Some Offense Would Make Cubs Rebuild an Easier Watch

Some Offense Would Make Cubs Rebuild an Easier Watch

I have been constantly trying to convince myself that this current edition of the Chicago Cubs can indeed be fun to watch.

There is only one problem though: when they don't hit, it really is a struggle.

The Cubs, who ended a 24-inning scoreless streak Friday, have been held to three or fewer runs in 8 of their 16 games this season. Nothing looks worse on your TV than an impotent offense. Nothing makes a club look more listless and lackadaisical than struggles at the plate. Bad offense can even make you question a team's effort.

Let's face it, the Cubs didn't look like they should have even bothered showing up in New York this past Tuesday.

I have tried to remind myself of how much fun I had as a kid watching some bad Cubs teams in the early 80's.  I have tried to jog memories of the days when I first became glued to my television, watching some sorry-ass ballclubs and enjoying every bit of it. Was it because I was young and naïve? Because I hadn’t yet gotten a taste of winning and didn’t know any better? I'm sure that factors in somehow.

Some of my favorite memories of watching the Cubs come from the beginning of the Dallas Green period, another rebuilding phase itself. I am brought back to those 1982/83 clubs, teams that were also fully under re-construction. Green was in the midst of pulling off what many Cubs fans had hoped for recently, and what current Cubs boss Theo Epstein originally planned on executing.

Rebuilding on parallel fronts.

It was actually fun to watch that thing develop and see it become incrementally better. You witnessed glimpses of what could be with some of the younger players at the time like Leon Durham, Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith. The issue with this current team is that, outside of watching the development of young building blocks Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro, it can be painful to watch, at least offensively. At times this offense is actually quite, well, offensive.

I have always prided myself as being a baseball fan that fully appreciates pitching and defense. Those are indeed the elements that actually win championships. I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the late-90’s slugfests either.

Back to the early stages of Green's Cubs, those teams could rake and the offense kept them in most games. They had some pre-PED power and it was mostly fun to watch regardless of the downright miserable pitching. Losing was usually a byproduct of the opposition putting the ball in the bleachers even more than the Cubs did.

Green knew early on that he had some quality bats on his hands; he also knew that if he could just add some arms, they could be onto something. The Cubs had younger core bats: Sandberg, Durham, Keith Moreland and Jody Davis, that were augmented by vets such as Bill Buckner and the new addition at the time, Ron Cey.

I looked back at the ’83 squad this morning on paper and came away actually surprised that the offense was as potent as I recalled. They ranked first in the NL in SLG % and 2nd in OPS. They had 4 regulars that boasted an .800 OPS. On the flipside, the pitching was even worse than I had recalled (dead last in league team ERA).

Throughout this current Cubs rebuild, it has been the offense that has been brutally bad, which is really not what most Cubs fans are accustomed to. When it came to all the clubs throughout the 70's and 80's that were either decent or bad, the common thread was they could hit, and hit for power. It was kind of a nice distraction from facing the fact that your team was bad.

I realize I'm at risk of sounding like old-time meatball Bears fans: "Sure dey lost, but de udder team knew who dey playt da week before. Am I right, my frents?"

Sorry if that is where I'm coming off, but you have to admit: it is at least entertaining when your team can hit. I’m not necessarily suggesting Epstein and Jed Hoyer should have constructed this thing any differently in order to appease us with some offensive entertainment.

But it wouldn’t have hurt though, not as much as watching 24 consecutive scoreless innings did.

The good news? The Cubs have bats coming soon, some powerful ones too.

As Harry Caray would say;

"Ooh for the long one".


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  • With Baez first struggling at the plate, then his minor injury and the fact that Bryant started in Tennessee I have to wonder if we will see either of them before September 1. I know that they won't be brought up if there's an injury. They will just plug in Valbuena or some other mope, or bring up someone from Iowa that, cards on the table, has no future with this team. So really are the exciting bats not coming for another 4 months or even next year?

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Baez by July? Bryant next spring.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I bet we get Bryant in 2014. They'll want him to start on Opening Day next year and need to get him some MLB at-bats. He's ready now.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Would love to see that Jimmy, just have a hunch it won't be this year.

  • Remember? It's all about 2016. Or was that 2116?

  • The two differences are:
    1. The Cubs won the division in 1984. So, even if they were under reconstruction in 82/83, they couldn't have been 2012/14 bad. Not even the 2012 Cubs were 2014 bad.

    2. Apparently Green brought a lot of talent from the Phillies system with him. Epstein had to sign a no raiding pact with Boston, and Rizzo is the only supposed savior. Ryno was not buried in the AA roster in 1982, and nobody was saying wait for him.

    While you were talking offense, Fergie Jenkins and Lee Smith were on the 1982 roster. Cubs now don't have a closer.

    Finally, among the "joys" of Wrigley Field (besides the beer garden atmosphere) was jumping into the net to retrieve a HR ball. You sure can't do that without offense.

  • In reply to jack:

    They were actually pretty bad in 82/83 I think about 70 wins in each year. Green added a lot to pitching in 84 and they surprised.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    They haven't won 70 in 2012 or 13, and the projection based on their current record is about 50.

    Also, it doesn't appear that Green totally gutted the team by each July trading deadline.

    Cubs history says 73 wins in 82, 71 in 83, and 96 in 1984. If there is supposed to be an analogy 30 years later, no way that the 2014 Cubs get to 86.

    Any analogous years to 82/83 would be 2010/11, but then once the "program" kicked in, 2012/2013 turned out to be approx. 10 games worse.

  • In reply to jack:

    Question was if they had a fun offense would it be easier to deal with?

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Looks like the Sox will provide the control on that experiment (although they are probably more analogous to the 82 Cubs in that Abreu and the several Garcias are not at Birmingham).

    The Sat. pasting of the Reds appeared like more fun than the last couple of weeks of no production. Unless there is a great pitchers' duel (and in that case, the Cubs would trade the pitcher), losing 9-8 is more fun that losing 2-0.

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    I covered the early years of Dallas Green in an piece from last month, and it was a quick turnaround, but also a quick drop-off. He really stocked the minors for the run at the end of the decade too though.

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