The Chicago Cubs might be atop the NL Central Division going into the All-Star break, but that does not mean they are playing like a first-place team.
The Chicago Cubs have ended the first half of the season in the most interesting way possible. Despite going 22-28 in their last 50 games, the ball club has managed to land themselves in first place by the annual midsummer break, but not by much.
Considering each team is creeping right behind the other in a division where no team trails first place by more than 4 1/2 games, the NL Central deems itself the most competitive division in the majors, and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.
With this in mind, President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein, and Manager, Joe Maddon, are keeping their struggling team in mind, and considering their options at hand. Epstein has been vocal about these issues and spoke to reporters about them over the weekend, including 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine.
On Levine’s local radio show, Epstein took some of the heat off of Maddon and blamed himself and the rest of the front office for the team’s recent hardships.
"“Right now, we are in a collective slump. We are not playing in a way I feel represents who we are,” Epstein said. “It has gone on for a while. So we are all searching for answers. We are looking for every lever we can pull to get the thing going in the right direction.”"
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He went on to say that a front office can get in a funk, too.
"“Front offices can go in slumps. Sometimes you go through Murphy’s law period — everything that can go wrong does go wrong. The same thing can happen with front offices. I believe in this group. I believe in this organization. I think good times are ahead,” said Epstein."
Epstein might be backing Maddon more now, but last week it seemed as if his managerial position might be up for grabs. This is the final year of the veteran manager’s five-year contract, and the team’s inconsistency has led to Maddon’s job being jeopardized.
While Epstein has been more vocal about his frustrations, Maddon has displayed his frustrations as well. The most recent instance was his ejection from last Thursday’s game vs. the Pirates when he reached a breaking point after Jordan Lyles threw up and in at his hitters. This fired the Cubs up, and let them to a whooping 11-3 victory over their division rivals.
The All-Star break has arrived at an ideal for the Cubs to regroup and try to refocus their energy on winning in the second half. The upcoming trade deadline could be a way for the Cubs to make changes and hopefully improve their roster possibly.
The most obvious places in which the Cubs could use changes is in their starting rotation and bullpen since the team’s pitching has been lackluster. However, they shouldn’t count out acquiring position players with an underachieving Addison Russell and a slumping Kyle Schwarber both serving in essential roles on the team.
While Ben Zobrist’s possible return from the restricted list can benefit at second base and left field, the Cubs could pursue a player of similar caliber at the deadline. Zobrist has been on the restricted list since May 8, going through a divorce.