Early Season Thoughts

Sometimes, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

The 2013 Cubs are a pretty good example of that.  They’ve had no offense to speak of.  The back end of the bullpen was an unmitigated disaster for the first two weeks.  The defense let the Cubs down on a number of occasions; yet the Cubs are 10-15, and have won five out of seven.

Record wise, the team isn’t far off of expectations.  We knew this team was not going to compete with the Reds and Cardinals this season.  We knew the offense was going to struggle at times.  And we knew the early season was going to be a strong test because of the good teams the Cubs were going to play.  The results of the test are in, and the Cubs passed.  They may have only passed with a 65, but they passed.  And they missed a lot of opportunities to really improve on that grade.

It isn’t all that difficult to understand why we, as fans, are so disappointed, though.  The interaction in Twitter is a good indication of what most of us are feeling.  It could be so much better.  The Cubs played well enough to win three of the games with the Giants.  They shouldn’t have been swept by the Braves.  Or the Brewers in Miller Park.  They’ve shot themselves in the foot more times that we should have expected, especially after the steps forward in fundamental baseball that the team took last season.

That’s what young teams do.  I’ve said this a number of times to folks on Twitter.  Winning is a learned behavior.  There aren’t many players on this team who have a lot of experience with winning.  There’s Alfonso Soriano from his days with the Yankees and first couple of years with the Cubs.  Nate Schierholtz was with the Giants when they won the World Series in 2010.  Scott Feldman was with the Rangers the last couple of years.  Carlos Villanueva went to the playoffs with the Brewers in 2008.  Edwin Jackson’s been on his share of winners.  So, two position players, who play on a regular basis, and three starting pitchers.  That’s not a whole lot.

Here’s my point.  There is a time coming for winning.  It’s not here, yet, but it’s coming.  Teams like the Braves, Rangers, Brewers and Giants all know how to finish games at this point.  There are veteran players on those teams who have tasted success at the major league level.  They know how to take advantage of young, impressionable teams like the Cubs.  And they take those advantages.  In the end, the fans feel violated.  But the team grows up, figures out how to avoid the killer mistake, and hangs on.

Nights like last night, where the bullpen is good and the defense makes some plays to hold on to the game, become more prevalent when a team is good.  The value of last night’s game is huge.  Because unlike the standard for the early season, the Cubs found a way to win.  It was only 1/162 of the season, but that was the most valuable win of the season, thus far.  This time, when the Cubs closed the door, they kept it closed.  And that is a big step in the right direction.

We can’t hang onto games past.  First, because our hearts can’t take the stress.  But mostly, because with this team in its current form, everything is a day to day process.  After every game, lets move on to the next one.  That’s the great thing about baseball.  All summer long, there’s always tomorrow to try again, regardless of today’s result.

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