It’s 10:30 am on Memorial Day Monday, and I’m sitting in front of a computer screen.
My kids are playing in a softball game right now. My wife is coaching at third base, probably offering encouragement to a batter – or joking around with some of the parents. Speaking of parents, mine are in the crowd, keeping up without getting yelled at by me.
And I’m at home, typing away.
This is a far different world than in my baseball days. I have a full-time 40-hour non-writing job. I have a full-time freelance writing job. And I have this little storytelling spot of mine, and it’s important to me to post once or twice a week.
Since I have to go to work soon, I was planning on transcribing an interview for MLB Trade Rumors and writing something Cubs-related (gee, what else is new) for this site.
But then, I knew their game was about to start – so I turned on the play-by-play on my Microsoft Surface so I could keep up while writing a story. And it’s the top of the first inning … Danielle starting the game in the pitcher’s circle and Nicole behind the plate in her catcher’s gear.
I tried writing, but I found myself watching and talking to my tablet … “Let’s go, Dan” … after she gave up a single to start the game.
I tried to construct some thoughts … I think I’ll talk about how the baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, but my eyes keep wandering to the tablet.
Strikeout … strikeout … groundout … she got out of the inning.
OK, let’s make some headway on the writing. Everybody keeps asking me what’s wrong with the Cubs. My first inclination is to say I don’t know; I haven’t been there since 2012.
But the reality is, I kinda sorta think I understand what’s going on. I’ll never truly 100 percent know – as I would have loved to have been in a position to know what it’s like the year after winning the World Series. I had 25 seasons there and, of course, I never had that opportunity.
Now we’re in the bottom of the first. One out, runner on second. Nicole at the plate. RBI single to left, runner scores, we’re up 1-0.
Honestly, the only thing the Cubs need to be worried about right now is staying close. They’re just 1.5 games out of first place heading into Memorial Day.
There are 110-plus games remaining in the season. There’s a lot of time.
Up 1-0 top two. After giving up a leadoff single, Danielle fans three in a row.
Baseball is a tough enough game to play under normal circumstances. But for the 2017 Cubs, having won the World Series, EVERY team is gunning for them. You might like to take it one series at a time, but every opponent is coming right at you every single friggin’ day. It’s hard to have that lightbulb on for 162 games in a row.
And, don’t forget, last year, the Cubs played until November 1. Most teams were done a full month earlier. Throw in the postseason hangover, and most of the players lost a valuable amount of downtime. The mental part of baseball is never to be underestimated.
Up 2-0 heading into the third, but a rough inning takes place. Leadoff walks will do that to you. Three runs later, they find themselves trailing. I’m more stressed watching this on a tablet than I would be if I was there in-person. And yes, it’s a “we” when the team is winning and “they” when they’re losing. I can be a frontrunner when I want to be.
I’ve told anyone who’s asked me that the Cubs will be fine. My thought is the team will struggle until the All-Star Break … and then Joe Maddon will find the right words to kick them into gear. Remember, the team scuffled for about a month last year until just before the break. Then all of a sudden, the manager pushed the right buttons – and the team went on a tear. I’m going out on a limb and saying that will happen again.
Down by one in the bottom of the third. Two on, one out, Nicole at the plate. “Come on, Little One.” Single to center on a 3-1 pitch to load the bases.
Now, my phone is buzzing. All the breaking news alerts that Tiger Woods got arrested. Gotta look that story up online. My brain is literally all over the place, and I have to get dressed to go to work.
Hey … Nic’s now at third. A couple runs have scored. We’re leading again.
Anyway, like I’ll tell anyone, I would have loved to be in the position the Cubs are in now – having to fight through it the year AFTER being champions. It’s no different than what the Cavaliers went through during the NBA regular season; you’re always someone’s championship game. But look up, and the Cavaliers are now in the finals again.
Unfortunately, I do know what it’s like to go a full month into a season without a home victory (think 1994). I do know what it’s like to start a season 0-14 (think 1997).
Up 4-3 top of the fourth. New pitcher on the mound. Less stress for this dad; more stress for her dad.
And, of course, I know what it’s like to be up 3 games to 1 in a League Championship Series – but not cross the threshold to get to the World Series.
All of those other scenarios kind of suck, to be honest.
Being 1.5 games out of first place on Memorial Day, though, isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Watching your kids play on a computer screen is far worse.
Down 5-4, bottom half of the last inning – as the tournament has a strict “no new inning after 70 minutes” rule. Two runners in scoring position, two out, Dan at the plate. I’m tasting my liver right now. Big hit. Big hit. Big hit. Well, no big hit – but a walk; and during the at-bat, a run scored – tying the game. The winning run would then score moments later on an error. We win 6-5.
Next game in 20 minutes. But I’m out the door heading to work – which will be a lot less stressful than watching a game when I’m not there.