The Cubs Are a Very Good TEAM

I’ve been neglecting the Cubs in this space a little bit lately, so it’s time to rectify that.

They’re now 70-46, and have been playing very well lately, having just finished a 20 games in 20 days stretch 12-8, including a 4 game sweep of the Brewers, on the road. The offense has been pushing lots of runs across — 88 in their last 15 games, which is nearly 6 runs per game. This may be due to the return of Alfonso Soriano, who seems to inspire the team not just with his bat but with his mere presence:

“He can change the game with one swing,” teammate Mark DeRosa said. “He’s one of the big stars in the game. More than his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, he breeds success with charisma and character. He’s a huge part of what we are.”

And the pitchers, especially the starters, have been outstanding. I could post the stats here, but I’m too lazy to build a table to make them presentable. Let’s just say that their top 4 starters, over their last 19 starts, have an ERA under 4, and the team ERA for the season is 3.75, which is second in the league.

Their run differential is +144 (618 scored, 474 allowed) in 116 games. Doing the math, this is +1.24 runs per game in their favor.

So this is all fine and good. Best record in the National League, and by all appearances, one of the 2 or 3 best teams in baseball. It’s great to see.

But what is even better — and one of my favorite aspects about this 2008 Cubs team — is they are a real “team” in every sense of the word. There are no bad apples or whiners, no guys out to pad their stats at the expense of team success, no pitchers bitching about getting yanked too early or too late, no bench players complaining about lack of playing time.

Every single guy in that clubhouse, from everything I’ve seen and read, is a great teammate, and this makes their success much more enjoyable, at least for me.

I’ve noticed in particular the postgame celebrations on the field, after a win. I love watching these celebrations. Yesterday — after beating the Cardinals in the bottom of the 11th, on a single by Henry Blanco through a drawn-in infield with the bases jammed — the very first guy out of the dugout to congratulate him was Soriano. And he had a huge grin on his face, and was running hard out to greet Blanco, like a kid.

Every celebration is like that. Lots of smiling, congratulating each other, and backslaps all around, from the best player to the worst, from the guy making $18M to the guy making much less, from the All-Stars to the bench players.

The overall vibe is very energizing; It’s very apparent that none of them really cares too much about who gets credit for success. And that is a beautiful thing to watch. Whatever success they ultimately enjoy this year — and if they keep this up, you’d have to figure the World Series is in their future — that will be what I remember most about this team, that it was a true baseball TEAM, filled with players and coaches of good character.

It’s been a lot of fun to watch. Thanks, Lou, and Jim, and everybody who had a hand in building this team, and all the players. You rock.

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