We knew the Chicago Cubs couldn’t keep up the pace they began the season with, but we also knew they couldn’t be as bad as they had played before taking two out of three from the rival Cardinals. Even while being “bad”, they were still the best.
I think part of the issue is the Chicago Cubs success has put us in a strange place of expectation. Very similar to what Jake Arrieta has done to us going back to last season. Things had been going so good that it felt like the bottom had fallen out after the Cubs dropped their first series. We felt the same thing when Arrieta allowed three runs in a game for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. “Oh no! Jake isn’t as good as we thought!”. That wasn’t true, of course. He is human, and the Cubs are a team full of them. Things like this can happen.
But even after the extended slide–losing 8 out of 12 following the loss in the opener to the Cardinals–they still sat atop the mountain as the best team in baseball. The San Francisco Giants have continued to roll after beating the Cubs two out of three and are the only other team with at least 30 wins at 30-19. The Cubs have just 31 but have played five fewer games and have the edge in winning percentage (.689 to .612).
The run differential continues to be astounding as the Cubs hold a +119. Even in their losses they aren’t allowing their opponents to get away from them, keeping the differential from shrinking. Early in the year when the offense was firing on all cylinders, we talked about how much better it was going to get when players like Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler started contributing. Those two now are, but Anthony Rizzo (3-for-38 in his last 10) and Addison Russel (7-for-36 in his last 10) are not.
But that’s part of the joy watching this team. It seems to be someone new each week. Ben Zobrist has a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .435 during the streak. Kris Bryant has four home runs and has knocked in 10 runs over the last 10, and each guy has picked up their teammates when they’ve been down. It truly has been a team effort and manager Joe Maddon has kept the players positive on their play, keeping them from hearing the “murmurs” of the fans and media during the slump.
If there was ever a team that smelled blood in the water, it would have been the Cards. And the game-winning home run by Randal Grichuk in the opener only gave them more hope. But the Cubs came out against Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez and made early statements. These were two of the key cogs to their success last year, and getting to them in a series early in the year puts them on notice–this isn’t their division anymore.
The Cubs are still on pace to win 111 games this season. Whether that ends up being the case is yet to be seen, and this recent scuffle won’t be the last. But remember, the Cubs were swept by the Phillies last season coming out of the All-Star break, were no-hit by Cole Hamels, and many fans wondered where the team was headed. Well, Arrieta never lost again, the Cubs won the Wild Card game and moved on to the NLCS–and that was all “ahead of schedule”.
It’s been a long time, and we’re all allowed to have our opinions, to make our gripes and to sometimes just complain. But try not to let all the years of misery get in the way of enjoying a season that could turn out to be something very special. You–and I–were upset they were losing games at an “unheard of pace”, slowing their win total to an estimated 111.
Fellow Cubs’ fans, enjoy the ride.