It’s gotta be a new record: An entire fan base held its collective breath for nearly 20 hours.
Between the moment Cubs colossus Kyle Schwarber collapsed in agony in a horrific collision with center fielder Dexter Fowler Thursday night until the terrible news finally emerged Friday afternoon, those hours seemed like light years.
The initial diagnosis of a mere sprained ankle seemed hopeful, but overly optimistic considering the carnage. The rumors turned darker throughout an unseasonably cold and miserable Friday in Chicago until official word confirmed Cubs fans’ worst fears: The Hulk would miss the rest the season with torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his left knee.
No one can blame his stunned teammates for coming out flat that night, and that they did. A previously potent offense that had punished opposing pitchers for 29 runs in the first three games went limp in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of a defanged Diamondbacks club who are enduring their own turmoil with A.J. Pollock going down for the season just a week prior.
But with a little time always comes a little perspective. Another day and a solid 4-2 victory over Cy Young runner-up Zack Greinke Saturday night gave Cubs Nation a chance to exhale and realize that the season wasn’t over. The world hadn’t ended. Nobody died.
While there’s no question Schwarber’s loss is significant, there’s also no question that this roster has been skillfully designed by Theo Epstein & Co. to absorb this exact kind of impact. Pundits wrung their hands prior pr to the season wondering how Joe Maddon would juggle his crowded outfield to find playing time for both Schwarber and Jorge Soler. The imminent return of Javy Baez from a minor thumb injury led to more questions about how all the puzzle pieces would fit. Unprecedented depth seemed to be more of a liability than an asset in some weaker minds.
But successful organizations see opportunity in adversity and opportunities abound for stars in the making like Soler and Baez as well as non-brand manes like Matt Szczur and Tommy La Stella who have already shown production in the young season. Maddon has proven to be a magician with rosters far less talented than this.
Fear not, Cubs fans. This team is going to score runs n 2016, with or without Kyle Schwarber. As for the future, there’s no reason to think the 23-year old can’t eventually come back at 100% next year. Then we can go back to worrying about playing time and too much position depth.
Who knows, maybe by the time the Schwarbeast returns, the NL will have come to its senses and adopted the DH? One can only hope. As Andy Dufresne once said, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”