I'm racking my brain, but I don't remember a Cubs season that's come down to the last day, aside from 1998. And back then, it was to scrape into the playoffs as a wildcard for the right to get thwacked by the Braves (and to possibly ruin Kerry Wood's entire career). At no time since I came into existence have the Cubs carried the league's best record and still had nothing decided on Game 162. This is as close as it could feel like to being the '93 Giants. And they had no safety net, which the Cubs will get. Essentially, if the Cubs and Brewers both win today, both teams will have two chances to win one game to get into the playoffs. Same goes for the Rockies and Dodgers out west.
This is as fun as a last day of baseball gets, and yet for most it's been something to dread.
I know it's years of being a Cubs fan, but the whole point of this operation the past few years is that it's not that way anymore. These aren't the same Cubs. They've spent the past three years almost always coming through when they had to. Their two failures, if you want to put it that way, were when they were simply overmatched. No one could live with the Mets pitching in '15, and the Dodgers were simply better last year.
Well, the Brewers don't overmatch the Cubs. And they don't even play them today. Sure, it's the Red Menace in the other dugout, and even though the Cubs basically snuffed out their flame on Friday, for the second year in a row and the third time in four years, you are trained to think that they will once again screw over the Cubs. You have too much experience.
But that was THOSE Cubs. These are THESE Cubs. Sure, the offense is wonky. Sure, Mike Montgomery isn't your first choice to start this game. Sure, the pen is exhausted and hurt and scary.
And yet the Cubs won't care. They never do. They'll get it done, because that's what they do.
Another narrative I'm incredibly sick of, and one I've been harping on for weeks now, is that the Cubs somehow coughed this up. The Cubs are going to win 94 or 95 games (possibly 96 if this has to go to 163). They've had their former MVP play half of a season, and the other half he's been hurt. Their #2 starter made eight starts. Their closer missed half the year, and their backup closer has been out the past month. They've had one day off in 40.
Before the season, at full-strength, what was this team projected for? 97 wins? 98 at most? I didn't see any 100-win predictions. So they're going to finish one or two games off of this?
The Brewers have gone 27-10 since August 13th. What do you do about that? The story is how good they've been, not that the Cubs have been subpar. Is the Cubs 24-13 record somehow unacceptable? It's .648 ball! That's a 105-win pace over an entire season! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here!
Maybe this is the problem when you gauge the feelings of the fanbase through social media, where every jackass and palooka gets a voice. Maybe most of the fans know what they're watching here. It's easy to nitpick one game here or there or one player's slump or whatever else and say that should have gone differently. When there are 162 of these damn things, you can do that every season. If this then that and whatever else.
This is going to be a fun day. We used to not get them. For a fanbase that loves Javier Baez so, a lot of them sure miss the point of what makes him the most entertaining player in the league. Javy only sees what's possible in a positive sense. If I make this throw I'll get this guy, if I try for this base I'll make them screw up, I can hit this pitch to Winnetka. He has never thought about what could go wrong, just what could go right.
Cubs fans need to do the same. The Cubs can, and will, win the division by conquering their two nearest rivals. How sweet will that feel.
Think of Ed Harris playing Gene Kranz in Apollo 13, when he overhears two other NASA officials speculating that this could be the biggest disaster in NASA history.
"On the contrary, gentlemen. I think this will be our finest hour."
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