Well, huzzah. Last night, the beloved Chicago Cubs clinched winning the National League Central Division, so they'll be in the playoffs. That aside, they clinched with still 16 games to go in the season, up 41 games over .500. A full 17 games ahead of second place. The thing is, yes, the goal is to win the World Series, and it's most especially the goal when your team hasn't won a World Series in 108 years, since 1908. But that's the thing -- when you haven't won a World Series in 108, you start with appreciating base hits, a game win, a winning streak of two games. And just getting into the playoffs. So, even "only" winning your division isn't an "only" to Cubs fans. It's a reason to celebrate.
But there's something else, even more important as far as I'm concerned. The playoffs last about a month. A baseball season last six months. And my theory on a fan following sports is that, in the end, this is all just about entertainment, because it really doesn’t affect our lives. If your team wins, it truly doesn't have the slightest affect on anyone except the players themselves. It makes you as a fan happy. And that's great. And it's also the point: to have such wonderful entertainment for six months, to have such a great regular season 41 games already above .500 -- whatever happens in the playoffs -- that is a joy.
To be clear, I dearly hope the Cubs win the World Series. I've hoped that for several decades. My dad grew up walking distance from Wrigley Field and hoped it for 95 years. But much as I hope they win this year, and will be sorry if they don't, I didn't expect it. Since the team hired Theo Epstein as the new team president about five years ago, I've looked at the development they've been doing, and have long-written that I expected next year to be the time when they seriously compete in the playoffs and get to the World Series and have a solid chance to win. Maybe even two years from now. That's because the team is incredibly young.
They did add some important veterans, but the core of their team is ridiculously young. Last year's rookie-of-the-year Kris Bryant is only 24 and in his second season. Same for shortstop Addison Russell who is just 22. Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Wilsson Contreras are all around 23 -- Contreras wasn't even on the team at the beginning of the year, but was brought up mid-season to fill-in for a week, but was so good he's stayed. Perhaps the veteran team leader Anthony Rizzo is only 26. Their budding star left-fielder Kyle Schwarber is only 23...but got badly injured in the first month and was out for the season.
That's been my biggest "wariness" for the year, how incredibly young the team is, because the issue of experience is more likely to show up during the post-season, where the focus of intense pressure is great. That said, I've been impressed how mature the youngsters play. But I still see it as a question mark. Here's hoping for them to have grown enough during the season. And they are on pace to prove me wrong, as the team has gotten past all my wariness. So, again, here's hoping it continues. But winning a World Series is different from having the best record in baseball. That is no guarantee for success in the post-season.
And so we celebrate with great joy when they win something as basic as their division. Huzzah, indeed.
Here's a 4-minute look back at the season so far...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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