With a loss in St. Louis Saturday night, the Chicago Cubs lost their 95th game of the 2013 campaign – making it back-to-back seasons in which the team has lost at least 95 games – something that had not happened since 1999-2000. With the entire organization, from the roster to the coaching staff and even the Friendly Confines themselves, in overhaul mode, it’s been a largely frustrating season for Cubs fans.
So what does it all boil down to? Here are three things that cost the Cubs wins, respect and a shot at being taken seriously in their second year of this rebuilding process.
1) The inability to make consistent contact
Chicago has struggled offensively all season long, which in the season’s first half, resulted in sterling performances by starting pitchers going to waste.
As a team entering the season’s final day, Cubs hitters have combined to hit .238 – the fourth lowest mark in all of Major League Baseball – higher than only the New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins.
With runners in scoring position, things really get bad. Chicago has hit a minuscule .219 with runners in scoring position in 2013. It has become far too common to see a box score of a game in which the Cubs go 1-for 8 or 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
2) The second annual midseason fire sale
For the second consecutive July, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer flipped the most valuable big league names on the roster for minor league talent. Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza and Scott Feldman were all in different uniforms by the time the dust settled at the July 31 Trade Deadline, and a bevy of younger players had taken their spots on the Cubs’ roster.
The team has been noticeably less consistent after this season’s All-Star Break, which has led to declining attendance at Wrigley Field and a growing sense of discontent amongst many Cubs fans. Chicago entered the All-Star Break just eight games under .500, a vast improvement on the 19 games below the team was at a year prior. However, heading into the season’s final day, the Cubs are currently 29 games under .500 at 66-95 – the worst record in the division.
3) Rising talent just isn’t ready yet
The future is bright. For years, Cubs fans have told themselves this in order to cope with disappointing, underperforming teams. However, after seeing the likes of Javier Baez, Dan Vogelbach, Albert Almora and Pierce Johnson play, I am confident in the type of players we’ll be seeing in the next few years. The only problem is that means Cubs faithful exercising more patience.
With Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro coming off sub-par seasons and the organization paying close attention to their prospects for a 2014 bounce-back campaign, the Cubs have a strong nucleus which should start coming together in the next 12-18 months. Epstein and Hoyer will likely dismantle the big league roster one more time next July, then should make a serious run at talented free agents to fill the missing holes entering 2015, the year most experts believe Chicago will be competitive once more.