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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