Sometimes humiliation can lead to healing.
Sometimes teams lose.
Sometimes teams get absolutely creamed. Humiliated. Blown out of the water so bad, they question their place in sports.
That’s what happened to the Cubs last Saturday, when they lost to the Reds 2-11. The loss was shameful, but it illustrates how a sense of realism after an ugly loss might prove helpful in the long run.
Losing by nine runs is bad, but it’s not a totally unusual deficit in MLB.
What made the loss to the Reds so bad was the manner in which the game went out of control, when the Cubs went from being down one run to trailing by five: A grand slam by Anthony DeSclafani, the Reds pitcher.
The pitcher hit a grand slam.
The only time an MLB pitcher is on the happy end of a grand slam is when the team is eating at Denny’s.
It’s bad enough when you give up a hit to the opposing pitcher. A home run to the other team’s slinger is cause to hide your face with a Gatorade cooler and make a beeline for the lockerroom.
But a grand slam? It just seems unnatural, i defiance of the laws of baseball.
A Rare Occurrence for a Reason
According to one of the radio commentators on WSCR, the last time the Cubs gave up a grand salami to a Reds pitcher was 1959. I’m sure Joe Maddon would’ve liked to have made it at least 50 years before repeating, but I have to give him credit for his post game interview.
Maddon said his team’s pitching was “in disarray”. That’s an adjective you don’t hear very often in baseball, and it was refreshing to read.
From what I read, Maddon didn’t regurgitate any pseudo optimistic sports clichés. When you work as a sportswriter, you get tired of hearing the same lines game after game. One line that got old quick was this gem: “The beauty of baseball is that you always get to play tomorrow.”
A flimsy promise to try again tomorrow isn’t the right reaction to a loss against a division opponent (even if that team happens to be last in the division), in which the opposing pitcher hits a grand slam.
It’s a time for grieving, for lamenting on a Biblical scale. I’m talking rending of garments. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. A modified baseball fast: No sunflower seeds until sundown. Sacrificing a ram. (If no ram is handy, substitute a bat boy.) No measure is too great.
Do Long Seasons Lead to Apathy?
When you play a game every day like MLB teams do, I can imagine how it would be easy to dismiss one loss as a fluke.
NFL teams have the advantage of only having to keep their heads for about 15 games. It’s easy to be engaged every Sunday.
But for MLB players, I know it’s nearly impossible to be mentally prepared for every game. (If you’re a husband, could you imagine having to remember 162 birthdays or anniversaries for your wife every year? You’d be a dead man!)
The danger of falling into autopilot is understandable. But the seasons are decided by swings of momentum, and if you keep shrugging off losses, then you’ll find yourself drifting farther and farther from first place.
Time will tell if the Cubs will take their kick-in-the-teeth loss last weekend for what it was. Maybe there was an acceptance of shame before the next game, which can lead to some improvements.
The dreamer in me hopes that DeSclafani will take advantage of this unique opportunity to approach Denny’s for a sponsorship and a lifetime of free Grand Slams®.
If not, I know a shameless sports columnist who never turns down free food.