Castoff Cubs Playing Spoiler as Renewed Chemistry Fuels Winning Ways
The victor may get the spoils, but the spoilers are getting all the victories lately as the Cubs continue to rattle off wins after being left for dead. Not even the Good Samaritan would have been willing to help them in the wake of a 12-game losing streak — their second double-digit skid of the season — that fed into a 13-game run of futility at home.
Now, however, they’ve won eight of nine and are having fun doing it.
The Cubs have scored at least three runs in each of those games, their longest such stretch since going 10 games with three or more runs from April 29-May 9. They only went 7-3 over that earlier span, including a sweep of the Dodgers, but that was also a decidedly different roster than what we’re seeing these days. Even the manager is different, with bench coach Andy Green subbing for the COVID-quarantined David Ross.
Frank Schwindel‘s own family wasn’t aware that he was a real-live baseball player prior to July 30, now he’s the reigning NL Player of the Week and is on pace to make the Hall of Fame. Same for Patrick Wisdom, who went from garden variety Cardinals create-a-replacement to a masher in legitimate contention for Rookie of the Year.
The back end of the bullpen has been completely reworked and Alec Mills keeps winning games despite the Cubs treating his spot in the rotation like George Costanza at Play Now. Then there’s Adrian Sampson, who Games of Thrones’d his way into a starting role and very easily could have earned a win in what ended up being the Cubs’ only loss to the Reds this week.
“There’s a beauty in being cast aside and people start to doubt you that it really triggers inside some guys this really competitive nature,” Green told the media recently. “It really helps them become what people thought they could become. I think you look across our roster, it’s littered with guys in that category.”
Whether or to what extent you agree with the decision to trade away several star players, it’s hard to argue against the idea that the Cubs had become complacent. Theo Epstein spoke at length about the need to regain an edge or sense of urgency prior to an early departure from the organization that was predicated largely on the knowledge that a major shakeup would be needed.
Was a lot of the motivation for those deadline moves rooted in money? You bet your ass it was. At the same time, there appeared to have been a degree of organizational stagnation that, even if it wasn’t the fault of any particular individual, could only be reversed by wholesale changes to the roster. Much like Nick Castellanos was praised for showing his new teammates what it was like to be hungry, these new Cubs have brought a renewed appetite.
“The way they’re playing right now is nothing but amazing,” Willson Contreras shared. “The way they make adjustments in the game and the energy is there. I haven’t felt this way in a really long time and I like what I see. When I came back from my IL stint, I really loved the energy that we have right now and the chemistry is getting a lot better. I think the future’s bright and they’re gonna be really good.”
A lot of the fire you see on the field right now comes from these various player being overlooked for years and finally getting the chance to prove themselves. Even if they’re not playing for a chip, which is how the kids refer to a title, the chip on their collective shoulder is driving them to an unlikely — and not very timely — bout of success.
“They should take it personally,” Contreras said. “I know that a few guys have been in different organizations and right now they have the opportunity to be an everyday player with the Cubs and they’re doing amazing. No one expects them to be as good as they are right now. We have really good talent. I see that.”
If you’ve made it this far and have read other content here lately, you have probably reached the point at which you’re just enjoying what you can from a season that went off the rails in late June. The draft order really doesn’t matter much, particularly if Dan Kantrovitz keeps working his magic, so there’s nothing left other than take heart in the Cubs messing up other teams’ futures.