Though they figure to be no less exciting in terms of run production and spectacular plays, this year’s Cubs have a more businesslike air than we’ve seen from the past couple iterations. It’s almost like they’ve grown up a little and are learning to harness the youthful exuberance that had fans on a thrill ride in 2015 and 2016. Though calls to “act like you’ve been there” are as tired and myopic as those to “stick to sports,” it looks like the Cubs might be complying.
Of course, acting like they’d been there was impossible for most of the Cubs’ roster prior to November of last year, but the point is that a lot of people expect a certain level of decorum from their athletes. And though the party room is still going to see plenty of action over the next six months, the reigning champs have a slightly different view of the regular season, at least collectively, than what they have in the past.
It’s one thing to believe you’re good enough to win and another to actually win, to stand at the top and survey all that lies below. Once you’ve taken in the view from that vantage point, it kind of puts the significance of individual games in perspective. Fair warning to those who live and die with every pitch and outcome, these guys aren’t going to get caught up in the mundanity of the season.
This is, after all, a group that stared a 3-1 deficit in the face and came back to win it all. Losing their season opener in walk-off fashion certainly isn’t going to faze them. And I’m not just talking about the long-tenured veterans.
“It was one hell of a ballgame,” Kyle Schwarber said Sunday night as Sahadev Sharma looked on from the periphery. “Hard-fought both ways and they came out on top. We’re gonna go out there in two days and we’re gonna play our game again.
“We didn’t give up. We won’t give up until it’s over and we didn’t. We’re definitely ready to come back on [checks watch] Tuesday…We’re gonna be ready to come back on Tuesday and get after it again.”
War Bear is clearly conversant in all the go-to tropes, but, unlike a wobbly pair of metaphorical crutches, those clichés are actually the currency of confidence. And no one knows more about that than Jon Lester, who’s been around the block enough times to know how to deliver the perfect postgame deadpan.
“They had a good game plan tonight,” Jon Lester said of the Cardinals’ offense. “Fouled off a lot of tough pitches and made me throw a lot of pitches, get me out of there early. And, you know, we’ll adjust. Move on.”
As fans, we have a tendency to assign varying degrees of importance to games based on when and where they take place, not to mention against whom. This Cubs team, however, sees those contrivances as cows do gnats on their hindquarters. Just keep swishing that tail to keep them from being much of a bother.
Baseball is a game of failure, one in which the only way to find true north is to fight through the misses and the losses knowing you’ll eventually come out on top. It’s not quite Andy Dufresne and his tiny rock hammer, but a 162-game season requires a lot of patience.
That’s why it helps to have a guy like Kris Bryant, whose chiseled features are matched only by his level head. Or Kyle Hendricks, who could make reading a dictionary sound like, well, reading a dictionary. They step onto the field, put in their work, and go home. Wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s maybe not as exciting as an up-and-coming team exceeding expectations, or even a bad team engaging in wacky shenanigans, but I think I could kinda get used to boring. Like, ho-hum, the Cubs win…again. Ugh, I’ve got to stay up late to watch these West Coast playoff starts…again.
The Cubs can now act like they’ve been there, and like they expect to go back. And that makes boring sound pretty freakin’ cool.
Javy’s got Lester’s back
After David Ross retired, it was widely assumed that Willson Contreras would take up the mantle as Jon Lester’s personal caddy. Or perhaps bodyguard is a better way to put it. But because you can never have too much help, it makes sense for Joe Maddon to bring Javy Baez into the personal-protection racket as well. As teams continue to exploit Lester’s inability to throw to bases, Baez’s specific skill set plays well in offsetting the running game.
Maddon has said that Ben Zobrist will be the primary second baseman, but you know Javy’s going to have to get at least a couple starts there each week. And while he’ll continue to serve as a super sub all over the infield, I expect we’ll see him paired with Lester as sort of an anchor point for his usage.
More news and notes
- The Cardinals signed Stephen Piscotty to a six-year, $33.5M extention
- Option for seventh year at $15M
- 176 days of service time (5 more than Kris Bryant)
- Third extension for Cards in last couple weeks
- Mets pitchers are once again battling injury
- Noah Syndergaard left Monday’s start with a blister
- Stephen Matz has a flexor tendon strain
- Seth Lugo is out with an undisclosed issue
- White Sox had Opening Day rained out, which is what the off-day is there for
- The Gold Collection stuff the Cubs have out is pretty sweet