were inclined to thrust their fatalism into our faces, further propagating the stereotype of Cub fans as balless worrywarts.

While most of this list deals with specific situations—mostly playoff-related—these idiots took the one part of the season that was truly enjoyable and tried to piss all over it. It makes me so not look forward to 6 months of the 2009 season. Go away, assholes!