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Just Sayin’: A shaky Cubs start? Young fan encourages cynics to get a grip

J.D. Olson proudly displays his gift from Cubs manager Joe Maddon. | Photo by Nate Olson

Yu Darvish — who wasted no time making a mockery of the notion that he has nowhere to go but up — is coming off the worst start of his career. The relief corps is performing with the calm composure of drunken squirrels in a maze of funhouse mirrors. Manager Joe Maddon’s early-season decision-making is being questioned far and wide. And none of Maddon’s players in the field can catch or throw the ball, as evidenced by the Cubs’ incomprehensible six errors in Monday’s hideous loss in Atlanta.

As if all that weren’t enough, the division-rival Brewers are off to a rocking-and-rolling start.

Is there anyone out there who isn’t already worried that the sky is falling on Cubdom?

Actually, I found one such gentleman. J.D. Olson, an ardent Cubs fan from Little Rock, Arkansas, knows a thing or two about baseball and is as smart as a whip. He’s pretty feisty, too (just ask him).

You want to argue with J.D. that the 2019 Cubs are in trouble? You’d better pack a lunch, pal.

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“That is bogus,” he said. “The Browns were the worst team in football, and they come out of nowhere and now they’re on a roll. And we’re a lot better than the Browns. Just because we lost a couple doesn’t mean we’re going to have the worst season ever. There’s people who have worse seasons.”

Did I mention J.D. — it stands for Joshua David — is only 10 years old? Grade: fourth. Favorite subjects: P.E. and writing. Best day ever: Sunday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, where J.D. watched with dad Nate as the Rangers walked off the Cubs 11-10.

The ending of that game stung, but the beginning more than made up for it. After standing behind the visitors’ dugout for an hour and a half, shouting hellos and waving feverishly at his heroes, J.D. struck gold — no more than 10 minutes before

Joe Maddon gives J.D. Olson the thumbs-up.
Joe Maddon gives J.D. Olson the thumbs-up.

the start of the game — with Maddon.

First, he got a wave back and a thumbs-up from the manager.

“I was really excited,” J.D. said.

But then, Maddon re-emerged from the dugout bearing a gift: a baseball signed in fat red marker, “Joe Maddon, WS Champs 2016.”

“I turned it over and saw that signature and I broke down crying,” J.D. said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was in a dream. I hugged my dad. I was just so happy.”

For J.D., who knows all about being patient, it had been worth the wait.

Here’s a guy who had to wait all the way until he was 7 years old to celebrate a Cubs World Series title. His parents let him stay up for the final out of the clincher, after which he and Nate danced (mom Sheena and brother Luke are Cardinals fans) in the street outside their home.

I got to speak on the phone with J.D. and hear his story thanks to a connection made on Twitter. His message for me and for others who are taking the Cubs to task after only a handful of games: Stop being so negative!

“We’re going to have an amazing season,” he said. “We’re going to make it to the playoffs and make it as far as we can.”

We’ll see if he’s right. It could be he’s in for six months of forehead-slapping frustration instead. I suspect that either way, my new buddy can take it.

I’M JUST SAYIN’

The 2018 White Sox got off to a 3-3 start, lost Game No. 7 and never saw .500 again. This year’s team is 1-3, but starting pitcher Lucas Giolito, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the Sox’ lone victory, is unafraid to think — and talk — big.

“We have a lot of talent on this team,” he said. “We know we’re really good. We want to look at the standings a little ways into the season and see ‘White Sox’ higher up there. That would inject confidence, and that’s the sort of thing that can snowball and, all of a sudden, you look up and you’re in the playoffs.”

How about we get to, oh, 4-4 and go from there?

• Have CBS execs stopped crying in their martinis about a Final Four of Virginia, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Auburn? No offense to those fine teams, of course, but Duke’s Zion Williamson would’ve been a one-man ratings grab.

• At least Charles Barkley will be in the building in Minneapolis as an analyst, continuing his proud tradition of having a few scraps of knowledge about his alma mater, Auburn, but knowing utterly nothing whatsoever about any other team.

• Do little pieces of of studio hosts Greg Gumbel and Ernie Johnson die every time they kick it over to “Phil” for one of those increasingly annoying AT&T spots?

• Big news Tuesday from the University of Illinois: Beginning this fall, beer will be sold at football and men’s basketball games. Makes sense, too, because nothing calls for ice-cold relief quite like a 30-point deficit.