The Cubs are a hard watch right now. There’s no sugarcoating that, though Joe Maddon is doing his best to weather the storm with a brave face. This is a different climate on the North Side, one we haven’t seen in a long time. Even in the early years of the Epstein-Hoyer regime, while the Cubs were playing long stretches of atrocious baseball, there was always the hope that steps were being taken to make them a perennial winner. But now it seems like there’s just no hope. When was the last time you said that about a Cubs team?
I couldn’t even watch last night’s 5-1 loss.
The Cubs are absolutely horrible on the road. They’ve won just four of their last 18 games away from Wrigley Field and the last road series they won was against the Nationals in mid-May. In fact, the Cubs haven’t won any series, home or away, since sweeping the Cardinals June 7-9. With two more games against the Pirates in Pittsburgh and two at Guaranteed Rate Field against the White Sox to close out the first half, Maddon better find a way to right the ship or he’s going to walk the plank with the Jolly Roger flying just over his shoulder.
How much do you worry that #Cubs' poor play reflects on you?
Joe Maddon: "It should. People are going to do that immediately. I understand that. It's the way the industry works … It's a long baseball season. You go through bad moments."
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) July 2, 2019
If you want an additional data point on why this team feels so lifeless, see right here. They are just 5-27 when trailing after FOUR innings. That is so far and away absurd compared to where they've been in recent years. I don't even know what to make of it. https://t.co/GI4pvpXUx9
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) July 3, 2019
If the Cubs lose these last four games ahead of the All-Star break, I can’t see a scenario where the manager will remain employed. Losing is one thing, but the Cubs aren’t even showing up to play. There’s no denying that this is a talented team. But how do you fend off the malaise that surrounds this club, especially when you’ve churned through coaches on an annual basis since winning the World Series in 2016? There is only one finger left to point, and just one target.
If Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer believe that this is a team that can get to the playoffs and win the World Series with a roster tweak or two, then a managerial change may be necessary. If they feel that something grander in scale needs to be done to fix whatever is broken with his team, maybe he needs to move some of his better players, too. The Cubs could earn quite a haul in minor league prospects by moving any number of players and could retool in a way similar to what the Yankees started in 2016 when they traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.
If the team does need to make changes at the top, Maddon rightfully should be remembered as the greatest manager in the history of the organization. During previous regimes, the Cubs were cruising into the break just a game or two out of first place would have fans ecstatic. But this team is wounded and barely able to crawl.
Times have changed and expectations have, too. The Cubs are no longer expected to just be competitive. This is a team, with a corresponding payroll, that owes its fans a chance to finish the season as champions. Looking back at the last seven weeks or so, this team is playing nothing close to championship-caliber baseball.
A 4-5 year gig for a manager these days is a damn good run. In fact, only Bruce Bochy of the Giants and Clint Hurdle of the Pirates have longer tenure in the NL. The Cubs need to make a change somewhere, whether it is roster or managerial churn, or that championship window they keep talking about is going to slam shut pretty quickly.
Cubs News & Notes
- For a team that is struggling to plate runs, it seems almost impossible to believe that David Bote, who leads the team in hitting with RISP, sat again last night in favor of Addison Russell.
- The Cubs optioned Adbert Alzolay before yesterday’s game, activated Kyle Hendricks, and made a few other minor roster moves.
- An MRI revealed that Cole Hamels is dealing with a left oblique strain, and he’ll continue to receive treatment as the All-Star break approaches. The team is optimistic that the lefty will be able to embark on a rehab stint shortly after the break, though a timetable for his return has yet to be set.
- Maddon held his typical midseason meeting before yesterday’s game.
- As of now, Maddon has no plans to make major changes to the lineup or the top of the batting order, even after Jason Heyward extended his hitting streak to seven games. “I like him in the fifth or sixth spot,” the manager said. “Look at the names above him. Do you really want to unseat anybody? I really don’t think so.”
- The Cubs just can’t get Adam Frazier out. The outfielder had another huge game yesterday.
- JP Morosi of Fox Sports expects the Cubs to add pitching at the trade deadline (video). Morosi believes Homer Bailey of the Royals is a pitcher the Cubs should be considering. That would alleviate fans’ fears, right? Not so much.
How About That!
The Yankees’ home run streak has ended at 31 games and, to add insult to injury, the Bronx Bombers also lost to the Mets 4-2.
The Dodgers have baseball’s best record, in case you haven’t been watching. Pandemonium ensued last night as they literally walked off to beat the Diamondbacks last night. Arizona pitchers gave Los Angeles five consecutive free passes in the bottom of the 9th to lose 5-4 to their AL West rivals.
Christian Yelich hit his 31st home run of the season last night, though the Brewers lost to the Reds. It is genuinely amazing that the Cubs sit just a game out of first place. The last time a player had 31 taters at the break was 2009 when Albert Pujols did it for the Cardinals.
The Angels honored the Tyler Skaggs in the form of a jersey patch bearing his No. 45 and hung his jersey in their dugout. The Rangers, who hosted Los Angeles last night, painted Skaggs’ number on the back of the mound and honored him throughout the game with moments of silence in lieu of walk-up music.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Rafael Devers – The slugging third baseman was 4-for-5 with two taters and six ribeyes as the Red Sox bombed the Blue Jays 10-6. He’s good at baseball.
- Adam Frazier – Another big game for the Pirates outfielder, as Frazier went 4-for-4 with a home run, a double, and three RBI. He’s 9-for-10 in the first two games of the series.
- Elvis Andrus – The Rangers shortstop stole home last night, the third time he has done that this season. Andrus is the first player in franchise history to accomplish that feat.
The Cubs are one of the most hated teams in baseball, according to a social media data analysis by Casino Insider. Of course, Maddon didn’t agree with the results. Russell likable? And no mention of Kris Bryant? Oh, Papa Joe, this is just not a good look.
“Javy? People love Javy for the way he plays and things he does,” Maddon said. “Addison, Schwarber, Contreras…I could keep going down the list. I think our guys are likable, so it’s hard to wear the black hat. If you think about it, part of our attraction is we’re good, with some really good guys.”
They Said It
- “I wasn’t [in the meeting] talking numbers and cut-offs and relays and more batting practice. I was talking about some concepts that I think are important that we may have gotten away from.” – Joe Maddon
- “I feel comfortable right now hitting. [Hitting coach] Rick [Eckstein] and I have been working the past few days. I feel like I’m on to something, so if it’s leadoff or whatever, it doesn’t matter. It’s just you and the pitcher. Go hit.” – Adam Frazier
- “I left a change-up to Frazier and then I was trying to run one in on [Starling] Marte with a fastball. Those two got me, but other than that I thought my fastball command was better than expected, change-up was pretty good. It’s just good to be back out there.” – Kyle Hendricks
Wednesday Walk Up Song
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M. – Someone put an end to the miserable play or make some significant changes, please and thank you.