By: Alex Patt
June 22nd, the Chicago Cubs are tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central. They sport a +24 run differential and eight games above .500.
The morning of July 5th, the Cubs return home from a 1-9 road trip and are 8.5 games back of the Brewers, sport a -5 run differential. Their postseason odds have dipped 46.3% in the past 30 days.
It’s over. This season. This era. This core.
Cubs fans know the situation with Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez being on contract years. We know the team already had intentions of using this year to start looking at the future with the Yu Darvish trade. We saw the team spend little over the past several years to improve the roster depth. We saw the organization fail to produce enough valuable assets within the system after the core came up in 2014/2015.
Zero playoff wins since 2017. Offense “breaking” at the worst possible times. Half-assed rosters due to saving money. Enough.
This core delivered the ultimate gift in 2016, and I will always be grateful for that. That team will always have a place in my heart. They were supposed to keep it up for years to come, and they simply have not. Competitive? Yes, they have not had a losing season since 2014 (that streak could end this year) but they have been treading water since the collapse of 2018, and have not been nearly good enough to return to glory.
This past week sealed the deal. The clock officially hit zero.
Last Wednesday the Cubs jumped to a 7-0 lead in Milwaukee in the first inning. I said to myself, “How are they going to blow this?” Next thing I knew when I saw the score an hour or so later. the Brewers DOUBLED up the Cubs and the game was not even half-over. This is where we are at. In my humble opinion, this era of Chicago Cubs baseball officially died that afternoon. Management cannot continue to go forward with trying to make something this faulty work. It has not worked in several years. This is the team we saw in April, again in June, and now in July. May was fun, but it was an unsustainable fluke. The classic Cubs “Boom or Bust”.
The trade deadline is approaching and I think Hoyer knows what to do.
Sell! Sell! Sell!
It has to be to the point where everything is on the table. Not saying Hoyer should force anything, but he cannot look at veteran players and not at least shop them. Bryant and Kimbrel are at peak value, they are your two top-trade candidates. Explore others like Baez, Willson Contreras. Leave no possibilities out. Sell time. I do not like the fact that we have to, but it’s just time to change the guard on the North Side.
Do the Cubs try to keep one core guy? They might, and maybe they should. That said, make that determination after the deadline and see what you can get for some of these guys. I still think Rizzo stays around. Restock the farm. Focus on development. Hope the next wave of prospects can give you something, because their farm is not that great right now.
Do the Cubs take more of a “retool” approach than full rebuild approach this offseason? Like the 2016 Yankees? Maybe, if they are willing to spend money this offseason. Just not sure how you can sell off and then retool in this scenario. Unless they sell and then make some free agent splashes this offseason while keeping some guys around. That could get tricky though, but it also depends on what kind of potential prospects come back. If they get prospects like they got in the Darvish deal…then that could be the signal a lengthier rebuild. Hopefully the Cubs can get stock up on prospects that are closer to the Bigs than not.
I can certainly say I am glad I am not in Hoyer’s position. Theo Epstein got out at the right time and Hoyer has to clean up the mess. All I can say is that it is time for a big shakeup and a new era.
I do not want to make this overly personal towards the players. I certainly could not go out and play baseball at a professional level, but I can see when things are not working. This past week could end up being the best possible thing to happen to the Cubs in the long run. Do not leave anymore doubt in the eyes of management, time to look towards the future. Rebuild, retool, whatever. Time to sell.
It is sad that this era, that started SO great, has to end like this. Thinking back to the three NLCS appearances and the elusive World Series title we all had waited for. I wish I could go back and remind myself that nothing is guaranteed and not take the championship for granted. I truly believed this core was going to be flirting with a dynasty. Something that is SO hard to do in baseball. This did not end abruptly either, but a slow and agonizing downfall. The 2018 collapse, the 2019 bullpen mess, the awful showing in the 2020 playoffs, and now this. Had the Cubs won 2-3 World Series and this was happening while everyone was in their 30s and winding down, I think fans would be more understanding and at peace. Kind of like when the Blackhawks started falling off after three Stanley Cups.
This downfall happened in what was supposed to be part of their prime window to keep contending for titles. That is what hurts.
Was this era a failure? Of course not! Winning a World Series and seeing five out of six years of playoffs is something living Cubs have had never witnessed. They won more playoff games from 2015-2017 than they had from 1945-2014. It just ended up being disappointing since we expected much more.
Cannot dwell on the shortcomings of 2017-2021 anymore. Cannot try to reanalyze what the core is for the millionth time. It is time for a new era and a new vision. I certainly would not wish ill on any current players that could potentially be on the move. We might be upset with the team now, but give it 5-10 years after they are gone and we will be remembering our past heroes fondly, like we did for so many teams that did not win the World Series. Time heals wounds and makes us treasure the good and remember less of the shortcomings.
Buckle up, Cubs fans. It could get a hell lot worse before it gets better.