The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

I Can Fix the Cubs

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So why does a team that won 95 games this season need to be fixed, anyhow?  Simple.  They didn’t play to their potential.  They have one of the most talented lineups in baseball, and should be lacing ’em up as I write this.  Instead, we’re watching other teams in the playoffs.  Or even other sports.  Welcome to new expectations, Cubs fans.  “Wait ’til next year” is no longer the optimistic rallying cry, and it shouldn’t be with the salary numbers the Cubs are posting and the potential that exists in their lineup.  “You’d better win it next year” is far more realistic, and should continue to be the expectation for at least the next 3-4 years.

Remember… way back in the day?

I’m more than familiar with what the Cubs faced this season.  A top-tier pitcher who went 1-3 in eight starts and didn’t pitch at all after May 20.  A former MVP and perennial candidate who only played 102 games and never found his power.  A top-tier closer who saved 22 games but none after July 18 due to injury.  But still, Joe Maddon pulled through.  “Smoke and mirrors,” they said.  And it’s true.  It takes a high degree of talent and genius to take any team with those problems as far as they went.  But smoke and mirrors doesn’t work in the playoffs.  Power pitching shatters the glass; timely hitting and the ability to manufacture runs aerates most ballparks, home or away.  Unfortunately, the Cubs were still playing “smoke and mirrors” when they needed to change the game plan.  But you can’t change into a new mode you never really utilized throughout the season.

First, we need a full-time lead-off hitter.  I’m hoping that Daniel Murphy wasn’t a summer rental.  He hit .297 for the Cubs, a lot of that coming from the lead-off spot.  But you know Joe Maddon, the “mad scientist.”  He’d rather use the “lead-off by committee” approach.  I don’t think anybody knew who was leading off most days until they showed up at the ballpark.  And while it’s been fun to watch Anthony Rizzo dig in to start games, it’s little more than a gimmick.  Management backs Maddon on this.  The days of Dexter Fowler are long gone, but we need them back.  So if Murphy hits lead off and plays second base (his natural position), what becomes of Javier Baez?  He moves to shortstop.  But what becomes of Addison Russell?  Goodbye.  The club needs to maintain integrity, and being so closely linked to a second player who has faced (and and continues to face) domestic abuse charges is too much for the Cubs to maintain respect across their entire fan base.  Character counts, not just for individuals, but also for franchises.

Speaking of “mad scientist” Joe, it’s also time to give Ben Zobrist a firm handshake and slap on the back and say thanks, but goodbye.  I like the guy plenty, but he’s a reason why Joe is so experimental.  The guy can play so many positions that it’s tempting to put him in wherever on any given day.  But Zo is past his years and can no longer excel at a single position day in and day out while still producing at the plate.  He’s getting in the way of several players making it to the club from the minors and having a decent stay to see how they’ll work out, and that’s a helluva good reason to let Zo go.

Kyle Schwarber?  Gone.  I like that guy plenty, too, but he’s a career-ending injury waiting to happen so long as he has to endure the grind of NL play.  He can’t do it with his frame, even with his tremendous weight loss last off season.  Get him to an AL club, and he’s got years and years left in him as a quality DH.  Certainly other clubs see this and somebody out there is willing to part with a top-tier starting pitcher.

What?  Another top-tier starting pitcher?  Yes.  I hope like crazy that Darvish rehabs and comes back to live up to his salary.  But we’ll need more than Darvish.  Jon Lester is on the backside of his career.  He’s hopefully got two more years as a top-tier starter.  Outside Kyle Hendricks, who improved later in the season, the rest of the staff includes a trio of innings-eaters in Cole Hamels, Mike Montgomery, and Jose Quintana.  That’s great.  Every team needs a few hurlers who are a cinch for 6-8 innings every time out.  The bats will pick up for them so long as they keep the team in the game.  Hamels plans on retiring after next year, so there’s need for help now, or at least the ability to develop potential help.  So, more dominant pitching, please.

Bullpens fluctuate a lot year to year on most teams, so I don’t see the Cubs struggles there as fatal flaws.  We have some solid middle relievers.  Morrow will be back next season to close out games with authority.  Bench players like David Bote and Albert Almora, Jr., and Ian Happ are great and should stick around, as should Tommy LaStella.  But how about a solid, everyday batting order?  Beyond having a consistent lead-off hitter, power in the power positions every day would be a refreshing change, wouldn’t it?  Rizzo and Bryant in the three and four slots would look downright traditional.  And I guess that’s what I’m getting at.  Traditional practices in baseball are traditional for a reason—because they work.  A lot of people will say, “But no, that’s not how Joe Maddon works.  That’s not why the Cubs hired him.”  I see that.  He’s a great manager, despite his meddling almost costing the Cubs the World Series in ’16.  But there’s no need for so much experimentation.  It ends up getting in the way of traditional practices when those are most needed (i.e. the playoffs).  Take the pieces you have, which top to bottom are among the tops in baseball, learn and use much, much more classic baseball strategy, and watch the Cubs return to glory next year.  If Joe can’t or won’t do that, then goodbye, Joe.



Written by seeker70

October 8, 2018 at 8:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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