Well then, a day after the nicest win of the year, the Chicago Cubs (you know, the defending World Series Champions and blah blah blah) dropped a clunker against the Philadelphia Phillies to lose the series and finish up a 3-3 road trip. They did win the season series, of course, but the feelings of lament and doom I’ve been seeing reminded me of when the 2015 team got swept by the Phillies, or last year when the team had a bit of a collapse before the All-Star break (and then what happened?). This is all stuff that’s been talked about ad nauseum on the Dreamcast, but hey, I can’t tell you how to fan.
My point of view is fairly simple. The Cubs are talented, and their inconsistency isn’t a result of complacency or laziness, but just one of those things that you really can’t explain all that well. Maybe with a guy like Javier Baez you can just say he’s a free swinger and so you’ll see a lot of strikeouts in key situations, but the weird issues with runners in scoring position or with otherwise decent pitchers laying an egg are just that…weird. You know the guys are capable, and they should be better than they are right now, but somehow it’s not clicking yet. And that leads to us being frustrated and disappointed.
As an eternal optimist, I look at the Cubs through 129 games at 69-60, with 33 games left to go. Of those, 24 will be against their NL Central counterparts:
- 7 vs Pittsburgh Pirates, who are riding a mini-hot streak
- 7 vs Milwaukee Brewers, the closest competition right now
- 7 vs St. Louis Cardinals, who have been struggling recently
- 3 vs Cincinnati Reds at home to end the season
Let’s say the Cubs go .500, and conservatively let’s make it 16-17. That would match the 2007 season when the Cubs won a weak NL Central at 85-77. It’s hard to see the Cubs go on a huge run with their up-and-down season to this point, but the other teams have to play each other, too, and you can expect them to beat up on each other as well. Stranger things have happened, like the Colorado Rockies going nuts in 2007 to reach the World Series. Equally strange was the 2006 Cardinals riding a hot streak in 2006 to win the World Series despite being 83-78 after winning a really weak NL Central that year.
Let’s quickly summarize:
- There are games left in the season.
- The Cubs have not been mathematically eliminated.
- In fact, the Cubs are in first place right now with a bit of a cushion.
- The Cubs’ players are good even if they’re not playing like it right now.
- They just need to get to October and remember they’re supposed to be very good.
So maybe I’m rationalizing a bit, but given all the injuries, inconsistency, poor performances, and what have you, the Cubs remain two games up on the Brewers and have been fortunate that everyone else has been bad. This has been the story all season, and it is unlikely to change much in the last month-plus of regular season play. We will change the narrative multiple times between now and the last game, but let’s hold off on the full freakout until the Cubs are actually eliminated from postseason play.