Evanston RoundTable, Oct. 3, 2019
For the first time since 2014, the Cubs will be missing the National League playoffs. In the end it wasn’t even close. They finished the season nine games behind the Nationals and five games behind the Brewers for the two Wild Card playoff spots.
Worse yet was the crushing way they were eliminated, losing their last four home games to the rival Cardinals. It was the Cards’ first four-game sweep at Wrigley since 1921.
More humiliation? The Cubs lost their last five games at Wrigley by one run. You’d have to go back to 1915 to replicate that sad streak.
All this when they had a 3½ game lead in the division as recently as Aug. 9. Despite having a fabulous lineup on paper, the team managed only a mediocre 53 wins and 55 losses since May 30, and finished the season barely over .500.
To be fair, injuries played a big role in their collapse. A number of key position players—including Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, plus pitchers Craig Kimbrel, Cole Hamels, Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop—were out or played hobbled for varying stretches of the season. You could man a pretty good team with all the missing Cubbies.
Of course, other teams suffered their share of injuries too. The Brewers’ star right fielder Christian Yelich was knocked out for the season on Sept. 10. Yet the Brewers made it to the playoffs anyway. As for bad luck, the Bears were eliminated from the NFL playoffs last January when Cody Parkey’s last-second field goal attempt hit the goal post twice, the infamous “double doink.” As he said after the game, “You can’t make this up.”
True. But you can easily extrapolate from the Cubs’ disappointing finish to the everyday world, the world inhabited by just-plain folks who don’t make millions of dollars a year running around the bases or up and down the field. Baseball in particular lends itself to metaphor. As commentators and managers love to point out, even the best hitters make twice as many outs as hits.
Life is like that. For a combination of reasons—including bad luck, competition, personal inadequacies and the dark forces that abound in the universe—we strike out way more often than we hit home runs.
And while that is disappointing, it’s not usually tragic. In fact, it’s pretty common: we all face setbacks. What distinguishes and elevates life is our perseverance, resilience and patience. We understand there’s always a next time, a tomorrow, and (for the Cubs) a next season, when we get to try again.
Missing the playoffs in 2019 means the Cubs will be doing some reshuffling in the off-season. It could be a while before the team is back in the running. But you can be sure they’ll be trying.
We wish them well and meanwhile, we’ll keep trying ourselves.