Before attending Wednesday night's game against Milwaukee, I was sitting at GMan Tavern, as is my wont. I was joined by friend of the program, 670 The Score's Jay Zawaski and a few friends of his and mine. They were talking about how this has been the most stressful Cubs season in recent memory. They remarked about how they haven't really enjoyed it all that much, though they were looking forward to how it ended.
I wondered how could you not have enjoyed this?
Yes, the Cubs offense has caused consternation, to put it mildly. As Joe Sheehan pointed out in his newsletter, it's not a bad offense, it's just extremely weird. It's great when there's no one on base, which is why it has some of the best OBP and wOBA marks in the National League. And it's pretty terrible when there's runners in scoring position, which is infuriating but hardly a plan. It just kind of worked out that way. And when you've spent months now watching them turn every game into an algebra test when you're hungover from the night before, it can get a little fatiguing.
And yet this Cubs team has had more obstacles thrown in front of it than the past three combined. You forget that last year's team was just a tad underwhelming, and that's it. It's not like anyone was hurt. It had some of the same struggles this one has had, with young hitters finding their way. But it didn't have the injuries.
This one has had more. Not only has it dealt with regressions or learning curves of Almora, Russell, Schwarber, Happ, and Contreras (over half the lineup on some days), it had injuries. Bryant's been gone, Rizzo had a month of either being on the DL or feeling the effects, Russell's been out. Now Morrow and Strop. It's a long list.
And yet watching them scratch out a division-leading amount of wins, finding ways to stay ahead of everyone, has been a joy. How can you watch them face the latest disaster or misfortune, and their response is to only smile bigger, get even sillier, and kind of mock the panic around them. There isn't really anything they can't shrug off. Have to fly to DC on what was supposed to be an off day for one game? Fine, Rizzo is just going to show up in his uniform because what isn't an opportunity for some laughs?
There's just two weeks left now, and the Cubs sit with a 2.5-game lead. There isn't a team in the league that wouldn't take that if offered back in March. The only reason is it's been as stressful as it's been is the Cubs are having to hold off the second-best team in the National League, who have also been the hottest. If they were in the West they'd have a 5.5-game lead. If they were in the East it would be four. Just a poor draw, that. And it's probably not going to matter.
Sure, there's a whiff of 2015 here, from the reverse. The NL's best team wins the division, but has a couple flaws, and the second-best team just so happens to be the wild card. Given how the Brewers have fared of late against the Cubs, some might be a little uneasy about them waltzing into Wrigley for Game 1.
Bring it. I want to see that starting staff in the playoffs. I don't buy it. Maybe I'm asking for it, maybe I'm setting us up for a crash that w'ell never get over. I doubt it, because there doesn't seem to be anything this Cubs team don't just smile at and take as something else they can make fun of later.
When this season's over, I feel like we'll all remember how much we liked this team, more than we did during the season. And with everything that's gone against them, maybe in these last two weeks, and the month that lies ahead, things will actually bounce their way. After all, if you fight through all the things you didn't and still stand at the top of the pile, you're probably due some luck.
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