In 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended their 86-year wait for a World Series championship.
In 2005, the Chicago White Sox ended their 88-year wait for a World Series championship.
|This place is due for a World Series game someday -- isn't it? (Getty Images)|
Sounds like the boys in Marketing are trying something out here.
Baseball is always working exciting new angles to get a larger share of the nation's attention, the last one being the steroid scandal. My, everyone certainly paid attention to that.
But unless Barry Bonds is indicted for something, or Roger Clemens gets caught carrying something, the steroid story is, for good or ill, passing slowly from the headlines to the "In other news" section of the paper. It has been a useful story for parents wanting to scare their children out of kidney damage, but due mostly to bad lawmaking, soft prosecuting and our society's unwillingness to pay attention for more than a few days at a time to much of anything that isn't Terrell Owens, it hasn't netted a lot of big-time defendants.
Which is fine, I guess. You reap what you sow, eventually.
But that isn't the message today. Today, it is to alert you that at some point, when baseball needs it the most, the Chicago Cubs will be cured. It might not happen until after the Indians (58 years), the Giants (52 years), the Pirates (27 years), the Orioles (23 years) or the Royals (21 years) win their next one.
Or it might not happen until after the Rangers (45 years), the Astros (44 years), the Padres or Nationals (37 years) or the Mariners (29 years).
These are the teams that either haven't won in 20 years, or have been around for 20 years and have never won. And slowly but surely, baseball is picking them off from the tedious and self-flagellant "long-suffering" list.
It is our belief, and therefore true, that Devils Ray fans are long-suffering, followed close behind by Indians, Rangers, Pirates, Orioles or Royals fans. Giants fans are also long-suffering, but most of their baseball over the past decade or so has at least been interesting, and they tend to spend an inordinate amount of time telling people how long is their suffering, so their complaining is unseemly at best and whining at worst.
Which, frankly, only makes them Cubs fans in training, but we'll leave that for another time.
The trend is clear, is the point. If baseball really needs the Cubs to rise up and walk into the sunshine at long last, it will happen. Baseball has tried the New Yankee Dynasty, they've done the Parade of Newbies (Diamondbacks and Marlins twice), and they've picked off the Angels after a 41-year wait. The Subway Series has been tried twice, in 2000 (Mets-Yankees, crummy ratings) and 1989 (A's-Giants, with an earthquake thrown in for disaster-movie value, to even crummier ratings).
And now, it's the Two Storied Franchises Getting A Belated Crack At The Big One story line. Hey, anything to find an audience.
We suspect, though, as we check World Series ratings, that the only one that will really capture the national short attention span is Cubs-Somebody. My own feeling is that it should be Cubs-Indians in a Festival of Anglican Self-Denial, but Cubs-Devil Rays, Cubs-Mariners or even Cubs-Nippon Ham Fighters would do as well.
You could spin off from there -- Dancing With The Cubs, Project Cubs, The Road To The Final Cub, Cubs' Anatomy, CSI: Wrigley -- but this much seems clear: Baseball is building toward that Cubs title, incrementally but irreversibly.
I give it 20 years, 30 tops, but it's coming. You can feel it in the air. Sort of like global warming, only slower.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.