I was afraid this was going to be a difficult post to write. It's been a rough few weeks at work. I just finished a stretch where I worked 16 out of 17 days, including a 10 days in a row. I'm worn the hell out, and I didn't want to finish Hell's Olympics by watching the Cubs lose in the playoffs. I watched most of the game last night, fading in and out on the couch (I know it's the playoffs, but I'd slept like shit the night before, and had been effectively awake since 3 AM). I watched. I felt bad for the folks (like Sloth) who'd gone to Wrigley. Still, even with the loss, I find myself singularly optimistic.
There have been a couple of seasons in the past few that I couldn't have cared any less, when we got to September, let alone October. Rebuilding is hard. I had faith, though, seeing not only who was coming up through the minor league system locally (the Cubs' AA team plays about an hour north of here), but seeing changes in how the game was played. It might sound odd, but little things that always seemed to be the Cubs downfall (a lack of fundamentals on defense, an inability to work counts, a lack of knowledge of the hitter's role in certain situations) were also apparent with the AA club. What I was seeing through Epstein and Hoyer's draft classes and training philosophies was a couple or three classes of smarter baseball players making their way up to Chicago. After the Tennessee Smokies had a fun 2013 and 2014, I was thinking 2015 might start to be an interesting year, as guys like Soler, Baez and most definitely Kris Bryant made their way up to Wrigley.
(A minor aside...I got to see Kyle Schwarber early in the season up with the Smokies. Got to see him smack one of the longest home runs I've ever seen, major or minor league, during batting practice. It looked like he'd told the batting practice pitcher to give him a little heat. He hit one that looked like it was hitting the top of its arc as it went over the hill immediately behind the right field fence at Kodak).
After the way they finished the 2014 season, I told people that 2015 would be a year the Cubs made life difficult for a couple teams in the Central. That said, I had them pegged for a team that would finish somewhere in the 80-85 win corridor. And I thought 81 wins was a realistic goal. I had the Cardinals and Pirates figured for the class of the division.
It was a hell of a ride. For the first time in years, baseball was fun. Of course, I wish it hadn't finished up the way it did. The Mets played a tremendous series of baseball when it mattered most.
I could see myself rooting for them in the Series. Maybe.
While it sucks saying "wait 'til next year" one more time, it doesn't ring as hollow as it has in years past. There were years (1989...1998) where the Cubs only got there as much from luck as by being good. There were years where they were very good (1984, 2008), and should have been back years after, only to be hampered by injuries.
Still. I'm excited for the future. Let's see Epstein and Hoyer address a few needs. Maybe throw a World Class Closer on the back end? Let's have Kyle Schwarber take 20 thousand fly balls in the off season, and let him forget what it's like to be a catcher. I'm even back on board the Starlin Castro train, if he's willing to stay at second base. And I'm all in with Joe Maddon.
I'm not the type to say "Watch out for the Cubs, they're going to be World Beaters." Too much can happen. (Too much, by the way, kinda hit the Cardinals. They were good, but they were a team that could have won 110 games this year, guys....) I will tell you that the Cubs are going to be very good, and possibly for a long time. And I think the NL Central will be a very interesting place to play.
It's October 22, 2015. I'm ready for 2016 to be here, already.....