The Chicago Cubs are not performing up to expectations. At least, not to those of baseball experts or fans. A single missing piece is what the team needs.
Raise your hand if you saw this coming? Yep, not seeing many hands. I will admit to be sitting in the first class section of the “Cubs will dominate” train. The play of the Chicago Cubs has been lackluster, at best. It is hard to watch. This season was to be the coronation of the Cubs’ dynasty.
The year has changed, but many of the players remain the same. We know that the potential to explode is there. Other teams cannot keep Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist down long. And the health concerns of Addison Russell, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward are not major. At some point, this team will click. However, it will not be until that one missing piece is found.
What is that piece you ask? Good question. From my vantage point, it is one thing.
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Last year was fun, and not simply because the Cubs won 103 games regular season games. The team was fun to watch.
There was a sense of joy and excitement as they fought to rip the proverbial monkey off their backs. They smiled, they laughed and they exuded joy throughout the season. It started in Spring Training and continued until the very last game. The suits, the onesies, the animals in the clubhouse.
The missing piece is not simply the fun, but the person the fun centered around. He put the team on his shoulders as the grizzled veteran and provided stability. Others flocked to him, and the team celebrated him all season. But now that the “year long retirement party” is over, the fun seems that way as well. This team misses David Ross.
Think about it. All year, the team celebrated Ross on Instagram. While the main focus was on winning, Ross’ retirement provided a needed distraction for the Chicago Cubs. It took the burden off Jon Lester, Rizzo and Bryant, and allowed them to play.
There are no smiles this year. Maybe a few during the opening series in Wrigley Field. No fun. No animals. Or any sense of enjoyment of the game, leaving fans to say “You’re killing me, smalls!” on Twitter or Facebook during each game. It turned from being a game to being work. You can see it weighing on Jake Arrieta and the stress wearing on fans everywhere.
No fix is quick
The fix for this situation is not easy. You can’t just make a trade or sign a player to replace David Ross. His character and love of the game were infectious. And he is not walking through that door. But the team needs his energy. They need to enjoy the process and wear the target with pride, not fear.
The moment the team finds that spark, opponents will need to watch out. Until that happens, however, the struggles will continue to be real. Let’s hope it doesn’t take long.