So there you have it, folks. One day into July, the Chicago Cubs have officially completed exactly one half of their 2017 regular season schedule, going 40-41 in the process. The interesting thing about this is that they are +10 in run differential, suggesting that they should be at least a game over .500 for the season, but that’s baseball and luck for ya.
Last year, through 81 games, the Cubs were 51-30, with an eight game lead on the division. They were also in the midst of their now-infamous-and-we-can-laugh-about-it losing streak where they seemingly lost every single game and everybody sucked. The year before that, the Cubs were 44-37 at this point in the season, just a couple weeks before they got swept by the Philadelphia Phillies and got no-hit for the first time in forever and everybody cried about doom and pestilence and death.
It is very difficult to find a turning point or anything like that in the midst of a 162 game season until all the games have been played, and we can set up a narrative in retrospect. We should also point out (and I think we talked about this on the Dreamcast a few weeks back) that for the past two decades, except for the Derek Jeter-led New York Yankees of the late 1990s, no team has repeated as World Series champions, and few champions even made the playoffs the following season. Baseball is cruel like that.
But you see, the end of the first half simply means that the second half still needs to be played. It is absolutely true that the 2017 Cubs have been inconsistent at best in achieving their 40-41 record to this date, and at worst have played like crap. Yet they are only three games back of the division leading Milwaukee Brewers. So, looking back at 2015 and 2016, and realizing that these are essentially the SAME players, there is some cause for optimism. Just like those past two seasons, the Cubs made a run into the playoffs, and even did this thing that people sometimes forget.
I don’t really know what to tell folks except to wait and see. After all, most of us out there really just wanted ONE in our lifetimes. We got it, but apparently there’s some greediness going on where we expect it every time out now. I think for a competitive team and an equally competitive fan base, this is fine. But let’s keep it in perspective and realize that this team is still so young. We’ve harped on it over and over again, but this is the truth, as the elder statesman of the core, Anthony Rizzo, won’t even turn 28 until next month. Most of the guys from last year’s championship team are in their third year as major league players. So there are going to be a lot of growing pains despite the fact that we know that they are good.
There are plenty of things to be happy about. We can list them here…
- Like we said before, despite playing like shit, the Cubs are only three games back of the division. Long live the 2017 National League Central division!
- Mike Montgomery has pitched very well as a starter so far, which is great news for this season and beyond. I feel like they keep him around in the rotation even when Kyle Hendricks (who is getting healthy and we keep getting good news on his probably return after the All-Star break) returns.
- Even with all the weird injuries that have cropped up, Ben Zobrist did come back on Saturday, Jason Heyward is probably close behind, and Kris Bryant and Jeimer Candelario didn’t break anything and were game-able as well on Saturday.
- Kyle Schwarber is starting to see the ball better again in his brief hiatus in Iowa.
- Did I mention there are 81 games left?
- There should be some impact reinforcements coming before the trade deadline (we discuss a few names on the Dreamcast and those aren’t likely to change much).
While it looks grim now, if the Cubs play as well as we think they can out of the All-Star break, then this is something we can all laugh about. If not, then they miss the playoffs, but they still won the World Series, and it’s incredible to me how folks can get TOO upset about that. Maybe I’m just a mutant, but last year was very satisfying, and it would take a lot to make me feel worse than mild frustration. Besides, the Cubs have lots of financial flexibility and a great front office. If 2017 turns out to be a disappointment, then we still have 2018 and beyond to look forward to with this group.
I don’t think we have to wait that long. Let’s just see what happens. There are, after all, 81 games left, and if you’re ever that mad about the losses that WILL happen going forward (they can’t win all 81, y’know), then I think it’s time to learn how to use the “off” button on your remote and take a nice walk outside before the planet becomes a pressure cooker because of global climate change. There are far more important things to worry about, anyway, than this Cubs team. They’ll be fine as long as the planet stays habitable.