Anarchists Brunch - Halfway There And All Along I've Been A Traveler

We passed the actual halfway point this week, and find ourselves on the mythical one that is the All-Star Break (and there’s no week I hate more than the All-Star break. Just what am I supposed to do for four days? I seriously threw something when I found out the union added a fourth day to the break. Three I could almost handle, but four?)

Sadly for us, the Cubs aren’t exactly storming into the break. This 10-game homestand felt like it could be the gear change after the Cubs pretty much survived the toughest part of their schedule. And what’s upsetting, bordering on infuriating, is it’s just about inches from being the homestand we all hoped for. That one run loss to the Marlins. The loss in the middle of the week we won’t mention by name. Ending four consecutive innings on double plays. The Cubs are just a breath away from being what… 7-2 so far on this one?

And it feels like we’ve been saying that all season. Just a touch away from a seriously impressive record. And I suppose, when we all said before the season that this was still a young team that wasn’t going to be fully stretched out yet, that’s exactly what we were saying we were signing up for. The kind of team that doesn’t always make that defensive play it needs at the right time. The kind that will strike out with runners on and one out. The kind that makes that one bad pitch (though to be fair the Cubs aren’t that young in the rotation other than Hendricks). The team that gets just a tad over anxious when up 3-1 in the count late in a game.

When you set out what you think the Cubs will be before a season, you don’t really think about the minutiae of what will make that up. I said 88 or 89 wins before the season, and they’re still not far off that pace. I knew they weren’t the finished article. But saying that doesn’t mean I was prepared to sit and watch calmly as they finished that article. I’m doing my best, but it’s not as easy as I would have hoped.

What do we know for sure about the Cubs?

-Jake Arrieta is really good.

-So’s Anthony Rizzo.

-Kris Bryant, even with very mini rookie dips at times, is also very good at the plate and has been better than I thought in the field, though he’s not Scott Rolen out there.

-Jorge Soler hits the ball really hard, and it hasn’t translated into effectiveness yet.

And it feels like that’s just about it. Everywhere else on the diamond, we know just about nothing. Starlin’s not this bad, or is he? Fowler’s not this bad, or is he? Is Addison overmatched or adjusting? Is this the Montero we’re getting, the one that’s kinda only slightly better than the past two years? Is Coghlan this sneaky effective at the plate? What is Jon Lester? We could keep going here.

Halfway through a season and it still feels like we know so little. And that’s probably where the torture comes in, because with knowing so little for sure you can’t help but see the possibility of growth (and others can see the possibility for crash and burn, but I feel like they’re in the minority). You keep hoping that this day’s game, THIS day’s, is the moment it all starts to spring into life. And sometimes you get fooled into thinking it is, and then they lose the next two or three.

I wonder if we’ll know any more when we do this again in late September.

-This week brings the All-Star game, and I’ve written previously about my thoughts on it now in my publication The Ivy Drip (shameless self-promotion: SUBSCRIBE HERE!). I actually don’t have as big a problem with deciding home field in the World Series on the outcome as others. When you say it out loud it sounds really stupid, galactically stupid even, but remember that home field was decided just about as arbitrarily before, just alternating between AL and NL. Neither had anything to do with what teams did on the field during the season.

But that solves the wrong problem. The problem with the Midsummer Classic wasn’t that players didn’t care and they needed incentive. It was that managers now wanted to get everyone in the game and ran out of pitchers exactly once. So the answer, if it even needed one, was for managers to not use everyone. Simple enough.

I also don’t know why the All-Star game can’t end in a tie. Spring training games do, and those also don’t count. What was so wrong about it? No one’s ever had an answer other than just saying it felt wrong. A month after it happened, did you even remember the 2002 All-Star game was a tie? Did you need me to just tell you the year now to remember? I bet you did.

Here’s a time waster for you. I posted this on my Facebook page, and my score of 158 was kind of disappointing. Didn’t realize how many Cubs I’d blocked out of my memory. Share your scores in the comments.

Sam Fels is the writer and editor of TheCommittedIndian.com, the leading Blackhawks blog. He also writes a Cubs blog, The Ivy Drip. There’s a digital weekly of the same name, which you can subscribe to above. Only $20 for the rest of the season on that!

