Old men. I felt like one this year. The Chicago Cubs unexpected ride to within four games of the World Series turned me into my dad. Blame it on the politics of being a Cubs baseball fan – a combination of pessimism, healthy skepticism and hope.
I was too pessimistic in April while making fun of the #LETSGO hashtag. Maybe I was worried about the bleacher delays. By mid-June, I pronounced the Cubs as having too many deficiencies to be a serious contender. I was wrong. Ninety-seven wins, a Wild Card win in Pittsburgh and a NLDS win over St. Louis proved that the Cubs were much better than expected.
It took the New York Mets, their outstanding pitching and defense, and some baseball luck to expose the Cubs weaknesses in the NLCS. Still, something magical happened during late June and July. Manager Joe Maddon deserves credit for cultivating the young talent.
The Cubs 47-40 record offered new hope. Specifically, on July 12, I wrote here, “there is enough promise this season to reach for a NL Wild Card playoff spot.” Some of the Cubs problems had seemed to work themselves out. Dexter Fowler improved as a leadoff hitter. Kris Bryant made a bit of progress playing defense as a third baseman. Kyle Schwarber found room in the outfield. Finally, the relief and closing pitching looked much stronger.
By the series with the Mets in October, I had started to believe that we might find a way to win those four games. This is when I heard my dad’s wishes in my own voice: “C’mon, just meet the ball. Get a little base hit.” But, when the Cubs managed base runners; too often they failed to score. It was yet another “homerun or die” story. As the World Series began this week in Kansas City without the Cubs, I see visions of 1969, 1984, 2003, 2007 and 2008. I never thought the Cubs could beat the Royals this year, but Chicago missed a great opportunity to be there.
The Cubs had a starting rotation that did not feature enough depth – especially by the end of the season when even star Jake Arietta, 29, looked tired. That said, the Ricketts family modernization of Wrigley Field and Chicago Cubs baseball remain on track. Night baseball and rooftop battles seem to be behind the Cubs, and we have even come to accept the new video boards.
It turns out that the politics of change won. The politics of patience and hope suggest that the Cubs have at least four more consecutive seasons to take the next step and finally make it back to the World Series. This happened during my dad’s lifetime (before television), although the Cubs did not win the Series.
When I see Fox Sports replay all of those TV era World Series moments, it makes me sad that the Cubs have no history except for the times they have come up short. Every year that this goes on, the stakes become higher for the old men and their hope.
I really want to believe it will happen before the end of the decade.