CHICAGO – There is an old refrain that I’m going to change when it comes to 2016.
Go back to last year.
Confused? Yes I can’t blame you. “Wait ‘Till Next Year” is the typical Cubs refrain and most times looking into the past only reminds fans of cautionary tales of years past.
But what I’m referring to is the advice to which I gave Cubs’ fans last year on this exact date – October 7, 2015; Just enjoy the show.
That feeling is creeping up again, isn’t it? That generations old fear and skepticism you feel as the autumn chill enters the air and the ivy on the walls turns a shade of brown. If you are just a little more than a casual fan, you’ve felt it. That’s part of being a Cubs fan, where the power of positive thinking is often shutdown by thoughts of past transgressions or the supernatural.
But like last year, block it out. Ignore it. Forget it. Just have fun with whatever is to come.
Why do I say this now? Just like last year this is a club whose leadership, demeanor and sheer talent demand a more optimistic outlook on what is ahead.
Joe Maddon certainly hasn’t backed off his unique managerial ways. There were karaoke in training camp, T-Shirt worthy slogans that became T-Shirts, a crazy suit trip and of course the sleepover flight from the West Coast back east. On the field he’s pulled off a number of screwed combinations with his lineups along with unique use of his pitchers – including a few in the outfield (See Travis Wood).
After 103 victories – the most for the Cubs in 106 years – his tricks are no just for gimmicks or show. They’ve indeed gotten the most out of a young and talented team.
Players seem genuinely happy to be at the ballpark and as a collective. Starting with the “Grandpa Rossy” tributes to retiring catching David Ross and continuing through their highly rambunctious NL Central Division title celebration, their enthusiasm has produced some much needed positive waves the past two years.
If you’re convinced this is all overblown hyperbole, then here are some hard facts. The Cubs team ERA (3.15) was easily the lowest in all of Major League Baseball, .36 lower than the second place Nationals, and allowed opponents to hit just .212 all season long. That was the best in the majors along with Kyle Hendricks ERA of 2.13 with teammate Jon Lester in second at 2.44.
On offense the Cubs were third in runs scored (808) and second in on base percentage (.343) even if their team average (.256) might have left a bit to be desired.
Sure the Giants present a problem. It is an even year and the team has won the championship the last three times that happened. Scarier than that piece of trivia is the prospect of facing Johnny Cueto (18-5 this season) and Madison Bumgarner (15-9) in two of the first three games. The latter looks in full postseason form as he pitched nine shutout innings in a Wild Card win over the Mets – extending his scoreless streak in elimination games to 23 innings.
Ridiculous, right? Well the Cubs have been too. Don’t forget that as those old fears creep back into your mind around 8:15 PM on Friday night.
After years, decades and a century of worry and frustration, please let yourself enjoy what is about to happen over the next week or month. You’ve earned it for years of dedication and a team that’s produced this much has earned you positivity.
Oh, and if you need it, here is the song.
Just enjoy the show. It promises to be a good one, again.