With today’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, who were supposed to be good in Ruben Amaro Jr.’s mind, the Chicago Cubs climbed to 50-63, still a billion games behind the suddenly-we-decided-to-be-good Pittsburgh Pirates, the perennially annoyingly good St. Louis Cardinals, and the underachieving but not-all-bad Cincinnati Reds. Normally it’s not anything to really celebrate. The Cubs are bad, the teams in front of them are too damned good, and half the team has already been sold for prospects anyway. So why do we bring this up?
Well, because it’s August 7th, and the 2013 Cubs have just won their 50th game of the season in game #113. Last season, the 2012 Cubs didn’t win game #50 until August 30th, in game #130. It is still mathematically possible for the 2013 Cubs to suck more than last year, but there’s been progress. This year’s team has a better run differential, stay in more games even though we’re all frustrated at the bad defense and bullpen, and are generally more watchable than last year’s version. The front office promised incremental progress at the Major League level while they restocked the farm and I think they didn’t lie about that.
Despite losing some pieces, especially in the rotation with Matt Garza and Scott Feldman leaving in trade, and Alfonso Soriano‘s power gone from the middle of the lineup (the dude makes outs, but he also makes baseballs hurt), the Cubs seem to have held their own even with a suddenly even more anemic offense than before. There’s been some smart pickups and callups, leading to unexpected fun like Donnie Murphy‘s two-homer night and Dioner Navarro hitting like Johnny Bench before Chase Utley murdered him. The rotation has done their job even in the absence of Feldman and Garza. So the Cubs have been hanging around more than they deserve to in a rebuild year.
It’s just one of those quirky things I think about because this team certainly isn’t going to win anything this season (barring a three-asteroid strike against the NL Central) but there are silver linings everywhere. Someday.