I know that today was a tough day for most Cubs fans. And for once, that has relatively little to do with the somewhat lifeless game they played this afternoon against the Reds. For the third straight day the Cubs were simply overmatched by the Reds. I’m thankful at least that whatever happened in May subsided early enough to make it clear what the Cubs should be doing. In that regard, the Brewers probably simultaneously did the Cubs a favor and themselves a disservice.
Had the Brewers not trounced the Cubs so badly to date, the Cubs would be in contention. They might have considered trading from what isn’t exactly a world-beating minor league system to go for one last hurrah with this core. As fans, we sure would have loved that. But it would surely have ended awkwardly and all too abruptly like the last four seasons have. So the Cubs were pushed clearly into the path of being sellers and so that helps them for the future. At the same time, National League contenders engaged in some kind arms race. The Brewers have a talented starting rotation and Craig Counsell is as good a game manager as anyone in MLB today. But the Padres and Dodgers in particular are trying to cobble together super-teams. Things might have gotten a bit easier for the Brewers in the Central, but a whole lot harder come playoff time.
I’ll say this about the last few weeks. The Cubs have handled this month about as well as they could. I know we all hate to see Anthony Rizzo traded to the Yankees. I’m sure there were about 25 or so teams we’d have rather seen him traded to before the Yankees. If you saw his comments about being traded to the Yankees. It is certainly possible that he views them as the evil empire as many of us do. Or it’s also possible that his comments about being traded to a storied franchise and having a chance to win again are legit and not just lip service. I don’t doubt he is sad to be leaving Chicago. But it’s possible that given that if he was going to be traded, he’s happy with the destination. I know I saw in a place or two that he was being kept apprised of the situation throughout.
So circling back, the Cubs had to unload expiring contracts. They had to improve the long term talent level of the organization. They started doing that early this year with the trades of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini and it will continue on through to the trade deadline by which the Cubs will almost certainly have off loaded Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel if not also Zach Davies and Jake Marisnick.
This is what you do when you aren’t a legit contender. You trade expiring contracts and improve the long term talent level of your organization. All of you should be old enough to remember the last sell off and rebuild. That one took years. I don’t know that this one will. But if it does, it does. For years I was a frustrated Cub fan because they always just put a band-aid on things until each band-aid was only covering up a part of each problem and there were leaks everywhere. They never had a cohesive plan.
I’ve also been frustrated the last few years because they slowly drifted back into band-aid land. Each year it was a new slew of relievers, maybe a new starting pitcher, maybe a bench bat or two. But with Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, to name a few, traded off, the waves stopped coming. When Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ underwhelmed, there wasn’t much of anything. Even with the possibly promising Nico Hoerner in the pipeline, there just isn’t enough top-level talent. Put simply, the Cubs had to start getting back to trying to produce waves of talent rather than just one-off talent.
If you want to have a problem with the Cubs front office, it shouldn’t be what they have done from the Yu Darvish trade forward. It should be that this team was built for some awful kind of purgatory. With the remaining core still together, they were just good enough to be competitive. But not enough to be a contender. The fact that the Cubs and the core players were far apart on contract terms isn’t a new development. This was all foreseeable. But the Cubs basically just drift through the mine field as is.
So this team was sent into the 2021 season largely set up to fail. If I were to argue that they should have done something differently it would be that they should have considered trading off more players earlier as they did with Darvish. Most likely Rizzo and Bryant at least had more value earlier. Perhaps the relievers all built their value to where it is in season. But for those two hitters, the more games you could have of them, the more valuable they were. You had to somehow move on from purgatory if you weren’t going to budge on what you were willing to pay them and they had clearly declined what you felt was your best offer.
It all sucks. But here we are. Let’s go to the numbers and look at what happened on the field. There was at least one very good performance. As you’ll recall, the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high-leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. And now, let’s get to the results.
Game 104, July 29: Reds 7 at Cubs 4 (50-54)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.344). 2-4, HR, (17), 2RBI, R, 2K
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.024). 1-3, BB, R, K
- Sidekick: Jake Jewell (.007). 1⅓ IP (6 batters faced), H, BB, 0R, 3K
- Billy Goat: Alec Mills (-.262). 6IP (27 batters faced), 9H, 0BB, 4R (3ER), 0K, HBP (L 4-4)
- Goat: Trevor Megill (-.226). 0IP (3 batters faced), 3H, 0BB, 3R, 0K
- Kid: Matt Duffy (-.152). 0-4, K, DP
WPA Play of the Game: Willson Contreras batted with a runner on first and two outs in the fifth inning, the Cubs trailing by one. He slugged a two-run homer and gave the Cubs a lead. (.304)
*Reds Play of the Game: Tucker Barnhart batted with the bases loaded and one out against Alec Mills, the Cubs still leading by one. He singled and two runs scored giving the Reds back the lead (for good). (206)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 4/Bottom 4)
I’ve talked about this in the past and today is as good a day as there ever will be to make the announcement. For as long as I shall run this feature on Bleed Cubbie Blue, the season-long award shall be known as the Rizzo Award. Anthony was (and is) the only multiple-time winner of the season-long standings for Heroes and Goats. Anthony won first place in the inaugural year of 2014. He followed that up with a win in 2015. He then slumped all of the way down to third place in 2016. Then he won again in 2017. He was fifth in 2018 and won again in 2019. So going forward, the award shall be known for a guy who won first place the first two times this feature existed and four times in the first six years. Without further ado, the top four contenders for the Rizzo (and also the bottom four)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Nico Hoerner +12
- Patrick Wisdom +11
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Rex Brothers -10.5
- Jake Arrieta -14
- Ian Happ -16
Up Next: Silly season begins Friday night in Washington D.C. The Nationals have traded Max Scherzer, Brad Hand, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber and Daniel Hudson. At this writing, the Cubs have traded Anthony Rizzo, Joc Pederson, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin. Surely before the game is played at least two more Cubs will be traded and I’m not here to rule out that the Nationals can’t find anyone else to trade.
As for the game Friday night? Two teams that have been gutted of much of their star talent will go at it. Trevor Williams should be the starter for the Cubs. Trevor is 4-2 despite a 5.06 ERA. Trevor has been fairly good at home and not so much on the road. The Nationals had not named a starter at the time I was writing this. Ironically, if the one website I did see someone listed is accurate, it will be Jon Lester starting against the Cubs. Did we need more feels?