As I write this it is the Sunday morning following another Chicago Cubs loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. On back to back days, the bullpen managed to deliver gut-punch style losses. As has become all too common this year the starters did their job, the offense managed to get a lead, and then the bullpen was unable to handle said small lead. It would be easy to focus on the bullpen, but, that isn’t all that is wrong with the 2019 Cubs. There are issues throughout the roster and this has affected every facet of offense, defense, and pitching. I’m not here to write about those problems, rather I’m going to chew your ear off about the problem of inevitability.
Sports aren’t pre-determined and this is seen in plenty of underdogs scoring victories. There shouldn’t be an inevitability to sports, yet often it feels as if what we are watching is nothing more the inevitable conclusion that was due all along. The truth is that while we like to tell ourselves that sports should be random, more often than not the complete opposite is true. Baseball, perhaps moreso than any other sport, is a game where the inevitable is almost a way of life.
This inevitability can be good as seen in Mike Trout’s place as the best player in baseball for yet another season. We welcome that sort of inevitability. It adds order to our lives and the baseball world feels right when Mike Trout is the name scrawled across various leaderboards. Max Scherzer dominating and Javier Báez doing amazing things on the basepaths are simply baseball life as we have come to know it. That’s not to say that these inevitabilities can’t be stunted, but they always come back, because good things repeat themselves.
Baseball is also dominated by a negative inevitability, the sort seen with the 2019 Cubs. Fans and writers alike hammered home that this was a team that needed to improve in certain areas. Not just this past offseason, but during the 2018 offseason as well. The bullpen needed more depth and the starting 8 needed another bat added to the mix. As the Cubs front office failed to address these needs the sense of inevitability fell over fans and writers. We knew how this story would end, it was just a matter of when the bullpen cost the team games and when the offense came up short due to a lack of quality depth.
For Cubs fans this year the negative inevitability has outweighed the positive inevitability. That may not seem to be the case with a team that has a winning record and is fighting for a National League Central Division crown. Alas, this year the NL Central has turned out to be more of a collection of ineptitude than the toughest division in baseball. The Cubs aren’t alone in the negative inevitability department this year, I just happen to be more privy to the Cubs particular brand of negative inevitability.
Baseball is baseball though and that means that no matter how inevitable I think a bullpen implosion is I still spend multiple innings every game convincing myself that today the Cubs will hold onto their lead. Then they don’t and the dreadful feeling of being right about something I never wanted to be right about hits me. After I’ve calmed down I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day and things will be better. For the moment the dragon that is negative inevitability has been put at bay.
This is the beauty of baseball, it truly is the sport where hope springs eternal. II spend every single game day telling myself that the lineup will produce and the bullpen won’t blow another lead. The hope that comes from baseball buries negative thoughts deep and the cycle perpetually repeats itself. The 2019 Cubs bullpen blowing games may be inevitable and I may know exactly what is going to happen, but I get invested all the same. Baseball is a beautiful sport, that’s all there is to the game.
Lead photo courtesy of Thearon W. Henderson – Getty Images