Baseball Musings pointed me to this entry on the NY Times Freakonomics blog, in which the most excellent Bill James tackled a variety of baseball fan questions, including one around which my entire baseball universe orbits:

Q: Why can’t the Chicago Cubs get into the World Series? Is it the small park? Low salaries? The curse of the billy goat? Does sabermetrics provide any insights?

A: Talking about the origins of it — the Cubs fell into a trench in history in the late 1930’s, when almost all baseball teams built farm systems, but the Cubs for several years refused to do so. This put them behind the curve, crippled them for the 1950’s, and really the organization did not fully overcome that until about 1980.

Since 1980 they have had several teams that could have wandered into a World Series, with better luck. They haven’t had any one overpowering team — like the 1984 Tigers, or the 1992 Blue Jays, or the 1998 Yankees — that was so good that it demanded a seat at the Last Banquet of Fall. And, unless you have a team that good, you’re at the mercy of the fates.

The larger question, of course, remains: who are these fates and why the hell do they have to keep picking on the Cubs?

Below: Watch Bill James' appearance this past Sunday night on "60 Minutes."


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