Yes, I believe the Chicago Cubs will still be playing in October. And no, the team that started the season wasn’t ever going to be the team they finished with. This is baseball. Streaks, slumps, injuries and more will take their toll.
The sky isn’t falling. This is not 1969 again, even if the Mets series gave some of you older fans terrible flashbacks. This Chicago Cubs team will be fine, even if it isn’t right now. The team was even more dysfunctional last season and put together a 97 win season, and they spotted themselves quite a few more wins so far.
When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer began this project, they decided to go against the grain of what every other GM and owner were doing. Instead of stockpiling young arms in the draft they went after the players they identified as the best hitters available. Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ being the two more obvious ones. Last season, Schwarber got his chance and didn’t miss it. He didn’t really have a position but it didn’t matter. The kid could hit. He was a spark to the lineup.
This season, Willson Contreras has been that player. He’s slowly pushing out Miguel Montero, and on top of that he’s filling in the same way that Schwarber did–wherever he can to get at-bats. Albert Almora, Jr. and Jeimer Candelario have gotten a taste now too. They may not stay, but they won’t be so awestruck when they return later in the year.
So let’s get to it. The pitching. It’s on everyone’s mind. With every Cubs’ group I’m in I read about how essentially the entire bullpen should be traded or released. Well, that’s why fans don’t run teams. It doesn’t mean they aren’t right about a few of them, but that’s simply not how it works. And the Cubs might go out and get something at the trade deadline, but it might not be who Cubs fans want–looking at you Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
Look, is this the best team the Cubs have had to win a World Series since 1945? Arguably so. And older fans are often heard saying “I’ve watched them lose for years and I don’t have a lot of time left”. That may be true. But Epstein isn’t running this organization that way. Jim Hendry “went for it”, and soon after found himself out of a job. Epstein won in Boston. If he wins in Chicago, his legacy will last forever, and I don’t think he’s willing to gamble all that for this year. The Cubs will improve, but in what way is yet to be seen.
The Cubs have signed several veteran guys. Joe Nathan is still in rehab. Joel Peralta (No, this move didn’t work). But moves like this could be the Clayton Richard or Trevor Cahill of last season. No guarantees, but that’s what the Cubs front office is looking for. The phrase “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” applies here.
Chapman and Miller have been the two targets that everyone wants. But Miller hasn’t recently been told that he won’t be traded. Part of that is because the Yankees will ask entirely too much for him because they don’t have to move him. And the Yankees don’t believe in rebuilding, so they look at their situation differently than other teams.
The Cubs will be very active at the deadline as far as scouting and reaching out to teams. They’re going to need an arm or two in the middle relief corp. And the current state of the outfield leads me to believe they’ll go out and get a solid option there. Chris Coghlan was great last year, but he isn’t the answer this year–and I was a big fan. Jorge Soler hasn’t been consistent, and injuries are a concern. Again, he was clutch in the playoffs last year but what have you done for me lately?
I’ll continue to point to the series last year against the Phillies. This recap of the finale–and my frustration–could easily be written with Mets instead of the Phillies. And this sweep left the team at 51-46. Personally, I don’t see us losing 16 more in a row to match that record.
With a series like this, it’s hard to see the forest from the trees. The team is simply in a funk, and they’ll pull out of it–no matter how many chicken little Cubs’ fans we have running around.