Told you so, dummies.
As much as I say the Cubs are going to win the World Series this year, I obviously don’t know that. Hell, I don’t know that they’ll ever win it. No one does. There are two ways of dealing with the unknown. Ruminate on it anxiously, or look forward to it with hope.
I understand the anxiety. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 108 times, fuck this universe and everything in it. When we keep seeing the same outcome over and over again, we get conditioned to expect it. It’s hard-wired into our brains, and it’s hard to see that things
can will ever change. If that’s your choice, by all means, lose all your hair, grow out that beer gut, and waste what remaining beats you have left on your ticker by filling yourself with dread.
If you want a different option, here’s my little secret as to why I wasn’t panicked last night, why I won’t panic if they lose tonight, and, yes, why I won’t die if they don’t win the World Series this year. Last century, there was almost a 40-year gap between postseason appearances for this team. Hell, we waited nearly a decade before the 1998 team surprised everyone by sneaking into the postseason. It was a seven-year playoff drought before last season’s run. That’s an awfully long time to wait for your favorite team to have some easily-measurable success. To have something tangible you can point to and say, “THAT’S why I’m a Cubs fan.” We don’t want to be thought of as crazy, which we would be if we rooted for a team that we absolutely KNEW had no chance of success (sorry, you crazy Bears fans). And, yes, it’s annoying to watch other fans celebrate the way you want to. Especially if you can’t stand their teams and those fans.
But this is different.
For much of the Cubs’ history, we’ve been forced to cross our fingers that aging players would catch lightning in a bottle and squeak past teams that were better at pitching, catching, hitting, and baserunning. That’s no longer the case. The team- no, the entire franchise- is built correctly for the first time in my lifetime. There’s hope for the foreseeable future. We’ve known about it for a while, but now the entire world gets to see that the Cubs’ utility player is better at baseball than most of their starting lineup. That’s a thing that should give you hope instead of anxiety, no?
This team has been entertaining as hell. If they don’t go all the way, does that totally negate the joy of watching them run roughshod through the National League all year? Of winning 100+ games for the first time in EIGHTY years? Of watching all year as the Cardinals and Pirates had to sprint to keep up with the Cubs’ runaway train like a fat kid, late for the bus? I hated the last episode of Lost, but it’s still one of my favorite series of all time, just as this season will be one of my fondest Cub seasons, no matter how it ends. What about 2015? Do you look back on last season with regret, or with a smile? I didn’t think it was possible to like a team more than the 2015 Cubs. Then 2016 came along. If you think watching a fun, exciting season of baseball is a waste of your time if the Cubs don’t win it all, I’ve got news for you. You need a better pastime. On your way out, please delete your Twitter account.
If it’s not this year, the window isn’t closing anytime soon.
That said, it’s this year. Calm down.
I’m concerned about our well-being as a fanbase.
With the Epstein obliteration of the “lovable loser” persona came a certain amount of responsibility. In a few short years, the Cubs went from Lloyd Dobler to Johnny Lawrence, and we suddenly have no idea what to do with our arms in pictures. We’re the kid who had a six-inch growth spurt in the summer before freshman year of high school. We’re the computer geek who founded a dot com, and is suddenly surrounded by bikini models and fast cars. We’re the bullies. It’s hard enough for the rest of the teams in the MLB to get used to it without us acting like a bunch of dopes about it.
I was at the game last night. It was a great game. Hendricks was great. Kershaw was greater. He’s a freak of nature. He beat the Cubs. That’s what everyone has been trying to do since April. You know who’s successfully done it more often than not this year? The eliminated Mets and the long-forgotten Rockies. That’s it. Those are the two teams who beat the Cubs more than they got their heads kicked in by the Cubs. Yeah, the postseason is a different beast, and blah blah blah. Two teams.
I get it. This is a weird position. I still have a t-shirt that says, “I SURVIVED THE 1983 CUBS SEASON”. We’ve all chosen to try to ride out this suffering for long enough that we’d eventually have a chance to watch our team stand on a mountain of humiliated opponents holding up a big, shiny trophy. It’s not our fault that we don’t know what to do now that we’ve left base camp behind, and the mountain is just SLIGHTLY steeper than we expected. Sure, the Cubs might slide all the way back down, and that would be a huge disappointment, but here are some words to settle your troubled minds.
