I’ve been on this Earth for 33 years, and for the better part of my time here I have been a Cubs fan, so disappointment comes with the territory. With that disappointment comes hope that is usually misguided, and a catch phrase of “wait till next year” drives that misguided optimism year after year. The National narrative doesn’t help things with a constant “don’t worry, the Cubs will screw it up because they’re the Cubs” refrain. That repetitive opinion starts to creep into our subconscious; maybe all those experts are right, nothing good ever happens. It was even evident last year during what I can say was honestly the most enjoyable baseball season of my life, there was doubt. A daily rollercoaster of emotions based on whether or not the Cubs won. What did the Giants do? Look out for the Nationals, they’re getting hot. The Diamondbacks are making a run; did you see the schedule down the stretch? Its typical pennant race behavior which I totally get, but something about last year changed my views on hope, it made me realize something important and fun… it’s real.
I got into a number of discussions last year on the inter-webs about this very thing and it was startling how many people, good baseball people, hoped that other teams would take care of the Cubs’ business for them. In the past I would be right there with them, but the leadership group of this organization, the players, and their overall attitude towards winning, and competing made it very clear to me that I no longer had to worry about that. This Cubs team was going to leave everything on the field and for the most part the opponent couldn’t keep up. It was never more obvious than during that four game series against the Giants at home. We all thought that Hector Rondon and a rare bout of wildness was going to derail the game, and the season, it was over. Then it wasn’t, Rondon wiggled off the hook, and the Cubs pounded the Giants right out of the wild card lead into an October without playoff baseball.
A postseason of Cardinals’ devil magic followed. 2016 was full of horrible losses to the Cardinals, it was impossible to ignore those losses heading into the NLDS. The reason for most losses was the dreaded Cardinals’ devil magic because it was more fun to talk about that then talk about how the Cardinals made their own breaks or came up with a clutch hit or two. Things went wrong in Game One for the Cubs as worries of the unbreakable Cardinals, and the “too young to be here” Cubs were coming to fruition. Then Javier Baez massacred a mistake from John Lackey en route to Dingerpalooza 2015 taking place at Wrigley…. Hello NLCS!
I would say that a large number of people converted over to less fatalistic thinking as the season came to a close against the Mets. The Cubs were getting beat by the Mets because the Mets were a good team, and the Cubs couldn’t get out of their own way. I was pretty excited to see a lot of fans recognize what was going on; it wasn’t the Cubs blowing an opportunity as only the Cubs could do. It was the Cubs just losing a game and losing a series in the infancy of their window of opportunity to win a World Series.
So now the Cubs are on the brink of starting the 2016 season with the highest expectations possible. The organization identified needs heading into the off-season and sent a powerful message to this fan base and the rest of baseball that they are not going anywhere by bringing in Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey. The players have clearly bought into what Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer are selling. I suppose it’s okay that some fans are still overcome with worry when they see the Cubs as World Series favorites. I’m just glad that the players taking the field are embracing it, and ready to win a World Series, not because of any curse or because of the losing History, but because they expect to.