The Chicago Cubs were the talk of baseball with the blistering start of the season they had. But things have cooled for them, and everyone is still talking about them–for different reasons.
The team had the best start in modern times, everything was rosy and that’s before the vines in the outfield began to turn to green. The starting pitching was excellent, Arrieta, Lester, and Lackey all had low ERA’s, even Jason Hammel once had a 7-1 start.
The hitting was relentless. Everybody seemed in on the action. Kris Bryant started out sort of slowly, but he’s caught fire and now leads the league in Home Runs. Anthony Rizzo is not far behind. Ben Zobrist had a great hitting streak. For a while, you couldn’t get him out. Addison Russell had some key hits. Matt Szczur hit a grand-slam home run against the Braves. It was all clicking.
Now Chicago (52-34) finds itself mired in a losing streak that has reached eight of nine games. The team was soundly defeated by the New York Mets in a four-game sweep last weekend. It hasn’t gotten better. The Pirates beat the Cubs 8-4 last night.
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Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, thinks the recent play of the Cubs is not alarming. In comments made to ESPN, he said, “Honestly, I think it’s sort of baseball reality.” “It’s impossible to win at the pace we were winning at early in the season the whole year.”
Epstein was concerned but not pessimistic. “Every team, even championship caliber clubs go through a month or so where they play .500 or so baseball, and that’s what we’re doing.”
It just seems like every facet of the team is not performing well. The team is not bunching up on the hits like it had, not getting the key hit, and the pitching is vulnerable. Jake Arrieta has lost three of his four decisions. Jon Lester was hit hard against the Mets and had his shortest outing in his career.
Cubs fans can say “here we go again.” Epstein thinks things will sort itself out and the hitting can return to levels seen earlier in the year. People ask me is it fair to be concerned? “Of course, it’s fair to be concerned because baseball is really hard. It’s hard to play at a consistently excellent level for 162 games.”
"But Epstein thinks it’s also fair to be excited. “About what this team is and what they’re capable of and the foundation for this year and years to come.”"
Well, it may be easy for him to say that from the private box. But to this fan, The Cubs have lost 8 of 9 and there doesn’t seem to be some player who can turn the tide. Maybe they will play better. Maybe the team will capture its relentless approach at the plate that it had in April and May. Maybe the bullpen will get outs instead of giving up home runs.
A lot of Cubs are going to the All-Star game. Let’s hope they can play like All-Stars when the second half of the season resumes after the game. You got to have hope.