The Cubs have the best defense left in the postseason.
The Cubs have the best pitching staff left in the postseason.
The Cubs have the best lineup left in the postseason.
The Cubs have the best manager left in the postseason.
The Cubs are the best team left in the postseason.
So, stop. Stop calling into radio shows (or texting me; YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) and saying that Anthony Rizzo should be benched. Anthony Rizzo should and will start every single game this postseason, and you’re an insane person if you say otherwise.
For the love of god, please don’t pick fights. I stepped onto a crowded Red Line train after the game last night, and an angry Cubs fan literally shoved me off the train. We’re grown men. I get that you’re pissed off and probably drunk, but we’re GROWN MEN. I rolled my eyes and stepped back onto the train. He shoved me off again. I laughed at him and stepped on a third time. This time, I grabbed a handhold. Fool me three times, and all that. I’m just trying to make a train. One loss is not the end of the playoffs, even if it feels like it. Being in the postseason so infrequently magnifies everything. But it’s not that way any more. Of course the Cubs may miss the postseason in the next few years, but THAT’S now the anomaly. We’ve been waiting for this all this time. We should be ready for this. I believe in us. I think we can figure out how to be better fans together.
Unless you’re that train guy. If you’re that guy, do the rest of us a favor. Don’t go out in public this postseason. Watch the games at home. Scream, cry, overreact, break your remote, do whatever your caveman brain tells you is a good idea. For the love of god, though, please get your significant other and pets out of the house before you hurt someone. Or just pick a different team. We don’t need fans like you. You’re going to be the rioters when the Cubs finally do this thing. You’re the ones throwing punches at the crosstown series. Stop. The Cubs are going to be good for a very long time. Maybe even long enough for you to grow up and get your life together. I love this team, I love this game, and I love the highs and even the lows of the postseason. But you’re going to hurt yourselves or someone else.
It’s the oldest major sport in the country. Let’s act like we’ve been watching it for a while.
The Cubs now have 50 RBIs with the bases loaded. How does that compare to last year (or even the past few years)? We all know the Cubbies have been horrible with RISP, much less with the bases loaded.
— Aaron K., Chicago
Every time the bases get loaded, a reminder that YOU can get loaded on the thousands of beers available at Binny’s Beverage Depot. If you can’t find it at Binny’s, you’re probably drunk enough already, mister. Binny’s Beverage Depot. Champagne provider of the Chicago Cubs.
CARRIE: Here are the Cubs’ batting averages with the bases loaded and total RBIs in those situations:
2016: .400 (20-for-50) with 50 RBIs
2015: .284 (40-for-141) with 111 RBIs
2014: .200 (17-for-85) with 66 RBIs
2013: .231 (21-for-91) with 65 RBIs
2012: .241 (21-for-87) with 67 RBIs
2011: .296 (37-for-125) with 90 RBIs
2010: .292 (33-for-113) with 100 RBIs
The Cubs’ individual stats with the bases loaded are:
Matt Szczur (3-for-4, nine RBIs)
Ben Zobrist (4-for-6, eight RBIs)
Addison Russell (3-for-6, six RBIs)
Jason Heyward (2-for-5, five RBIs)
Kris Bryant (1-for-4, six RBIs)
Dexter Fowler (1-for-4, four RBIs)
Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3, one RBI)
Even more surprising that I’m still alive may be the revelation that clearly Ed Hartig is still alive, as there’s no way that Carrie did this research herself.
What effect do you think Stephen Strasburg’s extension with the Nationals will have on the negotiations the Cubs are having with Jake Arrieta?
— Sean M., Indianapolis
They’ll probably try to sign Arrieta instead of Strasburg.
CARRIE: Strasburg, 27, was given a seven-year, $175 million extension on Tuesday, and the biggest impact it has on Arrieta is that it reinforces the high price of pitching. Arrieta, 30, will be a free agent after the 2017 season, and he expects to be compensated. He said Wednesday he’d like to stay in Chicago, but he clearly stated that he is not going to give the Cubs a hometown discount. As of now, Arrieta is under control with the Cubs for this season and next.
