The Cubs had a firm grasp on some sort of playoff contention for the longest time and just needed to keep winning at a reasonable pace to maintain it. But that grip grew ever more tenuous as they repeatedly failed to gain ground on their Central rivals or on the rest of the Wild Card contenders. So it is that their odds of reaching the postseason have plummeted to 41% after Thursday’s loss dropped them out of the Wild Card.
The Cubs are still just a game behind Milwaukee and two behind Washington for the consolation prizes. They’re also just four games back of St. Louis with six more to play against them, so anything can happen there. In that sense, they do still control their own destiny, though we’re well past the point of feeling super confident about their ability to exercise that control.
As the name indicates, this weekly column has always been focused on hope. That’s largely because the entirety of its three-year run has come while the Cubs were playoff-bound. Now, however, there’s a distinct possibility that they’ll play no more past Game 162 and that’s a little disconcerting. Although maybe there’s a different iteration of hope in the prospect of missing the playoffs.
After all, even falling bass-ackwards into a postseason berth can lead to a belief that a team just needs a little tweak here or there to be better next year. Isn’t that what we saw last season? While possessed of a great deal of talent, the Cubs simply aren’t a well-constructed team right now and they need some work to get back in contention for 2020 and beyond.
Perhaps the sting of finally missing the playoffs — which is sort of a weird thing to say when you think about the Cubs over a longer period of time — will be the wakeup call no one got when Joe Maddon said it was Big Boy Time. And hey, maybe that call came last night and the Cubs will surge back to the front. We can hope, right?