Friday, 7 July:
The blissful warmth of the 2016 World Series Championship has come to an official end.
Baseball, like life, acknowledges the past but lives in the present, and is the ultimate ‘what have you done for me lately’ activity. To that fact, the Cubs have been exposed as what they are.
This is a .500 club. They have been at the .500 level 18 separate times this season, and should make it 19 with a win tonight in Pittsburgh. It’s not that the matchup of Eddie Butler versus Trevor Williams is a huge Cub advantage.
It’s just that’s the makeup of this team.
They will most likely win because they were embarrassed yesterday 11-2 by their number one rival Milwaukee; a drubbing so severe that outfielder John Jay had to make his pitching debut. Watching the journeyman toss 57 mph pitches that looked like curves but were basically lob pitches was fun.
The Cub bench enjoyed his scoreless inning, and the Brewers hated making outs against what was basically freshman high school pitches. It was one of the things that endears baseball to it’s legions of fans. You don’t see that in most sports.
Once in awhile you may see the punter toss a pass, but that’s a trick play. In baseball, this was accepting the humiliation of a beating with the eye to tomorrow. Save the pitchers if you can.
It also showed just how non competitive the team really is. Just good enough to keep out of major losing streaks is not a path to the post season, and the Cub hierarchy admitted as much. Theo Epstein joined GM Jed Hoyer in quashing any notion of major moves being made anytime soon.
Simply put, they asserted that the ‘what you see is what you get’ Cubs are indeed that.
They need to solve their issues themselves, and all the organization will do is perhaps find a real catcher so they could win the occasional big game. The return of Kyle Schwarber should be viewed as what it is; a marketing campaign to re-establish his value so he can be traded in the offseason.
Make no mistake. This is among the myriad of moves they will make as they will remake themselves into a true championship club. Schwarber is an AL designated hitter and part time position player; NOT an NL left fielder. Unless he becomes their backup catcher, which is unlikely, he will be dealt.
But he needs to get his average over .168, and that means him solving the breaking ball on his hands/high fastball combination. He’s become pull crazy, and until he sorts that out he will struggle.
Their other issues run deep, but is best exemplified by Kris Bryant. The opposition just pitches around him because they don’t fear the consequences. The .268 hitting Anthony Rizzo is dangerous but not world class, and depending on Ian Happ to carry the team tells you what you need to know.
Their right handed homer happy corps of Baez, Contreras, Russell and Almora are just not impact players on offense. They all hit in the mid .250 range, and their OPS numbers are not impressive. Frankly, other teams are putting more productive players out there.
Most, if not all of them will be on the block come late fall.
The pitching is not as bad as advertised; not world class but adequate. If the offense was better so would their performances. But leading the majors in runs given up in the first inning doesn’t help much.
Cubsquest has been pointing this out for months now. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Pollyanna take on the team needs to end. They are not going to just turn around and become a different team.
The signing of Jason Heyward has been a big bust so far; his good glove helps but his punch and judy offense doesn’t. They need a left handed run producer and only have one in Rizzo.
So, enjoy the team for what it is, and the moments it will give you. But don’t get too close to any of the players, because outside of Bryant and Rizzo (and Happ, now) everybody on this team is available, and a bunch of them need to go…
Cubs vs Pirates. 1:20 start. CSN, 670 The Score