THE CUBTOBER DIARY: The ‘Human’ element of the 2017 Cubs’ season
CHICAGO – How long does it take to come down after ending your team’s 108-year World Series championship drought?
That was the million-dollar question for the Cubs after winning the title last November in a memorable seven-game series against the Indians. The party started just at 11:47 PM central time on November 2nd, continued through the parade that Friday, and then the entire offseason.
If it was called the “Party of the Century,” then the recovery would be much more than an afternoon on the couch or a greasy breakfast. World Series “Hangovers” take some time to recover from for a championship team – and Joe Maddon gets that.
“I concede that the human element, me included, the first half of the season, April and May, very difficult based on what had happened last year,” said Maddon. “I had learned that lesson in the past.”
The manager didn’t list a specific instance, but he was part of a World Series champion in Anaheim as a coach in 2002 and took the Rays to the 2008 World Series. He knows a thing or too about coming down after a major high, hence he didn’t panic when many fans did as the Cubs struggled through the first half with a 43-45 record.
It was punctuated by a 14-3 drubbing by the Pirates at Wrigley Field on July 9th as the Cubs fell 5 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. Faith, Maddon insists, never wavered.
“I was very patient about it because we’re humans, we’re not robots, and I always had the confidence in them that we would always, eventually turn into the team that we have,” said Maddon.
This persistence of his patience paid off from the minute his team returned from the All-Star Break in Baltimore. Lifted by the acquisition of Jose Quintana, the Cubs swept their two three-game series on the road against the Orioles and Braves as part of a 13-3 finish to July.
A 17-12 August was followed by a red-hot September when the Cubs were 19-9 – including taking 6-of-8 on the road against division contenders Milwaukee and St. Louis on the road in the final two weeks. All in all, the Cubs were 49-25 in the second half and won their second-straight NL Central title while qualifying for the playoffs for a franchise-record tying third year in a row.
Maddon credited the team for their mental toughness in his address to the team after the end of the regular season on Sunday. He wanted to get across that he understood the letdown to start the season and appreciated the efforts to figuratively “sleep off” the hangover in the final months of the season.
“I just try to address the human part of the thing because I think sometimes everybody from the outside looking in almost feels as though we are robotic in a sense. In other words, if you’ve done it before you should be able to do it again. There’s not going backwards, there’s no not being successful because you’ve done it before. Of course there is.
“But moving it forward, again, I wanted us to not be satiated was primarily the focus right there and I wanted us to be eager as opposed to anxious.”
That way the can worry about the same issues early in 2018 as they did in 2017 as repeat World Series champions.