To review: the past two weekends, the Cubs had the chance to end the Brewers season, separate themselves in the wildcard race (which should only be viewed as the faintest of consolation prizes) while maintaining a gap on the Cardinals that would be easily manageable in the seven games that are left with them. And to remind you, this is a Brewers team aching to be given a lethal injection, as they’ve been nothing but .500 for 60 games now.
All the Cubs managed to do was make themselves the team that needs to be put out of its misery, keep everyone involved, and maybe make the Cardinals, the definition of a mediocre outfit, out of reach. They did so a shining example of how every level of this team has failed from the end of last season (importantly, not during it). The ownership that wouldn’t spend, the front office that needed to be bailed out by cash because of all its mistakes, the manager who doesn’t see the game or his team for what it is, and players who have refused to grow, or change, or adjust, and are simply not good enough.
I would love to tell you the Cubs are finished and you can go about your lives. My hunch is that they’ll death spasm for a week to make the last week or two matter or something, and all that will be is a chance for all of these systematic failures to rear their ugly head again.
Let’s review it all. They win the first game, because the offense isn’t quite bad enough to go quiet for four games. But then Cole Hamels, who clearly was rushed back from an injury that he had struggled to come back from before, had to hump it up to even crack 90 MPH and was labeled. Ok, that happens. It happens too much to this team but it happens.
Saturday night is everything. It was their third look in just over a month at Gio Gonzalez. Their manager, who clearly electrocuted himself in his office before the game in some bizarre experiment, starts Albert Almora at leadoff, even though he might as well go up there with a fish. Almora along with everyone else still hasn’t figured out that Gio is not going to come inside, or to the middle of the plate, or even to the outside corner, unless you make him. But there’s everyone trying to yank the baseball out to Minocqua and rolling out to third or short, including Almora in a huge spot after the Cubs got two on with no out. Inning over.
This is after you’ve learned Javy Baez is probably done for the year, and while breaking a thumb is no one’s fault, he was breaking down long before that because the front office provided no depth to get him a day off other than Addison Russell occasionally, who is too stupid to go up there with a fish (or the manager’s utter terror to even try Bote at short for a game or two). So your offense is limited, and gets shut down by Gonzalez once again. Your manager, while attempting to turn discarded sunflower seeds into wine, says that his team struggles against Gio because they keep expanding their zone. Did he bother to tell his players this? Did they not listen if he did? Either way, this seems like a flashing light about why the door is going to hit Joe on the ass on September 30th.
Still, thanks to Yu Darvish, you’re in it, and generate a rally against Josh Hader. You take the lead, but Kris Bryant can’t extend it because he’s on one leg and has been for a month at least, again because the depth provided hasn’t allowed him to get the additional week or two off he clearly, desperately needs. He hasn’t hit a fastball above his mid-thing hard for weeks. And he can’t. Somehow, Ian Happ is good enough to pinch-hit against Hader but not good enough to start against Gonzalez ahead of Almora, despite having one of the best handles on the zone on the team.
Then Joe Maddon goes to work. Brilliant, glorious, galaxy-brained work. You’re up one in the 8th of a game you really need. It’s 2-3-4. This is not a time to match up. This is not a time to get cute. You send your best guy out there, and figure out how to get the thoroughly unimpressive bottom of the Brewers order in the 9th later. You do not send out David Phelps, something you found in the Toronto storage room. You do not send out Derek Holland, who has earned nothing while being here, much less the right to face the reigning MVP in the 8th inning of a tie game. You send out Wick. You send out Kinztler, that’s all you have. And because of the mishegas in the 8th, you only assure yourself of having to face Yelich again in the 9th.
Your “backup” shortstop, the one with cold oatmeal for brains, makes an error to let a runner on. You get through Grandal by some miracle, and then you walk Yelich. He’s all that’s left. He’s basically all they have. The manager himself said he’s like Bonds now, except he didn’t treat him like Bonds. You don’t walk him, baseball thinking be damned. And when you don’t do that, you allow Yelich to do stuff like this:
That’s a good pitch. Maybe it’s a little high, but it’s barely ticking the zone. But Yelich doesn’t miss right now. He hasn’t missed in two years. There isn’t away around him. Fairly sure there’s a way around Eric Thames. Just a hunch.
After that…well who cares? Jon Lester is your fifth starter and you get whatever you can, which sometimes isn’t much. And it’s truly symbolic that in the 5th, when everything went off, was a result of the Brewers doing exactly what the Cubs refused, or can’t, or both to Gonzalez, and that is just taking those pitches on the outside to right field over and over. Eventually you’ll get the mistake you want when the pitcher is wary of that. Goodnight.
I’m genuinely angry I have to keep watching this team. They’re not enjoying it, we’re not enjoying it, and everyone wants to just go home and be done with it. Do I think an utter collapse would cause changes? Not the ones you want. The Ricketts Family told you when it became public how Tom sold the purchase to Daddy. They’ll sell out Wrigley no matter what. That’s why they bought the team. They have all the buildings now. There was an urgency once, otherwise you wouldn’t hire the best available front office mind in Theo Epstein to overhaul your whole operation. But there isn’t now. They’ve got the property, they’ve got their channel, and they’ve got their one bauble to point to to justify it all. Whatever comes this winter is more likely to resemble deck chairs, or a move backwards.
Oh sure, Maddon will go. Maybe that’s enough, but I don’t know what a new manager does with the players from the system who have proven inflexible and not up to the standard of the Dodgers or Braves, or now not even the Cardinals. Those players were threatened withe expulsion last winter, but they’re all still here. There are no young pitchers coming to save the day. Alzolay will basically have to be a mutli-inning bullpen weapon due to his lack of innings. That’s it. That’s all there is. And Gerrit Cole or an opting-out Strasburg aren’t coming through the door either.
Just shoot it, this season. End the misery.