Cubs Using ‘Worst Possible Outcome’ to Grow, Learn

Not even the folks at Baseball Prospectus saw this collapse coming. The Cubs managed to hang onto hope despite playing .500 baseball for most of the season, but the tires that had been running flat for months finally blew out in mid-September. They will finish the season out of playoff contention for the first time in years, a reality with which many of their cornerstone players are unfamiliar.

“The degree to which we’ve stumbled here down the stretch is definitely surprising,” Theo Epstein told the media prior to Wednesday’s loss, their eighth in a row. “When you have the best possible outcome, and overcome a lot of things and do some transcendent things, you grow from that because you’ve done something you haven’t done before.”

No one would ever say the Cubs’ success has been a bad thing, but it’s evident they have lacked a real driving force over these last three years. Rather than spur them forward, the weight of expectation seems to have led to inertia. The idea that they had everything they needed fooled them into thinking the status quo was just fine.

“When you have the middle-of-the-road outcome, you can always tell yourself whatever story you want to hear,” Epstein continued. “It’s a gray area.

“When you have the worst possible outcome, like we’ve had, it reveals everything. As painful as it can be, it creates a real opportunity to learn from it and grow.”

That’s not just leadership jargon, either, since Epstein is describing the only possible outcome for the Cubs moving forward. With a new TV network debuting on the heels of a season defined by disappointment, anything short of growth and change would be wholly unacceptable.

What form that takes is obviously yet to be seen, so maybe don’t go writing those obituary pieces and spiking the ball on a dynasty that never was. After all, they’re far from the first team to unexpectedly miss the playoffs and they’d be far from the first to bounce back should they turn things around next season.

By all means, take all the time you need to bitch about this season and issue all the I-told-you-so statements you need. Then realize that next year will be a different story. At least it had better be.

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