At the age of 79, the Ivy at Wrigley Field has seen a great deal of the Chicago Cubs. The ups and downs of the team, the players, the managers. What would it say about this team?
The Ivy would have tons say. I have been fortunate enough to walk the warning track before a regular season game in June of 2014. It was Girl Scout Appreciation night, and my daughter, who loves the Chicago Cubs, wanted to go. We went. If I have so much to say about the team, just think what the Ivy would say.
“Where is Kris Bryant playing now? Why can’t we keep him at third base or left field.” Bryant has played six different positions this year. Six. Now, most of that is to keep his MVP-caliber bat in the lineup, but his defense is above average in every spot. “But the problem is consistency. How can he be in full rhythm when he is never in the same spot. Ron Santo didn’t move around.”
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The Cubs have made the unlikely transition from best team in the MLB to one of the worst in just a matter of weeks. They are 9-16 in their last 25 games. Pitching ace Jake Arrieta has lost 3 of his last 4 starts. John Lackey has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 16.1 IP. And the offense is scoring 3-4 runs a game. This is not how things started.
“They just seem scared, like the pressure is getting to them. Getting swept by the Red Birds here, right in front of my green leaves, you could see the team collapse.” The target is embracing the team, and the rest of the NL knows it. What was a 12 game lead in the division is down to 7.5. Both the Pirates and the Cardinals are playing better ball.
So, Ivy, what can the team do? “Well, as I see it, we need two things, other than getting healthy. Sheesh. I am tired of hearing about the injuries. First, the team needs to just find its place. Set the line-up, Put players in a position for consistency.” I could not agree more. One of my best mentors in school and life would say “constant contact with the subject matter brings true knowledge.” What he meant was you cannot learn how to does something by trying it once a week. It has to be constant. Well, the lineup has not been constant. There have been more moves in the batting order than Kardashians photos on Instagram. Time to set it for a bit and leave it alone. Allow the team to get back into the flow when the lineup was set.
Ivy, what was the second think you were going to say. “Oh yeah. Right. The team needs to show some fight, some tenacity . We need a Lou Pinella moment. Don’t get me wrong, Joe Maddon is a good coach. But we need to light a fire under the team and see some grit.” I could not agree more. The is a sense that the time is “Trying Not To Suck” instead of playing to win. The strikeouts have increased over the beginning of the season to now. Pitchers are going further into games because the offense is taking less pitches and put less pressure on them.
Maybe this is all part of Maddon’s plan, especially with the injuries. This has given him several weeks of extra “Spring Training” in order to learn more about the team. Maybe he wanted this to happen now so that after the All-Star Break he can put together a formula that is so potent that it will change the rest of the season. But right now, all of us Cubs fan are asking is for the team to “Try Not to Suck,” anymore.