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It's funny about expectations. The Cubs' season ended in such a bitter way it made a fan reluctant even to think about next year -- and for Cubs fans that's saying something. The Sox' season, meanwhile, ended almost pleasantly, even in defeat.
So who faces the brighter future? At the moment, the Cubs seem in shambles. They face a future in which key players Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez have been revealed to be mistake hitters who can be scouted well and pitched to without fear -- the National League equivalent of the Los Angeles Angels' Vlad Guerrero. Key pitchers Kerry Wood, Rich Harden, and Carlos Zambrano all have brittle arms or psyches, if not both. Manager Lou Piniella might be able to tell talent from no-talent, but he seems unable to massage those in between. The Cubs seem far away from a championship. The Sox, meanwhile, have a promising core of plus hitters: Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, and top draft pick Gordon Beckham. One can easily see them anchoring a championship lineup, especially with pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd.
Yet the baseball gods are nothing if not fickle. Just when it seemed as if the Saint Louis Cardinals would always squander chances to win a championship, they won one two years ago with a team that barely made the playoffs. What I do know is this: it ain't just talent. The weight on the Cubs has become so great they're going to need their own "idiots," like the 2004 Boston Red Sox or the Journey-loving wackos of the 2005 White Sox, to get beyond any talk of curses.
You know, it's funny. Just when the fans were lifting the Cubs to new heights, Steve Bartman, by all accounts one of their fiercest and most loyal fans, sabotaged them in 2003, and just when the front office was finally opening its pocketbook to enable the Cubs to compete for top free-agent talent, Crane Kenney sabotaged them by reviving all the pressure and talk of curses by having a Greek Orthodox priest bless the Cubs' dugout this fall.
So it says here the Sox will win another title before the Cubs do -- only this time, please, without "Don't Stop Believin'." We paid our dues to get over the curses in 2005.
Pictured: the 1908 World Series