Chicago Cubs: How much should Joe Maddon rest the regulars?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

On Wednesday, the Chicago Cubs officially clinched the National League Central title. So, how much rest should the starters get ahead of the playoffs?

If you had told me years ago the Chicago Cubs would win the NL Central two years in a row while the St. Louis Cardinals simultaneously missed the playoffs for two years straight, I’d have thought you were crazy. But here we are. And how sweet it is.

Undeniably, watching the Cubs clinch at Busch Stadium, on the Cardinals’ home turf, right in front of their players and fans, brought me an inordinate amount of joy. I’m sure I’m not alone in reveling not only in the Cardinals’ collapse but the Cubs’ continued success. Now that the stage is set for the Cubs to face off against the Washington Nationals in the NLDS next week, manager Joe Maddon will have an opportunity to give the usual starters some time off during the team’s last series of the regular season.

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Time to ice up

On Thursday, the Iowa…I mean Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals with a lineup of mostly backup players. Some of these starters included Taylor Davis, Victor Caratini and Mike Freeman. Davis, who has spent the bulk of this season in triple-A, drove in the game-winning run with a RBI double to left in the 11th inning.

So, now guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and other everyday players can catch a breather before the real action begins. But should they all sit out for the rest of this series with the Cincinnati Reds? There’s long been controversy across all professional sports leagues when it comes to resting starters before the playoffs. Some feel teams have an obligation to their fans to put the best possible squad on the field that they can. After all, a franchise’s opulence is because of paying fans.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the kid who will be attending his first ever Cubs game this weekend, only to see that none of his favorite players will take the field. But regardless, there is a bigger picture here. It seems highly likely that most people would prefer to see a healthy, rested team go into the playoffs than see them risk unnecessary injury in a game that has no bearing on the postseason.

In the NFL’s case, things are different. They play only 16 regular season games. Major League Baseball teams play ten times as many games. Opportunities to see them at their best come much more frequently. Would it be nice to see these guys stay on the field and pour it on this weekend? Sure, but I think we’d all rather have them rested and ready for the Nationals.

Part of the process

Some might play here and there just as a means of staying loose and keeping some sort of rhythm. But they’ll spend the majority of this time conserving their energy and healing if necessary.

Next: Cubs will start postseason without pressure

It’s even been announced that Jake Arrieta, who missed time earlier this month with a right hamstring issue, will be scratched from his last scheduled start. This will give him a chance to feel even better when the Cubs need him against Washington. These last few games may not produce the most exciting lineups, but keep the overall goal in mind. The real fun is right around the corner.