On this, the final day of the 2021 Chicago Cubs season, every MLB team played at the same time, but because I hadn’t tuned into an actual Cubs game in weeks other than watching the odd highlight and condensed game after the fact, I decided to watch this one all the way through. I did switch to the Giants game during the rain delay to see them blow out the Padres early and ultimately, finally, win the NL West, but other than that, it was mostly switching back and forth between multiple GameDay screens while focusing on the Cubs as they prepared for the offseason.
There were some fun little records being broken, as they scraped the bench to get to a nice 69 Cubs used in game action this season, see if you can name them all:
The final week was not as pure chaos as I would have liked, with the Mariners not holding their end of the deal and the Yankees squeaking out a win to secure one of the AL Wild Card spots, and as I write this the Red Sox will likely get to join the Yankees for Wild Card madness next week, while the Cubs have to head home and regroup.
So what’s next? The Cubs have tons of money that just came off the books, have plans to build basically a new casino on Wrigley property, and still charge an arm and a leg to watch a game at Wrigley. A lot of the speed of a return to contention will depend on the Ricketts Family actually spending some money, although with the looming CBA negotiations, it is difficult to know how salaries and transactions will work for now.
As for some of the 69 guys who played for the team this year, it was nice to at least see some positive results from Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom, among others. But of course you have to wonder whether their production is sustainable, and in the case of Wisdom, whether he will ever be able to adjust to decrease his strikeout rate substantially. Kyle Hendricks‘ bad overall year was also concerning, and if he can’t get right, then the Cubs don’t have a reliable anchor to their rotation and pretty much have to start from scratch, which would delay the rebuild.
I think some effort has to be made to extend Willson Contreras as the primary catcher, and then find him a capable backup. I fully expect the designated hitter to come to the NL next season, so at least there will be a way to rest his legs while keeping his bat in the lineup. I hope Nico Hoerner can get back healthy and finally show what he can do in an extended stint as the starter at shortstop unless the Cubs can pay or trade for a better option and move him to second base. And after this summer’s fire sale, it might be interesting to see some prospects percolate to the surface, or to have Nick Madrigal just take over at second base. I’d like to see Ian Happ remember that he isn’t supposed to suck and play like he did over the last two months of this season when it no longer mattered.
On the front office and coaching side, I hope that they can figure out how to not only find good players, but to sustain their performance over the long term. It was evident at some point after the magical 2016 season that something broke all over the team. Pitchers and hitters that we know to be talented suddenly just couldn’t get their hit or their pitch, and it was only due to sheer talent and some miracles that they continued to factor into the postseason picture all those years. In 2021, that magic ended.
With the seventh pick in next year’s MLB Draft secured, I expect the Cubs to be able to load up that farm system again, and their (theoretically) deep pockets should help ensure that this descent into the cellar is temporary, unlike the rebuild preceding 2016. But that really is quite dependent on both targeted and top-of-the-market spending and an improvement in scouting and coaching. I wish I had the answers, but my relative lack of answers is why I’m writing a blog sporadically and not actually working for the Cubs. I’ll just have to stay optimistic and hope that the Cubs aren’t fibbing when they say this rebuild won’t be a long process, but like all of you out there, I’ll believe it when I see it.
This postseason should be fun, even though it is sad that the Cubs won’t be involved. I’ll probably see everyone again after the World Series, but please continue to hang out with us on our various social media platforms (at least when I remember to update, hehe). There’s always next year!