Game 3 Box Score: Cardinals 8, Cubs 0
Here’s what will definitely happen. Either in the postgame tonight or before the game tomorrow, Joe Maddon will tell the press that the Cubs have to get back to grinding out at-bats. They have to dig out some offense. They have to fight through this. And then they won’t, which either means Joe is telling them this along with whatever hitting coach they’ll fire this time around as a smokescreen, and they’re not listening. Or he’s not even bothering to tell them and is going straight to the press, because he knows and the players know he’s getting punted no more than five minutes after the final out of the season.
Here’s what very well might happen. The Cubs will peter out somewhere, either after Game 162 or in the Division Series or coinfli flip game after the balloon-handed nature of both the Brewers and Cardinals gifts them a spot somehow. And either Theo Epstein will find out the purse strings are still being yanked by the Ricketts and he’ll walk, or he’ll hope letting Maddon walk is enough of a cover again to mask that his system has produced exactly his dick in his hand since 2016 or so.
Really, what this road trip has shown is that there has been a systematic failure at pretty much every level of this organization. On the biggest swing of the year, the Cubs best players all went turtle. None of them have hit. And you’d be tempted to say that’s just the vagaries of baseball, except we’ve been talking about this in some fashion for two months. Baez was dominant in the season’s first two months by actually occasionally taking a walk and going the opposite way almost as much as he pulled the ball. So he’s going to spend six weeks swinging at everything and trying to pull everything. Contreras is going to swing at the first pitch he sees. Bryan is going to have to gut out an injury that clearly should have him on the IL because the bottom of the roster is non-existent. If Addison Russell didn’t suck out loud, they could go without Bryant for 10 days. If David Bote didn’t suck deep pond scum they could go without Bryant for 10 days. But they do, so he has to play and do a pretty mean David Bote impression for six games. Anthony Rizzo is nowhere. All when they have to be here.
This team doesn’t fight. They don’t dig deep in close games and find a way to get on base, to score, to win. They find ways to lose. And maybe that’s just what happens when a team thinks no matter what it does the bullpen is just going to blow it anyway. There’s no gumption about this squad.
But why should there be? They heard their GM say that there would be changes, that production would be all that mattered. And then nothing changed. No one’s on alert. Addison Russell got another chance. So did Bote. So did Almora. So did Schwarber. Who’s on edge?
But then why would this team feel their front office and ownership is fighting for them? They watched the same team basically come back, the one that wasn’t quite good enough last year. The Cardinals added Goldschmidt. The Brewers added Grandal. The Phillies added Harper. The Braves added Donaldson.
Here’s an exercise for you. Go and watch two interviews with the Astros right after they got the news their team had traded for Zack Greinke. See the bounce. Do you think any Cubs were doing that when finding out about Castellanos and Phelps? Castellanos is only here due the failure of multiple players, not to boost something that already is working.
This team plays entitled. Like nothing will happen. Because really, it won’t. This is all set up to burn down after 2021 anyway, and everyone in the organization looks like it’s just going to sit around waiting for that.
The urgency, the desperation, the fight, the want-to, whatever you call it, you find it on this team. I can’t. They accept what’s happening to them because that’s been the nature of the whole operation. Oh sure, they’ll get wins when Hendricks or someone else tosses a gem, or Kyle Davies places a “HIT ME” sticker on a barely-fastball. And this doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t win the division, based on the aforementioned nature of their competition.
Well, maybe not “win’ it, so much as just open the front door and see that it’s been left there so they might as well take it inside. That’s what the Ricketts Family, Epstoyer, Maddon, and everyone have created here. And there’s no reason to think it will change.
This team isn’t going anywhere. Someplace might land on them, but it will still be standing still when it does. And that you can believe.