It goes without saying that ever since the calendar turned to June, Chicago Cubs fans have been a bit antsy because the team simply hasn’t been playing all that well. I told Ivy not to bother recapping the last week of disappointment because like manager Joe Maddon keeps telling his players, we all just need to forget about it and move on. After all, there are 74 games left, and even for the worst in the league, it’s way too early to officially give up. And why should the Cubs give up? They’re still leading the division by at least seven games! That’s good!
Far be it for me to make excuses, but between injuries, relying heavily on talented but raw rookies, pitcher and hitter slumps, and just having absolutely no breaks for over three weeks, it’s been a perfect storm of events that contributed to this slump where the Cubs lost to cellar dwelling clubs like the Reds and the Braves. But then, I look at something like this:
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) July 10, 2016
…and just have to shrug it off, because it’s baseball. I think it’s probably easier for the Cubs to shrug things off since they’re professional athletes, and you know that since they’re the ones whose jobs are on the line, they should be the ones to be anxious and frustrated, not us! But I did like seeing a lot of the quotes from Maddon and the players, where they recognized that things needed to improve, yet would not capitulate to the burden of all those losses because they understood the length of the season. I also liked seeing them continue to have fun, like Anthony Rizzo joking with the Pirates in a blowout loss after he just barely missed hitting for the cycle the other night.
Rizzo: “This game isn’t easy. It’s impossible to boat-race a whole season like we were doing. We just got to kind of clean up our pitching."
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) July 10, 2016
I liked how despite getting knocked around by the Pirates for a bit in the final game before the break, John Lackey still gutted through six innings to give the Cubs a chance to win before he got into some trouble in the seventh. He had a great quote the other day too:
To John Lackey: "What would you tell an avg fan that thinks this team is about to implode?" A: "I'd tell them they're an average fan."
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) July 9, 2016
Now folks might be insulted by that, but I liked the quote because nobody associated with the direct performance of the major league franchise — not the players, the staff, nor the front office — can react to small samples or even a single play so dramatically.
As a teacher, a father, and a coach, trying to get the people I mentor to keep things in stride is a tiring but rewarding process. Think about even something as simple as a college course, for example. You have to keep practicing and performing, turning in assignments on time, and every now and then you have a midterm. Success in this course begins with an investment of time, money (tuition, y’know), and energy. And it also requires a level of focus, because you HAVE to get to the final exam. Even if you miss a few assignments, you can still ace the midterm to maintain a passing grade. And if you’ve already done all the assignments, even if you bomb a midterm, you always have more time to make it up as you maintain that passing grade.
So it is with life. You will have stretches where everything goes right, and other stretches where some idiot rear-ends your car and now you have to pay a huge deductible because that idiot has no insurance, or a medical emergency comes up, etc. Life is a college course on a macro level, because no matter how bad it looks for parts of it, you have to keep going, because the alternative is unfathomable. Baseball is nowhere near this serious, but I hope you get the idea. There are so many more important things to worry about that pertain to our well-being than the Cubs being bad for a stretch.
The thing with these young Cubs is that they’re still trying to learn that they don’t need to actually do all that much to show that they’re good. They don’t always need the spectacular play, or to hit a home run, even though we all know they’re capable. Some missed double plays or errant throws led to runs that shouldn’t have scored, but sometimes that’s life too, and they have to (and will) learn from their mistakes, just like we all should when we make mistakes in life.
I won’t tell folks how to fan, and I don’t think you need it either. But every baseball season, just like life, has its ups and downs. What is most important is how the team decides to get out of the funk (and we know how talented they are) so they can move on to better things.
Speaking of the downs, maybe it’s good that we have the downs now during the summer before the All-Star Break, so the guys can learn from it and the front office can adjust as well.
Cubs: 9-16 in last 25
Last five WS champs, worst 25-gm stretches:
STL (11): 9-16
SF (12): 11-14
BOS (13): 12-13
SF (14): 7-18
KC (15): 9-16
— The Athletic Chicago (@TheAthleticChi) July 10, 2016
See? Everybody looks bad sometimes. Now we wait to see what they do about it on the other side of the break, because it’s not the bad stretch that defines them, but how they react to adversity. My optimistic view is that they’re going to pick themselves up, get more experience, learn from their mistakes, and start playing like we know they can again.