As unexpected as it was, Kyle Schwarber wasn’t ready for the Cubs’ fantastic season to come to an end.
Not 30 minutes after a Game 4 loss to the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night, one that sealed his team’s fate, the rookie outfielder and club’s unofficial postseason MVP was focused on all the tiny details and how close the Cubs came to returning to the World Series for the first time in 70 years.
Even though the Cubs were swept in four games by the Mets, including an 8-3 loss in Game 4, Schwarber could think of several plays that could have shifted the series in the Cubs’ direction. But in the end of what he called a “great season overall,” all Schwarber was left with is an empty feeling he hopes will drive him as he prepares for the 2016 season.
“It’s tough,” Schwarber said. “There’s a big pit in my stomach right now saying ‘What if? What if we won four games and go to the World Series? And what if we won the World Series?’ But that’s what if? This is reality. We lost and now we know what it takes to get here, to get one step away from the World Series. There’s going to be a lot of thinking, a lot of getting into shape and when we are working out we’ve got to remember this feeling of what it is like to have this feeling and how we don’t want to have this feeling.”
Schwarber doesn’t yet know his role with the Cubs in 2016, whether he’s expected to move behind the plate or if he’ll stay in the outfield.
His powerful bat helped him make a meteoric rise through the minors this season and forced the Cubs to find any way they could to get him in the lineup. That meant 51 appearances in the outfield between the regular season and the playoffs. While Schwarber didn’t hurt the team during the regular season -- he finished with a minus-0.3 Ultimate Zone Rating -- he misplayed three fly balls in the final two losses of the series. Twice on Wednesday, Schwarber dove to make plays and missed, though neither play led to a run scored.
“I’m going to be aggressive,” Schwarber said. “I’m not going to make a passive error. I’m always going to be aggressive at any time. I look at those plays as being aggressive. They didn’t go in my favor obviously. Full responsibility is on me about that but I’m always going to be an aggressive player. So if I feel like I can make an out, I’m going to try to make an out.”
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Schwarber said he doesn’t have a preference for either position and would play wherever the Cubs ask.
He suggested he learned much from his rookie campaign -- one in which he blasted 21 combined home runs in 304 plate appearances between the regular season and the playoffs -- discussing the takeaways from his interactions with veteran teammates and how they pushed him to improve. He’s excited about the core group the Cubs have moving forward and is optimistic. Schwarber expects the lessons learned from this run to immediately pay dividends.
But he also couldn’t get over the sting and how close the Cubs actually came to achieving a goal nobody thought possible when they assembled in Mesa, Arizona in February.
“We know what it takes to get here,” Schwarber said. “We know we have a good core group of guys here and we know what we can do as a team. Obviously there’s a pit in the stomach. But trust us, we’ll all be looking forward to next year.
“It’s funny. A lot of things didn’t go our way. A lot of tough plays, just a lot of things that could go the other way. But its baseball, man. What can we do?”