Category Archives: cubs

Texts From the Ledge

The best part about when your favorite team wins the World Series are all of the awesome personal moments. 
Some of my strongest memories are attached to Baseball–probably a large part of why I’m so geeky and nostalgic about the game–and over the past month I’ve created memories that will last a lifetime. 

The ups and downs of October Baseball were a lot more fun with the support of some other wonderful Cubs fans–whether close friends or total strangers. Intentionally or otherwise, Cubs fans share a unique support system–especially over the past two seasons–and it’s pretty cool to be a part of.

Beginning some time in 2014 I became something of a personal baseball therapist for one friend who’s emotions are particularly volatile.

 These messages provided comic relief during some of the more difficult moments of the Cubs World Series run. 

These are texts from the ledge.

Remember that time it seemed like the Cubs were never going to score another run again?


It was definitely a rough couple days…


Remorse…

 Blame, and other coping mechanisms…

John Lackey induced angst…

Projection…

  Irrational ideas spawn from fear and anger…

Acceptance…

 Well-being checks…
Fucking previous engagements…
Overreaction…
 

Depression leads to anger, anger leads to hatred…

But yeah, fuck the Marlins, still..
Jed Hoyer DID draft him…

They’re never there when you need them…
Don’t get so worked up…It’s just a game, right?
Because let’s face it, it wouldn’t be as fun if they’d lost…

Mission accomplished, John

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Tonight is Everything. I Love you All. Let’s F-cking GOOOOO!!!

We root for laundry. We’re suckers for brand loyalty, desperately seeking the distraction of that which we cannot control–but sports are just the essentially just the same things happening over and over, again and again, right? Just the silly satisfaction of supremacy and needless disappointment of loss dancing awkwardly together in different costumes depending on the season.

I can’t explain what it is to emotionally thrive or suffer because of the uncontrollable actions of those who wear a particular color pattern to someone who’s disinterested–I’ve tried and failed. I’ve realized there are things I don’t care for–and will never fully empathize with those who care for them. I’ve learned it is unfair to judge the interests of others. But there are moments when the act of investing all of one’s emotions into the act of strangers playing a children’s game transcends distraction and entertainment and tomfoolery. And, these moments–to those who care–are fleeting, and unforgettable and misunderstood like life itself.

Somehow, I found myself within the confines of Wrigley Field on Saturday, October 22nd–surreal, considering I woke up that morning unsure where I’d even watch the game, let alone that I’d be lucky enough to possess a lottery ticket of epic proportions. However, I can, in one word, describe how it felt to be present during the sports equivalent of the moon landing.

Whoa. 

In spite of a breezy, dominant performance by Kyle Hendricks and the Chicago Cubs, and the overwhelmingly positive vibes that ebbed and flowed throughout the concourse for three plus hours, as Keke Hernandez came to the plate to begin the Dodger half of the 9th, I suddenly felt as though I was on an elevator that had dropped 50 stories without warning. 

I looked to the left at my friend–who, like myself, hours earlier had ridiculously, and impulsively committed to the risk of entering the bleachers knowing we may be leaving them not only financially, but emotionally broken–all four of our eyes already wet and reddening–and said, “whoa. Whooooaaah, dude.” 

If, instead at that moment I’d reached the top of Mount Everest, or was myself stepping on the surface of the moon, I can’t conceive a greater level of awe.

It’s been ten days since the Cubs clinched their first National League title since 1945–three years before my dad was born–and we now live in a world where the Chicago Cubs are the champions of baseball. There are few people–even few sports fans–who can comprehend the meaning of that fact. 

Fact: The Chicago Cubs won the Fucking World Goddamn Series.

For 37 years and 343 days, the only planet on which I’ve lived has been square. Today it is round, and for the rest of my days, it will always be round. 

There are no words, typed or written or spoken. 

There is nothing but transcendence and joy and love. 

There is nothing but a phone call to my dad. Nothing but the same bleachers where I’d sat at 15 years of age–a bag of McDonald’s cheeseburgers tucked under my seat. A 120 minute bus ride to watch a mediocre baseball team wearing the appropriate laundry, representing my chosen brand, in the city where I happen to live on a small patch of grass on a square planet.

The Sammy Sosa cork game. 

Doug Dascenzo chasing a a fly ball.

Jose Guzman’s 8.2 innings of no-hit ball.

But here I am. Telling the kids in front of me, “Don’t count outs, you know better,” from the same outfield at the same address where we became the worst versions of Cubs fans, mercilessly booing LaTroy Hawkins–who happened to be a human being–as the Cubs were eliminated from contention. 

This can’t be the same place.

