The Cubtober Diary: Choosing to live in the historic moment
CLEVELAND – In the grand scheme of storylines, Jon Lester was a bit lucky.
When he arrived in Boston and participated in the 2007 World Series, the ghosts of Red Sox past were already just that. Eighty-six years of frustration was taken care of three years earlier when the franchise snapped their dubious championship drought with a clean sweep of the Cardinals.
Lester’s focus was more on adding to the history than it was to defeat it. He succeeded in helping Boston to that 2007 championship along with another in 2013.
But the pitcher wasn’t so lucky when arriving in Chicago. Signed before the 2015 season, Lester was thrown into the clutches of a cursed history with Cubs who were 107 years removed from their last World Championship. At that point, it was 70 years that the fans were void of just appearing in the World Series.
Lester changed that with a strong first two rounds of the playoffs, pitching in a victory over the Giants in the National League Division Series then two more in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
Both series win got rid of some of the historical baggage that arrived before him with the franchise – but Lester has done well to take it all in stride.
“Oh, man, it’s awesome, especially to be a part of this organization with all the history and all that fun stuff that we keep being a part of and talking about and this group of guys and all that stuff,” said Lester of helping the Cubs to a pennant. “Joe talks about staying in the moment, that’s kind of his big thing. Always stay in the moment, stay relevant to what we’re doing now.”
Hence the biggest challenge for these star-crossed Cubs as the enter foreign territory for the franchise: Keeping their mind on ending 108-years of futility instead of getting rid of 71 of them.
“I think that would be something that’s, you know, post-mortem,” said manager Joe Maddon, who has given that directive to the players throughout a successful 2016 season. “After you’ve actually done it, that’s when you really dwell on that particular thought. In the meantime, I promise you, our guys are going to be in the present tense.
“I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and what’s happened before us.”
Perhaps, in that respect, the Cubs are staying in-step with Maddon’s message as they approach the start of the World Series on Tuesday night against the Indians. The multitudes of media that gathered for interview day at Progressive Field were met with a similar message when asking about the team’s historic pennant they clinched on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot more to focus on and games to win to kinda sit back and go down memory lane,” said third baseman Kris Bryant. “We’re certainly going to enjoy it, but we’ve got business to do.”
Maddon’s job with this mindset is made a bit easier by his roster. Just three of the 25 players on the active roster (Lester, David Ross and Ben Zobrist) have taken part in a World Series game with the others a significant collection of younger talent.
With 11 players under the age of 26, the burden of history makes focusing too much on the past a non-issue in the present.
“Really not impacted by a lot of the lure, I don’t think, other than the fact that we are impacted by our city and our fans and the people that attend our games and the conversations that we have, absolutely, an impactful moment,” said Maddon, who hopes his team has four more of them over the next eight days.