Wednesday, 12 July:
OK, so the title to this article is a little harsh. But it has the sad reality of being true.
The biggest turnaround in sports in some time has been the fall from grace of the Chicago Cubs. The miracle season of 2016 is disappearing in the rear view mirror, and the harsh reality that the organization has screwed up is now out in the open.
The fact that the NL lost the now meaningless All Star game is only significant in a cosmic sense. The only Cubs present were instrumental in the loss; Joe Maddon managed it and Wade Davis took the collar for it.
It is the baseball gods speaking loudly.
The franchise was quite happy with soaking up all the accolades while doing almost nothing to address the real weaknesses the team had. The now apparent mistake of the Jason Heyward signing kept them from addressing the lack of left handed contact hitters, and the regrettable decision to lead off Kyle Schwarber followed.
You just don’t take a linebacker sized player coming off of reconstructive knee surgery who has no speed anyway and is contact challenged and lead him off. It always should have been either John Jay, or the banjo hitting Heyward.
They not only let Dexter Fowler, Travis Wood and David Ross leave but did nothing to replace their estimable contributions. Their sole smart move, getting rid of the worthless Jorge Soler for Wade Davis, surely the deal of the year, has kept them out of the NL Central basement.
The struggles of Addison Russell, who has gone from top prospect to suspect in just one half of a season, should have been seen coming. They accepted the 95 RBI’s he gave without realizing that most of them were late add on runs to incipient Cub victories; he was coming up in the 7th or 8th in the bottom of the order with men on base and the team invariably ahead.
Then the fat fastballs came, ergo the homers and RBI’s. Now everyone can see someone who cannot pick up the spin on a baseball, has shoulder issues and personal ones as well. Should they have seen this coming?
That’s not necessarily fair. But the abundance of right handed contact challenged players should have been fair warning that they needed to move some of them. Now, their decision to take Russell and Billy McKinney over Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, a deal they had with LA, seems a terrible mistake.
It was Seager, not Russell, at shortstop last night. Both he and Pederson are left handed. Just why Theo and Jed didn’t take those key differences into account shows short sighted decision making. Nobody is perfect, and they are allowed mistakes.
But outside of Jon Lester, their free agent signings have not been impressive, ranging from the Edwin Jackson debacle to Heyward’s over appraised value as a run producer. That signing continues to hurt, and will most likely end up in moving an expensive contract with a substantial loss.
If he isn’t moved he will probably become the highest paid 400 at bat, .265 hitting defensive replacement in baseball history.
They simply need MORE offense than he can give them. These mistakes, and that’s what they are, are now hamstringing the team going forward. Watching Javier Baez and Albert Almora swing from the heels at the disappearing slider when down 3 runs is really all one needs to see.
Sure, hindsight is 20/20. However, Cubsquest was pointing these same things out last season when they were winning in spite of them. While besotted Cub fans cried for Theo Epstein to run for president and he was the source of glowing articles everywhere they should have been looking forward.
Instead, the near obsession of keeping every prospect no matter how little they would impact the team’s future has devolved into one of the worst offenses in baseball, and the slip in team defense came along with it.
The maligned pitching staff isn’t world class anymore. But it is competitive, and all they need is run production, a tighter defense and a real catcher, not a prospect on a learning curve.
They do that and they will start winning. Until then, this .500 mediocrity is what you will get…