The Cubs are, as of this writing prior to the games of August 9, in possession of the third Wild Card in the National League (by percentage points over the Reds) and just a game and a half back of the Brewers for first in the division. Had you told that to any Cubs fan on Opening Day of the season, odds are that they would have taken this outcome and run. Is that, alone, enough to call this season a success?
How about the way the Cubs came out firing on all cylinders after the All-Star break, going 17-8 with recent statement series wins against the (then-)division-leading Reds and the superb Braves? Would the fact that the Cubs defied all the odds and national prognostications that they would be sellers for the third year in a row (instead buying the best rental bat on the market, in Jeimer Candelario) be enough to convince you that this season, no matter how it ends, was a good one?
What, ultimately, defines a successful season? How does one fan base attempt to establish the parameters that would aid them in arriving at a consensus?
There’s no doubt that question--whether the season was a success or not--will be easier to answer come October. If the Cubs are in the playoffs, it would be a pretty open-and-shut case that this season was positive. If they absolutely implode, cratering closer to the first pick in the draft than first in the division, then most would probably call it a failure. But what happens if the club remains competitive, finishes the season above .500 and misses out on the last Wild Card by a game or two? After watching Frank Schwindel and the Great Minor League Home Run Race of 2022 (between Alexander Canario and Matt Mervis) be the predominant storylines in Cubs fandom in the second half of the last two seasons, isn’t simply having competitive baseball in August and September again a success?
This entire discussion is about the Major League team, but there have been important developments down on the farm this year, too--from Owen Cassie’s explosion to Pete Crow-Armstrong cementing himself as a true blue-chip prospect. Further, although the Cubs didn’t add any notable prospect talent at the trade deadline, they also didn’t deal anything away that isn’t from an area of significant strength in this organization. (I will still miss you, Kevin Made.)
No matter what, this is not a lost season. It's not anything akin to the utter dysfunction going down on the South Side (sorry, White Sox fans). However, the Cubs have a chance to do something special right now, and falling short of even the first rung on that ladder will feel exceptionally disappointing.
The only thing we as fans can do--and the same goes for the players on the team--is take it one game at a time. We can scoreboard-watch like hawks, incessantly and meticulously combing over the schedules of every other National League contender to see exactly how the Cubs can make their way into the big dance, and drive ourselves crazy. There are still two months of games to be played, after all.
Maybe the fact that these two months matter so much is enough--or maybe, these two months are just the appetizer for something much bigger.
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