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It's Gonna Happen
Michael Farber
July 30, 2007
Relax! It's not a prediction but rather the latest slogan adopted by baseball's most Series-starved franchise. For these Cubs, however, there is a creeping feeling that it may be more than that
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July 30, 2007

It's Gonna Happen

Relax! It's not a prediction but rather the latest slogan adopted by baseball's most Series-starved franchise. For these Cubs, however, there is a creeping feeling that it may be more than that

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Mark Derosa, the Everyman on Everyone's Team, was in rightfield early in the Chicago Cubs' recent 10-game homestand when he spotted a sign in the Wrigley Field stands: IT'S GONNA HAPPEN. There was something compelling, even mystical, about the words. They stuck in his head, like the lyrics of a long-ago song on the car radio. The "it," of course, can be open-ended, ambiguous. (A meteor is going to wipe out the North Side? Will Ferrell is going to make a movie in which he doesn't strip to his skivvies?) Cubs fans, however, are glass-half-full people--usually after chugging the other half--and the sign's meaning, in context, left little to the imagination. "When teams go on runs and good things happen to them, there always seems to be a slogan that follows them," DeRosa says. "It seems that this one has been popping up a bit."

Now in their 99th year of rebuilding, the Cubs' losing is just a few rungs below death and taxes on the inevitability scale. But having perfected the art of defeat, losing in tragicomic ways that challenge the mind and numb the soul, maybe at long last, to paraphrase scripture, the lion will lie down with the billy goat and the Cubs will do something as delightful as win the...

No, the Cubs don't need to be burdened by another jinx. But they are looming, within 3 1?2 games of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, despite a 3-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday that left the Cubs with a 7-3 mark for the homestand. And even the players are beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, It Could Happen. "It has to, it's inevitable," says Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot. "We keep playing hard, sooner or later it'll happen."

They may be in a mediocre division in a league as soft as a passing summer shower, but the Cubs have become a genuine presence. They have rapped out clutch hits and received superb pitching while putting together, at week's end, the best record in baseball since June 3, recapturing the magic of the Wrigley experience as it was in 2003 and '04, when the Cubs were star-crossed contenders.

Sure, it's been axiomatic for most of the past quarter of a century that not even bad baseball can blunt good times in America's favorite baseball theme park. But that's like saying the Vatican is more famous for its art than its religious significance. "We're sold out, no matter what," All-Star first baseman Derrek Lee says. "But now the fans are on their feet, hanging on every pitch, where in the past they were just out there drinking beer, talking to each other, having a party. Now they pay attention."

The Cubs give them little choice because every win seems to contain a moment or two to burn on the CD of memory, providing the grand stories that a city tells itself about its winning teams. Consider last week:

? Koyie Hill, one of six catchers who have started for the Cubs in 2007 and a guy who was barely hitting his IQ, drove in five runs on Wednesday in the Cubs' 12-1 thrashing of the San Francisco Giants. Chicago scored seven runs after two were out, a trend that extended throughout this homestand. Of the Cubs' 56 runs in the 10 games, 25 came with two outs. "It's a little contagious," manager Lou Piniella says, "and it demoralizes the other team a little bit."

?The following day, Barry Bonds hits two Ruthian home runs--a shot over the rightfield bleachers onto Sheffield Avenue and a homer to left center into the teeth of a 15-to-20-mph wind--but the Cubs hung on to win 9-8. (The Chicago Sun-Times headline the next morning: NINE BEATS A PAIR OF JACKS.) Jacque Jones, trade bait in June, had four hits. Cliff Floyd, shaken moments earlier in a collision at first with Giants pitcher Matt Morris, sprinted home from second on a passed ball before leaving the game at the end of the inning. Cubs starter Ted Lilly singled with two outs in the fifth, swiped second for the first stolen base of his career and scored the eighth run on Alfonso Soriano's double. Chicago had five run-scoring hits after two were out. "For April and May," Floyd said, still dazed after the win, "I think we had five total."

?In his team's first 97 games, Piniella had used 84 different lineups, just none as different as the one he used last Friday against the Diamondbacks and 2006 Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. Piniella gave first baseman Scott Moore, called up from Triple A Iowa earlier that day, his first big league start of the season and used batboy-sized second baseman Mike Fontenot in the third spot in the lineup for the first time in Fontenot's career. Asked what advice he received from Lee, the normal No. 3 hitter, who was serving a five-game suspension for a June 16 fight with San Diego Padres' pitcher Chris Young, Fontenot replied, "Hit some singles and steal some bases."

He singled twice and stole two. Fontenot and Theriot, the flying Frenchman, also were attempting a double steal in the eighth inning when third baseman Aramis Ramirez laid into a hanging, 1-2 curve for a three-run homer that produced the final margin, Cubs 6, Diamondbacks 2. Firewagon baseball. "I was talking to some Diamondbacks guys before the game, and they're like, 'The wind's blowing in today,' and I said, 'That's 80 percent of the time,' " says third base coach Mike Quade, a native of suburban Chicago. "If you think Wrigley Field is an offensive paradise, well, no. When you've got kids like Fontenot and Theriot and Angel [Pagan, a second-year outfielder] who can run, you can execute some [strategy]."

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