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November 2017

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COMMENTS

Was It a Successful Season?

Written by , Posted in General

It’s officially the offseason.  The World Series, barring some extraordinary happening (knock on wood), has ended, and the Cubs most recent reign as World Champions has come to an end.  At least they still have a division title to defend, and still have a young core that they can lean on for years to come.

So, was this season a successful one?  Offseason favorites in Vegas to start with, a rotation that featured the 2016 MLB ERA leader, Jake Arrieta entering a prove-it year, Kyle Schwarber ready for a full season of action after a World Series that resembled that of a deity than a mere mortal, a division that looked to be less than stellar after the Cubs…all signs were pointing to dynasty land.   A slow start was, perhaps, expected given the lengthy postseason.  April wasn’t unkind in that regard, finishing the month a couple games above .500 (13-11).

The wheels looked poised to fall off come May, as we were subjected to a month under .500 for what felt to be the first time in forever (it was actually just sometime in 2015, if I recall)–largely because they just couldn’t win on the road (2-10 on the month away from Wrigley), and suddenly the juggernaut that seemed most likely to go back-to-back of recent World Series winners were…in 3rd place, half a game closer to the bottom of the division than the top.  The gut punch came at the All-Star break, with an out-of-nowhere Milwaukee Brewers team holding 5.5 games on the Cubs, and the only team in the division at the time above .500.

What in the world went wrong?  Key players couldn’t make contact–remember Kyle Schwarber going down to Iowa to get his head straight (and how well that worked out).  The failed experiments of Eddie Butler and Brett Anderson in the rotation.  Starters going down with injuries.  Joe Maddon pulling starters to keep them fresh, while the bullpen flailed repeatedly.  Jake Arrieta looking like he didn’t actually want a massive contract.  Defensive issues.  Ben Zobrist playing way too much.  Pretty much the wrong outfield players all the time.  I could go on, but at the end of the day, this team had a LOT of warts.  Some of them came and went like a Kerry Wood blister, others stuck around like the mad on John Lackey’s face.

Yet, in the second half, the results were better, and flashes of the juggernaut this team could be were back.  Massive outbursts by the offense helped the Cubs score more runs than anyone else in the majors after the break, gaining 11.5 games overall on Milwaukee, and another division title.  Ultimately, after a tense series against Washington, the steam ran out against LA, and another season fell short in the NLCS–the 3rd time in a row concluded at Wrigley Field.

92 wins.  3rd straight playoff appearance. 2nd straight NL Central crown.  3rd straight NLCS appearance.  Maybe the long 2016 contributed to some of the flaws we discussed ad nauseum through the year.  Maybe some of it was luck finally going against the Cubs.  A good part of it was mis-management of the team accompanied by some ineffectual coaching (I’d still like to know a bit more as to why Chris Bosio was sent packing; there seems to be a story there that no one wants to tell).  To get through all that and get as far as they did, though, I can start keeping an eye on the offseason news pretty damn happy.  As long as some good moves are made moving into 2018, things should be okay.

Until then, there’s always last year.

  • Doc Raker

    I am sad, the baseball season is over. Go Blackhawks!

  • Sherm

    It’s hard to define success in major league sports these days. Did they make money? You know it. For the fans? I suppose it simply reflects on where you set the bar at the beginning of the season, and whether you adjusted it up or down during the season.

    Last year, they overcame some bad…let’s call it “arm management” and won anyway. We all thought “hey! That was FUN. They’ll probably do that again and again with this incredible collection of young talent.” Well, they didn’t do THAT again, but they did “well enough.” I think if you ask the Dodgers right now, and their fans, if the season was a success? They’d punch you in the face. They went a round further than the Cubs. The Nationals went a round less…and the manager got fired. Expectations. A dangerous thing in sports. The Yankees went further than ANYONE expected…and the manager got fired.

    Here’s the thing. At the end of 2016 I thought this team could and probably would dominate for at least several years. And they might – but they also might not, because watching these other teams: Astros, Dodgers, Indians, Yankees, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Red Sox…there is a shitload of great young talent out there – the Cubs are nowhere near cornering that market. They aren’t as good as I thought they’d be, and other clubs are better.

