When The Music’s Over…
Well, that wasn’t the last night of fun I had hoped for. It was over as soon as it was evident Jason Hammel couldn’t throw anything below the belt. The Cubs threatened a couple rallies, or more to the point they threatened to threaten without ever getting close. And of course they shot a few screamers right at various Mets fielders, as they have done all series. Same as it ever was.
There’s plenty of time for looking forward, but at the moment it’s important to dispel some myths or outright bullshit that you’re going to hear over the next few days and weeks.
There Is Nothing That Happened In The Last Four Games That Should Change Your Conclusions From 167 That Came Before It
We didn’t learn anything new from this series. We knew the Cubs starting depth was iffy at best, and that’s without even being upset about Kyle Hendricks tiring at the end of his first full season in the majors. Hardly a shock. Yes, Arrieta and Lester weren’t dominant in their combined four postseason starts, but they weren’t really awful either. They just didn’t get any help, at least Arrieta didn’t the second time around.
We knew the Cubs outfield defense was bad. It didn’t matter when the staff was striking a fifth or a quarter of the hitters out. With more balls put in play, it was going to get exposed. Why is this a shock?
The Cubs strike out a lot. They have all year. They almost certainly will next year and for years after that. What they didn’t do in a four-game sample was walk to balance it out. The Mets didn’t really give them the chance to, and when they did the home plate ump sometimes bailed them out. Patience is hard to come by when you’re trailing in a playoff game, but it’s when you need it most. Perhaps that will be the most vital lesson the Cubs hitters take from this.
The Mets Did Not Out-Class The Cubs, Nor Did Their Deadline Deals Put Them Over The Top
While everyone wants to run for the comparison to the ’09 Hawks, the Detroit team the Hawks lost to that year was coming off a Cup victory the previous year and a conference final appearance the year before that. It was also pretty well stocked with future Hall of Famers.
This is not the Mets. The Mets won 90 games in a shit-tastic division. The Cubs won 97 in the best in baseball. The Mets caught fire after the deadline. But you know what? The Cubs actually played better than the Mets after the deadline.
The Mets played four games as well as any team possibly could, and the Cubs played were pretty shitty. Still, take one galatically, historically hot bigot out of this equation, and where is this series? It’s the kind of shit you can’t plan for.
While some want to lose their mud over the Cubs conservative route at the trade deadline, at the time very few were willing to put up the package for Cole Hamels the Phillies asked for and eventually got. I know I didn’t. Tyson Ross or James Shields were expensive in their own ways. And at the end of July, it was impossible to know that Jason Hammel would simply be tossing up silly string the rest of the season. He’d had a terrible July in 2014 as well, and then recovered to be rather excellent in the last two months. There was no one calling for Hammel to be removed from the rotation on July 31st, I guarantee that.
It’s easy to dismiss this as this as losing on the organization’s first spin, when they’ve promised us more spins of the wheel as that’s what they’re built for. And that’s not wrong. There will be more spins. But this one felt like it was right there. This is not a classic Mets team. Next year Arrieta and Lester could discover they’re both 30 or over and slide back. Kris Bryant could have Anthony Rizzo’s second season in the majors. So could Schwarber. Hendricks could completely fall apart or whatever other starter is brought in could get hurt. Baseball is weird.
Outside, the Mets could be standing right there again. Or deGrom and Syndergaard could both blow out an elbow. The path for young starters is rarely a straight one. The Dodgers won’t be managed by a blithering idiot, but they could lose Greinke. Who knows who they could buy? Is that Cardinals Devil Magic going to be suppressed again? We shall see. All of it makes it completely ok to mourn this loss for a bit. Because it was there.
The Cubs could be a better team next year and win less games. They could win 100, and then catch a hot team in the Division Series and lose again. Such is the way of baseball playoffs.
In a week’s time, or maybe when the World Series is over, you’ll remember this season fondly. And you’ll remember it fondly forever if one of the next few ones has a much better ending. But you won’t remember it fondly if it never happens. Such is context. But for right now, until the Winter Meetings, or Spring Training, or whenever works for you, you’ll think of the past six months and smile. WE can save the title-or-bust attitude for a little while down the road.
-A note on future plans here. At the moment, I’m leaning toward scrapping the newsletter portion of The Drip, and devoting my full attention and energy to the blog starting next season, with complete redesign and all. A lot of the stuff that went into the publication can go on the site, and I can provide my usual silliness on a daily basis. It’s a crowded blogosphere for the Cubs I know, but I think there’s room for a functional alcoholic. But don’t have to make that decision now. We shall see.