This could end up being obsolete in a day, but with a win over the Dodgers on Monday night the Cubs have moved to a season-high 8 games over .500 and now boast the 3rd-best record in the NL. Their 38-30 record and .559 winning percentage would have them at the top of 3 other divisions in baseball (AL East, NL East, NL West) and in 2nd place in two more (AL Central and West).
As it is, though, the two NL teams with better records than the Cubs happen to be their division rivals in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Cubs are 1.5 games ahead of the Giants for the final Wildcard spot. The better news is that this is a team that still has some pretty significant issues that could be addressed at the trade deadline.
I’ll be honest, I had chalked Monday’s game up as a loss before it even happened. I mean, when a team comes to town boasting a three-time Cy Young winner (Clayton Kershaw) and a guy who’s hit .536 at Wrigley for his career (Yasiel Puig, now at a paltry .516 after a 1-3 night) you tend to assume the worst.
But Kris Bryant and Matt “Hail” Szczur went yard off the big lefty hurler and Bryant then added a little insurance with a second home run in the 8th to take Game 1 and propel the Cubs to a big W. It’s getting harder and harder to doubt this team and the braintrust responsible for putting it together, which is why the month of July looms so large this season.
In past years, we all simply twiddled our thumbs as the summer dragged on, waiting to see which veterans the Cubs would flip for prospects. Last year’s fireworks came a little early, as did the yield from the big Jeff Samardzija deal. Responses were split at the time, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s still upset about the Cubs moving Shark for Addison Russell.
If the Cubs can keep up their 90-win pace, they figure to be making the opposite kind of move(s) this season though, moving a few of the prospects from their much-ballyhooed farm system to acquire veteran talent for the stretch run. Whether it’s another arm to bolster the rotation or a bat to improve the outfield, this team should be better when the calendar turns to August.
They’ll need to be if they want to make the postseason out of what may well be the best division in baseball. While they’ve lost three straight, the Pirates have strung together streaks of seven and eight wins over the last month. And the Cardinals, well, they’re still the Patriots. I mean, they’re still the team that does things the right way and keeps winning no matter what.
The Cubs will have plenty of chances to take a few hacks at the Redbirds though, with 7 of their next 16 contests coming against the division leaders. But it’s the home stretch of the season that will really make the difference, as 24 of the North Siders’ final 32 games come against Central opponents. Twelve of those will come against the Cards and Bucs.
I’m already getting anxious just thinking about it, but it’s good to feel something other than malaise when thinking about the Cubs in the second half of the season. Stormy seas might not be all that fun to navigate, but I’ll take them over the doldrums any day of the week.
The Cubs will indeed have some rough waters to sail in the coming months, but at least now they’ve got a capable skipper and a seaworthy vessel with which to make the voyage. I just hope you all packed your Dramamine.