When it comes to the Cubs in the postseason, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost a one-game playoff to the Pirates. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the World Series.
That last part is no small thing coming from someone so steeped in Cubs disappointment. I don’t say it lightly. I have seen so many bad things happen to this franchise over the years that the natural tendency is to look at the outfield walls and see poison ivy. I probably need to repeat myself to convince myself: I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs won the World Series.
This team seems … different. It seems neither beholden to the past nor disdainful of it. The past simply doesn’t exist to most of the players, who think history is the cable channel that airs “Pawn Stars.’’
As to the present, they’re fairly certain they own it. And who can argue? They won three of four in Pittsburgh last week, then sent a message to the Cardinals over the weekend that they won’t be intimidated should they meet in the playoffs. Were all the hit batters an example of overkill? Of course they were, but Joe Maddon was also sending a message to his own players: Don’t buy into the St. Louis mystique. You belong.
By the way, the people who view Maddon as the patron saint of wonkish metrics are going to have find room in their heads for the manager who also will play country hardball.
These Cubs could cave into the enormity of the situation, as previous versions have. But that seems less likely to happen than it has in the past. Anthony Rizzo has a swagger to him. Kris Bryant looks like he was made for a big stage. Jake Arrieta is calm and in control of most games he pitches.
Former Cub manager Lou Piniella referred to any strange or unfortunate thing that happened to the franchise as a “Cubbie Occurrrence.’’ That would include somebody getting hurt while exiting a hot tub, a black cat wandering the field or a groundball getting past a veteran shortstop with the team five outs from going to the World Series.
If the Cubs lose in the playoffs, I don’t think it will be because of a Cubbie Occurrence. It will be because they got beat by a better team.
See how far I’ve come?