It was a rare sun-splashed early May afternoon in Chicago at 76 degrees. While exchanging high fives with ecstatic strangers who were now 40,000 of our best friends as Ben Zobrist deposited his second home run a few rows in front of us in the Wrigley Field bleachers, my buddy Pete (no, not that Pete, a different Pete) and I realized there was no better place to be on the planet at that moment. Yeah, skipping work on that Friday proved to be a pretty damn fine idea.
Perhaps that hubris was aided by a lot of shitty light beers and viewed through the narrow lens of a season not quite five weeks old, but the Cubs lead had just risen to 7-2 over the Washington Nationals — baseball’s second best team — their record was about to push to 22-6, and their historic run differential had temporarily ballooned to an astronomical 101 runs in just 28 games.
A bludgeoning offense coupled with the game’s best pitching (2.44 team ERA) and smothering defense tends to breed confidence. Even irreverently heckling the reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper seemed appropriate as he watched balls continuously fly over his head or rattle around in the corner while we imagined tears slowly running down his cheeks.
That youthful exuberance isn’t limited to me and my drunken brethren on the North Side. The surprising White Sox lead the American League making Chicago the defacto Capitlal of Baseball and have all Chicagoans dreaming of a crosstown World Series.
“Cautiously optimistic” is a phrase I (and many others) have used to describe anxious Cubs fans throughout our tortured history. The bottom has dropped out of so many Cubs seasons in so many soul-crushing ways, it’s hard to blame us for being a bit gun shy.
However, this season is already different from all others before it in many tangible ways. The 2016 Cubs’ 98 run differential through 28 games is the best in the World Series era (since 1903). The next three (1905 Giants, 1939 Yankees, and 1929 Athletics) all won championships in those respective years. Their 22-6 start is the best in the National League since the 1955 Dodgers (also World Series champions).
Obviously, there’s a long way to go on a journey for each side of town fraught with perils like murderous Pirates, fierce Indians, indomitable Giants, and oppressive Royals. But if this first month is any indicator (and history says it certainly is) it’s going to be one hell of a summer in Chicago and I fully intend to enjoy every fucking second of the ride.