You think pitching is expensive? How about the cost of living these days? It’s all guys like Arrieta or Strasburg can do to keep the lights on. AREN’T BASEBALL SALARIES OUTRAGEOUS, YOU GUYS??? THESE GUYS ARE MAKING MILLIONS TO PLAY A GAME FOR A LIVING!
Any chance that Bryant is a permanent fixture in left field with the way Javier Baez is playing?
— James M., Jacksonville, Fla.
No more permanent than Schwarber was when he was out there. HEY-O!
CARRIE: I wouldn’t say permanent.
Other things Carrie won’t say:
CARRIE: Bryant will see more playing time in left field than anyone expected at the start of the season, mainly because of Kyle Schwarber’s season-ending left knee injury.
WHAT??? When did THAT happen?
CARRIE: Manager Joe Maddon wants to get Baez in the lineup for defense and wants Tommy La Stella in for offense in certain matchups.
For example, Tommy La Stella versus the fragile bag of meat that is his human body.
CARRIE: Some fans have asked about Jorge Soler’s status because he’s not playing every day. Soler is still in the development phase of his career, and the Cubs are in win mode. The goal is to find matchups in which Soler can be in a position to succeed.
For example, Jorge Soler’s fragile bag of meat versus Tommy La Stella’s fragile bag of meat.
Do you have any updates on Schwarber’s knee? Will we see him around the ballpark?
— Jerry U., Belvidere, Ill.
Low and lazy.
CARRIE: Schwarber is at Wrigley Field for his rehab, but his progress will be slow, which is why you won’t get daily updates.
Also because the Muskbox is written almost as sporadically as HJE.
CARRIE: Chicago’s coaching staff is keeping him mentally in the game by having him chart the pitchers, which will give him a better understanding of situations and help his development as a catcher.
It’s also helping him learn Excel, which can only help his CV.
CARRIE: Schwarber is still wearing a massive brace on his left leg, which he can only take off to do his exercises and shower.
This is the only lead Carrie has ever followed up on and done some actual investigative journalism.
Just that she followed him around to see when he took off his brace.
What I’m saying is that she tried to get a sneaky peek at Kyle’s peen.
I was watching a Spring Training game and noticed the discussion of Arrieta’s workout and the new equipment the Cubs brought into the facility. How do players establish workout routines? Are any of the other guys adopting Arrieta’s training program after his success last year?
— Chris M., Rutherford, N.J.
THEY GET OFF THE DAMN INTERNET AND GO OUTSIDE EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, CHRISTOPHER!
CARRIE: During the season, players follow Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss’ program. In the offseason, Buss travels to meet with the players and their personal trainers to go over their workout plans and make sure they’re following his instructions.
I hope he travels around in a bus and says things like, “You want to ride your way to success, you gotta get on the Buss!”
CARRIE: Yes, more players have added Pilates to their workout routine, and Arrieta does deserve credit for that. It’s easier to do that now since the new clubhouse has a Pilates room with space for the reformer. Last year, the device was crammed in a corner of the interview room, which was shared by the groundskeepers for weather updates.
And by “weather updates,” she means that there was a hole in the roof of the interview room that they stood under. If they got wet, it was time to bust out the tarp.
What’s the status of Matt Murton? Why hasn’t he been brought up?
— Jim and Crissy B., Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Jesus Christ. Or, to put it in Murton’s now-native tongue, “イエス・キリスト.”
CARRIE: Murton, who is back in the U.S. after playing in Japan, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Iowa with a strained oblique. There’s no timetable for his return.
As soon as the groundskeepers’ feet get REALLY cold, Murton will be up.
And, apparently, it’s well-known in the Twittersphere, as well! Roland Johnson was good enough to inform me that one of my many mean tweets about Dempster had been read that morning on MLB Central. Leave it to Dempster to be involved in a routine stolen from fellow hack Jimmy Kimmel. My only regret is that they didn’t pick a meaner post.
I’m not saying that this is the culmination of my life’s work. I’m not saying that this will be my last post. But if this ends up being my last post, what a glorious last post it is.
WE DID IT, YOU GUYS!