LOS ANGELES – The Cubs are carrying the expectations of an entire city on their shoulders, though that weight appeared to begin wearing them down in Games 2 and 3 of the NLCS.
Joe Torre knows how they feel.
In 1998, Torre’s Yankees won 114 games during the regular season, the most any American League team had ever won to that point. He watched his team sweep the Rangers in the ALDS, then win Game 1 of the ALCS against the Indians. It felt like they might never lose again.
Until they did. Twice. In a row.
“There was certainly a lot of pressure and expectations,” Torre said. “You just don’t like losing in a short series. During the season it doesn’t bother you, but in a short series, you’re antsy to get back out there.”
With their backs against the wall for the first time since the opening week of the season, the Yankees went out and won Game 4, getting a strong start from Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez.
“Once we won Game 4 and tied the series, we knew it was over,” reliever Jeff Nelson said. “Even when we were down 2-1 in the ALCS, we still had a lot of confidence in ourselves and the record played no part. Joe Torre did such a great job of saying, ‘You know, 114 was the regular season; this is a whole new season.’”
Joe Torre’s Yankees won 114 games during the regular season in 1998, but dug themselves quite a hole in the ALCS before winning the World Series.
Much of that confidence came from their experience only two years earlier, when the Yankees erased an 0-2 World Series deficit, beating the Braves in four straight games to win the first of their four titles under Torre.
The Cubs have no such experience – they were swept by the Mets in last year’s NLCS – to fall back on, something that Nelson believes will test Chicago in the coming days.
“They got a taste of the NLCS last year and obviously they think they should go a little further, but now everybody labels it as ‘This is their year,’” Nelson said. “Their experience is all last year. They don’t know anything better; they got swept.”
Torre held a meeting with the Yankees every day during the postseason, so when the team gathered before Game 4 in Cleveland, there was no sense of panic inside the room.
“There was no negative whatsoever,” Nelson said. “It was a little pump-up meeting whether we had won or lost the previous game. We knew what we had to do and it wasn’t a big deal. He made it easier for us to go out on the field and forget that we were down 2-1.
“(Cubs manager Joe) Maddon is the same way; he doesn’t put a lot of pressure on his players and preaches to take it one game at a time.”
Joe Maddon has spoken with some of his struggling players one-on-one, but he isn’t a team-meeting kind of guy.
(Harry How/Getty Images)
Maddon treats his team in the same fashion, albeit without the daily meetings. He’s spoken with some of his struggling players one-on-one, but Maddon isn’t a team-meeting kind of guy.
“Joe always says that whenever you have that pressure attached to things, it means there’s something good at the end of it,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said after the Cubs lost Game 3. “We’re embracing it, we’re having fun with it and it’s going to be a challenge. If we’re able to do it, it will make it that much more sweeter.”
Maddon has tinkered with his lineup a little bit the past couple games, but he’s not prepared to make any drastic changes such as benching struggling stars Anthony Rizzo or Addison Russell.
“It’s not a lack of trying,” Cubs utility man Chris Coghlan said. “Sometimes in this game, you have to try less, do the whole Joe Maddon ‘Try not to suck,’ because this game, you can’t will it like football or basketball. We have to just trust the process, trust the guys we have in there and keep fighting.”
Torre said his Yankees “were never loose” during the 1998 postseason, but they managed to win it all despite “squeezing the sawdust out of the bat” on a nightly basis. The Cubs will need to find a way to begin hitting again, but Torre believes they have what it takes to end the 108-year title drought.
“I don’t think it’s other people’s expectations; it’s your own,” Torre said. “You know you won over 100 games; they had a mile and a half lead all year long. They’re certainly capable, it’s just a matter of being able to play in spite of the expectations.”
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News