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I believe it is a natural tendency for fans of teams that lose – particularly teams that are very good in the long, long regular season, and then can’t seem to win in the short, crapshoot playoffs – to search for meaning where it doesn’t exist. To search for complex reasons why, where the reason why is probably pretty simple.

That’s why it doesn’t surprise me to see some of the more ethereal explanations for the Chicago Cubs’ recent postseason woes coming out of the woodwork. The in-vogue explanation – not coincidentally coming on the heels of the Milton Bradley signing – is that the Cubs have lacked fire. Passion. A certain… nastiness. Apparently.

What became finally and conclusively apparent in the 2008 postseason was that the cute, happy, aw-shucks Cubs thing doesn’t work. It tends to freeze in the spotlight, with earnest smiles giving way to a sort of ghastly group rictus.

If it were up to me, I would redesign the fuzzy-wuzzy team logo, change the uniforms and bulldoze the ballpark, except for the scoreboard and the ivied walls. With 100 years of futility as a guide, it’s not working.

Now comes Milton Bradley, who is so un-Cublike he probably wears White Sox boxers under his pants. He’s the Human Sneer. The Cubs aren’t bringing him to town to be a leader. They’re bringing him to provide another left-handed bat and light a fire. Light a fire, pull the pin of a grenade — it’s the same thing, isn’t it?

$30 million is a hell of a lot to pay for a fire. A Bic is, what, 50 cents? More after the jump.

Any casual observer could see the 2008 Cubs lacked nastiness, edginess and whatever-ness that can produce the occasional scowling ballplayer. That absence was considered a good thing on the North Side last season. It’s always considered a good thing on the North Side.

Ok. Even if I grant you that, I’m still waiting to hear the part where “nice” teams can’t win in the playoffs.

Piniella will need to apply a firm hand while being wary of getting his fingers bent back. But there’s no doubt he pushed for the signing of the switch-hitting Bradley. He wanted more left-handed hitting in the order and someone to stir things up in the Cubs’ happy, happy clubhouse.

Because… an angry, angry clubhouse is better? I liked the Carlos Zambrano – Michael Barrett fight as much as anyone, but I sure wouldn’t have wanted to see it in October.

I have heard the cries from the Cublogoverse that the Cubs have been flacid for years, and I get it. Perhaps it’s been an offshoot of Kerry Wood’s brand of stoic leadership. Of course, Kerry’s gone now, so if the Cubs show fire this year, maybe I’ll conclude it’s the lack of Kerry, not the plus of Bradley.

Isn’t Lou Piniella known for his fire? Didn’t Ted Lilly try to beat up his manager? Didn’t Derrek Lee take a (girly) swing at Chris Young? Didn’t Carlos Zambrano pound the other testicle right off of Michael Barrett?

Yes, the Cubs looked absolutely listless in the playoffs last year. But it was *three* games. There is no magic formula to overcome three games. You can be a raging ball of fire in the clubhouse – think Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent on the Giants – and still come up short.

Just get there. Just get to the playoffs. Build your team for a short series. Stay healthy. Stay fresh. Stay sharp.

But artificial anger? Meh. I don’t see it helping.

  • savant

    Ace, I don’t think Bradley’s anger is classified as artificial anger, at least to me it appears to be the real thing. That being said I like crazy players, because for the most part they put so much pressure on themselves for 162 games that the pressure of the postseason maybe isn’t such a big deal to them.

  • Ace

    No, I know his anger isn’t artificial – I just meant that the suggestion that the Cubs “need” to “add” anger is really artificial. It’s not like the anger quotient is something on the back of a player’s baseball card.

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