The Chicago Cubs under Joe Maddon had won a World Series and made it to the NLCS every year before this season. After feeling gut-wrenching defeat in 2018, the young core may look at things a little differently.
After a shocking end to their season in the Wild Card game, many fans have looked at how the Chicago Cubs team have handled it. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein certainly was not pleased with the situation and made it pretty clear there would have to be some changes.
Fact of the matter is, the Joe Maddon era Cubs are experiencing a defeat they had not yet felt before. Sure they got swept in the NLCS in 2015 and lost in five games in the 2017 NLCS, but those were solid postseason runs that saw them face teams that were simply either better or on a role. This is the first time they had something, lost it and went down very quietly.
For guys like Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Kris Bryant and Kyle Hendricks, making long playoff runs is all they knew. When you’re young and talented it is natural to expect things to go your way and this year it did not in the end. Some quotes after the season ended indicate that this could be a humbling experience for the team.
Admitting this is a humbling experience for a passionate team is perfectly okay.
“Sometimes you need to get your d*** knocked in the dirt to appreciate it. Maybe we needed that.”
What Lester said was pretty self-explanatory, transformative experiences are sometimes most effective when you learn the hard way. Their past experience and talent can help them get so far but nothing is guaranteed and it showed. Even Epstein mentioned in his presser that the 2018 team did not always seem have the same urgency they did in 2016, specifically mentioning settling for two out of three in a series instead of going for the sweep.
Does calling this a “humbling experience” mean this team was overly arrogant and lacked passion? No. This team shows a lot of emotion and has a lot of swagger on the field, this is really a scenario of taking things for granted and adjusting focus. They do not have to lose their confidence and swagger to learn from this season. After tasting something bitter they know they do not want to taste it again. It will be an adjustment for them, and baseball is a game of constant adjustments.
The players and coaches are certainly disappointed in themselves, but they will not let this get them down. I can only imagine they are already ready to get back to it and prepare for 2019. It will be the longest offseason for this team in the Maddon era, but it will also be one of the most interesting.