I hate the Mets. I think I have always hated the Mets. I wasn’t even around for ’69 when the Cubs blew an 8 1/2 game lead. So to have the Mets knock my Cubs out of the playoffs was even harder for me to take.
The Cubs went further than anyone thought they would, heading into the 2015 campaign. Most people thought they would have been around .500 (82 wins). I felt they had a good shot at being a little better than that. Not a lot, but a few games. I didn’t have any expectations, other than they would win more than they lost. As the season went on, my wildest dreams became a reality. They had a serious shot at the playoffs for basically half the season and almost caught the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals.
I could see the Cubs winning the one game wildcard and getting a shot to play St. Louis in the National League Division Series. Once that became a reality my hopes soared. I actually felt they had a shot to beat the Cardinals. I knew it was probably slim and that it would take their best effort. They lost the first game, but the thinking was, they only needed to win 1 in St. Louis. They won game 2, going to Chicago for the next two games. When the Cubs won those two games, my hopes climbed to an even higher level. 4 wins away from the World Series. Hallowed ground for most Cubs fans.
Again, I knew the series would be tough, but seemed winnable, especially since the Mets best two pitchers would not go until games 3 and 4. Like with the St. Louis series, the Cubs only needed to win 1 game in New York to take home field advantage. Games 3 through 5 would be in Chicago. When they failed to win either game, my hopes slid a lot. The Cubs top two pitchers let them down and the hitting was non-existent. Give credit to the Mets who pitched two excellent games. The series shifted to Chicago, where again they seemed to gain an advantage: The weather was in the mid 70s. Hope was that the Cubs bats would come alive.
Reality set in when they lost game 3. They had Mets ace Jacob deGrom on the ropes, but couldn’t cash in or knock him out of the game. Talk was of the parallels between the Cubs and ’04 Red Sox. They were also down 3-0 to a New York team (the Yankees) and stormed back to win their series. The Red Sox had Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling though. They also had no problems scoring runs. The candlelight of hope for the Cubs ran out last night when they dropped the 4th game in a row.
At least there was no gut-wrenching ending. Compared to how ’03 or ’84 ended. This was pretty calm. It did illustrate just how far away the Cubs are from being World Series contenders. Not too far, but a couple more pitchers and maybe another hitter. The rookies did a heck of a job all year and even in the playoffs. They will have the experience under their belt and have another year of seasoning for the 2016 playoff run.
The offseason will be fun to watch. It won’t be as epic as last year’s, where coach John Madden landed in their laps and they signed ace pitcher Jon Lester. They will no doubt seek to sign another ace pitcher. Perhaps re-sign ex-Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija for a year? Center Fielder Dexter Fowler may not be back, since he will become a free agent. Starlin Castro had a great comeback in September, but I feel he could be traded for some pitching or a veteran bat.
We will all wait with eager eyes and hopeful souls as Theo and Jed work their magic. The Cubs were a year ahead in their rebuilding schedule, led by Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, and a whole bunch of rookies. The boys of summer will return soon in the spring and embark on another journey. Perhaps this one lands them in the long awaited field of dreams: the World Series. For now we dream, 2016. 2016.