The Cubs have been on a winning streak of sorts for a while now, and if not for the Arizona Diamondbacks absolutely sucking, they would be in first place by themselves. Alas, can’t count on anyone but themselves, and that does get tough when their numbers keep dropping. Observe today’s lineup:
Unfortunately, it’s been almost a week since Anthony Rizzo has been able to play with that back barking up a storm. Apparently he is making progress here and there, but there’s still also a limited range of motion, etc. etc. I wish they’d just use the 10-day injured list, but the roster issues prevent an easy fix right now, so I guess they’re just going to wait and see. The depth guys behind the depth guys are doing their best and also doling out some pleasant surprises, but at some point we would like to see the Cubs stop getting hamstringed (pun totally intended) by the absence of key players like Nico Hoerner, Jake Marisnick, and Jason Heyward. And that’s before we talk about David Bote, who was finally getting into a groove before he killed his shoulder.
Despite the shorthanded squad, the Cubs have already won another series and are eyeing a sweep, which is very doable. And because they are winning, we can have some fun with this…
Now that’s the first of the “What ifs…” as we wonder whether doubling over in laughter was the cause of a delay to Rizzo’s return to the lineup. What if Javier Báez and his magic was the unfortunate cause of another injury? (I kid, there’s no real evidence of that, but that gives me another excuse to share this mad play that should be in the Smithsonian)
Anyway, the real “what if” stems from another comment from the Facebook thread, and also a lingering discussion on other social media. Now that the Cubs are winning despite them being labeled as a flawed team and all those aforementioned injuries, and social distancing guidelines are being relaxed because well-informed citizens (including Cubs fans) are getting vaccinated, which would lead to higher revenue on game days for the Cubs, we can talk about available funds to keep some of these guys past this season.
My priority is to keep Javy because of the sheer joy he brings us every time he’s on the field. Even if he goes oh-for and maybe messes up a play on defense, he always does something that makes you go “OOOOOH” and I think that is an asset you keep around (he’s just such a cool guy regardless).
I think it also makes sense to keep Willson Contreras, who is a key guy not just because of his arm and bat, but because he’s also a very good guy (by all appearances) and has a strong relationship with the pitching staff.
And of course, I think this team is not the same without Anthony Rizzo. Pay the man, he is the de facto captain of the Cubs and they need to treat him as such. The offense is not the same without the bat in the lineup, and I believe he has the profile that keeps being productive for a few more years. It will also make my wife happy.
With more fans and more revenue, I also believe that the Cubs can probably put forth a strong offer for Kris Bryant, who is elite when healthy (and thankfully he has remained so this year!). I know there’s a risk to offering up a truckload of money to anyone, but I also think it is worth the risk for a super-utility defender who also has a big bat. The Cubs have shown that they can cobble together a more than adequate bullpen, and they also have pitchers with potential percolating to the surface, so I think pitching might be covered, which means funds can be allocated toward the position player core. I think they’re worth it, not just for the production, but also for the memories they will continue to generate for all of us.
The biggest “what if” is if the Cubs don’t keep those four guys. And that’s a reality I’m not ready to think about just yet. Hopefully I’ll get to tell them how much they mean to me as a fan when I watch them play next weekend in San Francisco.