The other day, during the Cubs' series against the Houston Astros at Wrigley, Anno jokingly posted that the Cubs were only 10 games under .500 and could still go on a tear and get to .500 to end the season. While that is technically true and the Cubs are far from mathematically eliminated (yet), with trade season coming up and various assets about to be moved, it's going to be difficult to make that tongue-in-cheek statement a reality.
Checking the standings at the end of June 28, we can see that the National League Central is now being led by the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, with the St. Louis Cardinals just a game behind despite a recent slump and the Cincinnati Reds holding on to the other wild card spot in the NL. The Cubs still hold a one-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers despite still doing poorly in-division. At 15.5 games back of first and 11 games out of a wild card spot, the choice to sell is very easy.
It's not all bad, though. Travis Wood has strung together quality start after quality start despite his bullpen or his offense failing him, and he might be a good candidate to extend this offseason, or even within the season as other rotation pieces get traded away. The farm system has steadily climbed in ranks as the new front office continues to stockpile talent. There is very likely to be good news coming out of the Wrigley Field restoration front soon.
Comparing this year to last year, the Cubs have actually improved. As of now, having played 78 games on June 28, the Cubs are 33-45. Last year, on June 28, the Cubs were 26-49 (they didn't have a game that day, but the day before had gotten blitzed by the Mets 17-1). By game 78, the 2012 Cubs were 29-49, but that was because they swept the only team worse than them that year in the Houston Astros. The 2012 team was NEVER in first place, but this season's team, laughably, was in first place for all of five days before the big slide. This season's team also had a run differential reflecting that of a .500 club. The team scores about as many runs as it gives up, very close to MLB average in both runs for and runs against. Despite appearances, the team has incrementally improved.
After July 31, this team will rapidly start to suck again. But perhaps we'll see Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo break out of their slump. Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija may continue doing what they're doing now, and maybe James Russell will quit blowing saves. This team is currently "on pace" to lost 93 games, but the "pace" can change depending on a hot or cold streak. I remain of the mind that it's very difficult to lose 100 games two seasons in a row unless you're actively tanking like the Astros (and in a way, the Marlins) are doing. The Cubs were in "competitive" mode most of the season, which is why the games were so frustrating; in just about every game this year, they had a chance to win. That's a feeling Cubs fans didn't really have last season. It's a feeling that we may have more of in coming seasons, just as we felt in 2008 when the team steamrolled the division.
Good times are going to come. I probably don't have to tell you to remain patient. This "rebuild" stuff takes a while to kick in.