I feel like I’ve spent a great deal of time, both here and in my own forums, writing about there are a lot of firsts (or return to things after a long hiatus) this season. Or preparing for firsts, or trying to remember how things go when your team is actually competitive again and trying to head things off before they happen. And so it is again this week.
We knew with a team this young that there would be bumps and stretches where they looked like utter garbage. That’s what young, incomplete teams do. It’s rather amazing that it took this long, which is probably why most of us are so bummed. That it took place in yet another trip into hell down I-55 makes it particularly sting.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so bummed. This team has already exceeded most of our expectations. They reached a high of nine games over .500 this week, at the end of what is far and away the toughest part of the schedule. They did that with Soler missing time. With Fowler and Montero being woof-tastic for long stretches. They did it without Baez being called up. They did it with their free agent pitcher swinging from what we thought we were getting to being Greg Hibbard (and that’s probably unfair to Hibby Hibby Shake, who really wasn’t all that bad. Speaking of which, Jake Arrieta would like you to stop calling Jon Lester the Cubs’ ace, if it’s all the same). They did it with the bullpen lighting its own nose hairs on fire for six weeks. They did it with basically no bench. They did it with Castro being terrible at the plate in any month that wasn’t April. They did it with Chris Coghlan being one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball.
So I try and tell myself all this last night, after yet another St. Louis beatdown (one I could probably script these days). I tell myself that after the far more infuriating loss on Friday night that could not have been more Cards vs. Cubs if I had scripted it. Seriously, a ball hitting a base? That was like the one thing they hadn’t pulled out on us yet. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but at least gets me back to where I was before the season when I knew there would be weeks like this (hell, even months, though I don’t think that now).
But yet it’s always worse when it happens THERE. Because it always happens THERE. In front of THOSE. It never fails. And because the Cubs can’t prove it in front of THOSE and THERE, it feels like once again our excitement and bravado was all empty and false. If you can’t do it THERE after all, what does it matter? You’re going to have to at some point. A weekend like this and it feels like the Cubs have to start all over again on Monday before they go back THERE and try again. I hate baseball.
And of course, the spiking of the football on our heads was seemingly gleeful broadcasters who have been waiting to dump on the Cubs Excitement Parade since it started in the winter. Bob Costas, Harold Reynolds… what did we do? You know it’s better for your jobs if the Cubs are good, right? Everyone eats when the Cubs are in it. I generally don’t go for the fan paranoia of certain broadcasters are out to get us, because it’s usually silly. But it was hard to ignore this weekend wasn’t it? And that piles on to everyone piling onto Starlin Castro all season because that was so easy. I expect neither to change tonight when Dan Shulman and his two buffet busters are in the booth with their piping hot takes they deliver between trying to light each other’s farts.
The baseball season is long. There are pits like this. When the Cubs get to load up on the Braves and Phillies and Marlins and White Sox soon enough, we’ll see how things look. The reinforcements are coming, even if it’s just Neil Ramirez and one other bullpen arm and/or back of the rotation starter (and maybe Baez/Schwarber in August). And despite what Reynolds says, the Cubs really are only competing with the Giants for a wild card spot. The entire NL East sucks deep pond scum, and I don’t think the Padres are ever going to put it together. Sure, it doesn’t look good when you’re trying to dance with the team with three rings, but there are two chairs for three teams. Decent enough odds.
Again, none of this will make you feel better when it’s all happening THERE. But it might keep you from defenestrating yourself.
Sam Fels is 1/3rd of The Triumvirate of Stupid at TheCommittedIndian.com, the leading Blackhawks blog. He’s also the editor and writer of the unofficial gameday program for every Hawks home game of the same name. He shares his baseball thoughts at his own Cubs blog TheIvyDrip.com, and writes a Cubs Digital weekly of the same name which you can subscribe to here. Follow on Twitter @CubsIvyDrip.