The Rundown: Cubs Mathematically Eliminated, Changes Coming Soon, Maddon Clarifies Comments

The Cubs will be playing out the string on the 2019 season now, though, with an eight-game losing streak it’s just status quo at this point. Anthony Rizzo summed up things quite succinctly, sparing me the need to come up with something better.

“You set out goals in the spring you want to accomplish as an organization,” the first baseman said. “We didn’t. We held ourselves to a high standard and it’s up to everyone to figure out why. Why didn’t we come together and win?”

The answers lie right at our feet and there are many, but if you dig deep enough it all comes down to sloppy play. The Cubs lead the league in making outs on the bases. They’ve missed opportunities to drive home runners in scoring position too many times. They struggled to field the ball properly. Yes, there were injuries, but when the season started we lauded the Cubs depth. That was a mirage of sorts, because when pressed, the reserves failed to provide any big moments. The bullpen put up decent enough numbers but blew more saves than any other team in baseball.

The reality of it is the Cubs are a .500 team that looks spectacular when they are blowing teams out, but absolutely listless in games where the outcome remains in doubt until the late innings. For the second straight year they’ve made very beatable opposing pitchers look like Cy Young candidates. That reads like the “lack of preparation” primer.

There is upside to the season, and that’s Nico Hoerner, who proved that he can play at this level. And it’s not just about replacing Addison Russell in the lineup and on the roster. Because the Cubs like to employ multi-positional players, they ended the season with nine players capable of playing second base or shortstop. With Hoerner and Javier Báez looking like the middle infield of the foreseeable future, perhaps the Cubs can eliminate much of that redundancy. Trying to find at-bats for all of those players may have compromised the team’s ability to win ball games. I believe in a well-rested team as much as anybody, but not at the sake of consistency.

“Inconsistency” is probably the best word to sum up Chicago’s season. On any given night, nobody knew which version of the Cubs was going to show up. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer now have five months to build a championship roster before camp starts in February. In the meantime, the offseason officially kicks off on or about October 31. And hey, it’s only 182 days until the 2020 season opener. Wait ’til next year.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Joe Maddon would like to know as soon as the season ends if Epstein and Hoyer intend to bring him back. “You can’t hurt my feeling by telling me the truth.”
  • Despite the dreary season, the skipper remains optimistic about his future.
  • Maddon clarified that when he said on his WSCR-AM 670 radio show earlier in the day that he was “optimistic,” he meant optimistic about his future whether he is retained or not. “I don’t know,” he said of his chances of returning.
  • Maddon certainly has the endorsement of Jon Lester and many of the other veterans.
  • If Papa Joe is not asked to return, David Ross sounds like he may be ready to take his place, and the challenge of returning the Cubs to the playoffs.
  • Epstein laid to rest any rumors that suggested he or any of his front office staff would be leaving to take a position with the Red Sox. “I’m here [with the Cubs],” Epstein said Wednesday, per Jesse Rogers of ESPN. “We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we’re accustomed to. I’m invested in that. That’s what I’m focused on.”

How About That!

No team is hotter than the Brewers right now, and just like last year, they’ll enter the playoffs on a fantastic September run.

The Twins are officially AL Central champs for the first time since 2010. The odds are against it happening, but all of Milwaukee is hoping for a Twins-Brewers World Series. Brew City fans dislike everything about Minnesota.

The Cardinals lead over the Brewers for the NL Central title has shrunk to a game and half. It would be poetic justice, at least for many Cubs fans, if Chicago can eny the Cardinals the division crown this weekend. Don’t hold your breath, though.

If there was any lingering love between Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper and Nationals fans, it’s all over after fans apparently crossed some lines during the final two innings of last night’s game. Harper said he was eager to get back to Philadelphia and the great fans there.

Astros starter Zack Greinke took a no-hitter into the 9th inning last night before giving up a single to Mariners’ rookie Austin Nola with one out. It’s unfathomable that Greinke is a number three starter, but Houston boasts Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander at the top of their rotation. They’ll be tough to beat in the postseason.

Ronald Acuña Jr. will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a groin strain. That ends his quest to be the first 40/40 player since Alfonso Soriano did it in 2006. The star sophomore should be ready for the playoffs.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Zack Greinke – The Astros’ hurler improved his record to 8-1 since being traded by the Diamondbacks in shutting out the Mariners over 8.1 innings. Greinke allowed just two hits while striking out nine Seattle batters.
  2. Charlie Morton – The Rays’ ace came up huge in a huge game as Tampa Bay defeated the Yankees 4-0. Morton had nine strikeouts in six innings of one-hit baseball, keeping the Rays a game and a half ahead of the Indians for the second AL Wild Card spot.
  3. Cubs Fans – It’s been a disappointing season but the interaction of Cubs fans has been fun and entertaining, both here and on social media. Thank you all.

Extra Innings

They Said It

  • “At the end of the day, winning’s winning and that’s what I show up for. This season sucked.” – Jon Lester
  • “There’s no way around it. It sucks. I wish I could have done more.”Nick Castellanos
  • “We have the best organization in the league. We have an owner who cares, a front office who cares, players who care, a coaching staff who cares, so I don’t believe we’re just going to go away and not do well again.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “When you have the worst possible outcome, like we’ve had, it reveals everything. As painful as it can be it creates a real opportunity to learn from it and grow. The thing that gets you excited, even in the face of this adversity, is waking up and trying to build the next Cubs championship team.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

Hide in Your Shell by Supertramp. The string of Cubs’ playoff appearances is over.

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