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  • Zambrano got the opening day start 6 years in a row....

  • I expected a lot of inconsistency this year. But not from Castro, Montero, and Lester. These guys have been somewhat of a disappointment. On the other hand if you would have told me that they would be contending for a WC slot at this stage of the season, I would have been elated.
    When the hitting comes around, it will take the pressure off the pitching and change some of these close losses into wins.
    Overall, a lot of good things happening...and they are fun to watch!

  • In reply to xhooper:

    I agree in spirit. I've said all along 2015 wasn't the year. This team will be a lot better in 2016 and s/b dominant by 2017 and for years thereafter... To be where they are in the standings at the halfway point is a huge win for us.

    Other than the last 4-6 weeks with Montero, he has been exactly what we wanted/needed. He still is, just mired in a .202/.291/.356 slump since June 1st. The first two months though, he was .257/.377/.425 which is really solid, especially when you factor in the intangibles he brings to the table.

    Lester has had a few clunkers, but is otherwise solid and has also been the mature leader this team needed. Not at all unhappy about his signing.

    Castro has been maddening... but by no means should we "throw the baby out with the bath water" as so many seem willing to do.

    Fowler has really been the biggest disappointment to me. I expected some inconsistency and struggles from Bryant & Soler and especially Russell given his lack of experience above the AA level. But he was brought up out of necessity, not so much readiness.

    The road to the top has several peaks and valleys we must overcome. There is no smooth elevator ride... But like you said, lot's of good things happening and they really are fun to watch again.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Exactly this. Look, we're due for a regression on the 1-run games, and we've gotten some of that lately. We have a gaping wound in the 5th rotation slot. 3/8 of the lineup is rookies. Fowler, Montero, Castro, and even Rizzo have been scuffling lately.

    Excuse me, but so what? I for one had us pegged for 83 wins this year. We're on pace for 87. This team isn't ready for the seriously big time yet.

    Stay the course. If a mid-season deal *that makes sense long term* is doable, do it. Until/unless that happens, we're good, we're gonna get better, enjoy what we already are and don't mortgage what we're going to be.

  • Well put, Sam. We truly don't know what we have yet. That's what makes me so hesitant to clamor for a 'go for it this year' big trade at the deadline. Three veterans having their collective worst years in their career? Perhaps they just really aren't that good. Or perhaps it is just coincidence that they are all slumping so badly at the same time. Rookies just go through this generally speaking and let's face it, if TLS was healthy, Russell is still in Iowa.
    Hope the FO continues to exercise the patience that many of us as fans don't have. Don't mortgage the bright, cost controlled future for the crap shoot of a one game playoff.

  • I think the team really needs this break. It is especially good for the young players, who will get a minute without games to process their development. Castro and Fowler can regroup as well. The Cubs are not in position to shuffle the deck much anyway so polishing the their game is there best option.

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    In 2008, the Cubs had the best record in baseball and got swept in the first round. Last year, the team with the worst record in the playoffs got hot at the right and won it all. The team they beat was also a Wild Card team. Is this the team's best chance to win it all? Probably not. But sports are funny. Who would have predicted that Mark Prior would essentially be done after 2003?

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    Montero hurt? Is it Schwarber time?
    I guess the pitchers could throw to the umps instead....

  • In reply to cb56:

    Schwarber' s bat is mlb ready, but his receiving is not. When it comes to catching defense is paramount on a contending team. I don't think that Kyle will be up yet.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I am not of the idea that the Cubs have a realistic shot at a WS in 2015, so honestly it wouldn't bother me to see Schwarber come up and struggle defensively while he learns on the job.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    Pitchers wouldn't like it!

  • In reply to 44slug:

    If he drives in 2-3 a game when the O is struggling, the pitchers will like him very much.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Not if defensive problems cost 6.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Also seems like Cubs pitchers can't hold runners and teams run on us. Not like Kyle will get run on more. Framing isn't an issue. Montero hasn't gotten us a lot of calls, so bring him up and learn like Russell is doing. We need that bat more then anything.

