The Chicago Cubs are in the homestretch of what has been an amazing season. This team has played great from wire to wire and is in a great spot to lockup a spot in the Wild Card game. If you had asked fans what they expected going into this season, a majority would have told you they would be happy to see the team get to the .500 mark. Well, the Cubs about set to do just that; in fact, the Cubs are in prime position to win at least 90 games.
Yet, even with the great play of the Cubs, there is a problem. Every time they hit a rough patch, such as the sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies, and their current two game losing a streak streak at the hands of the team chasing them in the Wild Card hunt (who the Cubs still lead by 5.5 games) some fans start to panic. They cannot let the ghosts of past teams or their failures go. They are always waiting for the “inevitable collapse”. My question is why?
Only three people currently with the Cubs organization even have a connection to those teams who collapsed and let their fans down, and none of them are playing. They are broadcasters Pat Hughes, Len Kasper and Ron Coomer who played for the team in 2001.
That’s all. This year’s young and exciting team has nothing to do with those past teams, and should not be connected to them in anyway other than sharing the same uniform.
Not even the longest tenured Cub Starlin Castro was a part of those ill-fated clubs.
These guys are young and having fun. They are playing the game exactly the way they should be, like a game. So many athletes treat this like a business (which of course baseball is a business) that they forget that they are supposed to have fun. They are getting paid a lot of money to play a kids game, and that is what these Cubs are going. They are having fun playing a game. You can see that every time they take the field, every time they have a walk off win, every time someone on the team does something good. They celebrate the accomplishment as a team, just like you would see kids do back when we played little league. Jon Lester said things best when he said his best advice to these young players was to play stupid. These kids are too young and naive to feel the pressure normal teams would be facing. They are not allowing 107 years of Cubs history to have an impact on how they play the game, or how they approach things every day.
Why are you?
Joe Maddon might be the perfect manager this team could possible have, and he is here at the perfect time. Actually, might is the wrong word; he is the perfect manager, for the perfect club and the perfect time.
Maddon knows how to keep a team loose, which is especially important for a team as young as the Cubs are.
From day one Maddon has preached to “never allow the pressure to exceed the pleasure”. He knows that to get the most out of a team, they need to attack every game as a game. Come to the park every day and have fun. Maddon does a great job at keeping the clubhouse loose, and knows how to keep the pressure off of them.
Tuesday he was on WSCR for his weekly appearance, he mentioned that they celebrate or lament every game for 30 minutes. Enjoy the moment, or be frustrate and disappointed for 30 minutes then go home and get ready for the next day. Do not allow the pressure to exceed the pleasure, and he is making sure these kids are focused on that very message.
The way Maddon has handled this team, and has them in position to make the playoffs has him almost a certain lock to win the National League Manager of the year award. After the way he helped turn this team around in one year, how can he not win the award?
Perhaps some fans should take Maddon’s advice. Lately I think some fans are feeling more pressure than the players are.
There is something wrong with that. The players do not seem to be allowing the failures of teams past to affect how they are enjoying this season, why are some fans? In addition to having one of the best managers in the game, the Cubs also have there of the best players, all of whom are serious contenders to win awards themselves. Anthony Rizzo has taken charge of this team and is the clubhouse leader. At 26 years of age, he is who all these rookies look to for guidance.
Whether in the locker room or on the field, Rizzo the a professional who gives his all. He is clearly the best position player on the team and is leading the charge.
Because of his great play. He is one of the favorites to win the Most Valuable Player award. He is not the best player, Bryce Harper has better stats, but his value to the Cubs far exceeds that of Harper to the Nationals.
If the Cubs make the playoffs, their berth will be in large part to the all out play Rizzo gives every single game. The Cubs would not be in the position they are without him.
Do you think he is worried about a supposed “curse” keeping the Cubs from accomplishing their goal of making the playoffs or even winning the World Series. No. He is not going to allow a short losing streak to cause him to doubt the Cubs chances either.
He knows how good this team is, and what they are capable of. He knew this way back in Spring Training and never changed his stance. He has nothing but confidence in this team. You should too. How about Jake Arrieta?
He has been by far the best pitcher in the Cubs starting rotation, and you can argue that he is the best pitcher in the game. He is a legit Cy Young award candidate, and at worst is second in line for that award, which Zack Greinke might be the the current favorite to walk away with that award. That’s not to say that Arrieta is not worthy.
Arrieta had been the stopper. If the Cubs are on a skid, you know he will stop the losing streak. If they are riding a winning streak, you know he will keep things going. You just have that confidence that the Cubs are going to win every time he takes the mound.
Do you think he gave up when he was with the Baltimore Orioles and was struggling?
Hell no. He knew how good he was and how good he could be. He worked his ass off and is now one of the best pitchers in baseball. He did not let struggles hurt his confidence. He used those struggles as motivation and fed off of them.
You think he cares about what happened to the Cubs teams of years past? You think he is worried that his season will go down hill or that the Cubs are going to collapse because teams before him did? Doubtful.
So why do you? Then we have Kris Bryant. As far as I can tell, he is the runaway favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. He busted his ass his whole life to get to where he is right now. He didn’t let his not breaking camp with the big league club get him down. He knew he would be with the big boys soon.
He has played better than any other rookie in baseball, and if not for Rizzo would be seen as the best player on the team.
Sure, he had a horrible month of July. But he did not write that off to being over matched (like some fans did). He did not think his struggles were due to “being Cubbed” or some other bullshit reason. He took those struggles, and learned from them.
Look at him now! He is having one hell of a month and is practically locking up the ROY award.
He is not worried about the team falling off or collapsing down the stretch. Like everyone else on this team, they fully believe they can win every single game. They have no doubts or fears the way some fans do. The time has come for you to forget the past. Enjoy the ride this team is taking you on.
Stop worrying about a collapse, these guys certainly are not, and you can bet your ass they care more than you do.
Have confidence in this team, at least as much as they have in themselves. Stop worrying about what may or may not happen. There is absolutely no reason to worry about this team fading or collapsing because of what other Cub teams did before them or that collapsing is the “Cubs thing to do”.
Will this team make the playoffs? I fully believe they will.
Will they win the one game playoff? I think so.
Will they go all the way? I have no idea. But I am not going to stop believing that this team is on to something because of a couple losses.
This season is far from over; in fact the season has just begun. Stop waiting for or expecting the worst because of a little skid.
Have as much fun as our Cubs are.