‘Mr. Greenberg’s expectations are jaded by last season. Mr. Greenberg is typical of many sports fans who end up jaded, spoiled and expecting more than might be likely. I expect more from someone who makes his living observing sports.’’
A reader named Bill emailed those words to the Sun-Times, standing up for his Cubs and against this awful-sounding Greenberg character. And you know what? That’s as it should be. We sportswriters are here for two reasons: (1) the free food and (2) so angry fans can criticize us and call us horrible names. On the latter count, it’s a real yin-yang thing.
So, thank you, Bill. Balance restored.
Because without Bill’s email, I’m not sure I’d know how to deal with the reaction to a column that suggested the Cubs — fresh off being swept by the Brewers at Wrigley Field — might already be in the throes of one of those late-season collapses people have a way of remembering forever.
After reaching a season-high 15 games above .500 on Sept. 2, the Cubs have lost six of their last eight games. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have torn off a 7-1 streak to cut their deficit in the National League Central from a plump seven games to a puny two. Also two games back entering Monday were the young, hungry and apparently unimpressed Brewers.
So foisted upon the masses was a column that said, essentially, the defending World Series champs are in danger of gagging on their own futility. The normal expectation would be rancor and defensiveness from Cubs fans, laced with a good bit of lashing out. But no. To my surprise — and, perhaps in a sick, twisted way, to my disappointment — pretty much everyone I heard from agreed with me. And, in many cases, they one-upped me.
‘‘They’re done,’’ a reader declared.
‘‘Been a Cubs fan 60 years,’’ another wrote. ‘‘The Milwaukee sweep this weekend was a classic Cubs choke.’’
And my personal favorite: ‘‘It’s 1969 all over again.’’
Ah, the ’69 Cubs. Maybe you’ve heard a thing or two about them. Their infamous downturn occurred after they won Sept. 2 (there’s that date again) to get to a season-high 32 games above .500. They were 8-18 the rest of the way. The Miracle Mets danced into history.
Hey, it’s something to think about Tuesday through Thursday as the Cubs host — yikes — the Mets.
It’s 1969 all over again? Well, no. For one thing, the Mets stink. For another, hearts in Cubdom are too strong after last season to be broken by anything that happens this season.
There’s also the possibility the Cubs will pick up the brooms left behind by the Brewers, sweep the Mets and begin to render all this talk of a collapse moot. Then you fine people really can let me have it. Wouldn’t that be nice?
And another thing
For the longest time this season, it was considered a given that the winner of the NL Central would match up against the Nationals in the opening round of the playoffs. No one was going to catch the Nats in the NL East. And no one in the league was going to touch the all-time-great record of the runaway Dodgers in the West.
Well, the Dodgers entered their series Monday in San Francisco in a 1-15 rut. Meanwhile, the Nats have won 11 of their last 15. Guess who’s a mere four games behind the Dodgers in the overall NL standings?
With three weeks to go, there’s certainly an opportunity for the Nats to catch and pass the Dodgers. The Cubs have too many problems of their own to be scoreboard-watching outside of their division, but let’s not kid ourselves: They’d have to prefer to take the field Oct. 6 in Los Angeles rather than in Washington.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.