MESA, Ariz. – You give a thing your heart, your soul, your youth, a little drawer for its stuff. Then, this. What kind of world, anyway? What kind of world?
“I know,” Joe Maddon said.
“It’s upsetting,” he said.
Seventy-nine wins? I mean.
Try to remember the good times. The happy times. Memories by the gigabyte.
“Because I’ve always been on the side of the computer,” he said. “For so many years. I’ve defended the computer for many years and now all of a sudden, IBM has turned its back on me, man.”
There’s other fish in the CPU.
“It’s hard to understand.”
Dear diary ...
“I need to go back to my notebook thing,” he said, “just gather my information, write it out and put it in notebooks chronologically.”
Just move on. Turn the page.
“Re-Kindle? I’m iPad-ing these days.”
There’s probably nothing wrong with the Chicago Cubs that a baseball game or two wouldn’t solve. You know, a little less talk, a little less cynicism, a lot more balls in play. That they seem to be a club in transition, or on the verge of it, or on the verge of the verge of it, is, perhaps, the nature of the game anymore.
Their manager – that’d be Maddon – is in his lame-duck season. They’re on a new pitching coach. And another new hitting coach. The single offseason news conference of note was held so the team owner could explain his father, and the news out of that was the owner’s revelation, likely in jest, but still, “We don’t have any more [money.]” That got some play. They have an infielder on double-secret probation. They had a local columnist provide a how-to guide for switching allegiances, for becoming a White Sox fan. And then PECOTA weighed in with a projected 79-83 record, which came with last place in the NL Central, which was posted in the clubhouse.
“I didn’t do that,” Maddon said. “I’m not a bulletin board guy. I’m a T-shirt guy.”
If this were, say, a wake, and among baseball fans in Chicago there seems to be some peripheral sentiment for that, they’d hoist one and say it went fast but was a decent enough run. A life well spent.
They’d lifted themselves into something more than respectable. They’d loved. They’d been loved. They’d left behind a next generation of little Cubs.
Just last fall, a local bar’s patrons eulogized a Taco Bell swallowed by the Wrigleyville gentrification, so don’t tell me Chicago baseball fans aren’t just looking for a wake. And a $2 burrito.
All of which seems just a bit premature.
While the Cubs try to get how 95 wins don’t feel quite right, how an upright Yu Darvish and an end-to-end Kris Bryant don’t make them better, how Javy Baez becoming elite isn’t reason for restful nights, there remains a nagging sense there’s more in there, even with all those wins, even with a parade behind them. Then, maybe, it’s an irrational standard, one parade leading to another and then another. Nobody repeats anymore.
And so once there was this team that accomplished this thing it would be remembered for forever, no matter what else it ever did on a baseball field, and then it had to come right back and do that thing again. And it went fine, just not quite as well, not at the very end. So, is that a reflection of the team? The era? The rest of the league? Of how difficult it is to stack something like perfection atop more of that?
“At the end of the day, it’s not like we’ve taken huge steps back,” Bryant said Sunday morning. “We’ve won the most games in the last four years. So, it’s just a matter of perspective and how you look at things. Even our perspective, as players, has probably shifted too, because we’re feeding into that too. But, we don’t have to. We’re good and we’re going to be good and there’s no need to worry.
“Us, as players, we definitely have the attitude of World Series or bust, full steam ahead. … The attitude in here has not changed at all. I think that shows through our fans’ expectations too. It’s still World Series or not.”
Maybe it’s nothing more than a vibe. Maybe it’s today’s fleeting attention spans. What was so lovable yesterday looks today like a team that bonked in October, that was hauled down by the Milwaukee Brewers before that and, you know, these things happen. Even to good franchises. Even to teams that win again.
“I mean, to rediscover a mojo after a 95-win season to me is really difficult to jump on board with, sorry,” Maddon said. “We were disappointed we got eliminated quickly, absolutely. We had a lot of injuries. Some guys maybe underperformed. I would say we want to recapture our offensive mojo. If you look at ‘15, ‘16 and ‘17, we went to the dance and won based on the fact the offense played all the way through. … We didn’t hit at the end. So when you talk about where we’ve been over the last four years to be condescending or critical of my guys, I can’t do it.”
Eh, learn to love again.
“And I really love our guys, man.”
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