The baseball season is so long, that we have a need to identify certain games or plays that signaled something, otherwise we’d have to admit we’ve just spent six months kind of watching the same thing over and over. Especially when it’s a team like this Cubs team that can never spend that much time being bad or good. It’s all dependent on location. Combine it all so far and you get a big bunch of mediocre, a colorless canvas, something that just kind of makes you make a sound like, “PHWA?”
You only can “identify” these moments in review, and that’s only when something much bigger happens at the end. Tell me, what was the defining moment of the 2017 season? I can’t really think of one, because that was a 92-win season that ended in the NLCS rather meekly. Wade Davis striking out Harper to end the series before (oh, the symbolism)? Max Scherzer’s inning? Certainly can’t think of much during the season.
I suppose last year has one, and it’s Carl Edwards Jr. throwing up all over what should have been the biggest home run of the season, Anthony Rizzo off Josh Hader to take the lead. Get that one win, and then you win the division and we see where it goes. Sometimes they’re easy to find, but then again it doesn’t really matter if the Cubs find one more win anywhere else along the six month season.
So yeah, there’s a huge urge to label last night’s dance quintet/cycle as the moment that will tear apart the season and send the Cubs spiraling to a .500 record or thereabouts, Maddon off into his RV, possibly Theo into the sunset to wait for his Hall of Fame berth, and whatever else. Certainly the symbols were all there–the player the Cubs refused to even try to sign (and rightly, honestly), the bullpen meltdown, the managerial what-ifs, the middle infield defense, I could keep going.
But you forget that the Cubs rolled into The Zit after what seemed like one of the biggest wins of the season, the comeback one over their bogey team Cincinnati. And they responded to that by three lifeless or dumbass games. So it honestly wouldn’t be a shock, and truly fitting, but following the worst loss of the season by three ho-hum, whatever wins over the already-quit Pirates. And then that will be a .500 road trip which won’t be great but isn’t disaster and we’ll be right back where we started. And the whole season has been just about ending up back where we started.
And they’ve done this before. I thought they were pretty much left in the shit after biffing a road trip to Milwaukee and St. Louis. They swept the Brewers and took two of three from the A’s, an AL playoff contender. I thought that might spur them. They then came up with these seven games of pure brilliance. They roared out of the All-Star break. That road trip they fucked up I just mentioned followed. That roaring out of the break followed a road trip they limped out of as well. They keep doing this.
“Momentum” in baseball is either non-existent or non-quantifiable. I can never decide. In the end, you win seven in a row because you’re playing well and you get a little luck. And you lose seven or eight in a row because of the opposite. The Cubs aren’t good enough to do the former and not bad enough to do the latter. If they were a winning team, their lack of spikes in the EKG would be cited as just staying on an even-keel, a quiet cool, a steady confidence. Because they’re a gray, shapeless life form at the moment, it’s easy to label them as lifeless, as bored, as unengaged. And they’ve looked all of that at times, as all disappointing teams do.
But I don’t know which one they are, I don’t think anyone else does, and more importantly I don’t think they do either. This Cubs team has just kind of existed through this season. It’s just there, standing in the corner, eating just the right amount of appetizers and drinking just the right amount of free booze without indulging and barely talking to anyone while also not appearing creepily aloof (can you tell who I am at parties?).
And that’s what I would guess would happen now. They’re not so stupid as to not take the two or three games this Pirates team will just hand you because that’s a thing they do now. And then they’ll return home and probably win more than they lose because that’s what they do. And then they’ll head on the road and lose more than they should. And they’ll just continue to Billy Pilgrim their way through this campaign until it ends, and still the most likely scenario is them standing on top as the Cardinals and Brewers more violently thrash about to go nowhere even harder than the Cubs.
It could be by next week you’ll barely remember last night. Or by the middle of September you won’t. There’s a small possibility it’ll become a comedic note, one we giggle about after the Cubs actually do turn it around and the Phillies continue to go straight to the middle. Most likely, it’ll just be something that happened. as pretty much all of this season has been.