Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. pushed any hint of emotion aside as he spoke after the Cubs’ 13-inning loss to the Rockies and sudden, jarring end to their season just after midnight Tuesday night.
Despite the 2-1 loss in the National League wild-card game, certainly these Cubs could feel their 95-win season was a success – especially considering all the injuries and scheduling adversity.
“No,” Almora said flatly. “We lost.”
The Cubs aren’t going anywhere this October. And who knows what happens next year? But this, at least, is how far in four seasons these Cubs have traveled.
“There’s a lot of positives,” Almora said. “But it’s not a success unless we win. That’s just the mindset we have here.”
Four consecutive years in the playoffs for the first time certainly hasn’t erased the century that came before – much less assured anything for the next year, never mind beyond that.
What will they get from Yu Darvish next year? Can Brandon Morrow stay healthy? Will Cole Hamels be back – and how effective? Who replaces the middle infield vacancy in the absence next year of Addison Russell and Daniel Murphy – beyond Javy Baez taking over at short all year?
And what about a wildly erratic, on-again, off-again lineup that was increasingly off-again as the season wore on?
The questions will pile higher before the 2019 team gets a chance to answer any of them.
In the meantime, in a somber clubhouse of players in disbelief, one reality already was sinking in.
“It sucks,” Almora said.
But the anger and outrage expressed by fans since the Brewers caught the Cubs for the division lead – then beat them for the outright title Monday – seemed to be at least embraced, if not shared by some.
Baez, who broke out this year to challenge for the league MVP award, drove in the Cubs’ only run Tuesday and got emotional about friends who may not be back (Pedro Strop is a free agent if the Cubs don’t pick up his $6.5 million option).
And Baez also got fired up about the fact the Cubs never got on the extended roll they expected all season, never seemed to find that “rhythm of winning” they had in 2016 and for the second half last year.
“I think it was because we were paying attention to other teams because we [had guys] going down, because we lost so many people from our lineup that we were just paying attention to what other teams were doing,” he said. “And that’s not how it works.
“Next year we’re going to come back and fight again. We’re doing to make that adjustment about that, because I’m going to make sure. I don’t want to hear nothing about other teams. Because we know what we’ve got.”
This 2018 season a success? Or more of a disappointment?
“It’s in between, to be honest,” Baez said.
But either way, not nearly good enough.
“In 2015 we were winning the wild-card game no matter what,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “In 2018, I’d say fans were pissed that we were in the wild-card game because we had a chance to win the division.
“We didn’t. But we’ve really flipped this culture here with the Chicago Cubs organization to being winners.”
The record four consecutive postseason berths, including three consecutive years in the National League Championship Series before this time around. It included six elimination-game victories – and a third elimination loss Tuesday night.
“Right now it’s hard to swallow for all of us,” Kyle Schwarber said. “But the big picture here is that we’ve done a lot of things in the past couple years to where the Cubs faithful should be very proud of. And we’re expecting bigger things each and every year. So hang with us.
“Trust us: we’ll be back better than ever next year.”