Just a few days after the beatdown on Bobblehead Day, the Chicago Cubs ended the nominal first half of the season with a clunker against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last season, the Cubs of course played like a juggernaut en route to the World Series. This year? Not so much, with the way bad luck and negative regression in performances have sapped what we thought would be at least a very good team of their very goodness.
It’s hard to be optimistic about a team that sits two games below .500 as the Futures Game gets underway, and goodness knows that I have a lot of patience. Alas, that patience does have limits, and it’s getting to that time where we are concerned about whether the Cubs can even make the postseason. Everything has gotten worse this season…be it offense, defense, pitching, baserunning, or Addison Russell letting go of his bat way too much. But it’s easy to see how that would be, since the Cubs were so historically good in 2016. If you’re already at the top of the world, it’s easy to go back down.
The problem is that we anticipated some bad luck and some regression, but this is ridiculous. I don’t think this is due to any lack of effort on the players’ part, or negligence from the coaching staff or the front office. I do like that Joe Maddon is not using anger to motivate his team, and that Theo Epstein is taking the blame for the poor performance even though we all thought that the Cubs would be good this year (on paper). The front office can just put together the best team on paper, and the manager employs the best possible lineup. But if the players don’t perform to their potential (and again, we know how good they SHOULD be), then we have this Cubs team, and an unexpectedly negative run differential.
At least Victor Caratini made the most of his playing time:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 9, 2017
Caratini also got his first RBI late in the game. But for the second time in a week, the starting pitcher left the game early, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant followed them soon afterwards, and I had to sit through a blowout at home a few days after sitting through one at Wrigley Field. Not that it’s a chore, mind you…I enjoy baseball, even when my team is losing (but of course, I would prefer they were winning). It’s been a trying season, but one that was made a lot easier and less depressing given what happened last year.
Will the Cubs sell? I don’t think so. They obviously have a very good trade piece in their lone All-Star, Wade Davis. There are also clamors to trade everyone who isn’t bolted down. But that is a level of giving up I’m not ready to accept yet, and I don’t think the Cubs will either, as they will be at most 5.5 games back of first place with 74 games to go. It makes no sense to sell, just as it makes little sense to give up on the defending World Series champions when they’re still reasonably within striking distance.
So, we will reset for the lengthy break in action, and hopefully the Cubs players will also take advantage of their time off to figure out how to find that “on” switch again. Yeah, the Cubs lost, but I’m keeping my W flag up, and refuse to see the L flag throughout the break on our blog. I have hope that it’ll all be OK. And I also have faith that the front office and coaching staff will figure this out in the end. After all, when you’re at rock bottom (if a 43-45 record can be considered as such), there’s nowhere else to go but up.