Was It a Successful Season?
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.