    So was it a success? I don’t know. I’m not upset that they didn’t win the WS. I really didn’t expect them to win it all again. I HOPED they would (hope, again) but realistically knew a lot had to go right for that to happen. I wanted to see them at least get back to the WS. The biggest disappointment for me was that they simply rolled over and died against the Dodgers. Maybe the silver lining in that is the ass-kicking from the Astros that we were all spared having to watch.

    Bosio? My opinion is that ownership and the FO was steaming mad about the implosion of the bullpen and when push came to shove Joe Maddon threw Chris Bosio under the bus. If it works, Maddon’s a genius. If not? Someone else must have screwed it up.

    • Adam Peters

      It’s not just talented youth. Where once it was just the Yankees who were willing to spend like a drunken sailor to win, now you can add the Tigers, Red Sox, and most of all the Dodgers to that list. Additionally, there were 4 more teams (including the Cubs) with payrolls >$170 million to start the 2017 season. Even the small market Astros, with all those really young players, had a $124 million payroll.

      The Dodgers followed the old Yankee model of paying whatever it took to keep their core of talent last year. They spent $70 million more than the Cubs did this season. $70 MILLION! That’s more than the Brewers’ and Rays’ entire payrolls.

      What’s my point? In the future it’s going to be harder to sign that big free agent pitcher, because instead of 1 or 2 teams, there are going to be half a dozen or more after that same guy. Which is just going to drive up the price more. And with the exception of Andy Pettite, that’s how the Yankees got all their starting pitching in those days.

      10 years ago the Cubs might have had a shot at a ’90s Yankees-type dynasty but they gained the fat ownership bankroll too late for it to be the advantage it once was.

  • I learned that raw talent is easily beaten by talent + strategy even if it’s less talent. The Cubs don’t lack talent. Sound strategy? Not so much. “Hope someone hits a few home runs” only gets you so far.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      This sums up the NLCS quite nicely. If the Cub batters had any strategy at all, they could have at least made the NLCS competitive. Instead they rolled over and let the Dodgers win easily. That was the difference between the Cubs and the Astros in their series against the Dodgers. Sherm is also correct in his assessment of the Astros, Dodgers, Indians, Yankees, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, and Brewers, there is a lot of youth on those teams and the Cubs will need to play with a strategy, if they are going to win any more World Series Titles.

      • Adam Peters

        I beg to differ that more offense could have made the Cubs competitive with the Dodgers.
        Sure, The Cubs scoring 8 runs in 5 games (all on home runs) had a little to do with them losing the NLCS 4-1, but the train wreck that was the bullpen really ensured they didn’t have a prayer against the Dodgers.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        But the Cubs did have a large number of one or two pitch ground ball outs in the series, if they ran up the pitch counts more they would have faced more than Morrow, Meada, and Jansen, then they could have done some of the damage the Astros did against the rest of the bullpen, just like the Dodgers did against our pitching..

      • Adam Peters

        Your point is taken about running up pitch counts, however, the Astros did damage against Morrow, Meada, and Jansen as well as everyone else. It’s a pretty big assumption that the Cubs could have done damage against anyone from the Dodgers bullpen.

      • Sherm

        Part of that, in retrospect, is on Dave Roberts, who seemed to panic just a little too early and rely a little too heavily on the pen…which, over the course of the entire playoffs wore them down. Ask Rich Hill. He’ll tell you.

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs front office and Len Kasper will sell the idea that the Cubs season was successful sine they made the NLCS for the third season in a row. But If the Cubs season was so successful why did so many coaches get fired?

    I agree about all the young talent in the league, it is unbelievable how much quality young talent is in the league now. For the Cubs to win again it will take adjustments and improvement from their young talent. Maybe without an off season of celebrating they can focus on getting better.

    • JTBarrett16

      Here’s my short list of things that individual player need to work on:
      Rizzo: Bunting. So he can get those free hits down the 3B line, instead of hitting a ground ball right at 2B playing the shift
      Schwarber: Same as Rizzo
      Baez: Pitch selection
      Lester: Throwing to 1B

      • Adam Peters

        Pitching Staff: Throwing strikes. Particularly early in the count.
        Schwarber: Getting traded to the AL.
        Heyward: Hitting for a respectable average.
        Almora: Getting Maddon to start you in center on a regular basis.
        Zobrist: Not playing as much.

