Saturday’s game was a bit of a letdown, and for the first time in a while, I actually had to turn off the Chicago Cubs as they just could not get it going in Southern California.
Instead, I spent about an hour washing dishes. It was kind of therapeutic, as the water ran and warmed my hands while I rubbed all the grime and funk off the assorted utensils and plates. I got to thinking about how long it has taken for these Cubs to rub the proverbial grime and funk off themselves as they have played with such mediocrity over the first two months of the season.
I am strangely content so far, and perhaps it has to do with the fact that this team won it all last year and are still in that stage of development where they are still learning on the job. I also recognize the effort and the passion of the guys on the team as they try to bust out of this funk. It’s very difficult to gauge when the team as a whole will figure it out and retain first place for good as many have projected, but the effort has never been lacking. You can see it in Ian Happ as he tries to avoid going back to Iowa, and his busting out of the box to almost secure a hustle double before being ultimately ruled out. You can see it in Kyle Schwarber, who has been scuffling but still takes his walks and tries his best every time up to extend an at-bat. And as many fans hate him, you have to appreciate John Lackey‘s passion as he just could not shut out the Dodgers after all…
If the one regret you have in life is that the Cubs won’t be back-to-back champions, then I think you have led a pretty good life. When I look at this year’s team, I don’t see players who don’t care. They absolutely do, and you can see it in their mannerisms and their approaches at the plate. They know that the team is scuffling, they all want to be heroes, and they seem to be pressing a bit too much at times.
This past week, my high school team got eliminated from the playoffs as they were mercy-ruled…amusingly, quickly enough for me to get home and watch the season finale of Arrow. These kids aren’t professionals, and while many are talented, most will have almost no shot to make even a minor league roster. Yet they played with passion and emotion, slamming bats and helmets to the ground when they struck out or lined out, even if they were down 15 runs. They continued to try to get the outs, picked their heads up after each error, and busted it out of the box to try to get on base and steal a run here or there. We coaches were very proud of their effort against a superior team.
This is relevant because I see the same thing with the Cubs. They could rest on their laurels, but they have not been complacent at all; they’ve simply been equal parts unlucky and out of synch. You can still see pitchers getting mad at themselves for not executing a pitch, hitters slamming bats to the ground when they just barely miss squaring up a ball. And if you wonder why Joe Maddon is still so mellow…well, there it is. The effort is there, and you can still see each player grind out at-bats even if the results don’t quite follow.
The good news is multi-fold. There are over 110 games left in the season, the team is young and likely to improve not just this year, but many years to follow, and they did just win the World Series. On this weekend when we remember all those who sacrificed so we could be cranky about baseball, I think we should keep some focus on the positives even in the wake of defeat.