Going into the month of June, I saw a tough month. They were four games over .500 heading into the month, I saw June as a month that would test just how good this team was and if they could actually be a contender late in the season. Time and again they have exceeded my expectations for this year and this month. The Cubs went into June four games over .500, now 21 games later they are nine games over.
This current stretch against 13 very good teams (I admit) had me worried, the Minnesota Twins had been playing very well this season, a tough test from the American League. They were six games over when the series started, and I was looking ahead. They had the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets waiting for them. The toughest part of the June schedule had arrived.
As they have done all season, the Cubs stepped up to the plate and won two of the three games against the Twins, charging into Wrigley to face the National League West leading Dodgers.
The Dodgers were a series I was worried about, especially since we would be facing both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games. I would have been more than happy with a split in this series, penciling in the first two games as losses. Tsuyoshi Wada was coming off his best game as a Cub, but Kershaw is the reigning National League Cy Young and MVP. I am sure most figured this was a loss, but hoped for a different outcome. Greinke was pitching great as well, maybe the best in the National League at the moment. Two tough games, but two great wins. When the series began, I hoped for a split; now I am thinking about a possible sweep.
What also amazes me, is the performance of the Cubs bullpen. All season long we have seen the bullpen struggle, giving up runs and games. The bullpen has been seen as the Achilles Heel of this team, and what could be the team’s downfall. That was before this month though. In the month of June, the Cubs have the best bullpen in all of baseball. They have been pitching great, maintaining leads, or keeping the team in games long enough to get that walk off win, of which they now have nine.
This Cubs team is simply amazing. There is no quit in them, and they always believe they can win any game. They come from behind time and time again, they continue to thrive and to soar this season and they are not looking back.
While there are still 94 games left to play, you would be a fool to not see this team as a serious contender for a playoff spot this year. While that playoff spot might come as a Wild Card team in a one game playoff, remember that the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants were both Wild Card teams and they met in the World Series.
Are the Cubs as good as last year’s Royals and Giants? Time will tell, but they could well be just as good if not better. Look at what this team has done this year with their deficiencies. Battling injuries, struggling to find pitchers to fill the back end of the rotation, an inconsistent bullpen without a closer, the Cubs continue to have success. They have the fifth best record in all of baseball, and two of those teams ahead of them are in their division.
While there is still a long way to go, and the Cubs need to add at least a starting pitcher and perhaps another bullpen arm or two via trade, these Cubs are legit. These Cubs are a serious contender. Perhaps with the return of Neil Ramirez and possible add of Rafael Soriano the bullpen issues will take care of itself, but you can never have enough bullpen help.
There are plenty of options for starters, Scott Kazmir might be the most reasonable considering contract and player cost, but Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels are also floating around waiting to be traded. You could also add in Jeff Samardzija if you wanted to as he would be a cheap rental in terms of both players and contract.
The Cubs might be a year ahead of schedule and still might be a year away from being a serious contender; but when they opportunity presents itself you have to strike. As Theo Epstein said at his introductory press conference, every season is sacred.
When you have a chance to win, no matter how slim you have to strike. His first few years, the opportunity for a championship was not there, but now there is one. I have nothing but confidence that Epstein and Jed Hoyer will strike and help the Cubs reach their potential this year. They will carefully evaluate the situation and find the best fit for the team going forward. Who will give the Cubs the best chance to win, without selling out and giving up the farm.
In Theo I trust. Theo will do what is best for the Cubs, and will help turn them into a strong contender to finish this race the best they can.