Baker, Hendry Deny Cubs "Choked"

Fans and media members say the Cubs choked this year.<BR><BR> They were expected to make it to the World Series this year and couldn't qualify for the playoffs even though they had a 1 1/2-game lead over the rest of the wild-card field in the National League with nine games left.

They finished 2-7 and lost five one-run games and three extra-inning games. They were five outs from a World Series in 2003, stockpiled talent on the roster, controlled their own destiny in the final week of the season and still came up short.

"It's called professional sports," general manager Jim Hendry said. "Sometimes things don't go the way you want them to."

Some call it a choke. Manager Dusty Baker is not one of them.

"I never had a team described as 'choked,'" Baker said. "And I'm not gonna have one now."

Baker admits his club was tired after playing 26 games in 24 days without a day off, but doesn't feel the Cubs choked.

"Did Florida choke? Did Philly choke? I guess that makes everybody that doesn't win chokers," Baker said. "We played a lot of games in a short period of time. We knew it was going to be a tough stretch here. I think that's a word that people use when they don't have another word. It's a very strong word.

"Teams played better than us. We didn't play well during those games. We had some near wins. They don't count. It's disheartening that people feel like that. But you can't stop the way people feel.

"I would describe it that it just didn't end right. Last week was like a nightmare."

Added outfielder Moises Alou: "When the pitching was there, the hitting wasn't there. When the hitting was there, the pitching wasn't. It's hard to swallow."

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