Three weeks ago, no one thought the Cubs would be in their current position as likely sellers at the trade deadline. Umpteen losses and a bunch of frustration later, though, and here we are: talking about which players might get moved, firing off frustrated tweets and over-analyzing exactly what went wrong. As I've watched fans, media and players express their thoughts and feelings on the current state of the Cubs, I've developed my own takes on what's happening and honestly? I'm kind of sick of everyone. Yes folks, this might be the farticle that gets me canceled. You might even hate me after reading it. Just remember, though, when you take medicine it tastes terrible, but it's for your own good. That said, here are my hot taeks on the current Cubs. Dive in with me, won't you?
1) No one in this core should get an extension unless their initials are K.B.
While we clutch our pearls over whether the Cubs core should or shouldn't stay together, two of the three have made it a little easier for me to say goodbye this season if that's how it shakes out. Javy Baez is fun. Javy Baez is a great defensive player. Javy Baez has also seemingly regressed to his 2016 pitch recognition and has a 103 wRC+. We'll talk about Anthony Rizzo's issues in a sec, but if I'm Jed Hoyer I'm hesitant to commit any long term money to either one of them since it seems they haven't adapted well to how pitching has changed around MLB. The only guy I'm bringing back is All Star utility man Kris Bryant. Whatever happens from here, whether it's a retool (which is still very possible with how much money is coming off the books) or a rebuild, a shake up is needed and I honestly don't think Baez or Rizzo need to be part of its success.
2) Relatedly, Rizzo should have taken the Cubs offer.
It's been rumored that the Cubs offered Anthony Rizzo a 5-year, $70 million extension before the start of the 2021 season. Cubs fans and media members alike clutched their pearls at the offer, even though it was fairly consistent with the AAV the Yankees gave D.J. LeMahieu, although for a shorter term. Rizzo himself even got salty in the press about it and acted insulted, which I found rather offputting since his last season wasn't exactly All Star material. Rizzo has a recent history of missing increasingly significant time with his back issues, and while he *was* the picture of consistency, that's starting to change:
Now, I know that it's fun to do the hashtags and what not, but if I'm the Cubs and watch Rizzo every day, I might not want to give him a big, long-term deal. Especially when he's missing more time every year with his back and his offensive production is in a 2-year decline. Unless he has a monster second half, it's gonna look like he made a major mistake not taking that offer. Plus, if we keep acting like his INTANGIBLES, whatever those are, are what we want the team to pay for, that makes us no better than the BFIB fawning over their Not-A-Hall-of-Fame catcher. Let's not be those guys, kay?
3) The Cubs should find a taker for Jason Heyward immediately and start munching that salary!
The one thing the Cubs haven't done well is offload big contracts that are sucking up their resources. I like Jason Heyward as much as the next fan (except the ones who give up on him over his vaccination status), but he's just not contributing to the team they way they need him to. Even his defense, based on the eye test, looks to have lost a step this season, and he's virtually useless. The Dodgers have been masters at eating salary on contracts like this (see how they offloaded Matt Kemp a few years ago), and it's time for the Cubs to do the same with Heyward. Surely someone could use a lefty bat and some decent defense in the outfield.
4) Ian Happ should have been sent to Iowa a month ago.
The times of MVPan are over, as the situation with Ian Happ is just as bad as it was in 2019 when he started the season in Iowa. He's currently sitting at .184/.295/.631 with a 75 OPS+ which is not exactly what you'd call... good. Why haven't the Cubs sent him down yet? What benefit is there to the team OR to Ian Happ to continue getting sporadic at bats on the big squad when he's ont getting on base and not getting it done with RISP? Yes, he's had very bad BABIP luck this season, but allowing him to languish on the Cubs isn't doing anyone any good unless they're just that desperate for a body in the outfield. I guess it's a good thing he's already working on his post-baseball career with his coffee company and his podcast. At this rate, he might need it earlier than he planned.
5) The Cubs vaccination status has absolutely nothing to do with their win/loss record.
The tornado that a few Cubs beat "reporters" tried to create around players' COVID vaccination status and how it could impact the team's record this season was, frankly, ridiculous. Full disclosure--I'm fully vaccinated. Also full disclosure--my vaccination status is no one's business unless I want to divulge it. I believe everyone should get vaccinated, but at this point if people don't want to I'm certainly not going to show up at their doorsteps with pitchforks. People have reasons. Free will, even. It's still a thing. This goes for members of the Chicago Cubs, too. Their vaccination status is none of our business, and frankly the witch hunting by some fans and harassing of Cubs WAGs over the issue has been downright embarrassing. I'll never meet any of those players, so why do I care if they're vaxxed? That should be the concern of their families and teammates. Science shows that if you're vaccinated you have a much reduced chance of contracting COVID-19 or getting extremely ill should you get it. If you're vaxxed, why do you care if Jake Arrieta or Anthony Rizzo are? You're not spending any time with them. Let them be.
OH, and it's got nothing to do with the team's struggles. If getting vaxxed helped performance, then Javy should be able to actually recognize a slider, Willy should be able to get a hit without running into an out and Ian shouldn't be having a comparable season to Michael A. Taylor. However, all of those things are happening despite those gentlemen having their fully functioning 5G or whatever. We all know Kris Bryant is the only perfect Cub anyway, so why do we care about any of these other guys' vax status? They should just stop sucking whether they've been jabbed or not. Or in Rossy's words:
6) Jon Lester is just as bad as Jake.
Hi. I'm gonna need you to take a look at something:
Now, I know Jake laid another egg on 7/6 after I pulled these stats, and if you want to keep arguing that the Cubs should have re-signed Lester instead of Jake, be my guest. The fact remains: THEY'RE BOTH BAD. QED.
