“The Chicago Cubs 2017 season may have ended on October 19 with an 11-1 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS, but for many of us, disappointment in the team’s performance during that run lingers. The bullpen struggles, the anemic hitting, 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant’s admission that the team was “tired” after a no more than usually grueling season. Writer Steve Greenberg of The Chicago Sun-Times wrote on October 18, “Sadly, the whole world can tell…It’s almost like this team is out of gas, wheezing to the finish line, already half in bed and going to sleep.”
Cub fans of all philosophies agreed that changes need to be made in advance of the 2018 season. However we didn’t get much time to consider what those changes could and should look like before the organization embarked on its own version of “Black Monday,” the “Savage Last Full Week of October.”
Perhaps the purge was unavoidable. But what’s especially jarring – and has become the central storyline as opposed to a narrative about the team refining and retuning – is Joe Maddon’s long-running and very recent insistence that all was well in the clubhouse.”
“How about 9-2 since July 11? Sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? Looks and feels different too. Our cross-town rivals, The White Sox, were kind enough to part with starting pitcher Jose Quintana on July 13, and Q has quickly proven a valuable addition to the Cubbies’ bruised staff of hurlers. His July 16 debut at Camden Yards was verifiably historic, with Quintana fanning 12 batters over seven innings – without allowing a run. Holy Cow! A commanding announcement that the Epstein administration’s eye for the right talent at the right time remains unclouded.
The batting averages clearly have room for growth but Kris Bryant is leading the pack at a respectable .278 (at the time of publication). Wilson Contreras is the best catcher in baseball and in the middle of a red-hot hitting streak. Fan favorite Kyle Schwarber is back from a stint in the minors and crawling from the bottom. And the outfield is much better with a healthy Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward.
Yes indeed Wrigleyville Nation. Things are looking up. The Cubs remain a half-game behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers, but have widened the gap considerably between themselves and the rest of the NL Central. Can we all just take a moment to savor a fourth-place Cardinals club (with all-due love to Dexter Fowler)?
As I mentioned in a Facebook post yesterday, I’m always elated to #FlyTheW. I’m certainly not looking for trouble. That said, and despite all the winning, there’s a few…curious variables at play. Some strange things are afoot with some of our key players that could impact current momentum. As wizened, sober residents of Wrigleyville Nation, we need to keep our eyes on the following…”
“Happ’s fresh face, enthusiasm and strong performance serve as potent reminders that the Cubs are a young team with crazy potential only just tapped. They may be down, but there’s no reason to call them out with half a season left to play.
And we conclude our survey of great doings in Wrigleyville Nation with a public service reminder that Javy Baez is featured in ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue 2017. At the risk of objectifying a talented athlete, the visuals are stunning. I may be happily engaged to a wonderful, smart and funny man, but it’s not as though I’ve lost my sight. I recall well the furor over Jake Arrieta’s similarly uncovered show of athleticism, but was not nearly….shall we say….affected by it.
I believe I speak for many fans of the human physique when I say: Go, Cubs Go!”
“Are the Cubs in danger of returning to the inglorious old power hitting show pony days? With more than half of the season left to play, it’s too soon to draw hard conclusions. It’s clear however that a shakeup is needed. How about that Anthony Rizzo with the leadoff production? A step in the right direction, and I don’t mean just the first baseman’s ability to generate early momentum for the Cubs. It’s also the fun and the confidence – two spiritual elements sorely lacking as the team struggles. Check out what he told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat after Wednesday’s game:
‘I’m statistically the greatest leadoff hitter of all time…I’d like to retire there and talk smack to everyone who tries to do it. You just go with it, it’s fun. To go back to back there [in the first], the dugout is really loose. Statistically, by the books, to lead off the game, I’m the best ever is, right now.’
Right on Tony. We are the World Series Champs! We have earned the swagger and deserve to have fun with it. To hell with over caution. We need to re-embrace the target and let other teams fire, rather than shooting ourselves in the foot.”
“Anything to take the edge off the reality that the 2016 World Series Champions are a .500 team. Last week was a trying one for the Cubbies and members of Wrigleyville Nation. A road sweep by the Los Angeles Dodgers and a disastrous Monday start to the San Diego series. I believe All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo bespoke the surprise and frustration of many fans in a post-game interview exchange transcribed by Comcast Sports Network (CSN):
‘Rizzo couldn’t believe it – ‘Did we walk 10 times?’ – when a reporter mentioned another part of the box score. ‘That’s a formula that usually shoots out more than two runs.’
Indeed, Tony. Indeed. Rizzo continued his extended foray into understatement by concluding, ‘It’s not all peachy right now…We got urgency. We’re grinding. We got a lot of guys that grind and will continue to – no matter what. We’ll keep playing hard…that’s really all you can do.
Nothing seems to be working the way it should for the Cubs. The starting pitching rotation has struggled to bring down a combined 4.58 ERA. After high hopes and much praise for the unconventional genius of the move, Kyle Schwarber has done nothing in the leadoff hitting position, and has been haphazard at best in the field. Addison Russell remains a defensive phenom – with a bat as cold as ice.
“This term I’m fortunate to have a student in class, Jack, who happens to be a member of the Chicago Cubs security team. When we first met in January, he was already well aware of the NEIU staff’s biggest Cubs fan (There was no formal competition and I crowned myself. But I digress…). So he knew to mention that he’d be receiving a 2016 World Series ring of his own once the 2017 season commenced. Overcome by equal parts excitement and jealousy, I insisted he bring that bad boy to our final class session for an undergrad version of show and tell.
Because I’m someone who tends to enjoy ball busting generally, and more specifically where people I mentor are involved, I’ve sprinkled empty threats full of ring pilfering wishful thinking throughout the term. I’ve also suggested I’ll secure a wealthy patron to make Jack an irrefutable financial offer, bewitch said patron with my considerable charms and take the beautiful ring home. I have an active baseball imagination anyway and when it comes to World Series 2016 mementos, I’m essentially Gollum with more hair.”
“I hadn’t watched an episode of Dancing with the Stars in years. And I don’t suppose anything other than a member of the 2016 World Series Chicago Cubs accepting the challenge to compete would have enticed me to return. This is an abnormal moment in American history. The former host of The Apprentice is now Commander-in-Chief. And the spiritual leader of the greatest Cubs team in modern history is faithfully shaking his sequined moneymaker every week on live TV. How can I reasonably stay away?
I admit that when I first learned Rossy would take on ballroom dancing, the idea seemed to make as much sense as giving a thirsty person a glass of saltwater. After years spent in a crouched position racking up concussions, no way was David Ross a threat to flexible fellow contestants like Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Simon Biles. But the catcher is retired from baseball and always demonstrated a flair for the silly in the Cubs dugout (treat yourself to this video of Rossy playing air drums during Phil Collins classic “In the Air Tonight”). Why not try something scary and new?”