Imagine a scenario where you could make a statement that Rafael Ortega is being wasted by being on such a terrible team and it isn’t a farce. I mean, clearly Rafael Ortega never gets this kind of look if the Cubs are healthy and competitive. So it’s not an accurate statement. But at the same time, strangely enough, Rafael is popping up on lists with Joey Votto, Russ Springer and Bryce Harper. That would be highest OPS in baseball over the last 30 days. Do we have to go back to the infamous season of Bryan LaHair, All-Star to find a Cub with mediocre talent flat out raking for this long of a period of time? It indeed has gone on so long and been so dominant that I just hate that the team is so bad and the accolades are so empty.
I did say a few weeks ago that while this season is circling (and now going down) the drain, I’d be watching for mundane sports achievements. Certainly, when the Cubs picked up Andrew Romine to go with Austin Romine, I hoped they’d get a chance to play together. I certainly hope that the injury that got Austin back with the big league club is a lot more “injury” than injury. You certainly hate for anything to happen to Willson Contreras. But, if it is some much deserved time off, good for him. For a guy with his amount of pride, all of this losing has to be just awful.
By my eye, Willson has looked surly since sometime in early May. I don’t know if the contract situations of his teammates, some in-house strife, or something in his personal life seems like it has been bothering him. Two examples of that being at or near the surface were his dugout squabble with Anthony Rizzo and his spouting off to the media about some guys not trying as hard as he and Javier Báez do. Willson was actually a better leader than that way back when he was a rookie getting his feet wet at the major league level. In a world where we were privy to what is going on behind the scenes, I suspect we’d learn that there are some off the field things going on his life. He doesn’t owe it to us to ever reveal any of that. I’ll just hope that whatever it is works out and he can get back to being the affable guy we all fell in love with so long ago.
Anyway, I meandered away from my point which was mundane sports achievements. Not only did the Romine brothers get to play together, in the span of a few hours they were first in uniform together, then on the field and then pitcher and catcher together. There aren’t going to be a lot of “ideal” moments in the rest of the Cubs season. And certainly there couldn’t be an “ideal” moment for those two to enjoy that moment. But how fun is that? If Kris Bryant were still here, I’d have been rooting for him to start a game at second and maybe pitch to a batter or two in another blowout game.
A 17-4 loss is obviously no laughing matter. But I do think you can laugh in the moment. Certainly, Andrew Romine hitting 80 on the radar gun is pretty comical. I do think you can find the humor in things, even on an awful day. They don’t let you pack up and go home either during a hideous game or for the rest of the season. You’ve got to play. You’ve got to try to find some learning moments and respect development. But mostly you just want it to end.
I found it humorous myself this weekend seeing Cubs fans talking about how embarrassing this team is and how hard it is to watch these things. The Cubs basically gave you permission to start your offseason early. I’ve got to write about this thing another 40-plus times. Al and Josh and the rest of the front page writers have to try to find stories and things to talk about. I at least get the comfort of “go to the numbers” and just pain by numbers. It’s certainly hard to find things that feel even vaguely interesting to say when you know that so much of the audience is already tuning out and if they aren’t tuned out they are frustrated.
Find the fun in this where you can. Pick some guys to root for. Pick other teams to cheer for in the playoffs. Be it teams with guys who we traded for or rooting against the ”bad guys.” I picked a great year to move to Tampa. I’m really hoping to not only be at playoff baseball, I’m hoping to get to root against the Yankees and/or White Sox. Maybe I’ll get on TV. I’ll be the one in the Cubs jersey. I’m not turning on my team. They’re battered and beaten for now. But they will rise again.
This isn’t your father’s franchise. This team has a much more cohesive plan even in a bad year than they had all of those years in the past. I can’t guarantee you they’ll win another series in the next five, 10 or even 20 years. My crystal ball isn’t that good. But I bet that the next twenty will be another one of the best stretches in Cubs history. We can’t be guaranteed that there will be a run as good as 2015-2019. But I know they’ll be back in the postseason. I know there will be plenty more 90-win teams. I know that they’ll win playoff series. Return to the NLCS. Maybe return to the World Series. They haven’t lost one of the latter in more than 70 years now.
Let’s go to the numbers. 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 117, August 12: Brewers 17 at Cubs 4 (52-65)
- Superhero: Rafael Ortega (.077). 1-2, BB, RBI
- Hero: Andrew Romine (.024). 0-5, K
- Sidekick: David Bote (.001). 0-4, BB, R
- Billy Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.380). 4IP (25 batters faced), 11H, BB, 9R, 3K, HBP (L 13-5)
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.070). 1-5, HR(18), RBI, R, DP
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.067). 1-5, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Jace Peterson batted with a runner on second and no outs in the first inning, the Brewers already up one. He launched a two-run homer to increase that lead to three and the rout was on. (.121)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Rafael Ortega came to the plate with his team down four. He drew a walk and picked up an RBI in the process. (.059)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Frank Schwindel (2-2, HR, 2B, RBI, 2R)
Greg Deichman (2-4, 2K)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Rafael Ortega +21 (+3)
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +15 (-2)
- *Nico Hoerner +12
- Zach Davies -9
- *PJ Higgins -9.5
- Rex Brothers -11.5
- Jake Arrieta -19
- Ian Happ -24 (-1)
Up Next: The Cubs head down here to Florida to play the Marlins. Between an impending tropical storm, and my first trip back to Illinois to move my youngest into college for the fall, I will not be making the trip down to Miami to see that park for the first time. Maybe next year. The Cubs will start Adbert Alzolay in the opener. Adbert continues to show signs of improvement, but he does continue to also land on the wrong side of the ledger. He’s 4-12 with a 4.71 ERA. He’ll face Jesus Luzardo. Luzardo is 3-5 with a 7.36 ERA. That ERA comes over 15 appearances and 47⅔ innings, so he’s had a really rough go of it. He got knocked around really hard in Colorado in his last start, allowing seven earned runs in just 4⅔ innings of work. That will do ugly things to your ERA. This looks like the best chance the Cubs have had at a win on paper in more than a week.