2015 had a chance of being a feel-good season for the Chicago Cubs, but that can’t happen now. Back when Kris Bryant was making a long-shot case for an All-Star berth and Kyle Schwarber was pretending he could destroy American League pitching when given the chance to DH, Near the end of July, the Cubs were 5 games over .500, and it seemed like maybe the Cubs would be a little too young to weather a 162-game big-boy schedule.
At that point, just missing the wild card play-in game would have been a mild disappointment, a mild shadow in the foreground of an exceedingly bright future. It could have been a good season, an incredibly fun to watch season, and a very, very nice beginning to what we Cubs fans all hoped (and still do hope) would be an extended run of dominance.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to mediocrity. The Cubs won 15 of their next 16 games. They assembled win streaks of 6, 9, and 6 games and kindled within us that most combustible of substances: hope.
With Jake Arrieta on the mound tonight, we assume the Cubs are at the tail end of a four-game losing streak. Because he’s Jake Arrieta, and he has the same wallet as Jules from Pulp Fiction. It’s to the point that when the Cubs lose, we kind of scratch our collective heads and wonder what’s wrong with the universe. The Cubs win now. That’s what they do. In a matter of one month, they’ve managed to alter our collective psyche to the point where we expect good things. No, we expect great things. Phenomenal things. Joe Maddon thinks they have a shot to win the World Series, and he’s always right.
When Maddon said at his initial press conference that he was aiming for the World Series, it made us happy. When he says it in August, it makes us delirious.
And that leaves us in a very precarious position as fans. Maybe I should stop speaking for all of us, so I’ll just speak for myself. (I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in this, though.)
From here on out, if the last Cubs game of 2015 is a loss, I’ll be crushed. Plain and simple. As Bill Parcells said, “There is winning, and there is misery.” That’s the reality now. If the Cubs miss the playoffs? I’d be crushed. If the Cubs’ World Series hopes are dashed in a 9-inning postseason? Agony. If they make it only so close as five outs away from the World Series and no closer? Death. Even if they lose in the World Series, I think I’ll probably cry for a month. I know they’ll be good for a long time, but I don’t care. Losing sucks. In July, I was fine with the idea of the Cubs missing the playoffs. Now? I’ve hoped too much. I’ve let my imagination wander too far. I’ve seen too many great moments.
It’s World Series or bust. Any Cubs fan who says any different is in denial. I don’t begrudge you the defense mechanism, it’s an excellent tool. Just know, there’s no escape. If this isn’t the year, it’s going to hurt. Tell yourself what you need to in order to cope. Tell yourself the season has been fun. Tell yourself next year will be better. Just know, there is no nice ending. There’s eternal joy and utter devastation. Those are our options.
But I’ll gladly take misery over the numb indifference of the last decade. Misery is ten times better than meh. #maddontshirtideas