Note: This is a guest piece written by a frequent contributor to our forums, code name “dabynsky” as sort of a companion piece to the piece our Crazy Cubs Fan wrote yesterday. For a primer on the psychological hypothesis he references here, check out the Wiki article.
As a Cubs fan, I have seen plenty of bad baseball seasons. In my lifetime the Cubs have finished above .500 one out of three times. 1997 began with the soul crushing 0-14 start to the season, and since that time they have lost more games than they have won. Each one of those losses felt like dying to an extent, but 2012 more than any season has seen my general mood pass through the following five stages. Here is a rough timeline of my emotional progress.
The season had yet to start. I knew in my heart of hearts that this team wasn’t very good, but I thought perhaps they could surprise. I wrote a detailed description of the best case for each position, and I actually started to believe that this was a team that could overachieve. The starting pitching was going to be better than the previous year, and a lot of bad luck had struck the 2011 Cubs. I remembered the low expectations of the 1998, 2003, and 2007 Cubs who all made the playoffs after 90 loss seasons in the year before. I think I genuinely started to believe that 2012 could join that list of teams.
The Cubs beat the Cardinals for the second time in a row. They were winning another series against a competitive team. The team had gone 12-10 against those teams, and their record stood at 15-20. The bullpen was pitching better. The team had only 6 games against good teams before the first break in the schedule. The thing that also stood out was the way the team was playing. In that game the Cubs had given up a 4 run lead, but had scored in the eighth and ninth to take a two run lead heading into the final half inning. Rafael Dolis took 9 pitches to get 2 strikeouts and a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his fourth save. Things were actually starting to look like that 2007 team which turned a corner late in the season to make it to the postseason.
I moved from denial to anger with the Cubs blowing a lead against the Cardinals the following day. They were leading the game and newly anointed closer Rafael Dolis was on the mound. Instead of sweeping the Cardinals and moving within 4 games of .500, the Cardinals rallied for the win. Yadier Molina did what he did best in delivering a clutch base hit to drive in the winning run. This was the first point in the season that I was truly angry at the outcome of a game. I think this is the moment that reality finally dawned on me that there was not going to be any 1998, 2003, or 2007 magic with this team, and that made me angry.
The end of the first half of the Crosstown Cup was the peak of my anger. The team was in full free fall mode at this point in the season. They lost a game they came back and tied in the series opener, and then were absolutely dominated in the next couple of games. The team was shut out for the first time this season, and there was just nothing redeeming about the past 6 games. The Sox were perhaps the epitome of what I was hoping the Cubs could have been this season. The Sox had a bunch of guys that were overachieving after being old, hurt, and or bad depending on which guy you were talking about, and that is what I wished my team was doing. The fact that it wasn’t happening made me angry at what is going to be another long season.
It was at this point that I was desperate for a win. I began making little deals to try to hope for a win. I decided not to watch the first game against Houston. Matt Garza was on the mound for the second time since he missed a start due to the flu. The results were the same as the past week however as the Cubs dropped their seventh game in a row, and Matt Garza had a disastrous start. The record now stood 12 games below .500.
I was near the point of desperation by May 27th. I decided that by switching the Cubs hat that I wore would somehow make Matt Garza pitch well again and end the losing streak which stood at 11. Neither were affected by my change in garment as the Cubs sunk to 17 games below .500.
The Cubs won for the first time in nearly two weeks and I didn’t care. I got absolutely no enjoyment out of beating a bad Padres team. The feeling was this was a pyrrhic victory at best. The Cubs scored the most runs they have had all season, but I felt about as well as did after Jake Peavy shutout the Cubs a week ago.
The Cubs won their first road game since May 15th and Ryan Dempster got his first win of the season. The Cubs offense pounded the Brewers for 10 runs inflicting serious damage on a beleaguered foe, and again I still felt no joy at the result. The Cubs record now stood at 17 games under .500, but I was depressed.
The Twins destroyed the Cubs 11-3. Jeff Samardzija was terrible, but that was okay. The fact that a bad team made the Cubs look like a little league team was all right with me. I had finally accepted that this season would be a lost year like 1997, 2002, 2011, etc. I no longer get upset when this team loses, but accept that it is for the greater good. I can accept the losses as I await the start of the Cubs “second” season of 2012.
Where are you on the Kübler-Ross model?