At this point, it would be nice if the Cubs would just stop lying to us.
It’s going to happen, we all know it’s going to happen, and it’s going to be awesome. So how about they just stop downplaying the possibility of it, and let us embrace its inevitability?
No, I’m not talking about the team winning a World Series. These are the Cubs, after all. I’m not going to believe that until it happens…and even then, I might not believe it for a few months after that.
No, what I’m talking about is even more important.
Kyle Schwarber coming back to play before the season ends.
Early on, like right after the injury, and even right after the surgery, it made sense for the Cubs to downplay the possibility of him being able to play this season. Let the kid recover and rehab in peace.
The injury itself was a fluke. In just the third game of the season Jean Segura got a meatball from John Lackey and hit it hard, but not hard enough to be a home run…at least not an over-the-wall-home-run. Kyle took a strange route on the ball and hit Dexter Fowler at full speed.
Now, if you or I were Dexter and we ran into a 5’10 fire hydrant at full speed we’d be a mangled mess. But somehow in the collision, Kyle got his leg caught under Dexter and his ankle and knee went in different directions. Dexter was, amazingly, pretty much unscathed. He’d miss a game later in the series with a sore hip, but that was all. If you or I ran into Kyle at full speed, we’d be dead.
The first report was that x-rays on Kyle’s leg were negative, though he did have a severely sprained ankle. Fans, being fans, 1 we took that as good news. Even if a bad sprain could keep a guy out for a month, at least he didn’t blow his knee or anything.
Hah! Huzzah! The Cubs luck has changed forever!
And then, the next day Kyle had an MRI 2 and it showed things that weren’t going to show up on the x-ray. Kyle had fucked up his knee bad, and was going to need major knee surgery.
So we resigned ourselves to the fact that he was gone, and we wouldn’t see our favorite lefty masher until spring training next year. Well, that sucked. Hey, at least Chris Coghlan had been traded and we weren’t going to have to see him get those at bats.
Ha! Thank God! That guy is the worst! I’m glad he’s gone. Could you imagine having to see that shit aga…
So, Kyle got his knee fixed and we watched the Cubs roll to the best start any of us have ever seen. They were 25-6. They were kicking everybody’s ass. The division race was over in April.
So, we started doing some math.
Hey, if Kyle takes six months to rehab the knee, which is typical for an athlete, he could be back…why, he could be back before the playoffs!
That didn’t just seem possible to me, it seemed probable. So I started Tweeting it out. And then a whole bunch of you guys did, too.
I’m sure nobody at Cubs HQ pays much attention to the random babblings of the lunatic fringe of their fanbase.
But then, a couple of months went by, and hey, there was Kyle walking without crutches.
Some more time passed. Hey, there’s Kyle playing catch!
Well, look here, it’s Kyle squatting in the outfield catching pitches.
The Cubs started making a point of telling reporters that he was done for the year. That there was no chance that he’d be back this season. And they kept saying it.
It was like they didn’t think we believed them anymore, but they really, really wanted to convince us that it was the truth.
But then, on the last homestand, they showed footage of Kyle doing box step ups while holding weights.
Then Kyle did an interview with Mark Grote on Cubs pregame where he was asked directly if there was any chance he’d be back this year. Kyle’s answer was, “I’m not going to comment on that.”
Oh. That takes care of that…
But then he commented on it, and said this: “Most likely probably not.”
That sounds like a maybe to me! Go on, Kyle.
“So we’re shooting for spring, but I’m going to push myself as hard as I can to come back as soon as I can. It sounds like it’s going to be spring.”
It “sounds like” it’s going to be spring.
But it’s not. Because it’s fall.
Because at the end of the day, this Cubs playoff march cannot possibly not include some of this:
I mean, sure, the playoff march can happen without it. But how much more fun will it be with it?
Kyle’s running now. Albeit only in a straight line and just over short distances. But he’s still got a month before we hit a do or die date. Four weeks of work getting a now-healthy-again knee back into playing shape is a lot of time.
At that rate, Kyle could be pinch hitting and playing left field the final two weeks of the season. Even with days off, you could get him 30+ at bats if you really tried.
Then you have him as an extra man for the playoffs, or if he’s really responding, he’s an option to platoon in left with Jorge Soler. Just the way it was supposed to happen from the start this season.
Is it worth the risk?
It depends on what the risk is. Six months after surgery, his knee ligaments are healed. He’s no more likely to hurt either of the ones he had repaired than he was to injure them in the first place. Where there would be risk would be in him pulling one of the supporting muscles, or a hamstring, even pulling something on the “good” knee, if he’s overcompensating. That happens and he’d be out for a few weeks and his playoffs would be over.
And we’d have to settle for him watching the World Series from the dugout and not playing again until March in Mesa.
That doesn’t sound all that risky.
It sure sounds like the Cubs have left the window open, privately, for him to still come back. I’m sure that the odds are that he won’t be ready in time and they’ll close it, and he’ll be disappointed, but he’ll get over it.
I’m not sure we’ll get over it, but Kyle would.
But there’s a chance that he’s ready, and that they’ll pull the trigger.
And some late September home game, a team (preferably the Cardinals) brings in a righthander to pitch late in the game, and the Cubs’ righthanded hitter on deck turns and walks back into the dugout and “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” starts to play through the loudspeakers and our favorite squatty slugger pops out of the dugout as Wrigley goes nuts. And there he is, a half year removed from the worst day of his athletic life strolling to the plate (slow enough to hear a little more of the song, much to Jake Peavy’s chagrin—no matter where Jake is at the time) with a bat, once again ready to do painful things to a baseball.
I know we’re going to see him again next spring, and I know that everything went well and he’s going to pick up his very promising career without as much a hitch. But I don’t want to wait until then. And you know he doesn’t want to wait until then.
Let it happen, Theo.
At some point in the playoffs a situation is going to present itself that will make you pause and think, “this would be the perfect spot for Kyle.” When that happens, you want Joe to be able to point at him and send him up to the plate.
The Cubs passed on a number of chances to fortify the current roster this year and for the future, because the return cost was Kyle Schwarber. I’m sure the reason was that from next year on, he’s just too valuable to this team to send away. But you know that part of that reason was that he’s still got a chance to have a major impact on this team.
When the shit hits the fan in October, and—dare we dream—November, the Cubs have more talent than anybody else. But there’s always room for one more.