Saturday marked WGN’s final broadcast from Wrigley Field, but it wasn’t one that figures to lead any retrospectives. The game was so ass, there’s no way they’d dare re-air it. At least one of the teams scored nine runs, a fitting tribute to the channel that served as the longtime home of Cubs baseball. There are still a few games left between WGN and the Cubs’ various other broadcast partners, after which everything will move under the new Marquee Sports Network.
But just as Sinclair Broadcasting is likely to have trouble closing carriage deals with cable providers and streaming outlets, Craig Kimbrel was again unable to close the door. Hell, he actually flung it wide open and invited the Cards in for beers. We’ll get to that in a moment, but let’s first talk about everything that told us the Cubs were supposed to win.
You should win when you draw four consecutive walks to push across two runs in the opening frame. You should win when you hit a pair of pinch-hit homers, one of which came from Tony Freaking Kemp. And you absolutely should win when it appeared as though Kemp had struck out, only to find out the pitch had been ruled a balk. Then the diminutive utilityman tagged a fastball for a go-ahead dinger, his first as a Cub.
Folks, turning points don’t get any turnier than that. As it turns out, however, the homer was nothing more than a final moment of glorious lucidity before the Cubs once again played dead. Or perhaps it was like the final gasp of B-movie vampire before the slayers did a double-tap with their stakes to put him out of commission for good.
The analogy is understandably warped since the Cards are fueled by unholy devil magic and Cubs are the embodiment of all that is good and pure in the world, but let’s just run with it. On second thought, the Cubs have sold enough of their collective soul by now that there’s really no leg to stand on when it comes to pointing fingers. But I digress.
All game long, it seemed as though two fighters were standing there in the middle of the ring trading blows and that it’d come down to which one had the stronger jaw. And when one of those fighters rolled into the later rounds looking both paunchy and punchy, too tired to keep his hands up to protect himself, it was hard to believe the Cards wouldn’t land one on the button eventually.
Turns out that sad, old fighter is the same muscled-up closer who joined the club late in a move that should have solidified the relief corps. As it turns out, the Cubs bullpen remained 10 pounds of shit in a 5-pound bag, with Kimbrel accounting for a lot of that weight. He was just activated ahead of Thursday’s game and almost predictably allowed a first-pitch game-winning homer to Matt Carpenter on a fastball right down the dick.
So, hey, why not go right back to that well Saturday afternoon? Oh I don’t know, maybe for the same reason that yoga pants being comfortable doesn’t mean they’re appropriate for everyone to wear in public. At this point, Kimbrel is inappropriate yoga pants, mooseknuckle curve and all.
Except that the thicc closer didn’t throw said curve to Yadi Molina, opting instead for a high fastball that the catcher rode out to left-center as though he knew what was coming. Maybe he was mad about getting hit in the junk with a foul tip the day before, but it’s more likely he was sitting dead red on high heat. Likewise for Paul DeJong, who obliterated Kimbrel’s second pitch of the afternoon for the game-winner to left-center.
Things got so bad after the DeJong homer that I broke my own soft rule against dropping f-bombs on Twitter. The Cubs are a flawed team and have been from well before they failed to sign anyone of significance this winter. Theo Epstein’s calls for urgency last October went over about as well as a poopy-flavored lollipop and Joe Maddon’s hands-on coaching produced a team that ranks near the bottom of MLB in groundball rate and hard contact.
It’s like they’ve got all the pieces to a puzzle and chose to mash them together incongruously instead of taking the time to assemble them appropriately. There are bright spots, no doubt, just not enough to overcome the numerous injuries and weird decisions and outright failure to perform.
The Cubs needed to sign Kimbrel to fix the bullpen, then needed to trade for Nicholas Castellanos to fix the offense. Then they needed Ben Zobrist to return in order to fix the offense some more. They needed Nico Hoerner because Javy Báez broke his thumb and Addison Russell was awful even before he was concussed.
Anthony Rizzo had to get the Varsity Blues treatment to be able to play, then looked like a truck with a flat tire hauling a trailer uphill as he tried to run the bases. Kris Bryant needed a shot in his ailing knee as well. Javy was the final batter Saturday in his first action since that thumb forced him to miss three weeks, just two days after being cleared for light activity. The whole “next guy jumps in” deal is supposed to mean healthy players replacing hurt ones, not the other way around.
The Cubs are still technically alive, so you’re more than welcome to feel any way you want about them at this point. Want to curse and break things while screaming about how awful they are? Have at it. Want to don those rose-colored glasses and explain all the scenarios in which they can still make the postseason? Get to it.
As for me, well, I’ve reached the point at which I’m much more content watching football or my son’s Fall Ball Little League games. Sometimes you don’t notice how much of a toll a deep emotional investment has taken on you until you step back and assess the situation. Between writing as much as I do and curating the comments here and on Facebook, man, I’ve seen things.
As such, you might see a little less from me for a little bit because decompression is a good thing. Or maybe I’ll just double down and write even more. Either way, I hope you’ll be able to enjoy the final week of the season and the coverage we provide for it.