No-Mah Excuses

Not even falling concrete could rain down on the Cubs parade Sunday. Fans witnessed the convergence of one man who will soon be a fixture in the history books, and the arrival of another who hopes to help rewrite the franchise's own history of futility.

One year ago today, Cub fans would have thought it improbable that either Greg Maddux or Nomar Garciaparra, let alone both, would ever find their way to Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform.

But there they both were—living and breathing evidence that for all of the team's on-field talent, the Cubs most valuable commodity resides hundreds of feet above the field, hovering over a phone and dialing other GMs with magic fingers.

Last year, the Cubs did not begin the season with enough talent to win the division. At the all-star break, the team was barely playing .500 baseball.

But General Manager Jim Hendry knew this much: the Central division was weak. He could steal it by taking advantage of a buyer's market, financially-strapped teams looking to dump payroll, and a flush farm system. Hendry executed, and the Cubs won the division.

To pull off a successful sequel, the challenge before Hendry was far more complex, and the stakes far greater. This Cubs team should have had the talent to win this division handily, but due to a combination of devastating injuries and an underachieving offense, the Cubs find themselves fighting for a wild card spot with a half-dozen teams.

With the rumor mill buzzing about a number of potential trades, Hendry also faced a seller's market that wasn't really even a market, but more like a single kiosk peddling overrated veterans, and expensive mediocrity.

As the trade deadline approached, Hendry was frustrated watching a team he configured for a World Series ring misfire at all the wrong times.

The team has played in the most one-run games in the majors, and only hapless Arizona has suffered more one-run losses. The ill-timed physical and mental breakdowns had been especially acute as of late, with the Cubs last nine losses being by three runs or less.

Hendry understood that it was not worth it to give up prized prospects to plug holes. Orlando Cabrera would certainly be an upgrade at shortstop, but he was not a difference-maker. That fact was evident in Cabrera's first game for the Red Sox, when he homered in his first at-bat but still watched Boston go down in defeat.

For Hendry, there was an opportunity to acquire a true impact player, a difference-maker, an igniter that changes the entire dynamic of the lineup.

While fans of some contenders like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Florida Marlins are still trying to unravel the pro's and con's of their team's high volume transactions, Cub fans face no such quandary.

The Cubs are a better team today than they were on Saturday. While there is still nervous concern surrounding the extent of Garciaparra's Achilles injury and how much time he will miss, everyone is rightfully affording Hendry the benefit of the doubt.

At times, it has seemed like the team has been waiting to kick it into another gear and tear off a 10-game winning streak, but someone keeps knocking the clutch back into neutral (or in the case of Wendall Kim, removing the brake fluid).

The acquisition of Garciaparra is comparable to the scene in Rocky II when Sylvester Stallone's on-screen wife Adrian is in the hospital and beckons Rocky close by saying she has something to tell him. Adrian then whispers, "WIN."

If I may steal the subsequent line from Mickey Goldmill, let me just say, "What the hell are we waiting for?"


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