What if I told you that a baseball team had the third-best record in its league and that its bullpen had the best ERA in that same league? And what if you found out that five members of said team’s starting lineup were 25 years old or younger? What if I then told you that no active player on the roster was earning as much as $6 million this season?
Is that a team you’d be interested in? If this was an investment, it’d be one you’d want to get in on the ground floor of, something you could easily see paying huge dividends down the road, right? And now, with five queries in five sentences, I’ll shift to statements.
The team in question here is the Chicago Cubs, though the timeframe has been narrowed to include only the month of August. Also, I cheated by counting Jorge Soler as a part of the lineup. Even so, as Tom Loxas astutely pointed out the other day, this is typically the time when the Cubs fold.
Just like their patented fake rallies in the late innings, in which the Cubs score a couple of runs and inflate our hopes before sticking a pin in them, the team usually looks good at some point in the summer, only to inevitably devolve into suckitude by August.
But it’s not just this month that the Cubs have been playing well. If you go back to May 31st, they’ve actually been over .500; granted, it’s just 1 game over (40-39), but still. The current 4-game winning streak has bolstered the warm fuzzies of all the new prospects coming up and has started to generate some long-forgotten feelings for Cubs fans.
It’s almost getting to the point now where you expect the Cubs to be able to win ballgames. And not just cross your fingers and hope for the best, but a belief that they have players on the roster who can actually compete at the Major League level.
Yes, there are still flaws for days, many of which aren’t going away anytime soon. As Ryan Davis wrote earlier, this isn’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows, even if there are some new additions in the offseason. But damn if it isn’t a lot more fulfilling to flip on WGN or CSN Chicago these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still laugh in your face if you told me that you thought the Cubs could make a push for the Wild Card this season. But there is one distinct possibility looming, and that’s finishing ahead of someone in the Central. The flagging Reds look as though they’re just filling out the return address in order to mail the rest of the season in. Heck, Joey Votto already has.
Finishing ahead of the Reds would be sweet indeed. Not enough to offset the nauseating prospect of the Brewers finishing atop the division, but I draw a great deal of satisfaction from seeing Great American Ballpark regain the title of Wrigley Southeast.
With one more win this month, the Cubs will guarantee a .500 August, an almost unthinkable proposition a couple months ago. And while they won’t be in the post-season, the fact that 13 of their remaining 31 games will come against either the Brewers or the Cardinals means that the Cubs can have a heavy hand in determining who is.
So enjoy the next five weeks, Cubs fans. They may be the last in which you can really watch the team through the lens of low expectation.