There simply is no other way to look at it: The 2020 Cubs were the best team in baseball.
At not getting COVID-19.
Listen, that wasn’t written glibly. Well, maybe the tiniest bit. But the Cubs were the only team in the major leagues that didn’t have a single positive test result among its players since intake screening began near the end of June, and that’s impressive. It says something about their earnestness and character. As accomplishments go, this one meant an awful lot.
‘‘I think we can look at ourselves in the mirror and be really proud of ourselves, knowing that we took care of each other, we took care of ourselves, we took care of our families and we made sacrifices,’’ left fielder Kyle Schwarber said.
It was a strange season. The Cubs, like every other team, spent it on the edge, with much that could go wrong. But they made it through 60 games — plus two more really bad ones — and now it’s over. There aren’t any other superlatives to describe a team that couldn’t hit and went 21-25, playoffs included, after a mirage of a 13-3 start.
The end was the strangest part of all. As the Cubs batted in the ninth inning of a 2-0 loss Friday to the Marlins at Wrigley Field, it was as though the ignominy of a two-game wild-card sweep suddenly ceased to exist. Everywhere outside the bubble of a baseball field, the world was learning the president of the United States was going to the hospital, a Marine One helicopter waiting on the White House lawn to transport him to Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
What a team? No. What a time. What a year.
There will be ample opportunity to figure out why the Cubs’ still are broken offensively, why they are so distinctly capable of innings such as the fourth and fifth Friday, when they put six men on base without scoring a run. Due attention will be paid to the future of the team’s core — to Kris Bryant, to Javy Baez, to a whole that is — for whatever reasons — less than the sum of its parts.
First, though, the Cubs get to exhale. They’ve earned that much.
‘‘Disappointed. Sad, maybe. There’s some anger, I’m sure,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘But, big picture-wise, I think we’re all going to look back on this season and realize the sacrifices that we all made. . . .
‘‘It was a hard season, for sure. Mentally, physically, emotionally, this was — and there’s still teams going, I’m not trying to make an excuse — this is just facts. 2020 is no joke.’’
The zealous confidence that lived from top to bottom of this organization after the 2016 World Series is long gone. The Cubs could use some new blood. They need their own Sandy Alcantara and Sixto Sanchez, the young Marlins starting pitchers who chopped through Cubs bats like they were dead trees. They need players who can do more than talk about ‘‘working at-bats’’ and ‘‘grinding,’’ who don’t assume that any real solutions can be found on the backs of baseball cards.
If Yu Darvish can work his way out of the wilderness, perhaps all the key Cubs can. Darvish isn’t the pitcher who imploded in the 2017 World Series with the Dodgers anymore. He isn’t the self-doubting pitcher who entered Year 3 with the Cubs as a question mark. As he displayed even in defeat against the Marlins, he is Building Block No. 1 as the Cubs move into the offseason.
The 2020 season is over. It’s not the worst thing.
‘‘This game is just overall stressful,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘You add a virus and a lot of other things to it, it obviously escalates some things. But we got through it.’’
And that’s saying something.