“Sometimes you need to get your dick knocked in the dirt in order to appreciate where you’re at. And you know what? Maybe we needed that. Maybe we needed to get knocked down a peg or two and realize that nothing’s gonna be given to us.”
That was Jon Lester’s…um, unique…rapid reaction to the heart-wrenching end of the Cubs’ season after just one postseason game last week.
A week later, the Cubs ace still has the same perspective and believes the criticism of Joe Maddon is unfair and an unfortunate byproduct of a season that ended short of expectations.
Roughly 14 hours after Lester’s NSFW summation, Cubs president of baseball opertations Theo Epstein spoke more eloquently on the matter, believing his team lacked urgency at times throughout the year and it came back to bite them by forcing a Game 163 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“In our business, we have bosses and Theo’s our boss,” Lester said on ESPN 1000 Wednesday. “He obviously saw something that lacked in our team throughout the year. He sees it as a different view than we see it and if he feels that way, then he’s probably right. With such a long, long season, you go through spurts where, yeah, it may not necessarily lack the sense of urgency, it may just be you’re in a rut — mentally, physically, whatever it may be.
“We’ve all said it; I’ve been guilty of saying it — ‘Hey, this is just one of those days and we’ll move on.’ Well, ‘one of those days’ turns into Game 163. Unfortunately, our lackluster performance falls on Joe’s shoulder and that’s the unfortunate part of any game – any athletic sport on the professional level.
“I think Joe has done a phenomenal job the past four years. I mean, he’s given the city of Chicago expectations for us. So I think you gotta look at that. We’re still fresh. We’re literally a week removed from losing, so everybody’s still got that bitter taste in their mouths and rightfully so. I think everybody needs to step back and realize we overcame a lot, but we still came up short.
“There are some positives we can take from this and we’re gonna go forward with it and it’s gonna make us stronger as a unit. It’s gonna make Joe stronger as a manager. We all got Joe’s back and we all believe in what he does. But like I said, the unfortunate part is when you provide expectations for a city, this is the stuff you have to deal with and we’ll get through it.”
Despite the heat Maddon took, his status as Cubs manager “remains unchanged” and is expected to once again be at the helm of a team with World Series expectations in 2019.
Javy Baez also felt like the team lacked a sense of urgency all season and was outspoken about what he felt even before the Cubs were eliminated by the Rockies in the 13th inning of the NL Wild-Card Game.
Yes, the season ended in disappointing fashion. Yes, everybody expected the Cubs to at least make the NLDS, especially after spending most of July, all of August and all of September as a first-place team with the best record in the entire NL.
Nobody’s happy the Cubs fell short of their ultimate goal of winning the World Series.
That doesn’t mean they choked, however.
“Let’s get one thing straight — we’re best record in the league minus 1,” Lester said a few hours after his gutsy performance against the Rockies in the one-game playoff. “We had to play 163 in order to lose that title. So I like my chances every year if you’re gonna come down to the last game of the year and you’re fighting for the best record in the league.
“The Brewers got hot, they played really good. I feel like we played really good. I mean, I don’t feel like we lost this. I feel like they beat us and we got ourselves in this situation.”
As tough as this ending was for the 2018 Cubs, it sure doesn’t seem like the 2019 team will be lacking any urgency, motivation or chip on their shoulder.
It’ll be World Series or bust for the Cubs once again next year.