Let’s just cut to the chase. Thus far the 2017 season has been somewhat of a disappointment. The Chicago Cubs are not looking like the juggernaut we thought they would be, and they have given us little sign that they can be. However, that is not to say that the season is lost or that the Cubs are not going to repeat this year. Part of that blame has to go to the Cubs themselves. After all, last year they dominated baseball from beginning to end. They have put on themselves some pretty lofty expectations that they themselves cannot live up to.
Currently (end of day May 28) the Cubs are 25-24 in a virtual tie for second place (third place by percentage points) with the St. Louis Cardinals trailing the Milwaukee Brewers (you read that right) by 1.5 games. At this exact time last year, the Cubs were stream rolling the National League Central. They were 33-14, in first place with a 5.5 game lead. After all the hype we have heard about this team, many figured that the Cubs would pick up right where they left off, running away with the National League. Unfortunately, what the Cubs did last year was pretty much a once in a lifetime season. Even if the Cubs were playing up to par, the hitters hitting the way they did last year and the pitchers throwing gems as they did last year, chances are they would not be steam rolling the competition. Sadly, that is not the case. Both the Cubs hitters and pitchers have taken steps back leaving much to be desired.
What bothers me, is the fans who are already writing off the team. Many fans are already giving up on them for the very reason that they are looking like a mortal team again and not the runaway train they were in 2017. Now, I am not saying that you cannot be upset or disappointed in the performance thus far from the Cubs, but there is absolutely no reason to give up on this team. Be aggravated. Be disappointed. I know that I am. I was hoping for a better year from the Cubs, and I was one of those who thought that the team was even better than last year. How could I not have?
With a full year of Wilson Contreras, a full year of Kyle Schwarber and a Jason Heyward who could not possibly be worse, the Cubs were sure to be a better offense than last year. Even with the loss of lead off hitter Dexter Fowler, the defense was expected to be better with Albert Almora Jr. getting the bulk of the time in center. However, things do not always go as expected.
Schwarber has not been hitting nearly as well as we had thought, he is struggling to hit .200 and has now been regulated to a platoon player where he sits against left handed pitchers. While he is hitting the occasional mammoth homer and getting on base at a surprising rate considering his rather humbling average, I would be lying if I did not say that so far in 2017 Schwarber has been a disappointment; Joe Maddon might not have been doing him many favors batting him leadoff for a month and a half.
The Cubs are not playing up to their full potential. Their defense, which is one of the main reasons for the Cubs success last year has also fallen off. The plays that they were making last year just are not being made. Last year, everything went the Cubs way. The ball fell in just the right places, defenders seemed to know exactly where the ball as going. Everything just seemed to come easy to them last year. This year, just the opposite. Things that seemed so easy last year, just seem to be so difficult this year.
The hitters are not hitting, the pitchers are not pitching and the defense is not defending. This team looks nothing like the team from last year.
However, do not give up on them. Not yet. While they are not looking like the team they were in 2016, this is still the same Cubs team (almost to a man) that fell two games to one in the NLCS getting shut out two straight games. This is still the same Cubs team who fought and clawed their way back after falling three games to one in the World Series. This is still the team that never quits.
While this team does not look like the World Series winning team, they do resemble another Cubs team. They almost look like the 2015 version. At this time in 2015, the Cubs were in second place (like this year but all alone) and had a decent record of 25-21 and 5.5 games out of first. Thing ended pretty well for them, winning 97 games and making the NLCS. Compared to 2015, the Cubs have the same amount of wins, and three more losses. They are also a heck of a lot closer to first (and were in first three days ago) which is something the 2015 club never accomplished.
There are still 113 games left to be played in the 2017 season. Things are far from over, and in case you have not been paying as close of attention to the rest of baseball as you think you have, the National League Central is wide open this year. Every team in the division is within four games of first.
Baseball is a weird sport. The Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins are in first place. The Cubs and Cleveland Indians are barely keeping their heads above water, the Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants New York Mets and Texas Rangers are all under the .500 mark. Going into the season, I am not sure anyone could have or would have said that about any or all of these teams.
The 2017 season is far from over. The Cubs still have a lot of games left to play, and the team that never quits could surprise you. I would be very surprised if the Cubs went down without a fight. While they may not appear to be at the moment, they are far too good to go down quietly.