CHICAGO--Friday's 2006 home opener for the Chicago Cubs was soured by the news that the Cubs had been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The news came after the entire 25-man rosters of the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Houston Astros all survived the opening week of the season without dying.
"Well, it's disappointing," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "When you look over at the other dugout and you see 25 guys all sitting there in uniform, it breaks your heart a little bit, dude."
The 2006 season was marred in its earliest stages after consecutive seasons in which the Cubs failed to make the playoffs due to the continued existence of teams like the Cardinals, Astros, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, and Boston Red Sox.
"You have to figure if the top eight or ten teams in the league for the past few years were wiped off the planet by some sort of supervirus that only affects outstanding athletes, that we would have probably made the playoffs the last two years as well as this year," Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry said. "But as far as I know, there is no such virus, nor have there been any natural disasters localized to those teams' clubhouses, so we were eliminated a little early this year."
Neifi Perez hoped for elimination of the top teams as well. "You have to realize that if the top eight teams just vanished into the Bermuda Triangle, or something, that would eliminate 200 more players who are all better than I am. Cha-ching!"
News of the elimination inspired pitching coach Larry Rothschild to begin a strenuous and highly-dangerous rehabilitation progam for pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. "As soon as I heard we had been eliminated, I decided to put as much stress as possible on those guys' arms, just so they're extra-special ready for the 2007 season."
Details about Rothschild's new, unorthodox program were vague, but rumors circulated that both pitchers will be keelhauled, quartered, and then forced to serve for six months' time on an Arctic fishing boat.
"I had to put them on the fishing boat, because I just missed the signups for the heavyweight all-right-handed arm wrestling tournament," Rothschild said.
Neither Wood nor Prior could be reached for comment, as they were both at base jumping class.
News of the Cubs elimination reached the Cardinals players, as the fact that no one had died was posted on the Wrigley scoreboard before the game. "I'm sure it's disappointing for them," Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said as he reacted to external stimuli. "There's not much left for them to play for," Pujols added, metabolizing.
"They have 159 games left after today's game, which would normally leave them plenty of time to catch up," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said as he inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide. "But when you have three whole teams in front of you who are all still alive, you're pretty much stuck just playing out the rest of the season."
Cubs trainer Mark O'Neal declared three Cardinal players dead before the first pitch of the opener, but his diagnosis was proven incorrect when those three players were seen playing pepper and dividing cells.
"Those guys just have to hang in there now that they're eliminated," said Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen, clearly having a soul. "Teams get eliminated early sometimes, but you have to stay positive," he said as he grew slightly and played with his biological offspring.
"There's always next year."
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