The Cubs opened June with an 8-4 mark that included two wins in their sweep of the Padres at Wrigley, a series win in San Diego, and a sweep of the Cardinals back home in Chicago. They were 11 games over .500 and stood tied atop the division with the Brewers, spurring hopes that July would see them add to the roster in preparation for a stretch run.
Since then, however, the Cubs have lost 18 of their last 23 games to fall two games under .500 and 9.5 games behind the Brewers. As bad as that 11-game losing streak looks when viewed through a magnifying glass, it’s really just a product of a very flawed team getting its ass kicked by Murphy’s Law.
As of June 13, the Cubs’ 47.1% postseason odds were less than a point shy of their season-high from 11 days earlier. Wow, the number 11 is showing up all over the place. As things stand less than a month later, the Cubs are barely clinging to life with 4.7% odds while Milwaukee runs away with the division.
With all due respect to those among you who manage to maintain a state of perpetual optimism, the 2021 season is over for the Cubs. Yes, they’ll continue to play out the rest of the games on the schedule, but the goal of contending has been replaced by trying to figure out who they can trade and which young players are part of the future.
“Eleven days ago we were certainly fully on the buy-side of this transaction and everyone was calling about that,” Jed Hoyer said prior to Thursday’s shutout loss. “Obviously, now people are calling to see which players are available, so it’s a very different scenario than we expected and, you know, life comes at you fast.
“You know, 11 days ago that’s not where we were mentally and obviously 11 games certainly changes a lot of things.”
I tried to come up with a way to spin this in a positive direction, but I just ended up ruining my keyboard when too much Spider Tack made typing impossible. Maybe the folks who’ve been clamoring for a rebuild, which could also be a pathway for ownership to squeeze more gains from the organization, can revel in the fact that recent failures have made big changes necessary.
And I suppose there’s always the perverse pleasure of watching a massive pileup on the interstate as you rubberneck your way in the opposite direction. The remainder of July will offer entertainment value in the form of trade rumors, many of which will likely come to fruition as Hoyer continues to field calls from teams that have somehow managed not to fall apart.
The bigger issue is that there may not be a quick path back to competitive relevance, even with the payroll set to fall by roughly $114 million for 2022. Just being a dumpster fire would be one thing, but it’s possible the Cubs will toss a few more logs and a gallon of accelerant on top just to see how hot things have to get before fans start turning away. Unless, that is, fans are already starting to do so.
By which I mean getting extensions on their season-ticket deposits or having their number on the waiting list called mid-season for an opportunity to purchase seats. So if there is a little optimism to be gained from this mess, it’s found in the idea that ownership may be forced to realize that nostalgia and luxury suite experiences aren’t the only way to print money at Wrigley.
The Cubs should be fielding competitive teams year in and year out with the exception of an occasional hiccup. Rebuilding should no longer be an option, nor should a retool that takes more than one season. For now, we’ll just have to suffer through whatever is left of 2021 and hope things get better in a hurry.