Kasper: Why Cubs players don't feel all the weight fans carry

  • We know what's on the minds of Cubs fans this year, but the 2016 Cubs are just trying to stay focused on each game.

    We know what's on the minds of Cubs fans this year, but the 2016 Cubs are just trying to stay focused on each game. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/4/2016 6:16 AM

Well, here we are. On the precipice of the unknown. The Cubs begin their quest for that elusive and precious World Series title on Friday with the start of the National League division series.

We still do not know the Cubs' first-round opponent and I am not sure it really matters that much. However deep the Cubs go in this postseason, they will be prohibitive favorites against any team they play, certainly in the NL portion of the playoffs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Most pundits already have their narrative written if the Cubs don't win the World Series. Trust me on this.

Even before the first pitch has been thrown by a Cub in these playoffs, it has been determined by many that if they lose a series it will be because they couldn't handle the weight of history.

I am not here to guarantee that won't happen. But I will say emphatically that nobody really knows how any of this is going to play out.

We love stories. And the Cubs' mystique invites all sorts of meandering journeys starting in 1908 and, as many Cub fans hope, ending in 2016. I do think there is merit in that from a fan perspective. The octogenarian couple who met at Wrigley in the 1940s and have been married since passing down their love of the Cubs to multiple generations is a story that needs to be told, especially if the Cubs win the whole thing.

But from a baseball standpoint, trust me when I tell you this: Kris Bryant isn't thinking about 1908 or 1945 or even last year when he digs into the batter's box Friday. He is a well-tuned, focused young athlete worried about pitch sequences and rest and limiting distractions.

And the only time I believe he will even contemplate the bigger stuff is when he is asked about it by a media member.

Yes, wearing a Cubs uniform means something special and the current group is incredibly proud to represent the fans on the cusp of what hopefully is a long postseason run. But the apprehension and nerves we will all undoubtedly project onto our Cub heroes is more for our comfort than anything. In some larger sense, we like to think that they feel all the things we are feeling, too, as we experience this moment.

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I do think the players feel a weight. But it's made up more by the gravity of just being in the postseason on a team that has already accomplished a ton in 2016. They want to win the World Series badly because every player on every team does. Sure, it feels like it means more here than it does elsewhere, but the last thing I want or expect is the players to carry any sort of extra burden on their shoulders now.

This is exactly why Joe Maddon espouses consistency in approach and effort from day one of spring training until the final day of the season, whenever that is. The mantra is essentially, "Let's go out and play hard, boys!" Nothing more, nothing less.

Remember the movie "For Love of the Game?" Kevin Costner's character, pitcher Billy Chapel, talked about "clearing the mechanism." As corny as it sounds, that's what every player tries to do in big moments.

So while we on the outside think and fantasize about the big picture and what a World Series title would mean to all of us, understand that the best way for this team to get there is for the performers to not pay much attention to any of it.

• Len Kasper is in his 12th season as the television play-by-play voice for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper.

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