And I am so lucky to be here–not just at Wrigley Field the night the Cubs broke the glass ceiling– but to have suffered long enough on this square planet to appreciate witnessing the Cubs win, perhaps, the greatest World Series ever played. 

To have dropped to my knees–sobbing in public–without a moment of embarrassment.

To have embraced some of my favorite people while we cried tears of joy.

They’ve never made it easy, but they’ve always made it fun.

Let’s. Go. 

Be Thankful for Arrieta..

If this is truly to be the year in which the Cubs right all of the wrongs–undoing the pain of an endless pattern of disappointment–regardless of how good they are, winning the World Series of baseball will require some luck. Or at least the avoidance of bad luck.

Playoff baseball is a crapshoot, a dart toss and a small sample rolled into a few cold weeks of October. The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 regular season games, only to see their record tying effort rendered meaningless in five short games against the New York Yankees. 
Before the season began, I started telling people the Cubs would win 120 games. About this prediction, I was only half joking. These Cubs could win more games than any regular season team in baseball history and follow up with a heartbreaking October. 

I don’t mention the possibility of an October collapse cynically–my intention is quite the opposite. Even considering the Cubs crazy-good start to the season, it’s a bit presumptuous to assume in May that these Cubs will be a playoff team. But I am very confident in that presumption, and I intend to enjoy the ride however deep into the calendar it travels.

These Cubs have the opportunity to correct the misfortunes suffered by generations of Cubs fans, and there are plenty of incidents which need correcting.


 
Any Cubs fan of my generation will probably tell you that the infamous game six and resulting loss of the 2003 NLCS was the worst thing that ever happened, but if you pull the lens back to view the big picture, the greater disappointment was that the Cubs had so few rolls of the dice with the talented core that collapsed in that series. Just as we’d begun to expect ritualistic playoff baseball on the North side, the Cubs had sunk back into irrelevance. The two major reasons for the organization’s success in ’03 can also be implicated for their failure  to follow up with with another autumn dart throw–Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.  

In July of 2013, the Cubs acquired Jake Arietta from the Baltimore Orioles–along with Pedro Strop and his left leaning flat-brim–for veteran pitcher Scott Feldman and Catcher Steve Clevenger. Arietta was viewed by the Orioles as a failed fifth round draft pick–all stuff, no results. In nearly 350 innings with the Orioles, Arrieta posted an ERA in the mid-fives, and showing no sign of progress at the major league level. Jake arrived at Wrigley’s doorstep like a baby in a basket–stealthily and without much fanfare, he and Strop joined the organization under baseball’s ubiquitous umbrella term, “prospect.” Even the most educated of Cub fans were likely unaware of Arietta’s existence before the deadline deal was announced.  


Kerry Wood and Mark Prior had eerily parallel beginnings to their respective Cub careers.
Both players zoomed through the minor league system–Wood arriving with the big club in 1998, and Prior making his first major league start in 2002 only months after being selected with the second pick of the MLB draft. Each had incredible success in their first full major league season. 

Prior undoubtedly had his best year as a professional in 2003, winning 18 games for the NL central champions. Wood arguably did his best pitching in 1998 when he led the team to its first ever wildcard berth, was elected the National League’s best rookie, and pitched perhaps the most dominant game in baseball history. 

Even before their wildly successful campaigns, fan expectations of Wood and Prior were unreasonably high. After watching Wood suffer through injuries in 1999, and 2001, Cubs faithful were even projecting those expectations on Prior’s future health, buying–incorrectly–into a widely held notion that Prior was impervious to arm trouble due to his physical build and throwing mechanics. 

Prior was first injured in 2004–and in spite of some dominant performances at the end of that season–was never the same nearly unhittable monster he was before the 7th inning of that ill-fated game six. Prior and Wood will forever be linked together in Cubdom–not so much for who they were, but who we wanted them to be.  

We wanted Prior and Wood to be consistently dominant pitchers who were fun to watch, logged a lot of strikeouts, won a lot of meaningful games, and occasionally threw some no-hitters. And even as it should have become clear that neither pitcher would ever live up to our expectations, we just sort of pretended they were the aces we expected, as if we could somehow will them into being the players we so desperately wanted them to be. 

Cub fans are sometimes delusional. It’s a defense mechanism. Without these delusions, the painful truths would have, by now, broken us completely.

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether Arietta will be a Cub beyond this season. That remains to be seen. Joe Maddon would remind us to live in the present–the present is a very good time to be thankful for Arietta, because he is exactly the pitcher we wanted Wood and Prior to be.  
Be thankful because he is the anti-towel-drill. Because you can’t wait to watch him pitch again. Because He’s already won 2 postseason games, and completed a pair of no-hitters. 

Because he came from out of nowhere.

And thanks again, Baltimore. You guys are the best.