One of the occasional duties of Chicago sportswriters is to update the mnemonic guide to Cubs defeats. The Babe’s called shot helps us remember 1932, the fly ball Don Young dropped 1969, Leon Durham’s muffed grounder 1984, and the Bartman boner 2003
2004. Now the scribes are doing their damnedest to make sure no Chicagoan thinks about the Arizona sweep of ’07 without cursing manager Lou Piniella for yanking first-game starter Carlos Zambrano after 85 pitches.
For instance, the Sun-Times’s Chris De Luca predicted that “Piniella will be haunted by his controversial decision to lift Zambrano in Game 1” and the Tribune‘s Paul Sullivan that “Piniella will hear about the move for the rest of his life, or perhaps even longer if they have sports-talk radio in the afterlife.” And here’s the AP’s Rick Gano: “Chicago’s best chance might have come in the opener, when Piniella made a move that will be questioned for years.” A dazzling contribution to the genre by the Sun-Times‘s Rick Telander, which he didn’t even wait for the Cubs to lose the series to make, was noted earlier by Kate Schmidt in the Reader‘s sports blog.
There’s no parallel universe we can check to see what would have happened if Zambrano had kept pitching, which is why even Telander hesitated to say Piniella’s move was flat-out wrong. But in scribespeak, “controversial” doesn’t mean, “Two sides to this one, so lots of lively argument ahead.” It means, “It didn’t work, and we’ll never let him forget it.”