It was difficult for many to imagine the Chicago Cubs playing meaningful baseball past the trade deadline, yet here they are in the thick of a tight National League playoff race. They battle the Reds and Brewers for the division crown, down 3.5 to first place Milwaukee entering Monday, and are just on the outside looking in at the last Wild Card spot.
When Jed Hoyer decided to buy at the deadline, the team made it very clear their goal is to make a run at the postseason this year. Even if this team is probably not World Series contending ready yet, it's safe to say most fans just want to see October baseball for the North Siders again.
This battle is going to be grueling and will most likely come down to key games against division opponents. It's also important for them to take care of business in opportune matchups against teams below them. The next few weeks offer a pretty manageable set of games, but the Cubs have to play with the same focus consistency. Chicago sports has seen its fair share of playing down to the competition at important times over the years.
This is shaping up to be a potentially exciting and emotional ride for Cubs fans in kind of a new way. For a century, the feeling of being in a playoff race always had the ultimate endgame of "Is THIS 'The Year'?" Now that the elusive World Series drought is over, fans just want to see consistent success. The thought of a big market team, who saw their value rise even higher over the past decade, not being in the same annual conversation as the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox really irked fans. Fans did not want to see a post-World Series drought world go back to losing again with all of these resources, the standards changed.
After the big teardown of the old core two years ago, and knowing what it feels like to go through a rebuild, this is a point where the Cubs faithful wants to see more patience pay off. Even if it has not been anywhere near 100 years this time. Seeing the team take a big step back so they can step forward again was tough to swallow, but will be looked at differently if this continues to trend upward.
It seems fair to say there is hope and concern about the team. The Cubs seem to have the confidence and mindset that you want to see from a team in this position. We are seeing an incredible resurgence season from Cody Bellinger, and guys like Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Justin Steele, and Adbert Alzolay are showing to be top guys in their position department. With all of that said, we have questions. Will the starting pitching be efficient enough as a whole? Will the offense be able to keep up the production? Can they win enough games against key division opponents down the stretch? All legit questions many fans have.
The Cubs could be in the race until the final day of the season. They could also win well enough and completely take over a playoff spot, or, bottom out and not make it by a decent margin. Only time will tell how well this team can hang around and stay in the race. It is nice just to be in the mix again by this time of year. It will be tough, and even stressful at times, but if it means there is something to play for then it's worth it.