After 142 games played and the Cubs current 4.5 game deficit behind the St. Louis Cardinals for sole possession of first place in the NL Central, it’s about time to objectively assess this team and admit the ever-daunting realization fans have been avoiding all season: the Cubs are an average baseball team. While it’s easy to compare the current Cubs core to that 2016 World Series team and see an immense similarity in names on the roster, the fact of the matter is that this team has regressed in every facet of the game since that season. It’s mid-September, and rationalizing why the Cubs are still World Series contenders by pointing at the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Willson Contreras on the roster sheet, is over.
Some fans may feel like this is an overreaction, as the Cubs are still 1.5 games up in the second Wild Card spot and reaching the postseason is still very much in play. Having said that, scoreboard watching the Arizona Diamondbacks in September is not exactly what this World Series window was supposed to entail. Thinking this Cubs team is a World Series contender or even an NL pennant contender, is completely delusional. The facts speak for themselves, and they imply the Cubs are really a .500 team. They are 29-41 on the road, which is fourth-worst in the National League. In their last 103 games, they are 51-52. Other than that 13-2 stretch in April/May, they are 63-64. The Cubs simply have been incapable of stringing together consecutive wins since that stretch at the beginning of the season. They win five, and then they’ll lose four. They go 6-3 in a home stretch and then follow it up with a 2-7 road stretch. All season the Cubs have proven they are a brutally average baseball team, and after 142 games of showcasing this, it is not going to change. It’s about time Cubs fans take the blinders off and realize this team is filled with a bunch of talented individuals not playing up to their collective potential. All season long the sum has been less than the aggregate parts.
As stated previously, this roster is eerily similar to that 103-win regular season team in 2016, which I mentioned in an article last month. Why the massive drop off in production? Nobody knows, but it feels like this team is broken mentally. While other teams, namely the St. Louis Cardinals, are ascending and playing their best baseball as the regular season comes to a close, the Cubs are lifeless. There is zero sense of urgency with this team, and Joe Maddon is not the type of manager to call people out and change the pervasive complacency that is evident in the clubhouse. After sweeping the Mets on the road against three ace-caliber pitchers and looking like the team would finally put their foot on the gas pedal and win the division, they are 4-5 since. This is yet another example of how inconsistent and average this team is.
The only positive Cubs fans can hold onto as this season comes to a close is that postseason baseball is not the NBA. The best team does not always win. It’s still entirely possible the Cubs make a deep run in the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Heck, with seven head-to-head matchups with the Cardinals remaining, winning the division is not out of the realm of possibility either. But the point is that the Cubs have proven absolutely nothing for any reasonable fan to expect that to happen. The Cubs are looking at two straight seasons of being the most talented team in the division, yet falling short. The only positive thing to look forward to if this season ends the way it looks like it will is the fact that the 2020 Cubs, both from the manager and player perspective, will look significantly different. The Cubs have needed a change of environment for a year and a half now, but it’s better late than never, right?
Featured Photo: AP