“We need to make some strides with this team in regards to knowing when you’re facing guys that throw 98, learn how to cut down and have a better two-strike approach.
“We’re going to have to shorten up our swings and take our singles and things that this team is not generally the best at. We still need some growth in regards to that.”
That was Ben Zobrist’s assessment of his Cubs team prior to losses behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester that sealed their sweep at the hands of the Mets. And while he’s absolutely right, it would’ve taken a helluva lot of singles to make up the gap in Sunday’s 14-3 debacle.
Truth is, there’s no one thing we can really point to as the root cause of this recent slide. It’s been pretty asymptomatic when you think about it. The high-powered offense has largely laid eggs in the last few losses, scoring more than three runs only once in the last 10 defeats. The beleaguered bullpen has borne the blame in borderline ballgames and the brilliant rotation has been blunted in blowouts.
One might also point to the physical ailments of regulars Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler, not to mention solid lefty bench bat Tommy La Stella. Their trips to the DL have necessitated early call-ups of prospects Albert Almora and Willson Contreras. Those two have no doubt acquitted themselves well, it’s just a bit of a square-peg-round-hole situation. The Cubs even had to swing a trade to re-acquire Chris Coghlan, who contributed little before hitting the shelf himself.
Or perhaps you see the Cubs’ issues as mental, a collective case of neurosis or neuralgia or some such. When so many guys who can put the team on their back aren’t doing so, it’s possible everyone’s pointing at someone else instead of himself. Zobrist has another theory though.
“[Opposing teams] know we got the best record in the league,” the World Series veteran explained. “And they’re showing up to play against us. They’re not showing up like this to play against other teams. Some of these pitchers are pitching their best game against us.”
Maybe the bed of laurels we laid for the Cubs to rest upon just got so comfortable that they fell into complacency. If that’s the case, I’d imagine getting taken behind the woodshed and beaten like rented mules in the City that Never Sleeps served as a wake-up call.
While we may not be able to identify the particular malady, there’s no doubt that losing is a disease. As contagious as polio, syphilis, or the bubonic plague. Attacking one but infecting all. Ah, but curable. How, you ask? Ideally with a case of Cincy pox.
Nothing like pounding the hell out of an inferior team to inoculate you against the various ailments of a losing skid. And facing Cody Reed (0-2, 9.00 ERA, 1.81 WHIP), who allowed 7 earned runs to the Cubs the last time he took the bump, is a mighty fine place to start.
Happy birthday, ‘Merica, here’s to hoping the Cubs have some fireworks for you.