It was a chilly-but-not-so-chilly night at Wrigley last night for my final Cubs game of the season. It was actually fairly comfortable as the wind from earlier this week had died down a bit, and also because the Funhouse on Addison was not filled to the brim as usual. It's a strange thing to look out and see the bleachers maybe only two-thirds full. On the 200 level, an usher who saw me and my brother standing against the railing walked up and told us to just sit where we want.
I hadn't seen Wrigley that way for a night game since 2002, possibly earlier. Of course, the fan vibe following the club this last week of the season is something like it was back then, before we got used to winning but not winning it all, a feeling perhaps more frustrating than anyone would have expected back in 2002.
The Cubs have been very good for the last 10 games or so, a time period that directly coincides with the suspension of Milton Bradley. They are also 17-10 as they enter the last two games of September (double header today), a final month record that would suggest postseason any other year. They have gotten two complete-game shutouts from their starting rotation within the last few games, including last night's 6-0 low-pressure win over the Pirates by Ryan Dempster. The Cubs, with an 82-74 record, also are in a good position to finish the season with a better record than they did when the won the division in 2007 at 85-77.
But, the cold reality is that the Cubs were mathematically eliminated from play-off contention last night with a win by the Colorado Rockies. The cold reality is that they may finish stronger than any National League team except the Wild Card-hopeful Braves, yet the season for them will end this Sunday when the final regular season pitch is thrown.
They still sang "Go, Cubs, Go" when Demp finished off the Pirates last night, but everyone in the crowd, which was surely somewhere under the paid attendance of about 35,000 and shrank further after the 7th inning stretch, knew the remaining wins will not add up to much but positive thoughts for next year, and maybe more regret about what could have been this year.
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