“There is a kind of dreary monotony about their characters, an American sameness about them that never varies and is always dull.” – Jack Kerouac
The day after a Cubs season ends has become my least favorite baseball day of the year, and I’m 100% positive many of you are like-minded. For some reason, yesterday’s loss to the Marlins hit harder than any of the others. It was so bad I even made a playlist called Blue Mourning Blue Cubs and I listened to it all night. There’s no fire in that playlist, but there was no fire in the Cubs, either. Too soon, or not soon enough?
I’m tired of baseball right now, and I never thought I’d say that. It seems some of Chicago’s players are tired, too. That happens when endings are near and you’ve just navigated a 62-game season (including playoffs) through an ongoing pandemic. For fans of the city’s North Side Baseball Club, the team may look strikingly different by Opening Day 2021.
“We’re all going to look back on this season and realize the sacrifices that we all made,” David Ross said after yesterday’s loss. “It was a hard season, for sure, mentally, physically, emotionally. [This year] was no joke.”
As Jon Lester said last week: “Six years went by so fast.”
Final: Marlins 2, #Cubs 0.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 2, 2020
Pardon my French, but this was one fucked-up baseball season and the looming winter will likely be similarly strange. Yesterday felt more like the final game of a 100-loss campaign than a playoff tilt with the season on the line. I’m not Theo Epstein, but if I was providing autopsy notes at the season-ending presser, I might bullet point the following in a role-playing performance:
- “Obviously some changes have to be made and Jed and I have some decisions to make, but the worst thing we can do as an organization is overreact to a season that was basically one small sample size.”
- “Evaluations are going to be a little tougher this week and next. Our players are better than they have showed this season but we cannot discount the results of this season, either.”
- “We struggled with velocity too often, and that’s something we are going to have to analyze internally. Players entering their prime baseball years should not regress this badly, and frankly, we are going to have to reverse those trends.”
- “Far too many strikeouts and poor execution in run scoring situations. That will be evaluated and addressed.”
- “David Ross did everything we expected him to do and more, and he has the respect of everybody in this organization, including me, Tom Ricketts, Jed and the rest of the front office, and all the players and coaches.”
- “We will field a better team in 2021, but the biggest changes this winter will probably be internal. It’s time, as an organization, that we look inward and ask ourselves ‘Why do we keep failing in the postseason and how can we do better?’ We believe we fielded a championship caliber club.”
- “We accomplished one goal, and that was winning the NL Central, but we’re not satisfied with that. The goal every year is to win the World Series.”
For those hoping the Cubs tear it all down, it seems unlikely that Epstein would do that entering the final year of his contract unless he signs an extension. The core will probably remain intact for another year, the starting rotation and bullpen will be different, there will again be no money to spend in free agency, and trades will be difficult considering recent results and escalating salaries.
- These players have probably played their last games with the Cubs: José Quintana, Tyler Chatwood, Jason Kipnis, Daniel Descalso, Albert Almora Jr., José Martínez, Billy Hamilton, Ian Miller, Josh Phegley, Hernán Pérez, Patrick Wisdom, Andrew Chafin, and Jeremy Jeffress.
- These arb-eligible players could be non-tender candidates: Daniel Winkler, Kyle Ryan, Josh Osich, Rex Brothers, and Colin Rea.
- These pre-arb players could be DFA’d: Dillon Maples, Duane Underwood, Jr., Brad Wieck, and Ildemaro Vargas.
- Players with 2021 team options that should be be exercised or renegotiated: Anthony Rizzo and Lester.
- Internal free agents that could be re-signed: Cameron Maybin.
- Players entering their last season of team control who will be subject to winter trade rumors: Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Kyle Schwarber. Rizzo will also enter his last season of control if his option is picked up, as expected.
- Possible trade candidates: Craig Kimbrel, Willson Contreras, David Bote.
- As close to untouchable as it gets: Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Rowan Wick, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, Victor Caratini, and Nico Hoerner.
- Rookies who could make the team in 2021: Brailyn Márquez, Burl Carraway, and Miguel Amaya.
