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Three (or four) tips on how to survive losing streaks

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The Cubs are in a rut right now. Here’s how you can still enjoy them, and baseball.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Teams have losing streaks. Unless they’re the Harlem Globetrotters or the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, it’s inevitable. As such, fans are pushed to decide how to deal with the weak spots, when they arrive. The two main options seem to be “Remain Supportive” or “Show Your Displeasure In A Loud And Embarrassing Manner.” I have a few hints to help you survive the bad times.

It’s hidden internally rather well, but I remember the responses I began hearing from Cubs fans after the 1984 National League Championship Series switched to California. The series plummeted into the septic system, with a few opportunities to be saved. The Cubs led in all three games, but not when it mattered. Cardinals fans and White Sox fans were more supportive than Cubs fans. I was too shocked to feel anything.

The 2018 Cubs are a good team. I place them as a very good team. with the entire league in a state of flux. Because that’s how baseball works. The Cubs are currently slumping, though a bit short of the free-fall the Dodgers survived in 2017. In two months, we’ll have a better read on things, but the simple act of “having a day off” is huge in the day-to-day aspect of MLB now.

While you likely all have some tips on surviving losing skids, and you’re welcomed to chime in with them below, I have four that have helped me quite a bit. I look forward to reading yours, as well.

The first is to Respect Your Opponent.

Regardless who the Cubs are playing, respect their talent. Regardless what your “reason” for disliking a rival, he likely fought through six to eight levels of the minor leagues to get where he is now. You don’t have to like them. Respect them.

And, if the team has a figurative door knob on their roster, yeah, you can dislike him. For instance, I was reminded of former reliever Steve Kline overnight. He was once quoted as wishing physical harm to Mark Prior, while in his thirties. Kline is now a pitching coach. I hope he’s matured.

Whoever the team is, realize that their squad has talent. As people should have thought about the Cubs in the day. “But, you don’t understaaaaaaaaaaand the abuse I received from...........”. Oh, I think I’m quite familiar with being shunned. Which doesn’t change that the fifth infielder on an MLB roster is a really sensational player. Which is why he’s getting paid.

The second is to Have An Exit Strategy.

I’ve heard announcers note that the toughest gig in sports is to solo announce a baseball game where your team is getting throttled. Saying “Ball twelve” might seem funny at the time, but the pitcher likely feels worse about his failure than anyone else. When a defender records three errors in a game, or strikes out for the fourth time, it’s tough to turn that into quality radio or television.

As a fan, unless your paid gig is to follow the game, walk away. You’ll likely have notes popping on your phone. However, if a game becomes a walkover early, do something else. Listen to some music. Take your kids to a park. Take in a movie.

Very little good comes from watching a bad game. Believe me. You can catch up on what happened, later.

The third is to Learn Something.

Approach every game with wanting to learn something. It could be about a current Cubs player, or an opponent. Some announcers are good at incorporating history (Baseball or other.) into the broadcast. If I come out smarter from listening to a game, at least there’s that.

By “learning,” some will abuse the term. Like the people deriding Jim Frey in 1984 for not having a pitcher warming up as Rick Sutcliffe died on the vine. (Yeah, it would have been helpful. However, teams didn’t line up seven or eight relievers in the mid-80’s. Lee Smith had been extended quite a bit the day before.) Yeah, Steve Trout should have been getting ready, but beating that nail into the wall got old really quickly. What I didn’t hear anyone say was, ”I guess we should have drafted better six years ago.”

I noted to myself how good of an addition Marcell Ozuna was. I often think the same about Christian Yelich. Something something more quality players under team control something. Hopefully you’ve learned something from a Cubs game recently. Chiming is encouraged.

The fourth thing may not be a separate item at all. It could be a summary of the other three. It’s to Expand Your Baseball Focus.

Baseball is a wonderful game. Regardless how much you know about the game, a few things are probably beyond explanation for you. Or, they gnaw at you, a bit. Not necessarily like the questionable benefit of the W-L record for pitchers (Chime), but more along the lines of “What if?”

I was recently reminded of a baseball oddity box score. The pitcher earning the save, wasn’t on the mound as the game was concluded. He was lifted for another pitcher, and a rain delay ended the game before the new pitcher could pitch. Oddities.

To summarize, on the Saturday in question, I respected the Cardinals. Bud Norris is an overly-aggressive Pledge Trainer, but all the players on their side earned their daily per diem. My Plan B was music, until a minor league game started.

Eventually, the Myrtle Beach game started. I learned back-up catcher Michael Cruz’ dad is a very good softball pitcher, and Cruz became fast friends with backstop partner Jhonny Pereda. In the game from Myrtle Beach, I was reminded how well Brian Hudson has been pitching. It kept up, as Hudson and two relievers tossed 11 scoreless frames.

After the evening ended, I had a sad feeling, as Johnny Cueto noted he hurts when he pitches. If Cueto misses significant time, it will be bad for him, the Giants, and the game. My focus was expanded.

While watching a game is emotional, playing the game is best when controlled, or so I hear. When a player or executive gets caught up in emotions, bad things happen. Which is why dogpiles wait until the series is concluded.

As you watch the game, don’t be a jerk to others. They didn’t make the bad pitch, or swing at one in the dirt. The player, doubtless, feels crummier than you do. Letting loose with a fusillade of abuse at an athlete is amazingly ineffective at changing the course of the past or the future.

If you are able, learn something from defeats. Such as: Jesse Chavez has been really good. Alec Mills had a nice Cubs debut. Albert Almora struggles against quality off-speed stuff from right-handed pitchers. If you need to, walk away for a day.

The regular season is about two-thirds finished. As of Tuesday morning, the Cubs still have the National League’s best record. Much of their remaining schedule is at home. Younger days Tim in the mid-1970s would have loved this level of baseball.

These are the years we’re supposed to enjoy. Cubs fans seem to be a bit Everybody In until the clouds collapse a bit. Then, someone’s at fault, and this is a miserable team. Sometimes, if you’re angry, silence is a good thing. Have a few moments of solitude, and remember that baseball is where we should run to avoid frustration. One of these days, you’ll “weaken” and go into full-out “learn” mode, and listen to a minor league game. (Or not.)

I hope it’s an enjoyable one. Or, the announcer has some fun stories to tell.