From the winter of 2002-2003, until about somewhere in 2010, feels like one constant baseball season to me. There wasn't an offseason and a regular season, it was all just one continuous din of noise. That winter, when I was a senior in college (yep, that old) is when the Cubs hired Dusty Baker. Back then, we didn't know he was a complete idiot and basically a health hazard to the Cubs' young pitchers or that he would manage the big moments with either both hands around his own neck or with a blindfold on or both. All we knew is that the Cubs were serious about winning, had a team that looked like it could compete, and enough youth in the rotation at least that they might be able to do so for more than one year.
And it never stopped from there. As soon as one season ended began the furor over what the Cubs would do over the winter to be better the next season and then anticipation for spring training when those moves were made. The Cubs were seemingly never out of focus. They really only had one season completely out of it in that stretch, which was 2006, and that was followed by Dusty being whacked, the team put up for sale, the hiring of Lou, and the free agent binge to end all free agent binges. Our anticipation and angst never stopped. The World Series that went on without us was merely an obstacle until free agency and the winter meetings began. Something to be gotten out of the way.
And we're there again.
While I certainly enjoyed Daniel Murphy turning back into Daniel Murphy last night, perhaps more than I should (and the shots of sad Mets fans must've added a year or two to my life), and I want to see the Mets lose and quickly, the quickly part isn't so much as to wipe out their hope but more so we can get to whatever the Cubs are going to do this winter. I want to get to reading MLBTradeRumors.com every day and thinking that anything on there could happen TODAY. While there is still much glow from this season and I'm still basking in it at times, I can already feel it fading and pivoting toward 2016. There will be moments and memories from 2015 that we'll carry forever, but those that surround those are already slipping into the background as context as we anticipate what's next.
The funny thing is I kind of dread some of what's to come. There seems an awful lot of smoke about trading Jorge Soler, and I don't want Soler to go. I know that all three of Soler, Castro, and Baez won't return together. One of them is almost certainly going to be moved. I'll hate it when they do but will understand, dependent on what's coming back of course. But we want to see what it is, and in a hurry while our buzz is still fresh.
While the NBA has gotten credit for turning their offseason into just another part of their season, making themselves a year round story, and the NFL has been this for a while now with free agency and how big of a deal they make out of the draft (the only league where the draft doesn't come right on the heels of the ending of their season or during it. Hmmm...), baseball's offseason was a major part of the experience for fans for much longer. The term "Hot Stove League" has been around for decades. A lot of times, this part of the season was more fun than the actual summer. After all, you big trade or free agent signing can't flop in December or January. There's just the excitement and vision of what will come, which is obviously a MVP or Cy Young season, duh.
I know I missed this, though it can be tiring. The Cubs will now be a constant rhythm in our lives, never able to be put down even for a week. We will pivot from one season to the next instantly, even if the Cubs finally win one. Opening day won't be so much a beginning as much as just the start of another phase, and so will the playoffs.
It's the deep end now. Luckily, I think I remembered how to tread water.
-A word on the Mets fans last night. While they can be just as brash and obnoxious as their Yankee brethren, they also have one of the bigger persecution complexes around. So even when the Mets were leading last night, I never got the feeling that Mets fans were buying in. And when it all went pear-shaped, though they put on all the heartbroken expressions, there was almost a "knowing" quality to it. Like they expected this and were almost more comfortable this way.
This is what I want Cubs fans to move on from, and it felt like we were starting to this year. Let's hope that continues.