Taking It Easy Until We Have to Clench Again

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Having clinched the division with four games left to play, the Chicago Cubs ran out their junior varsity squad as they get ready to return home to Wrigley Field.  Other than personally eliminating the Cardinals completely from postseason play, the Cubs don’t have much more to play for now, and the priority is on keeping just enough rust off their bones and making sure everyone stays healthy and productive.

As the regular season winds down, the standings are showing some separation between the contenders in both leagues.  In the American League, every contestant has been decided, and it’s just a matter of who plays where now for a couple of the teams.  The Yankees and Red Sox are still in a race to the end to decide who gets the division and who has to host the wild card game against the Twins.  The Astros and Indians are within a couple games of each other to decide home field through the ALCS, and may also have an outside shot at overtaking the Dodgers for home field in the World Series as well.

Meanwhile in the National League, the Cubs are locked into a series with the Nationals, who are not going to catch the Dodgers.  The Dodgers will host the wild card winner, and at this time it seems like a contest hosted by Arizona against either the Rockies or Brewers.  The Dodgers also need to win a game or two to secure home field through the World Series for themselves.  The Brew crew are on their last gasp, needing the Rockies to lose out and needing to sweep the Cardinals to get in, while the Rockies just need to win two or three or hoping the Brewers lose to the Cards in the final series of the year.  Since the Cubs can’t really change their opponent or fight for home field anymore, they can pretty much play a spring training set against the Reds this weekend at Wrigley.

So how did we (and by that, I mean Andy) do with the predictions this year?  Recall Andy’s preseason previews, which were:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

The Cubs, of course, have clinched the Central, and are at 90-plus wins for the third straight year.  The Reds are as bad as advertised, although some of their guys have promise and figure to be pesky for the next few years before they complete whatever rebuild project they’re trying right now.  While they did make a few trades this year to set up the rebuild, the Reds did better than Andy suggested by a couple wins and aren’t in the cellar like the surprisingly terrible San Francisco Giants (who don’t really need a top pick in my opinion).

Meanwhile, for the middling teams, the Pirates were pretty bad and did make a couple of forward-thinking trades of their own this summer.  None of those trades involved Andrew McCutchen as many of us expected, but look for that this winter.  The Cardinals can still catch the Brewers in the final series, and may be somewhat disappointed that they punted on 2017 at the trade deadline, but ultimately I think that was the right thing to do.  Andy did too back in spring:

It’s always a failure in St. Louis if the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs.  They missed the playoffs last year.  I think they do this year, too.  So this season, in my estimation, is a failure for the Cardinals, if they don’t improve their talent level.  Yes…I’m saying it…they need to make trades.  It’s very difficult for me to see this team competing, so if they can move some of their veteran players at the deadline to get prospects to aid a not great farm system, they absolutely should.  Failing to see that this team is uncharacteristically out-manned would make 2017 a failure.  Remember, they will not pick until the 94th overall selection in the draft.  Restocking the farm this year will have to come with trades.  Not working on that would be a failure for a usually smart, forward thinking organization.

They didn’t do any crazy blockbusters, but they did trade Mike Leake to free up salary.  The talent on the team as is probably won’t threaten the Cubs in the near future, but devil magic can do some weird things.  On the other hand, the Brewers played out of their minds before ultimately running out of gas:

The Brew Crew is going to be a pain in the neck.  I may have been a little generous with their win total, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them flirting with .500.  They have some pieces already on the roster and some others that are going to be coming this year.  They’ll actually be fun to watch, unless you’re playing against them.  Later in the year, their talented youngsters should be up.  And they will play hard.

I think we always knew that the Brewers were on the right track as they quietly reloaded their farm system and those guys started to filter up into the majors.  The Brewers seem to have a better outlook than any of the other NL Central teams now, and if this year is any indication, the Cubs can’t count on any cake walks like they did in 2016.  This year certainly was no cake walk, but if you can consider a six-game lead comfortable at this time of year, then the Cubs ended up winning pretty comfortably.

Once the rosters are finalized, we can take a look at the matchups against the Nationals, and I also intend to take a look at the individual player performances too.  At the end, our faith in the Cubs was rewarded, and now it’s time to prepare for October.  Again.

 

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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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