Someday, you’ll be old like me, and things that you were sure would always be true will change and you won’t believe them. Â Given that I like drinking beer and eating food that I know is horrible for me, I figure I’m halfway to dead.
I’ve wasted much of my life, gang. Â Oh, sure, it looks glamorous. Â Almost 3,000 Twitter followers, an infrequently updated Cubs website, an even less frequently updated podcast, the respect and admiration of dozens of Cubs fans…
But maybe the reality isn’t that I’ve wasted anything. Â The Cubs have. Â In my lifetime they’ve been two inningsÂ away from the World Series twice and done horrible, incomprehensible things to blow it. Â But that’s actually somewhat preferable to the seasons that had no chance to go anywhere, and we had to pretend that Kal Daniels, Tyler Houston, Shane Andrews, Jeromy Burnitz, Danny Jackson, Dave Smith, Porfi Altimariano, Will Cunnane, Daniel Garibay, Todd Pratt, Cole Liniak, Rey Ordonez, Damon Buford, Felix Heredia, Todd Hundley, Fred Fucking McGriff, Milton Bradley, Will Ohman, Kent Mercker, Mel Rojas, Scott Bullett, Chuck Rainey, Paul Assenmacher, Jeff Pico, LanceÂ Dickson, Chico Walker, Frank DiPino, Rolando Roomes, Mitch Webster, Laddie Renfroe, Steve Bullinger, Joe Kmak, Ross Gload, and/or Sergio Mitre were worth our time.
We’ve seen a tremendous amount of terrible baseball. Â In my–let’s say–36 years of conscious Cubs fandom, they’ve only finished .500 or better ten times. Â TEN! Â Of those ten times, they truly contended for the postseason seven times. Â Ugh.
I’m mostly scar tissue at this point.
It’s going to take a lot to make me think other than the worst when it comes to them. Â It’s not that I don’t want them to win. Â I want that very, very, very badly. Â But fool me once, shame on you, fool me every damned time, shame on me.
And so, it with great joy that I proclaim, “Goddamnit, they are fun to watch this year.”
Sure, there are plenty of names on this team that can be added to that roll call of forgettable crap players. Â Some day we’ll look back and go, “Ugh, do you remember Mike Baxter?” Â “Remember when we tried to pretend Chris Coghlan wasn’t a pouty shitstorm?” Â “Remember how much they paid Edwin Jackson?”
But this isn’t about those guys. Â This is about a team unlike any we’ve ever seen before. Â One built to win perennially, and already, a good, solid year ahead of schedule saying, “Fuck it. Â Let’s start winning now.”
They have gaping holes. Â Ones that will eventually be filled with good players, but for now they’re truly gaping. Â They beat Zack Grienke on Tuesday night with an outfield of Coghlan, Baxter and Matt Szczur.
They don’t care. Â They don’t know any better.
What they do know is that Anthony Rizzo is a stud, a natural born leader, and a guy the rest of them just take for granted will do things to help them win every day. Â Kris Bryant is still figuring this stuff out and he’s already one of the best players in the National League. Â Addison Russell has been playing second base for three months in his entire life and incredibly, he might already be the best fielding second baseman in the entire league.
They get their marching orders every day from the best damn manager in all of baseball. Â It’s hard to say anybody is better than Bruce Bochy, but give Joe Bruce’s team the last six years and I’ll bet he wins three World Series, too. Â Two months into the season, the bullpen was a disaster. Â For the last 30 days it’s the best in the league.
The best things Joe did were to move Travis Wood to the ‘pen where he’s thrived, and removed Hector Rondon from the closer role. Â Nothing against Hector, but without the bullshit designation of “closer” Joe is free to deploy Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Hector and Jason Motte in any order he wants at the end of games.
You know all of this, because you’re watching the games, too. Â So I’m not telling you anything new.
Here’s what I like the most about this team. Â They will fight you to the death. Â When was the last time we thought that about the Cubs?
They find a way to hang around in every game. Â Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Â They grind out at bats (well, not Starlin so much) and they all play hard (well, not Starlin so much) and they do not shy away from big moments (especially Starlin). Â They have flaws. Â Hell, there’s a reason they are 7.5 games behind the Cardinals. Â They’re not as good as St. Louis Â yet.
The Cardinals fans can sit around and watch their glory boy bunch of cyber terrorists and lecture everyone on the right way to play, and we’ll watch our scrappy Cubs put bubblegum buckets on their heads, rub theirÂ helmetsÂ after big hits and scratch and claw their way through every game.
Because this is just the beginning. Â This is them figuring it out. Â Reinforcements are still on they way. Â This is by no means a finished product. Â And that’s what makes it so much fun.
The gap between the Cubs and the Cardinals, Dodgers and Nationals is much smaller than we had any reason to think it was when the season started. Â Maybe that gap will still exist when October rolls around. Â Maybe the Cubs won’t even still be in the playoff picture. Â But I’m not going to bet against them.
I can imagine a fairly realistic scenario where the Cubs and Pissburgh duke it out in a wild Wild Card game scene at Wrigley. Â Then the Cubs getting on a plane and taking the short flight to St. Louis, walking into Bus(c)h Stadium for the start of the NLDS against a Cardinals team with baseball’s best record and saying, “Anybody home? Â We’re here to fuck shit up!”
One thing we know from watching them soÂ far, they won’t be afraid. Â They won’t be afraid of big moments, of close games, of making a mistake or two. Â That’s part of their charm. Â They go 100 miles an hour all the time (well, except Starlin) and sometimes it’s completely the wrong direction, but they find a way to give themselves a chance before the game’s over. Â And they relish those chances (especially Starlin).
Hell, Starlin might not even be around on August 1. Â That’s the beauty of this whole thing. Â We don’t know what this team is going to look like at the end of the season. Â But we have a pretty fair amount of confidence that whatever it looks like, it’s going to be better.
Maybe they aren’t championship ready yet. Â Maybe that’s why this is so much fun. Â It’s the start of something big. Â It’s all new, and fresh and shiny. Â And it seems like every few weeks they bring up another truly good young player, or they turn on another videoboard or install a toilet that actually flushes things out of the bathroom. Â Everything about this team is better than it used to be.
Can you think of a team you’d rather be rooting for?
When was the last time you could answer “no” to that question?
If they’ve done nothing else, they’ve reminded us why we put up with all of the crappy teams that came before them. Â We’ve deluded ourselves into thinking that some day it will all be worth it.
Someday it will be fun.
Welcome to someday.