Sunday, June 24, 2018

Time to Blow Up the Cubs

It is not easy for this old Cub fan (since 1963), who will always be grateful for seeing them win a  World Series in 2016 and making a dream come true, to write this. As I write, the Cubs have just been swept by the last place Reds in embarrassing fashion. Oh yes, they are still only two games behind the Milwaukee Brewers and there is over a half a season to go. It is clear, however, that the current makeup of this team is a mess. Almost everyone with the notable exception of Albert Almora, is under-performing. Five players will strike out more than  100 times this year. Only one starting pitcher, John Lester, is having a truly good year. (Can you say, "Yu Darvish"?) In addition, the team has shown a amazing inability to get runners home when in scoring position with less than two outs. In short, this is a poorly coached team. With all the fanfare of hiring hitting coach Chili Davis, they still have not taught Javy Baez any plate discipline. The only things missing from this team are Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.

Image result for carlos zambrano

And it is a poorly managed team as well. Joe Maddon may run the happiest clubhouse in baseball, but his game management skills are atrocious especially when it comes to using his pitchers. Had the Cubs lost game 7 of the 2016 World Series, it would have been on Maddon trying to win the game with a three inning rotation of Kyle Hendricks, John Lester, and the arm weary Aroldis Chapman. Just when Hendricks and Lester found their groove, Maddon took them out. It was a classic case of over-managing that caused them to blow a 4-run lead before winning in the 10th inning.

Look at the way, "genius" Maddon makes out his lineup. Does he just draw the names out of a hat when it comes to who bats leadoff, cleanup, or 8th? And why does he not have Almora, who is hitting over .320 and gives you excellent defense, in center field more often? Half the time, Maddon prefers to put the underperforming Ian Happ in center  field, a position he does not even handle well.

Meanwhile, the farm system, which was built up so beautifully through trades and the draft, is barren. The prospects are now in the Cubs lineup with varying degrees of success.We had two blue chippers in Gleybar Torres, now starring for the Yankees (the Chapman trade), and Eloy Jimenez traded to the White Sox for the so-so performing Jose Quintana. Jimenez is tearing up with the White Sox double A team. Even the "genius" of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, which built the 2016 team, is open to question.

And we have these quandries:

Addison Russell. Good fielder whose power output has fallen off the map. In 2016 he hit 21 homers and drove in 95. Even though he is hitting in the .280s this year, his promise is still largely unfulfilled.

Kyle Schwarber. Yes, he will hit his 30 homers this year, but his average is still in the .230s with a projection of 50-60 rbis for the year. Big deal.

Javier Baez. He will hit 25-30 homers and his batting average is respectable in the .260s. He may even drive in 100 and he makes spectacular plays in the field. But what will he be five years from now-the same thing? He has so much potential.

Jason Heyward. An admirable performer, great in the field and a clubhouse leader. He has never lived up to his potential with the bat, hit horribly in 2016, and  has worked hard to get his average into the .270s (with little power).

Willson Contreras. A potential superstar catcher with a great arm. Last year he had over 20 homers and over 70 rbis. He will not come close to that this year though his average remains in the .270s-respectable.

Kyle Hendricks. The "professor" The "next Greg Maddux". His ERA is respectable, but he is giving up early homers-7 first inning homers just this year.

What is so frustrating is that if all these young players were playing up to their potential instead of just tantalizing us, the team should be unbeatable. But there is something missing in this team-a certain spark that they had in 2016. What I see now is a bunch of fat cats who are living off their 2016 press clippings. Anthony Rizzo is hitting in the .230s, and Kris Bryant has forgotten how to hit home runs and drive in runs as he inexplicably bats leadoff half the time. What's that all about?

There are options. No doubt the Cubs are considering trading Russell and possibly Happ and/or Schwarber to the Orioles for Manny Machado, who will be a free agent after this season. There is Bryce Harper's looming free agency next year and speculation he wants to play in Chicago with his pal Kris Bryant. Yet Harper is hitting in the .230s this year just like Rizzo.

If they want to make a deal that would save this season, they could make the Machado deal. Of course, if he signs elsewhere for 2019, once again the Cubs will be left with nothing next year a'la Chapman.

Or they could simply say thank you for 2016 and start unloading guys like Russell, Schwarber, Happ, Hendricks, Quintana, Darvish, and maybe the whole gang for the next round of blue chip prospects.

The first step, however, is to get rid of the quirky Maddon and bring some order to that fancy new clubhouse at Wrigley Field. The next step is to shake up the roster even if they sink to the bottom of the division behind the lowly Reds, who just swept them in four games.

The truth is I don't like this roster. I didn't like the way they mugged for the camera in front of the pitcher's mound in the 2015 playoffs after beating the Cardinals. They did it again in the 2016 playoffs. I didn't like the way some of them acted in the victory parade in Chicago after winning the World Series. Did you see Travis Wood standing on the stage shirtless with a beer can in his hand?

And there is something else I didn't like. A couple of weeks ago, on Mark Levin's radio show, he was discussing the national anthem issue involving NFL players who refused to stand. An older man called in who, like me, had been a Cub fan for many decades. He told of watching the Cubs play at St Louis on television recently. He stated that when they played the national anthem, the Cardinal players stood in front of the dugout with their caps over their chests while the Cubs sat in the dugout chatting. Coincidentally, the below picture is apparently from 2017.

Apparently, Maddon, in interviews, has stated that he leaves it to his players how to observe the anthem. So I don't know all the facts here, but if it is like the above picture, it just goes along with my perception of this team, with a few exceptions.

If I were Tom Ricketts (the owner), I would get rid of most of this roster including the manager. And if Epstein and Hoyer can't or won't do it, get rid of them too.

Now I feel better.

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