No matter how the next three weeks play out, the Chicago Cubs have to change their tune on infielder Addison Russell and move on this offseason.
As his throw sailed high, pulling Anthony Rizzo off the bag in the ninth inning Saturday, Addison Russell cost the Chicago Cubs a chance at a much-needed victory. That error set up Christian Yelich‘s eventual game-winning knock, helping the Milwaukee Brewers keep their postseason hopes alive.
"“It’s a huge blow, what happened to Javy,” Russell told MLB.com. “I’m happy to step up and take on that role. I have a lot of confidence in myself and in my abilities. So, I believe if I just get to work and fully commit to that, I think I can go back to being the type of ballplayer that I know how to be.”"
Well, I’m glad he’s confident in himself and his abilities. Because he’s about the only one who is.
Had Chicago rolled into the weekend and taken all four games they may have put the finishing touches on the Brewers’ season. On Thursday, Milwaukee sat 7 1/2 games out of first in the National League Central – and five out in the NL Wild Card race. But after three consecutive wins to close out the series, the Brewers start a new week in a vastly improved standing: just two out of a Wild Card spot.
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There’s a lot that’s going wrong for the Cubs besides Russell’s play of late. Javier Baez suffered a hairline fracture in his thumb and his role the rest of the year is very much in question. Craig Kimbrel is on the IL yet again – this time with elbow inflammation.
Since coming back off the IL, Cole Hamels has hardly looked like the same guy who anchored a rotation in the first half. And let’s not forget this team’s horribly erratic offense, either.
Russell has definitely been part of that last issue. Despite hitting a home run on Saturday, he entered Sunday with some pretty horrendous numbers.
Heading into Sunday, across his last 26 at-bats, Russell was slashing .115/.179/.269. He’s struck out nine times and walked just once. So, OK, that’s just a seven-game sample size. Anyone can go cold over such a small sample size, right? Then let’s expand that sample size.
In his last 15 games, the 25-year-old carries an equally disappointing .176/.208/.373 line. He’s hardly looked like the guy who made an All-Star team and a shortstop of the future as recently as three years ago. Add in the fact that his defensive metrics are trending in the wrong direction, as well – and you have to come to one conclusion. It’s the end of the road. It has to be.
Now, as he undergoes testing after being hit in the head with a pitch Sunday, his immediate future seems pretty up in the air. With the team promoting top prospect Nico Hoerner, Russell may have a front row seat to a guy ready to take his spot on the roster.
If the Cubs fail to make the postseason for the first time in the Joe Maddon era, said era may very well come to an abrupt end. Theo Epstein will undoubtedly make sweeping changes – and if he truly wants to turn the page on the team’s inconsistent play and unfulfilled potential, Russell should be at the top of the list.