Over the past few years, it seems some Cubs fans have gone from having no expectations to completely unrealistic expectations. Just yesterday when I mentioned it was not the Cubs day on Twitter, there were a few responses saying that it's not been their day for the past few games or the past week.
Yeah, maybe. But so what?
This is a 162 game season. There will be ups and downs for every team -- even the best ones. Even the 1908 Cubs lost 4 games in a row where they were outscored 34-10, including 22-2 in the middle games of that stretch. The mighty 1927 Yankees had a stretch right about this time in their own season where they lost 5 of 8 games. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the gang scored just 11 runs in those 5 losses (and 2 or less in four of them).
We live in an era of extreme polarization. It seems that we often are able to see only one extreme or the other. When the Cubs seemed nearly invincible, we reveled in their record and run differential. When they've lost a few games, we start picking holes on their roster and contemplating trades for major players that they suddenly can't win without. The team with the top ERA in baseball and the 3rd best FIP now needs another top of the rotation starter? The 7th best bullpen now needs to risk a deal for Aroldis Chapman, a player who doesn't fit the makeup profile the Cubs value so highly?
And if it's not trades, it's premature promotions. I think we're sometimes conditioned to conflate success with upward mobility. When we do well in our work, we expect to move up. When players do well in the minors, one of the first questions I get is, "When are these players going to get promoted?"
The minor leagues are there for the development of players. In an ideal world, they do not get promoted simply because they are doing well. They get promoted when the scouts, development staff, and front office determine they are ready to handle the next level on more than just the physical aspects of the game.
Players like Albert Almora and Willson Contreras can no doubt compete physically at the MLB level right now, but Almora still needs to work on an approach that can still get overly aggressive at times. It will be exploited by quality MLB pitchers in a way that AAA pitchers cannot. Contreras is probably ready offensively and from the physical aspects of his defensive position (blocking pitches, throwing out base stealers, etc.), but do you really want a rookie who is still relatively inexperienced at the position handling a veteran staff that is the most productive rotation in baseball right now?
This is not to say the Cubs don't have areas to improve. They do and they will be addressed whether it is from within or outside the organization. They will cross that bridge when they get there. They will make moves when the opportunity presents itself, much as they have as they've built this team from laughing stock to legitimate World Series contender.
This is a season we should be enjoying. The Cubs are among the best in baseball -- and by most measures, they are the best. They are a team that excels in all areas of the game, but they are also a relatively young team that is still in the process of getting better, but as was noted earlier, even the best teams of all time have had stretches where they did not play well. It's just baseball when you are competing at the highest level. Every team has the talent to win against any other team on any given day. The best teams will win these games more often but they will not win them all.
On May 10th, the Cubs were 25-6, which put them on a pace to win 130 games. That is absolutely unsustainable. Even today, they are 29-13 and on a pace to win 112 games. That isn't going to happen either. For those who are already worried about the Cubs today, consider that their play from here to the last 3/4 of the season will not be as good as it has been in the first quarter. They will not sustain the pace they have set to this point in the season.
The Cubs have 120 games left. If they win at last year's pace from here on out, a .599 win pct, to be exact (and a win pct that is 91 pts. lower than their current pace), they will win 101 games. The 1984 World Series Tigers team that started 35-5 went a very solid, but not unearthly 69-53 (.566, the pace of a 92 win team) the rest of the way. If the Cubs finish at that pace, they will win 97 games. Even if the Cubs finish at just a .556 pace from here on out (the win pct. of a 90 win team), they will win 96 games this year. Even if they go just .500 the rest of the way -- something even the most pessimistic fan doesn't expect, they will still win 89 games.
Just as we had to be careful to keep our perspective when the Cubs were 25-6, we can't lose perspective when they go on a relatively cold streak. It was inevitable. The Cubs are still a very good team, perhaps even a great one -- but no team can be great all the time. There will be stretches, like this one, where they will look very beatable, but there will also be more stretches later where they appear to be unbeatable again. We can certainly get excited when they win 8-1 and disappointed when they lose 1-0, but we should also understand that neither result fully defines this Cubs team. They are a mix of both those results and many others we will see throughout the season. When all is said and done, this will be a very good team with a realistic chance to be the last team standing. It's not often we can say that, so let's just enjoy the ride while keeping the perspective that this is a long season.
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