As far as coaching changes, I expect that hitting coach Anthony Iapoce will not be retained. Will Venable will probably be considered for managing vacancies with other teams. He deserves a shot and it would be nice if he got one.
Cubs News & Notes
- Yesterday’s 2-0 loss to the Marlins closes the books on the 2020 season. If things go as scheduled, the Cubs will open the 2021 season with a home game against the Pirates on April 1.
- Yesterday represented the Marlins’ first playoff series win in 17 years. The Cubs, who made the postseason for the fifth time in six years, dropped to 4-9 in the playoffs since winning the ‘16 championship.
- Dating back to 2017, Chicago has now scored no more than one run in six of its past eight postseason games. The Cubs have plated just 10 total runs in those eight playoff affairs.
- Though the window might not be closing just yet for the team’s core players, a winter of uncertainty lies ahead.
- The Cubs-Marlins series shared many similarities with the 2015 Chicago-St. Louis playoff series, but with the North Siders assuming the role of veterans being disposed of by younger and hungrier players.
- The Marlins have never lost a playoff series in the history of the franchise.
- Despite the season-ending loss, Ross is proud of his team and what they accomplished in the craziest of seasons imaginable.
- The Cubs newest curse might be Wrigley Field itself.
Odds & Sods
One would assume this is a correct take, but as fans, it may be extremely difficult to get too hyped for next season if a few significant moves aren’t made.
Cubs day after thought: If ever these hitters were going to find it again, it prob will be in ‘21. Contract years for Rizzo, Schwarber, Baez and Bryant. It shouldn’t come to that but you KNOW at least a couple will have big years. OR, they’re just bad.
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) October 3, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
Kerouac is my favorite author, and this is probably my favorite passage by the beat author:
“I’m afraid that you’ll never understand me fully, and because of that, sometimes you’ll be frightened, disgusted, annoyed, or pleased.”
The Padres deployed Craig Stammen as an opener and rode the arms of eight other relievers in shutting down the Cardinals 4-0, proving the baseball Gods do not totally despise Cubs fans. San Diego will face the Dodgers in the NLDS.
The Wild Card portion of the postseason tournament is complete. National League teams will move to Houston and Arlington to play their Division Series, and AL teams will head to Los Angeles and San Diego. Here are the matchups:
- Rays (1) vs. Yankees (5) at Petco Park, San Diego
- A’s (2) vs. Astros (6) at Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles
- Dodgers (1) vs. Padres (4) at Globe Life Field, Arlington
- Braves (2) vs.Marlins (6) at Minute Maid Park, Houston
It is just my opinion but I see a future that always includes expanded playoffs and a neutral-site World Series, possibly as soon as next year.
How About That!
The great Bob Gibson passed away yesterday at the age of 84. The dominating Cardinals pitcher won a record seven consecutive World Series starts and set a modern standard for excellence when he finished the 1968 season with a 1.12 ERA. Gibson’s death came on the 52nd anniversary of perhaps his most overpowering performance, one in which he struck out a World Series record 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers.
The name “Kenesaw Mountain Landis” has been removed from the league’s MVP plaques after 75 years. Landis was baseball’s first commissioner and a known racist. The decision came after 89% of the BBWAA membership voted this week for removal.
They Said It
- “I’m pretty sure there’s not another organization like this one. I’ve never been in another one, but I feel like everybody that comes through here, they don’t want to leave.” – Javier Báez
- “I’m not in charge of all those decisions, but that’s a core group that means a lot to me personally. What they’ve done for me and my life and my kids, yeah, man, that’s a special group in there. And that’s outside of baseball. That’s talking about friendships and guys that I’ve made history with and done special things with. The way they’ve played for me this year … I love those guys in there.” – David Ross
Saturday Walk Up Song
The Long Road by Mark Knopfler – Baseball Winter is here for Cubs fans and change is coming. Pitchers and catchers report in about 140 days, give or take. What spring training will look like if we are still fighting the pandemic is anybody’s guess.