I get it. I understand why you may be skeptical about the Cubs as they head back to the playoffs for the third straight year. The bullpen was better in the first half than the second. The starting pitching is quality, but in a bit of injury-induced disarray. The Nationals are really talented. The Cubs have shown us over and over again this season that there will be times when they just can’t hit anybody good. I get it.
I also don’t give a shit.
There was a time not so long ago that had lasted a very long time when bad things happened to the Cubs just because they were the Cubs. Seasons ended in June, or earlier. The rare playoff appearance always ended with some sort of painful indignity. Great players were doomed to play out their Cubs career in futility.
But these are not those Cubs. This is not a team that waits for something bad to happen so they have an excuse to quit. These Cubs were tested over and over again last postseason and they responded every time.
They had a parade to prove it.
There are a lot of good teams in the playoffs. The Cubs won’t have home field in any round unless they face the wild card D’bags in the NLCS.
They don’t appear too concerned about that. So neither am I.
This first round is going to be rough. The Nationals have a passel of really good players from Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer to Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. They have a preachy hitting machine at second base. They fixed their gaping holes at the end of their bullpen.
But you know what? The Cubs have Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras and Addison Russell and Javy Fucking Baez, and Wade Davis and Jon Lester who just happens to be one of the best postseason pitchers of all time and Kyle Hendricks who led the National League in ERA by nearly a run in the second half.
It’s darned near impossible to repeat these days. But then again, it was supposed to be darned near impossible to come back from 3-1 down in the World Series with the final two games on the road.
We don’t know how long the run will last this year. Anything short of another World’s Championship will be disappointing.
The Cubs gave us what we always wanted last year, and it was great. It was somehow even better than what we thought it would be. And you know what?
We want more.
That’s sports. You can’t win enough. You can’t win by enough. Losing makes you want to do anything to win. Winning makes you want to win more and more.
The first 90 percent of this past regular season was a slog. The Cubs couldn’t find top gear. It was a chore to get through. And then, when the games meant the most, the World Champs showed up. With 19 games to go their lead was down to two games, and we were all crapping our pants.
And they proceeded to go 15-4. They tore Milwaukee’s heart out and showed it to them. They laughed in St. Louis’ face and then kicked them in the balls.
We’re now hardened playoff veterans. Gather the neighbor kids around and tell them how hard it is to win a championship. Regale them with tales of Jake Arrieta emasculating Pissburgh in a wild card game. Tell them the legend of Kyle Schwarber parking one on the right field videoboard the night the Cubs redefined the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. Speak of the night the Cubs pulled off the biggest ninth-inning comeback in playoff history in San Francisco. Regale them with the legend of Hendricks standing toe to toe with the great Clayton Kershaw and then waving the National League pennant in his face. Enthrall them with the too good to be true tale of how they suffered countless gutpunches in last year’s World Series, but how they were the last team standing.
Those are these Cubs, too.
They may get beaten. Someone may take them down. But they’ll have to work for it.
We spent 11 months recovering from the greatest postseason of our lives.
It’s time to crank it back up. It might last 19 games, it might last three. We don’t know.
But I know this about these Cubs.
Doubt them at your peril. The champions fought their way back into the tournament.
They are damned well going to defend what is theirs.