The Real 2019 Chicago Cubs Are Not Real

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The Real 2019 Chicago Cubs Are Not Real

Chicago Cubs

Despite the lengthy course of a 162-game season spread over half the calendar, and a roster that sees 40-some guys go in and out from March to October, it is the nature of baseball fandom to distill the entirety of a season down to an idea of what the team is.

We like to get our hands around what we think the story of a team is in a given year. Sometimes you know it within just a few weeks, and sometimes it takes much longer.

For the 2019 Cubs, I kept thinking that we were going to get a sense of the team once this thing happened or once that flukey stretch evened out or once that guy got healthy or whatever other imagined benchmark we could convince ourselves was twinkling just over the horizon. Ah, these are the real Cubs. No, no, wait, THESE are the real Cubs. Oh, wait, no, it’s these ones. These are the real Cubs.

It took me far too long to realize we *were* seeing the story of the 2019 Cubs, and after five months, it isn’t going to change at the very end.

Remember way back when the Cubs swept Stroman-Syndergaard-deGrom in New York, and then smoked the Brewers after returning home? Things were good. Things were turning. Things were finally in the right spot. The Cubs were showing themselves!

Feels like a lifetime ago, right? Because of how torturously awful things got right after that? How it seemed that this weekend’s Cubs were, in fact, the real Cubs? Now we know for sure.

Yeah, that all happened in two days.

*That* is the story of these Chicago Cubs. They’ve been painted over by the gloss of our hope on their talent so many times that when they win some games – as they will, because they’ve got a lot of good players – we convince ourselves that’s real. And then they lose some winnable games and look like crap – as they will, because they have obvious issues – we grow terrified that’s real.

Except neither of those things is right. What’s right is the rollercoaster. The identity of this Cubs team – even moreso than the 2018 team that, let’s not forget, won 95 games – is that they’re going to keep doing this. They’re going to look good for a stretch and then deeply disappointing for a stretch. The talent wins them some games, the flaws and lack of cohesion (or whatever else it is that is missing) then lose them some games. For as maligned as last year’s Cubs team was, this year’s team isn’t even going to sniff 95 wins.

The real story of these Cubs is that there is no real. No harmonizing principle. No executive summary. They are the yin and yang where you can see only the black or only the white at any given time.

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

I would love to say that I’ve accepted all of this. That I know now in my heart of hearts that this team is not going to go on some crazy run and we’ll say, hooray, it finally clicked. I’d love to be in a place where I’ve truly absorbed that isn’t going to happen. Because then I could just do what I WANT to do, which is simply observe the rest of the season playing out. I could enjoy the good moments, moan about the bad ones, and just hope a good stretch comes right before the playoffs. Because we don’t have to be 100% fatalistic here – this team very well could still make the postseason, and then we’ll see what happens. I want to just be in that place emotionally.

But that wouldn’t be real either. Because part of the story of a team is the way the fans suffuse that story with their own, and that, too, is not going to just change in the final month of the season. The yo-yo of emotions that we’ve adopted this year is just the way it’s going to be.

For another month, then, the Cubs are doomed to look great for a bit, then bad for a bit, and we are doomed to keep telling ourselves that we know which one of those is the REAL Cubs, when all we’re really doing is telling ourselves we know which Cubs we saw yesterday.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.