One week ago, many of our readers were upset because I had the gall to point out the disparity in playoff odds between the Cubs and Brewers despite the two teams being tied atop the division standings. What’s more, the Cubs were coming off of a win that saw them no-hit the Dodgers in LA. Things should have been looking up.
Instead, the only thing keeping the Cubs from yet another loss was a day off between Milwaukee and Cincinnati following an epic collapse in the finale against the Brewers. How do you send 12 men to the plate in the top of the 1st inning and score seven runs, only to end up being blown out by eight runs by the time it was all over? The result would have been shocking had it not been almost predictable given the way this team has played of late.
While there is technically a lot of baseball left as the Cubs start the actual second half of the season Friday in Cincinnati, there’s actually a lot less runway for them to get this plane back off the ground. The trade deadline is in 29 days and decisions will have to be made much earlier than that, so it’s not unfair to say this weekend feels like a turning point.
Oh, I agree, Pat.
The Cubs are just 1.5 games ahead of the Reds and 2.5 ahead of the Cardinals — who are facing the lowly Rockies — so it’s not inconceivable that Chicago could be in fourth place on the Fourth of July. On the other hand, a few fireworks could see the Cubs creeping back closer to the Brewers. If, that is, the Pirates can somehow manage not to be worthless for a few days.
The Cubs are going to need all the help they can get with Milwaukee looking like a much more complete team that is getting fantastic results from its starting rotation. Making up six games in the standings isn’t the least bit inconceivable, but the issue is that the Cubs really don’t have the whole second half to make up that ground. If they don’t show signs of life here very soon, the white flag is going to fly.
And I don’t mean the one with the blue W on it.
Take a look at the postseason odds chart above. I haven’t seen a cliff like that since Cheers, but that’s what happens when losing becomes the norm and every reliever starts looking like Mayday Malone.
If there’s anything positive to take away from a six-game skid in which things seem to be going wrong at all levels, it’s that those same things can start going right again just as quickly. Cincy could be the cure for what ails the Cubs, who then return home to face the Phillies and Cardinals for seven games before heading into the All-Star break. What’s more, Cubs players being drummed out of any starting spots means they’ll have very limited representation in Colorado and can use the time off to rest and reset.
Once the games start back up, the Cubs travel to Arizona to face the worst team in baseball for three, followed by four in St. Louis against the slumping Cards, then another three against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley. The month closes out with four at home against the Reds and a trip to DC to face Kyle Schwarber and the Nats.
You really couldn’t draw things up better if you got to make the schedule yourself.
I know I said earlier that this weekend could be a referendum on the future of the organization, and that could absolutely be the case, but it’s possible things will still be in flux even as late as the next series against the Reds. Knowing they’ve got a much easier row to hoe could give Jed Hoyer the patience to sit back and let things settle a bit longer. Of course, continuing to suck out loud means Hoyer’s hands will be tied.
First things first, the Cubs really need to get their you-know-what together and take care of business in Cincy.