I think it was King Henry V or maybe it was Henry Aaron, but whichever Henry said, “Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more” probably wasn’t thinking about the Cubs returning to the NLCS just 12 months after they made a complete mess of it. In the frustrating travesty that was last year’s series with the Mets, the Cubs managed to fall behind in the first inning of every game and never had a lead as they were ignominiously swept in four games. Paired with the three humiliating losses that ended the 2003 NLCS loss to the Marlins, the Cubs have a seven game losing streak in this round.
So what, exactly are we so excited for?
We’re excited because this time the Cubs aren’t running into a buzzsaw, they are the buzzsaw.
The Cubs spent the offseason plugging every hole, adding depth to the pitching rotation and bullpen and shoring up their defense. The team that takes the field tomorrow night would take the 2015 and 2003 Cubs to the woodshed.
They face a quality opponent in the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have the best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw, they have prodigious lefthanded hitters in veteran Adrian Gonzalez and rookie Corey Seager. They have a good bullpen with a dominant closer. They even have the good-player on a hot streak in Justin Turner, that every playoff team needs to make a run.
It also won’t matter.
The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since way back in 1988 (a scant 80 years after the Cubs last won one), and this is a good team that under normal circumstances would stand an excellent shot at getting there.
These are not normal circumstances.
It’s usually great news to draw the Cubs in the playoffs–the Dodgers are just eight years away form seeing that first hand–because you can just sit back and wait for the Cubs to shit all over themselves, then fall down and roll in it.
But as the Giants found out on Tuesday night, that doesn’t apply these days. The Giants had the Cubs right where they wanted them. All of the supposed “signs” were there. The Cubs had won the first two games of a five game series and were headed to the coast. We’d seen that movie before and it ended with Steve Garvey hugging other men in shit brown uniforms. The Cubs had taken a 3-0 lead in a potentially decisive game, and then stopped scoring. The Marlins once were the beneficiary of that. Just as they were of an early-game three run homer by a Cubs pitcher. The signs were all there, all you had to do was look at them and then get into the fetal position.
But then a funny thing happened. The Cubs decided they didn’t give a shit about any of that. Instead of accepting their fate when they entered the ninth inning of game four down 5-2, they struck back. They mounted the biggest comeback in the final inning of a series clinching game ever.
The Cubs did that.
These Cubs did that.
And they don’t care that they got swept in the NLCS last year. They don’t care because that doesn’t matter. If they lose, it won’t be because of last year, or anything else that’s ever happened to any Cubs team that isn’t them.
But they also aren’t going to lose. That ninth inning in San Francisco on Tuesday wasn’t just a rally to advance in the playoffs, it was a message. It was a message to the rest of baseball that the Cubs are done fucking around. It was also a message to their perpetually panicked fanbase. It was as though 25 guys turned to the camera at the same time and said, “Would you assholes just relax? We’ve got this.”
The Dodgers are good, and they’re going to be tough to beat. But nobody’s tougher to beat this year than the Chicago Cubs. They are built to last, and they are built to win.
That game last night in DC was great theater. But the Nationals and Dodgers didn’t play for a chance to go to the World Series. They played to see who got to host the Cubs pennant celebration after game five. Congratulations, Dodgers. I hope you stocked up on cheap champagne and plastic drop cloths.
You know gang, the Cubs are pretty good. And we’re going to spend the next week or so watching them play their way to the World Series.
We’ve only been waiting for this forever.
It’s gonna be great.