“We saw it happen to all the others but to us, it never would. Well, how could something so bad, darling, come from something that was so good? I don’t know.” – Bruce Springsteen, Loose Ends
For most Cubs fans, the Great Reset engineered by Jed Hoyer at the trade deadline has always been a tough pill to swallow. When you trade away nearly a third of your roster, including nearly every fan favorite, it’s bound to leave the constituency feeling a little verklempt. Still, the promise of a new day has been the carrot dangling from Tom Ricketts’ ever-lengthening stick.
When the sub-Cubs start losing regularly, however, it all starts to feel a little more like tommyrot. Yesterday’s 8-6 loss to the Pirates was the team’s seventh straight and if they don’t turn it around today or tomorrow, they could be staring into the abyss of a third double-digit losing streak. We’ve witnessed sagging attendance at Wrigley Field, but I wonder how little of the fanbase is actually tuning in on TV. Haven’t we all moved on to bigger and better things?
It’s hard to embrace the game’s rabid late-season culture when the local team is simply going through the motions. The Cardinals are riding a 17-game winning streak that has locked them into a postseason berth. The Giants won their 103rd game of the season, matching a franchise record for the San Francisco version of the organization. The Red Sox are imploding and the surging Mariners are now just a half-game out of the second Wild Card spot. Baseball is enjoying one of its most thrilling seasons, except on the North Side of Chicago.
Admittedly, we’ve been spoiled by six years of unparalleled success, something many define as the golden era of Cubs baseball. That feels so long ago though, doesn’t it? The Cubs have been wretched since starting last season 13-3. Even with their star players, they struggled to play .500 baseball over what amounted to a full season and things have been much worse since the big selloff. We are watching what amounts to a tryout camp for next season, just without the anticipation spring training brings.
The uncertainty of the offseason is inciting our fears, too. Will there be a work stoppage? Will Hoyer really attack free agency in a way that instills enough confidence in the fanbase that they believe in his plan and direction? Will open-market players want to come to Chicago after the way Hoyer threw his stars under the bus once the dust settled on all the trades? Will Ricketts give Hoyer a big-league budget and allow his executive to sign players to competitive salaries?
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 27, 2021
We all have a right to be skeptics. Sure, there is real promise on the farm for the first time in nearly half a decade, and surprising seasons by Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel have our armchair GM juices flowing. I just hope we are not blinded by over-optimism. For example, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson could be good major league starters, but can they lead a staff? Is there a Jon Lester-type free agent out there who wants to take a chance on Hoyer’s vision? Theo Epstein could sell it, but I’m not so sure Hoyer can.
The organization wants to avoid creating a “Core 2.0” and with good reason. Right now, that means building a team around Wisdom, Schwindel, Willson Contreras, Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal, Ian Happ, and Kyle Hendricks. Is that a championship core? Hardly, and that’s being generous. What the president of baseball operations and his front office staff do this winter will determine the short- and long-term outlook for the organization. No pressure, Mr. Hoyer, but please don’t screw this up.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Reds were officially eliminated from playoff contention last night. It is now officially Nick Castellanos season in Chicago.
- Reds fans, we certainly empathize.
- You’ll need a subscription to ESPN+ to access the content, but Jeff Passan has ranked this winter’s crop of free agents into five levels, with Carlos Correa and Cory Seager at the top of the market. Cubs fans please feel free to start window-shopping.
- Thompson and Jason Heyward are officially done for the season and the oft-injured Hoerner may join them. Heyward finishes the season having slashed .214/.280/.347 with eight homers and 30 RBI in 104 games.
- Schwindel had another two-hit game yesterday, giving him 71 knocks since August 1, which is two more hits than Heyward has had all season. It was Scwhindel’s 23rd multi-hit game of 2021.
- Frank the Tank explained how he got his obvious nickname.
- Hoerner may not have a set position next year and could see time at both middle infield spots as well as center field.
- David Ross would like everybody to stop labeling Hoerner as injury-prone.
- Ross said he will be available to be a resource in recruiting free agents but ultimately trusts Hoyer and the team’s front office.
- Despite an atrocious year that included a 13-game home losing streak and an awful final homestand, Wrigley Field is still one of the best stadiums to watch a game.
- The timing is way off on this article (Yahoo actually reposted this from a 2016 Conde Naste article), but here are the six best Chicago bars to watch Cubs games.
- This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Cubs, who were led by Fergie Jenkins, that season’s Cy Young Award winner. Jenkins won 20 games for the fifth consecutive season and led the NL in wins (24) complete games (30), and strikeouts (263). You read that right, that’s 30 complete games!
- Shortstop prospect Ed Howard has had an up-and-down year and has relied on his work ethic to keep him even-keeled.
Apropo of Nothing
We are just one start away from the end of the Zach Davies era in Chicago. Fittingly, the Cardinals should rough him up in four innings or less on Friday.
Odds & Sods
Stu Sternberg just graduated from the Tom Ricketts school of bad public relations.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) September 28, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“Darkness, darkness, be my blanket, cover me with the endless night. Take away, take away the pain of knowing. Fill the emptiness of right now.” – The Youngbloods, Darkness, Darkness
- Games Played: 157
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,780
- Total Strikeouts: 1,559
- Strikeout Rate: 27.0%
- Team Batting Average: .235
You shouldn’t lose when you pound out 12 hits and plate six runners in a single game, especially against the Pirates. The offense has been bad at times, but the pitching has been atrocious far too often.
How About That!
With five games left in the season, five teams still have a chance to capture the two Wild Card spots in the AL.
You may need Cliff’s Notes to unravel all of the potential playoff scenarios.
The Cardinals look unstoppable and have clinched the second NL Wild Card with a 6-2 win over the Brewers. They will face either the Giants or Dodgers in the elimination tilt.
Back-to-back 9th inning bases-loaded walks propelled the Astros to a win over the Rays last night, reducing their magic number to win the AL West to one game.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Mitch Haniger – With 38 home runs and 95 RBI, the young outfielder has singlehandedly led his team back into playoff contention. Haniger hit another bomb last night, his third in two games, and the Mariners are on the brink of capturing the AL’s second Wild Card.
- Giancarlo Stanton – Like Haniger, he has been clutch all month. Stanton hit a towering home run yesterday on a pitch that should have eaten him up, and he now has gone yard in four straight.
- Frank Schwindel – The dude can flat-out hit, and though we keep saying it’s unsustainable, he keeps trying to defy us.
Excuse me, but I was told there would be no math.
If the Mariners win out in their final 4 home games with the A's and Angels, the Red Sox have to win their 5 in Baltimore and Wshington to avoid a play-in vs. Seattle, and the Jays have to win their 5 with the Yanks and O's to have a play-in for the final play-in.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) September 29, 2021
They Said It
- “The main thing for me is if you’re going into next season, penciling [Hoerner] in or putting him in for 150 games, that’d be a little naive, right? In general, my philosophy is the more flexibility you have in being able to give some guys rest … you’re probably going to need some form of giving both of those guys [Hoerner and Madrigal] some kind of pattern of days off. And how the roster shapes out in the offseason and what pieces you’re able to get in that capacity, it makes a lot of sense to make sure we find the right matchups for everybody to give guys also days of rest.” – Ross
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Pretty Ballerina by The Left Banke – There are few songs that combine baroque with rock and roll, and though it is more progressive than fans of “Walk Away Renee” may like, if you listen with open ears and an open mind you’ll hear one of the most beautiful songs ever written. This one sadly never got the airplay it should have because of its lack of pop sensibilities.