Our relatively brief national nightmare looks to be coming to its end. With tonight’s win by the Mets, it’s virtually certain that the Cubs are going down and out in the NLCS, if not tomorrow then probably shortly thereafter.
Chicago fans may already be consoling themselves with the seemingly obvious fact that, given the major amount of youthful talent all over their team’s roster, it’s a safe bet that the Cubs will be right back in the postseason next year, and perhaps for many years to come.
There’s just one problem with that: it ain’t necessarily so.
That line of thinking goes like this: the Cubs made it to the NLCS with a very young lineup; those young players will improve next year and in years to come; therefore, the team will get better, and if it’s good enough now to make it to within a few games of the World Series, then next year’s even better team will go that much further.
The problem with that logic is this: if the state of the league is such that a team full of young players can make it this far, even given the inconsistency that tends to be the hallmark of young players, then what’s to prevent some other team from also loading up with young talent and making the same jump that the Cubs did this year? Chicago may have shown a lot of talent assessment acumen in putting together the current Cubs team, but they do not have a monopoly on scouting and development. The other guys get paid too, you know.
Then there’s that youth and inconsistency thing. There’s no guarantee that these players will come back next year–or any other year–with equally good performances. Young guys do tend to go up and down. Many things can derail a promising career: injury, failure to make adjustments, or even just that ineffable something that makes some players flashes in the pan.
Injury, of course, is always a haunting presence. Addison Russell was already lost for the playoffs due to injury; who knows how he’ll be when he comes back next spring? Fine, probably–but it’s not a certainty. If the bug should bite Bryant, Schwarber, or Soler next season? Who knows how any such scenario will play out?
(That’s why the Mets must be ecstatic right now…and holding on for dear life, too, considering how much they rely on their young pitchers. Matt Harvey has already famously been a question mark, and the ghosts of Pulsipher, Isringhausen, and Wilson still lurk around New York’s clubhouse, despite the move from Shea to Citi.)
Hence, you always have to appreciate it when your team gets far into the postseason, because–as the folks up in Toronto can attest–it may not happen again for a long time, even when you win the whole thing.
All this may be hard pills for Cubs fans to swallow, but wise Chicagoans will appreciate how far their team has come and hope for the best–but expect something less–for the future.