Do the Dodgers Want It More?
I want to believe, but these are not the 2016 Cubs.
This time last year, the scene — at least on paper — was very much the same: the Chicago Cubs were facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS for a shot at World Series glory.
If you continue to stare at that paper, you would notice that the names on the Cubs roster are largely unchanged from 2016. So you might be tempted to think that this entire series is a bit of a rerun.
Unfortunately, you would be very, very wrong.
Aside from a few personnel changes on both sides (including some key additions to the Dodgers bullpen), there is one big addition to the Cubs playoff roster this year, and it’s not an acquisition anyone would want to sign off of waivers: Desperation.
To be sure, these Cubbies don’t really have anything to be desperate about. They are the reigning World Series Champions who broke the seemingly unbreakable drought after more than a century of losing. Despite a variety of setbacks, they played well enough to win their weak division and squeaked by the Nationals to get where they are today.
But the confident “We Never Quit” mantra of last year’s squad seems to have been replaced by the far less catchy slogan of “We’re Better Than This, Right? RIGHT?!”
The 2017 Cubs were supposed to keep riding the momentum of the 2016 club, but something was different. The first desperate clue came from our abysmal first half of play, when we steadfastly refused to put our boot on the throat of the paltry Central Division and declare it our own. Instead, we sparred with the Brewers and the Cardinals — who never seem to truly go away — until the tail end of the season.
There generally seemed to be a desperate feeling of wanting the regular season to be over so we could just start playing playoff games already. Because in the playoffs, anything can happen. As it turns out, anything can happen, but it sure helps to have a reliable bullpen and an offense that gets hits.
Rather than acting like they’ve been here before though — where they quite literally just were…playing in the NLCS in Los Angeles — the Cubs look like they’re trying too hard to impress a first date. Rather than hitting balls into the stratosphere, they’re taking mighty whiffs at stratospheric pitches. Cubs pitching has been unstable and the bullpen is a tired mess. Do you really feel confident giving the ball to anyone besides Wade Davis at this point?
In the other dugout, things look more familiar to fans of the 2016 Cubs. The Dodgers are not pressing — they’re confident in their abilities. They have ample offense and a bullpen that is making the Cubs potent lineup look like a tee-ball team taking pitches for the first time. They have the semi-cocky-but-also-delightful swagger of the 2016 Cubs. They’re capable of late-inning heroics and come-from-behind wins. To coin a phrase, they never quit.
And so I’m left to conclude that the Dodgers want it more, and that’s a depressing realization. Obviously it’s not too late, and three home games put the Cubs in the best possible spot for an incredible comeback, but it’s going to take more than a rain delay pep talk to get back on track.
Even if the Dodgers are statistically a better team, this Cubs lineup should never go quietly! It’s going to take patience, not desperation. It’s going to take aggressive pitching, not mistakes that end up in the stands. It’s going to take confidence, not anxious overcompensating.
The home field advantage is our only hope now. If you’re going to the games, you better get loud. Combined with an off day, maybe the return home and the roar of the Wrigley Field faithful willing them to victory can restore the Cubs’ energy and effort to 2016 playoff levels and heights of success.
It’s time to get it done. It’s no time to panic…or quit.