If there’s one thing that all these years of being a Cubs fan have taught us, it’s that when you think the team is going to suck you have to convince yourself that somehow they can actually contend, and when you think the team is going to be good, you have to brace yourself for all that is inevitably going to go wrong.
But a funny thing happened while we were all falling head over heels for the 2015 Cubs, just about the time we started to gird our loins for the collapse, they slammed on the accelerator and didn’t let up until they’d won 101 games and the postseason NL Central Championship Tournament.
And now, as 2016 is just a few hours away, they’ve actually gotten better.
So, it must be time to start dreading everything that can go wrong, right?
Oh, fuck that.
That’s no way to live. Â The Cubs team that will trotÂ out for the announcement of the opening day lineup in Anaheim in April is built to win. Â Built to win the whole fucking thing. Â This hasn’t happened very often in Cubs history.
The Cubs–these Cubs–have everybody nervous. Â Cardinals Nation is in full panic mode. Â The White Sox are futilely trying to patch as many low OBP guys onto an already flawed roster because they’re convinced that otherwise they won’t sell a single ticket this summer. Â Why, then, are we also nervous?
Because we’re the worst.
We act like the black cat and Bartman and Ryan Dempster’s “Shitting ‘O The Pants” and Leon Durham’s Gatorade glove and the stupid goat and all of that other nonsense actually mean something.
Let me let you in on a little secret as to how the Cubs haven’t won a pennant since Hiroshima and Nagasaki and haven’t won a World Series since the radio was invented.
They’ve rarely been good enough to do it. Â If you don’t give yourself very many chances, it’s easy to keep missing out.
So here’s my suggestion for your New Year’s Resolution for 2016. Â Enjoy watching the Chicago Cubs. Â Because they’re going to be a whole lot of fun again. Â And there’s a reason they are suddenly the favorites to win the National League. They are awfully, awfully good.
Things will go wrong. Â Somebody’s going to get hurt. Â Somebody who was great last year will struggle to start 2016. Â Our boy, Kyle Schwarber will occasionally look like he’s shagging flyballs in left with a frying pan. Â But they are going to be there when it counts.
They’ll be there because they are really good, because even if they don’t add another starting pitcher before the season starts they have an excellent regular season rotation. Â (They’re going to need to add somebody during the season at some point, though.) Â They have a suddenly deep and versatile bullpen. Â Their offense has no quit in it.
If they keep Jorge Soler and he plays right with Jason Heyward (Remember him? Â Yeah, he’s a Cub.) in center, people will make a big deal about how dumb that is. Â But the thing everybody forgets is that Jorge’s deficiencies in right can be greatly attributed to the fact that he played–brace yourself for this number–155 minor league games…ever. Â That’s over three seasons. Â He was hurt…a lot. Â He couldn’t walk across the street (or threaten to kill the Daytona Reds with a bat) without pulling a quad or a hamstring. Â The Cubs forced him to relearn how to run in 2014 (a kinesiologist determined that his stride put weird pressure on weird parts of his legs) and mandated days off while he figured it out. Â It’s why they kept sitting him every few games when he made it to the big leagues late in 2014. Â In his minor league career they were lucky to get him on the field to play, much less get him out early to work on his defense. Â And if you think he should have been fully formed when he got to the minors, remember that he was a whopping 19 years old when he signed. Â Physically, he has the tools to be a good right fielder. Â Ask the Cardinals about his arm. Â If this is the Cubs biggest worry going into 2016…well, there’s a reason we’ve resolved not to worry about anything.
Inevitably holes will appear on the roster, and that’s where having a manager like Joe Maddon and a coaching staff like he has helps, and where having a deep farm system comes into play. Â Whether it’s calling guys up to fill a spot, or trading them for somebody, no team in baseball (well, maybe the Dodgers) is better situated to do just that.
The biggest difference between this team and the 107 that preceded it is that it’s run by really smart people, who know how best to allocate their resources.
Sure, it’s going to nearly impossible for Jake Arrieta to duplicate his season, but it won’t be for Jon Lester to improve on his. Â Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber are only going to get better and continue to terrorize National League pitching. Â Addison Russell’s just scratching the surface on his offensive potential, and he’s already our favorite defensive shortstop since:
(But come on, Addison, you’ve got to learn to pick better numbers. Â 27? Â Ugh.)
We spent all last year convincing ourselves that the Cubs needed to get Joe somebody like Ben Zobrist. Â So they went out and got…Ben Zobrist.
And…if ever comes a time when things feel like they’re starting to ride off the rails. Â They’ve got this guy:
(What happened to the awesome Vine of him throwing down his glove and taking on the entire Reds team?)
Look. Â I know it’s going to be hard. Â Nobody said relaxing and enjoying the Cubs would ever be easy. Â But let’s give it a shot.
When the calendar turns to 2016, it’s the year we’ve been waiting for, forever.
And while the 2015 season didn’t end the way we all wanted it to, it gave us this:
(Yes, it’s never going to get old. Â Ever.)
“If you feel like you can’t sit still, you are not alone.
I wish all of you could be right here at this moment.”
Virgil Patrick Hughes is the best. Â Just wait until he gets to call the big one.
The 2015 Cubs were pure fun. Â What a year that was. Â Here’s to an even better 2016.
We’ve waited ten decades. Â It’s time to get greedy.