Week 43: Thoughts on the baby Cubs

Over the past week, I’ve become quite frustrated with the narrative surrounding the end of the 2015 Cubs’ season. Yes, they got swept by the Mets, and it was not pretty. I’ll be the first to say I am sad and disappointed. But when I see phrases such as “epic collapse” and “another postseason failure” or “playoff disappointment,” it makes me angry. All those sentiments have lost sight of what happened this season. Here are my thoughts.

  1. Perspective. Yes, the end of the season was crushing. Yes, it was ugly. But the reality remains that the season went further than it was ever supposed to. The road stopped very abruptly, but it was far longer than expected. The long-term plan was for the 2015 Cubs to win up to 90 games; they won 97. The long-term plan was for the 2015 Cubs to contend for a playoff berth; they won the NLDS. Really, for all of September and October, the Cubs were playing with house money. This season was the first year of the final phase of the Cubs’ rebuild, and the team recorded the third-best record in baseball, with possibly the NL Cy Young winner, the NL Rookie of the Year and the Manager of the Year.  With everything they accomplished this season, the baby Cubs brought a glimpse of the future into the present.
  2. Youth. This team is crazy young. We watched them and got to know them and became invested in them over the course of the season, so it’s easy to forget, but this is a team primarily made up of ’90s babies and rookies. Most of the big names weren’t in The Show last year; many of them weren’t on the Cubs’ big league roster in May. Kyle Schwarber was in college 18 months ago. Kris Bryant was in Triple-A in April. Addison Russell is 21. Javier Baez got called up in September. I could go on, but the point is they are green. These guys have very little experience in MLB, let alone the playoffs. For the future, that means they are only going to get better. But for this season, it meant that at some point, they were going to get nervous, they were going to tighten up, and they were going to make mistakes. Frankly, it’s amazing that didn’t happen sooner. That Joe Maddon kept them loose until Oct. 17 is an incredible testament to what he did with this group.
  3. Matchups. The Cubs beat the Cardinals, which was amazing and awesome. The Cardinals are the best team in baseball, objectively speaking. The Cubs lost badly to the Mets. Make no sense, right? Wrong. Yes, the Cardinals come out on top in most ways, but baseball (especially playoff baseball) is about matchups. Mets pitching vs. Cubs batting was a very, very bad matchup for the Cubs. Anyone who regularly watches the Mets or knows baseball inside and out will tell you the Mets’ rotation throws fastballs better and more often than pretty much any other rotation in the league. The Cubs’ batters struggle with fastballs and strike out more often than pretty much any other lineup in the league. That was going to be a very, very difficult series for the Cubs to win. Did I think they’d get swept? No. That happened because bats went cold, arms got tired and defense got nervous, while the Mets’ pitchers threw flame and their batters got crazy hot. But even so, looking at these two teams, the Mets were well situated to be the NL representative in the World Series.

That’s my spiel. Of course I am disappointed. I really hoped the Cubs could surprise me even more than they already had. I was on the ride and didn’t want to get off. Also, the players gave us so much this year, and I didn’t want it to be over for them. They deserved all the success they had — and possibly more.

But more will come. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the next few seasons are going to be at least as good — and likely better — than this one.

In the meantime, it’s hockey season, so I’ve got my Blackhawks to watch.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Currently watching: Catching up on Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder and The Good Wife

Song of the week: Selena Gomez’s “Good for you”

Plans for the weekend: My college roommate Erin is visiting. We have tickets to see UCB and Walk the Moon, and we are also planning to hike in Malibu, paddle board in the Marina and spend a day at Disney.

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