      • Sherm

        I listened to the last two games mostly in the car, and they talked about an interview with Justin Verlander where he was asked if he felt comfortable giving young pitchers on his new team any advice…and if so, what advice would/did he give? Verlander said “I do give them advice – and it’s always the same thing. DON’T NIBBLE. Believe in YOUR strength and go after them. DON’T NIBBLE.”

        I want HIM for the Cub pitching coach. (And pitcher – and sadly? He WANTED to be a Cub. They’d emptied the bag already, unfortunately, but man could Edwards, et al. use a mentor like that.)

      • Adam Peters

        The irony: he nibbled like a hedgehog in Game 6 of the WS. He looked like Jon Lester from the other side.

      • Here’s my general team list of things to work on:
        see a lot of pitches
        slide directly into bags
        make strong throws from the outfield
        hustle to first
        be patient at the plate
        throw a lot of strikes
        strike out a lot but work deep into counts and hit a lot of homeruns
        play fundamental baseball

      • Here’s my list of things for fans to work on:
        sit behind safety nets
        be aware of foul balls
        watch out for Addison Russel’s bats
        keep eyes on the game
        cheer / boo only when appropriate
        don’t take too big of bites
        be careful when walking up or down steps
        loudly exclaim “he’s out” constantly

      • Michael S.

        If you send your bat flying into the stands mid-at-bat, you should have to finish the at-bat batless.

      • JTBarrett16

        And our pitchers would STILL walk the batter.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        You forgot the Addy Russel nacho rule.

    • Karen Hirsh

      I want to party with U!!!!!!!!! I could not have said it better.

      • I like where this is going.

      • Eddie Von White

        Ok – so it’s ok for us to party, but not the Cubs.

      • Seymour Butts

        You really don’t…but you might like CAPS. He’s a truly fascinating guy.

      • Yente 😍😍😍

      • Doc Raker

        If you have trouble sleeping I would suggest partying with Seymour. Where do you party? Boca Vista?

      • JTBarrett16

        I’m going to Disney World! That’s where I’m going to party.

      • Doc Raker

        I am worried about you CAPS, tOSU had a little glitch on Saturday. Are you OK? You are at the Happiest Place on Earth so embrace it, check out the Peter Pan ride, I always enjoyed flying over the houses of London

      • Sherm

        Little glitch. Completely shit the bed.

        Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to.

      • JTBarrett16

        Not only is Disney World the happiest place on earth it’s also the most bankrupting place on earth. Peter Pan is tomorrow. Have you ever been to the Florida parks or just Disneyland?

      • Doc Raker

        I was at Disneyworld and Epcot back in the early 80’s. Epcot had just opened so it was a long time ago. Di$ney is expensive but it is a special place.

      • JTBarrett16

        I’m staying with my roommate from my internship so I don’t have to shell out for lodging and he can get me in free to the parks.

      • Doc Raker

        So you will just go broke buying $12 diet cokes

      • JTBarrett16

        I’ll buy them before going into the park! Same with water etc. Bringing lunch too.

  • Colin Kruse

    As much as I’m disappointed that the Cubs couldn’t get that far in the playoffs, it was quite enjoyable to see the Dodgers choke in the World Series. I think that the Cubs are a move away from being the best team in baseball. Ideally, I think they could package Happ or Almora for some pitching. I’d hate to see Schwarber leave. Hopefully they do not touch Russell or Baez.

    • Doc Raker

      What move would that be? They should not move Almora, he is to valuable both defensively and offensively. Happ and or Schwarbs will be shopped.

      • Colin Kruse

        I’m interested to see how it will play out. I wouldn’t be surprised if Schwarb gets traded for a bullpen piece, but, at this point, it depends on how the front office approaches free agency.

      • Doc Raker

        I see, I thought you had 1 move in mind. I think Schwarbs is more valuable than a bullpen guy. Regardless of Schwarbs BA he is a special hitter with lot’s of power and has always done well as a DH. Stewards has to bring back an ace starter or I would not trade him. Schwarbs value will rise so I am hoping the FO is patient and trades him for an ace, whenever that would be, in the offseason or during the season at the trade deadline.