I’m starting with the title of this post and seeing where it goes. It is the common idiom for situations like I currently find myself. I was bucked off the horse last fall, and rather than dusting myself off and getting right back on… I walked away. It was never meant to be permanent. I wasn’t giving up. But I also was not as mentally focused as I needed to be if I was going to safely remount and continue on.
Two of my greatest interests over the years have been baseball and writing. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have an outlet which has allowed those two interests to intersect since John offered me the opportunity to join Cubs Den seven years ago. It has been a wonderfully rewarding experience. One I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time and energy on, especially in years since John’s passing.
Once last season ended, I planned to take a few weeks off, as I always do. Writing the daily Minors recap is a grind. It is hours of commitment every day on top of my actual 9-to-5. By the final week of each season I’m usually barely scraping up enough mental energy to keep going. I always need a break after the season to recharge.
But the end of last season was different. And I’m sure not just for me, but you as well. It wasn’t just an end of a season, but the end of an era for Cubs baseball. The club had moved on from nearly every piece of the World Series winning core. Theo was gone too. It surely sapped as much enthusiasm from you as it did for me.
That wasn’t all though. The specter of the inevitable lockout loomed just in the distance. I watched early proceedings and the stance taken by the ownership. I saw too many parallels to the 04-05 NHL lockout which cancelled an entire season to have any faith the situation would be resolved quickly.
As far back as September I knew real negotiations would not take place until after Spring Training was supposed to begin, because that is when the owner’s greatest leverage would kick in. So, I had resigned myself to the notion Spring Training would not start on time, that we wouldn’t see Major League Baseball until May at the earliest, and that a mid-Summer kickoff was the most likely scenario. I wasn’t willing to dismiss the worst case either. I had already seen an entire hockey season taken away from fans, and the were too many similarities to these negotiations to ignore. I feared the same was possible in baseball this year.
I guess this is all my long way of saying I haven’t been in the right head space to write about baseball. My emotions usually ranged from bitterness to apathy. There were days/weeks when I couldn’t even muster the energy to care. Since I saw no hope for a conclusion to the lockout until spring, I often saw no reason to give the sport any of my time until then.
I was rarely happy or excited when thinking about baseball. And that is a prerequisite for me to write about it. This isn’t my job. This is a passion, a hobby. Just as it was for John. This site has meant a lot to me over the years. Since John passed it has never been the same. I know it. You know it.
I’ve never pretended to be John. I’m not the same caliber of writer. My interests lie far more on the analytical than the emotional side, while John was able to encompass both. I’m not particularly interested in getting to know the people involved, not the way he was. I’ve literally conducted just one interview for Cubs Den over the last 5+ years, and it wasn’t even with a member of the organization, because it is just not the type of writing I am compelled to undertake.
I’ve felt comfortable continuing Cubs Den the past couple of years though because I did have a love of writing about baseball, because that was all he ever asked of anyone he asked to join the site over the years: to care about what you create.
I’m more into the mechanics of baseball. The architecture. The physics. The projections. It is probably why I’ve always been drawn as much or more to Minor League Baseball and prospects than I have been to the Major League side. At the MLB level, most of the big decisions have already been made. There is little to project. The reasoning becomes more obvious, even inevitable at times, and doesn’t require much attention or examination. It is more about tweaking and polishing than constructing. I’m more interested in taking a look at the foundation and positing what can be built atop it.
With that in mind, I’ve begun to recapture my lost enthusiasm during Spring Training. Not only are all levels of baseball back before I expected, but it has been fun to get glimpses of the exciting prospects the Cubs have acquired over the past couple of seasons, many who showed well in Mesa. There is reason for excitement again.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been strategizing how to get back into writing. Writing is as much about routine and repetition as it is about passion. It’s work. And I have lost the rhythm over the past six months.
I may never find the same rhythm again, or at least it may take me a while to recapture it. But I’m leaving myself open to the possibility that when, how, and how often I write will be different this year. I’m living in a different time zone, with a different work schedule than last season.
My life is different.
Cubs Den may end up different too.
I still can’t say for certain.
But the first step, is to walk out to the corral, and get back on the horse.
On to the baseball…
Today is Opening Day. At least for AAA. The Iowa Cubs visit the Buffalo Bisons at Noon CST in the kickoff for all of affiliated baseball.
It is an unusual situation given Minor League ball generally begins a week or so after the Majors. Meaning the Cubs Opening Day roster is set long before the I-Cubs each season. This year the two are essentially being formed at the same time. Final roster decisions for the club heading north to Chicago were still being made yesterday, and won’t be announced until later today. Perhaps even after the I-Cubs season has already begun. Late additions and subtractions to AAA seem inevitable.
We do know Cory Abbott gets the ball for the Iowa opener. We know Brennen Davis will be in the lineup and that fellow top prospect Caleb Kilian will be a member of the rotation. The rest of the roster is mostly of the veteran variety, and still in flux, outside of a few powerful bullpen arms (Manny Rodriguez, Ben Leeper, Cayne Ueckert).
I’ll try to incorporate season previews for the Cubs and all of their affiliates over the course of this week as the final rosters are actually announced.
Until then, Happy AAA Opening Day.