My son hates leaving parties. The second I broach the topic and let him know that our departure is imminent, the tears start to well up and it’s hard to stop. My response is always the same. “Sawyer, nobody likes to leave a good party. You think I like to leave a party? But eventually, every party ends.” That’s easy for me to say as a parent. But understanding that the party will end doesn’t change the fact that when the moment actually arrives, there’s a sort of emptiness.
Right now I don’t want to talk about the Mets’ great pitching, the Cubs’ silent bats, the stolen bases, Daniel Effing Murphy, the lack of leadoff hits (or a lead), or any of that. None of it matters right now, because the party’s over.
This summer has been just that: a party. For the Cubs, their fans, and yes, even us in the media. Now it’s over, and we all feel that knot in our stomach and a lump in our throats. I’m not here to stop you from feeling the way you do about the way this season has ended. There’s going to be plenty of anger. Confusion is probably running rampant among this fan base—really, I can understand the bats being shut down by great pitching and a lot of the angles in this series, but Daniel Murphy? What in the serious hell? And of course, there’s sadness. Truthfully, that’s what I’ve been feeling a lot of since I accepted that the season was going to end earlier than any of us wanted it to, late in Game Three.
As many of you know, I’ve made the transition from fan to media. I don’t watch the game the way I used to; my emotions aren’t as tied into things as they were a half-decade ago. Sure, I love to see this team win, but whatever the results, I don’t have time to dwell on it. I have a job to do and that becomes my focus. For me, it’s therapeutic. Yet still, sadness.
Over the last couple months I’ve talked to many people about how this is the most fun I’ve had doing this job. I’m lucky enough to cover this game for a living, but the last few years, once the draft and trade deadline passed, the rest of the season often felt like a chore. I’m certainly not complaining, but what I experienced this summer was like nothing I can describe. The team had a vibe that made you want to see them experience success and, as they continued to improve, it began to feel like it was a special season. And it was. But, alas, like many seasons do, this one ended with a whimper.
I’ll let this sadness take over at some point. I’ll mourn the conclusion of a party that I never wanted to see end. But I’ll also embrace the moments that I got to experience. Chatting with Jake Arrieta about his workout regime, his diet, how he always envisioned becoming this type of pitcher; more importantly, talking about our kids, and how to teach them to catch and throw a baseball. Talking with Kris Bryant about hitting, slight tweaks in his swing that allowed him to drive the ball with more consistency, and how he adjusted to the low strike. Hearing Kyle Schwarber talk about the art of pimping a home run. Being adamant that Dexter Fowler wouldn’t play as poorly as he did in the first half, and having him tell me that anyone who thought that would last just didn’t know much about baseball. Going over mechanical tweaks with Kyle Hendricks and discussing the finer points of pitching. Talking to David Ross about everything from what it means to be a clubhouse leader, to framing, to the birth of his daughter. And of course, Joe Maddon: from the introductory press conference to his final pregame chat of the 2015 season, there was inevitably something interesting to take away from his comments.
And you shouldn’t forget the moments you had with this team either. Fowler’s big home run in Colorado that set the tone for the season. The Kyle Schwarber Game in Cincinnati. Bryant’s walkoff against the Rockies. Bryant’s walkoff against the Indians. Montero’s walk off against the Brewers. ALL OF THE WALKS OFFS! Anthony Rizzo’s amazing catch of a foul ball while falling into the stands. Arrieta’s no-hitter and brilliant run of starts in the season’s final few months. Surely the playoff victories will stand out to us once we can find our way through this fog the Mets have left us in.
We all know that expectations have been raised for the foreseeable future; starting now, the Cubs are no longer a surprise contender—every season from here on out we should expect the playoffs. That’s a good thing, it’s something all of us can be excited about. But that’s for later. Right now we release that aching we have inside of us. I’ll pack up my laptop and say goodbye to Wrigley for the year, knowing I’ll return in a little under six months. But it’ll never be like 2015 again. And that’s what makes me sad.
Lead photo courtesy of Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports