Pardoning Bartman: Why Miami Marlins Fans Should Cheer Cubs
Miami Marlins fans remember well the glory of the 2003 season, that magical run that ended in the franchise’s second world championship after a thrilling postseason.
So to do Chicago Cubs fans, as they saw their team lose the NLCS in seven games, falling just short of reaching the World Series.
Of course, those 2003 Cubs lost that NLCS to the Marlins. And, of course, there’s a prominent third party in that sequence of events we haven’t mentioned yet.
That’d be one Steven Bartman.
Savior or scapegoat depending on your allegiance, Bartman’s story is the stuff of legend. If you’re not a Cub fan, it’s an absurdly hilarious story on the surface. The fact that he pretty much had to go into hiding as a result, a bit less so, but that only adds to the fascinating intrigue of it all. Every year since, whenever the Cubs show a flicker of promise, or just whenever they play the Marlins, Bartman’s ghost returns. Lampooned, lambasted, lamented…memes might have been invented just for this guy.
Suffice it to say, he’s in zero danger of ever cornering the Chicago vote for FanSided Sports Fan of the Year.
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Inextricably linked with the plight of the Cubs over the past 108 seasons, as far as most baseball fans are concerned, the only thing that kept the Cubs from making the World Series that year was the outstretched hand of a distracted fan.
Which, to fans of the Marlins, should be infuriating.
Because at the end of that fateful October 2003 day, the Marlins won for one reason, and one reason only.
The 2003 Florida Marlins were a better team than the 2003 Chicago Cubs.
Eight runs were scored in that inning. The Cubs were welcome to record an out at any point, starting with the next pitch to Luis Castillo. The Chicago version of Alex Gonzalez committed the worst error in a playoff series since Bill Buckner, and largely gets a universal pass on account of Bartman’s actions. Dusty Baker could have actually gone to the bullpen, rather than run Mark Prior into the ground. Once he did pull Prior, any of those relievers could have done their part.
Or, you know, the Cubs could have won Game 7. Most casual fans of the sport tend to forget there was one more game left to play in that series, and that the Cubs even had the lead for a good chunk of it.
Bottom-line, the popular narrative isn’t about the thrilling series the Marlins won. It’s about the series that the Cubs lost, and more to the point, lost because it was stolen from them.
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If the Cubs can manage to put the Billy Goat Curse to bed this time around though, maybe that starts to change. Especially if the Cubs go on to become the perennially contending dynasty they’re shaping up to be, coinciding perhaps with the continued development of a young Marlins core that should start to consistently challenge for the postseason themselves.
If that happens, maybe we can all agree on what really happened in 2003. That the best team, the team since May 23rd had won more games than any other team in baseball, actually won after all.