The respite from losing only lasted a single day. Another rough start for a starter, another big early hole. Another time it probably didn’t matter because the offense was missing in action. Thursday night’s game was so much the same as so many other recent games. This refrain has become all too familiar. This team shifted from contender to playing out the string faster than any Cubs team I can remember.
Sure, they’ll tell you otherwise in that locker room. They are fighting til the last out. They haven’t quit. But the results just don’t show it. There’s just too little effectiveness. Is the whole team hurt? We’re long past the point in the season where most players in most locker rooms are dealing with aches, pains, pulls and strains. The grind of a baseball season is long and hard and I can’t even imagine the toll it has on these guys on and off the field.
But I’m not seeing a team with fight in it. I’m not seeing a team that recognizes that the band is going to get broken up. One has to wonder if that’s because the band started getting broken up a long time ago. Travis Wood became ineffective. John Lackey retired. Addison Russell was a bad guy. Jon Lester was cast aside. Jake Arrieta had been swapped out for a better model. Kyle Schwarber was replaced with a guy who seems an awful lot like the same player, only with fewer home runs.
This is a business. The owners have told the players that a million ways to Sunday. The players put on a brave face. They tell us about the team like atmosphere. But they are human beings. They know that this management group doesn’t appear to have come close to re-signing any of the core players. So one by one, they’ll be scattered to the wind. They’ll all be traded off for younger players. Or they’ll be allowed to leave in free agency if the team can pick up a few extra draft picks.
Sure, they paid lip service to bringing back two guys who were part of one of the greatest trades in Cubs history. But the ghost of Pedro Strop and the ghost of Jake Arrieta didn’t have a lot left in the tank. And so we got to watch them be less than the titans they once were. But it wasn’t really the two of them. By and large all of the core players are less than the titans they once were.
This group originally looked like it was a runaway juggernaut. A team that would lay waste to the National League, the Yankees of the Central. A team with a deep well of financial resources in a city where players love to play. A new tradition of winning. But instead of a juggernaut, they were a shooting star. Oh, that star flew high. It won a championship. Played in multiple league championship series. But like Icarus, they flew too close to the sun. And now they are all burned out. And we get to watch them painfully drift into oblivion.
This is the least fun I’ve had watching Cubs baseball since 1997 when they started out 0-14. That team was one of the first ones I looked at and thought that the ownership group wasn’t even trying. That it was a team built to lose. This one sure as heck wasn’t built to win. I can only imagine sending these guys out with at best three quarters of a team was demoralizing. Then the struggles came, almost right out of the gate. They fought back. But fighting back short handed is exhausting. Their lack of depth, particularly in the starting rotation was crushing. Of course, they also had some pretty bad luck with groupings of injuries in the lineup. When Kris Bryant got banged up, the offense started to drag.
There just weren’t enough weapons to fight the good fight. And now, they are playing like a team walking the plank. They know that any time now there will be the first round of hugs. This front office prides itself on striking early and not waiting for the full market to develop. I can only imagine a Jake Marisnick or a Zach Davies or an Andrew Chafin will be heading out sooner than later on a minor deal. All of those guys are new around here. But eventually, the hugs will be for one of the core. And then another. Some may go in season. But most won’t be back by next season.
This organization wasn’t interested in a reload. So clearly, a rebuild is coming. The memories of the last one are still painful. Fortunately, that one ended in a championship. I don’t have to think on it a lot, I’d take the Marlins’ lot in life. Most years they aren’t good, but every so often they put it together and win a championship. Supplementing a home-grown core with mercenaries. It can work. It usually doesn’t. But sometimes it does. Don’t mind me, I’ll be at the beach while that all works itself out.
Let’s go to the numbers and recap another blowout loss. 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 88, July 8: Phillies 8 at Cubs 0 (43-45)
- Superhero: Jason Heyward (.017). 1-4, SB, 2K
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.004). 1-4, K
- Sidekick: Adam Morgan/Sergio Alcantara (.000). Morgan: IP (5 batters faced, H, BB, 0R, K; Alcantara: 1-3
- Billy Goat: Adbert Alzolay (-.170). 5 innings (21 batters faced), 5H, BB, 4R, 5K (L 4-9)
- Goat: Robinson Chirinos (-.083). 0-2, 2BB, K
- Kid: Joc Pederson (-.077). 0-4, K
WPA Play of the Game: With a runner on second and two outs in the fifth, the Phillies were leading the Cubs 2-0 when Brad Miller stepped to the plate against Adbert Alzolay. He slugged a two-run homer. (.142)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With runners on first and third with one out in the second, the game was still scoreless. That’s when Adbert Alzolay struck out Alec Bohm (.070)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave in comments)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Kris Bryant +17
- Jake Marisnick +13
- David Bote/PJ Higgins/Eric Sogard -9.5
- Willson Contreras -10.5
- Jake Arrieta -14
Up Next: The Cardinals come to town for a weekend series starting Friday afternoon. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound in the opener. Kyle is coming off of a tough start, but on the season he is 10-4 with a 3.83 ERA. He’s still tied for the most wins in baseball (for whatever that stat is worth). He’ll face Wade LeBlanc. He’s 0-1 with a 4.24 ERA. I’d never heard of him before this. The Cubs have little experience against him, with the bulk of that being by Jake Marisnick and Robinson Chirinos.