  • In reply to cb56:

    I think that in that they held onto Teagarden and Sunday had only Ross as an emergency catcher gives you the FO's answer to that question.

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    In reply to cb56:

    nah can't imagine this guy would be much help.....
    http://m.cubs.mlb.com/news/article/136429246/kyle-schwarber-named-futures-game-mvp

  • The break couldn't have come at a better time. The Cardinals loss was devastating and could have put the team in a tailspin for which they could not recover. Watching the games since lend credence to this. But they will get a chance to recoup after the break and have a schedule which doesn't include the Cardinals or Sox for the next few weeks so they should have a chance to stay in the WC race.

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    Look at what the Cubs have done with so many of their players having so so years. I think Soler has a lot to offer, maybe the break comes at the right time. He can be a game changer and I think that we'll see more line drives fall in after the break. Russell is another one that shows flashes but without consistency. Denorfia has been good and I expect him to be about the same from here on out. The pitchers have been good and the bullpen much better. I am encouraged about the second half.
    As for Castro, I'm not a hater or an excuser, but lately I beginning to think it might be better to trade him even though his value is low--but other teams might look at him and see an offensive SS who has almost 1000 hits at 25 and not just look at the first 82 games this season.
    I picked 85 games this year but I see a few more now and a WC team too.

  • Almost inclined to agree with you on Castro, it just seems it isn't going to work out for him. There is just way too much scrutiny- some deserved and some not so much.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    My main issue with Castro is that he simply doesn't seem to give maximum effort. I have a sneaky suspicion that if he does get traded, you'll start to hear the whispers of how he wasn't the leader some make him out to be.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    I've never heard anyone say he's a leader. He's clearly a guy that can be a star on a second division team or a role player on a winner.

  • Just an observation that nobody blogged about Saturday's game, and this one was before Sunday's. But comparing the two, Arrieta is $21 million cheaper and $21 million better than Lester. Also has one more home run.

    And about the grousing about the ump on Friday, Len and JD admitted that Eaton got screwed twice, and showed the PtichTrax. I don't have CSN, but can imagine what Hawk said.

  • In reply to jack:

    He complained,but noted that it wouldn't have made much difference the way Arrietta was throwing.

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    I just read about the Futures Game. Schwarber won the MVP award for throwing out a runner in the first and later tripling in 2 runs. The Cubs need his bat and I think can live with his defense lapses.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Agreed. This team needs a spark asap or they will fade. Fowler, Castro, Russell, all catchers and Soler to an extent are dragging the offense into the ground. Hitting is contagious, as is slumping.

  • Would love to see some more postings here on some trade deals that could be done based on current values.

    It's the trade season, and you are almost seeing nothing. That's a testament to the quality out there, as writers are not wanting to get ahead of themselves, but at the same time it would be nice to hear some value for value proposals from the Cubs Den and other places to see what's possible or probable.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Castro for Shields with SD picking up $20M of Shields' contract. SD gets a young cost controlled SS that could use a change of scenery, gets out of over $60M of a 34 year old pitcher. Cubs get a really solid #3 that should be very productive for 2 years and have some value in the 3rd year.

    2016 rotation
    Arietta
    Lester
    Shields
    Hammel
    Hendricks

    Pretty sick rotation. Russell slides to SS, Baez takes over at 2b when he's ready. Until then, we could get away with someone like Valaika/Hererra/Alcantara.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    There is no way either side does this proposed trade.

  • Time for a break, huh? I trust our front office, our management and coaching staff, and think our team is exactly what we expected them to be, extremely exciting and extraordinarily frustrating. I look forward to the second half and expect us to make the playoffs. Isn't this more fun than the past several years? Let the bitching, and rooting, begin. Go Cubs!

  • With the exception of Rizzo, the good pitchers the Cubs are facing see the holes in their swings and seem to be rarely missing their spots. Even the 3 and 4 starters are having success against the Cub hitters. Unless these hitters start making adjustments to how they are being pitched, it will be a long second half of the season. I do agree Lester has not lived up to the money he is making, but he isn't getting much run support along with the rest of the starters.

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