There’s this weird quandary with the Cubs in which they’ve somehow remained in or near first place for the last three months despite playing poorly for much of that time. In that sense, they’ve been little more than polished turds from lipstick-wearing pigs.
Yes, being in first place is good and should be acknowledged. But since they were last at a season-high 11 games over .500 (29-18) on May 22, the Cubs have gone 18-25. That mark is the worst in the division over that time, with the Reds (19-19), Cardinals (19-20), Pirates (20-23), and Brewers (18-22) all boasting better records and tightening the division race to 4.5 games from top to bottom.
If you’re pointing to the Cubs’ standing as reason for hope, you’re missing the point that they’ve played bad baseball for well over a month and are in danger of falling into a hole as the second half opens. With Pittsburgh coming to town and Milwaukee hosting San Francisco, the Cubs can’t afford further mediocrity.
That’s reflected in their playoff odds, which now stand at just 72.8% as the rest of the division creeps up. Much of that is due to the Reds and Pirates, once left for dead at a combined 5.5%, have pushed to around 10% apiece. The saving grace here is that the Brewers have fallen off a cliff, dropping from 54% on July 1 to 37.5% as the second half opens.
With the trade deadline approaching and the Cubs in search of help to shore up “soft spots” on the roster, a hot second-half start is imperative. It may be better to conserve energy by drafting when you’re racing, but you want to be out front breaking wind in this case. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.
You know what, on second thought, the Cubs have kind of been farting along for a while so I guess it works. With 11 divisional games between now and the end of the month, they’ve got a real chance to push that lead back to something more comfortable. Or maybe they can just bust out more Revlon and polish rags.