7) Victor Caratini would not save this team.
While we're looking at stats:
Is it better than the Cubs' back up catching core has done? Sure. Is it good? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I love Vic, but Vic is what Vic is: a serviceable back up catcher. We would probably have that if our catching situation was like the drummer spot in Spinal Tap.
8) Pining for Nick Castellanos is a pointless exercise.
I'll admit I wasn't sold on bringing Nick Castellanos back to the Cubs. He cooled way off in September when he was with the team in 2019, his defense is, by all measures, terrible, and nothing about his career numbers indicated he would have the type of year he's having with the Reds right now. Even in 2020 he got off to a mega hot start, then fell way off in the last two-thirds and finished with a pretty crappy year all around. Am I saying this season is an anomaly for Nick? Well, based on his career numbers, I generally would expect him to fall off during the second half and finish with more level numbers overall. Either that, or he's having a career year that he probably won't ever match again. Not to mention the drastic nature of his home/away splits:
Regardless, the Cubs couldn't have seen this coming, hindsight is awesome, the Cubs aren't moving to the Great American Ball Park anytime soon, and there's no point in continuing to torture yourself over it. Besides, if he had never gone to the Reds, we would have never gotten a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run. And so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame.
9) All those other guys you wanted the Cubs to get wouldn't help now because they're the same as the guys the Cubs already have.
Bryce Harper. Manny Machado. Francisco Lindor. Nolan Arenado. All guys Cubs fans have wanted the team to acquire over the past several years. The problem is that they're all guys who are pretty much doing the same thing as the guys we have--relying on slugging, not making a ton of contact, and with the exception of Harper, not getting on base at a high clip. We already have, like, 100 of those guys on the team. We need a few more Nicos or maybe a Trea Turner (hey, he's a free agent in 2022!) to get on base in case one of the sluggers can actually, you know, not strike out. Too many of the same guy is a bad idea. We should know this already.
10) Cubs fans were better before 2015.
If you've never met Yankees fans, let me tell you: They can be challenging. I know this because I am married to one. (Hi hon! Love you! No offense!) Yankees fans make it impossibly difficult for players to come to New York and be successful because of the pressure to win under the guise of "high expectations." What it really is, though, is setting the team up to fail and then stomping on them when they do.
I lament that Cubs fans have become more like Yankees fans than I'd like to admit. It's almost like we've forgotten what it was like before 2016. I've seen more threats by people to leave the fan base and go follow other teams in the last month than I think I ever did before the World Series win. A lot of these are the same fans selling unlicensed merch that looks like Cubs gear and making money off of other Cubs fans at the same time. Are we spoiled? Is it just heat of the moment dooming? Whatever it is, I've used the mute function on Twitter a whole lot in the past month. It's really a godsend. (And don't buy fake, unlicensed merch, people. That's not cool.) And if you're going to threaten to leave and go be, like, a Padres fan? Just do it already. Don't con Cubs fans out of money on the way out, though. That's tacky.
11) The Ricketts family might want the Cubs to lose, but that would be really dumb.
Some folks like to blame #CheapRicketts for the team's failures.
So much for MORALE.
The notion that Cubs ownership, which has spent among the top 5 in MLB payroll annually since the Cubs won the World Series up until this year, actually want the team to lose is one of the most baffling ideas going around Cubs fandom right now. Ownership needs people buying tickets, merchandise, concessions and other things to, you know, MAKE MONEY. Why would they not want the team to win? Before the big Losing Streak (yes, it deserves to be capitalized), Jed was talking about the Cubs being active buyers at the trade deadline. Fans had dreams of Max Scherzer or Kyle Gibson or other adds that would possibly push the team to the division finish line. Unless I missed something and it was Tom Ricketts on the field striking out with RISP or getting shelled with a 7-run lead, fans' anger is *slightly* misplaced.
The Cubs have spent. Whether you like how they've filled in the roster or not, they've spent money. Jon Lester. Craig Kimbrel. Nick Castellanos. Yu Darvish. Jose Quintana. Tyler Chatwood. Jason Heyward. Ben Zobrist. Brandon Morrow. Joc Pederson. Jake Arrieta. Daniel Murphy. All of these were either off-season acquisitions or mid-season adds that at the time seemed like they would boost team's chances. Whether they all worked out or not is pretty moot to the conversation if we're just claiming that ownership is cheap. They haven't been. And if you're just translating your hatred of the Ricketts' politics over to their ownership of the team, then you might want to find another pastime besides rooting for teams owned by absurdly rich people who like to keep their money.
Not to mention that this is the core roster Theo left the team with. While we can continue to blast the Yu Darvish trade, the real culprit here is the lack of contact bats in the order. The injuries to Matt Duffy and Nico Hoerner were super unfortunate, and just happened to coincide with the Cubs downturn in wins. Why? Because the other guys slug more, make contact less. That unbalance is still Theo's fault and has nothing to do with the budget. Yes, I said the "b-word." If you don't like teams having a budget, blame the CBA. Every team games the competitive balance tax. Yes, the Dodgers do it. Yes, the Yankees do too. The Cubs just haven't done it as successfully, which goes back to my point: blame Theo if you don't like the roster. Money has been spent. Also, remember: if you want the Cubs to be more like the Dodgers, it took them until 2020 to win a World Series in a COVID-shortened season, even with all their supposed brilliant moves. The Dodgers are not a panacea.
They're also stuck with this absolute loser for the rest of the year.
Ultimately, the Cubs roster as constructed is fundamentally flawed for today's MLB pitching. The repeated crashes year over year have proven that, and adding one super expensive hitter wouldn't have solved that problem. Maybe it's just time to break this up and see what the sum of some different parts could do. But please, I beseech the Cubs... keep KB.