The Mariners are officially eliminated from postseason contention and that is sad, but other teams have made their fans very happy by reaching the hallowed ground of the postseason, and that is nice for them, I guess. There is no reason we shouldn’t get a little taste of that glory just because we are Mariners fans, so over the coming weeks, we will be inviting a writer from each playoff-bound team to make their most compelling case for the postseason hearts and minds of Mariners fans. So far we’ve had an argument for the Diamondbacks from AZ Snakepit writer Charlie Gebow and an argument for the Twins from Brandon Warne, who writes about Minnesota sports for the Athletic. Today, Zack Moser, the irascible scamp behind @BeersNTrumpets, makes his case for his beloved Chicago Cubs.
1. The short pitch: in a tweet, limerick, haiku, or other short form, tell us why we should bandwagon your team.
Being a Cubs fan imploring a Mariners fan to root for my team is like writing a letter from the future to my past self. “The misery will pass. Joy is on the horizon. It’s all worth it in the end.”
2. The longer pitch: Expand on the most compelling reasons to root for your team.
Rooting for the Cubs in the wake of the club’s first World Series win in 108 years is... weird. Weird-ish. Like one of the great writers describing how the dream they had was just like real life, but one tiny thing was off and the whole thing felt different. So why on earth should you root for the Cubs when the most compelling narrative reason to do so has been gutted?
Perhaps you’re compelled by the lower stakes. So what if the Cubs don’t win this year? They did it last year, and no one will remember a disappointing 2017 playoff run. You, the Mariners fan, are welcome to invest as much or as little as you would like in this team, but in the end it won’t hurt too much. It’s a one-month stand of a fandom—the satisfying kind in which both parties have given and taken exactly what they desired.
That might not be of interest to you, of course. Maybe you’re looking for something more long-term, something real. In that regard, the hallmark misery of Mariners fandom is the former misery of Cubs fans refracted through the fog of a cool Pacific Northwest morning. It’s familiar, it’s cozy, it won’t surprise you. It’s a lived-in misery, mellowed out by years of lowered expectations and the yearly resignation of “not even close.” That sentiment is what made the Cubs’ World Series drought unique from the always-on-the-cusp Red Sox drought, and that is where Seattle and Chicago achieve kinship.
Aside from the historical ethos, the Cubs are a very fun team. Cleveland and New York and Houston and Los Angeles all have exciting, young players, but the Cubs’ youth is every bit as exuberant and electric as those teams’. The Cubs have a wide spectrum of personalities that engender affection, from the humorous juxtaposition of Ian Happ and Kyle Hendricks’s sullen faces with Willson Contreras and Jon Lester’s ceaseless fire, from the wisdom of Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo to the yeoman pitching of Jose Quintana. There’s someone for everyone on the Cubs, and for everyone there is Javier Baez.
Plus, you can root for Leonys Martin.
3. Help us fake it: What's a cool stat we can casually drop to make it seem like we've been following this team all along?
If you’re looking to impress with your breadth and depth of Cubs knowledge, you can start by pointing out that this is only the second time in the Cubs’ long history that they have made the playoffs three years in a row (the first being 1906-1908). For the statistically inclined, talk about Jose Quintana’s improved fastball command, or Kris Bryant’s dwindling strikeout rate, or Anthony Rizzo’s impressive ability to square up left-handed pitching. And for those who are quick to point out the Cubs’ black hole of offense in left field, you can remind them of beefy boy Kyle Schwarber’s almost .900 OPS in the second half.
4. Our new favorite player: Which under-the-radar player has a particularly cool backstory, social media presence, or is just generally awesome and worthy of our love and admiration?
Being the defending World Series champions makes it difficult to keep a low profile, but Ian Happ is the young Cub to watch this postseason. Although fellow NL Central rookie Josh Bell broke Chipper Jones’s National League record for home runs by a switch-hitting rookie with 24, Happ has socked 22 of his own in 200 fewer plate appearances. For perspective, Jones hit 23 homers in 1995 in 602 plate appearances, compared to Happ’s 397. Happ has also posted an OPS-plus of 112, better than both Bell and Jones.
Happ wasn’t supposed to impact the 2017 team, but with Kyle Schwarber’s early season struggles and a few injuries, the University of Cincinnati product found himself in the heart of the lineup often. He can play all three outfield spots, plus second base, and he has good speed. Oh, and Happ, along with Tommy La Stella, has taken to conducting faux interviews in the dugout with Cubs players following their home runs. Have a taste of Happ’s wry sense of humor:
5. Mariners fans love an underdog. What's your team's underdog quotient?
6. The happiness quotient: What are the chances your team can go all the way?
The Cubs have to cut down the Nationals and Dodgers if they are to make it back to the World Series, and then they have to square off against one of the AL’s best teams. The likelihood of repeating this year is smaller than the likelihood of winning the team’s first World Series in 108 years last year due to the relative strength of competition. Chicago still has a good shot—they’re a good team that has underperformed, and their offensive and defensive peers are few—but they’re probably the third- or fourth-favorite.