What went through your head on Wednesday as Willson Contreras grabbed his hamstring running down first base at AT&T Park? I'd tell you my reaction, but then your children wouldn't be able to read this particular Cubs blog any more.
I can tell you that I wasn't optimistic...not even a little. Honestly, even after some time to think and calm myself down, I'm still not that positive on the entire situation. It's not that I think the season is over or that the Cubs hopes of the playoffs are out the window. No, it's none of that. As it stands today, the Cubs are a game up on the Brewers for first place in the NL Central. They're in a good spot when it comes to the standings. And for that, I feel very optimistic. But at the same time, the injuries are piling up. And that's a problem.
Here's what it comes down to: we've been spoiled. Outside of the injuries that derailed both Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon's 2016 season, the Championship Cubs remained mystifyingly healthy throughout that entire year; something that lead them to win the World Series in the first place. Sure there were the early-on injuries for Javier Baez and Miguel Montero (and obviously Kyle Schwarber). But when it came down to crunch time, the guys the Cubs needed were out there playing. And they were playing well.
But the 2017 Cubs are a different story. Here are all the DL stints the Cubs have had this year:
- Brett Anderson
- Jason Heyward
- Kyle Hendricks
- Ben Zobrist
- Jason Heyward (again)
- John Lackey
- Addison Russell
- Koji Uehara
- Willson Contreras (presumably)
This list also doesn't include Kris Bryant, who somehow avoided a DL stint for his finger after an awkward head-first slide earlier in the season. He's had one homerun since July 17th, by the way.
That list includes not one, but two starters, your (sometimes) double play combination, and your Gold Glove right fielder.
That's not an ideal situation.
And now, you have your (some would argue) MVP candidate in Contreras gone for what sounds like could be an extended period of time. Here's Theo on a recent radio interview via Patrick Mooney:
“I don’t want to speculate about that,” Epstein told WSCR-AM 670. “If it was a typical hamstring strain, you’re usually looking at four-to-six weeks, and that would give him a chance to come back with a little bit of the season left. But it’s really premature.”
Prior to his injury, Contreras, simply put, was the Cubs offense. How do you replace that? Since the break, Willson has put together a second half that has earned him the fifth best fWAR in the National League with a slash line of .311/.380/.700. He also leads all of baseball with 29 RBI's in the second half.
So again, how do you replace that? You won't with Baez's 27.9 K%. You won't with Bryant's lingering finger issue that is affecting his power. You won't with Zobrist's wrist and .225 average. You won't with Addison's hurt foot.
(Anthony Rizzo. Please save us.)
I don't mean to be all doom and gloom. Again, they're leading the division. And that's a good thing. But they're hanging on... just barely. Willson Contreras going down doesn't help that situation.
Hopefully we'll find out today what the timetable is for Willy's return. And until said return happens, let's hope that solid starting pitching and a bit of Maddon-lineup-restructuring-magic can keep most of the water out of the ship.
Injuries happen. Simply put, the Cubs have been lucky to not have had to deal with a lot of them over the course of the past year or so. But playing baseball for extended periods of time takes it toll on the body (i.e. going deep in the playoffs). These types of things happen to a lot of teams. Let's just hope that when it comes to making a run, the Cubs have who they truly need on the field.