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The Cubs fan backup plan

It's tough rooting for the North Siders. But it could be worse.

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Misery loves company, which is why I had to call my brother last week to make sure he knew that Cubs reliever John Grabow had just dished up a grand slam to Cincinnati's Miguel Cairo—the Miguel Cairo who is the definition of a journeyman, having played for the Cubs, in two different stints, and seven other teams.

Cairo is 37 years old and it was his second grand slam in 16 big-league seasons.

My brother, Dave, took the news well—better, it must be said, than when the Cardinals' Albert Pujols hit a walk-off homer to beat the Cubs three days earlier, or when Pujols did the exact same thing the night after that.

"Did anyone on that goddamn bench ever think that maybe you shouldn't pitch to goddamn Pujols?" Dave said in the voice message he left me. "Goddamnit, I am goddamn pissed. Hope you had a good weekend. Bye."

This time, though, he was calm. "That's amazing," he said. "Well, I'm at the Orioles game enjoying a beer."

Dave used to live in Baltimore and still travels there often for work, so he ends up going to more games at Camden Yards than at Wrigley. In this instance, he was reminding me of a piece of wisdom we've both picked up over the years: If for whatever reason you're a Cubs fan, you should really have a second team to root for—a Plan B. There are too many seasons like this, when the Cubs are essentially out of the running before June; and it's difficult to remain optimistic, even because of young players like Starlin Castro, since you know they'll achieve their greatness after the Cubs have traded them for aging veterans.

Unfortunately, my other team is the Kansas City Royals.

I was born a Cubs fan—my great-grandfather took up the cause when they actually won the occasional pennant—but once I started following George Brett's flirtation with .400 for much of the 1980 season, I was fascinated with the Royals. It was a good time for it. As Sox fans undoubtedly recall, KC was typically the team to beat in what was then the American League's West Division. They went to the World Series in 1980 and won it in 1985.

I've cheered for the Royals ever since that 1980 season, though they've sunk to depths below even the Cubs. During Brett's 21-year career, from 1973 to 1993, they had 16 winning seasons. In the 18 years since, they've had two.

Just about a month ago the Royals, led by spare parts like Jeff Francoeur and Wilson Betemit, were sitting in second place. It felt good knowing my almost-favorite team was almost on top.

Then they lost eight of their next ten, and now they're even three games behind the White Sox.

But good news is on the horizon: Next weekend the Cubs head to KC for three games. Unless I've figured it wrong, somebody I like is going to win a series.

E-mail Mick Dumke at mdumke@chicagoreader.com.

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