My enduring memory of this season will be Willson Contreras’s pimp-tastic exuberance at drawing not one, but two walks in last night’s NL Wild Card game. After all, when you are part of an offense that that could not score more than one run in 40 of the 164 games they’ve played, and when you’ve barely hit .200 since the All-Star break, a walk is genuinely a monumental occurrence worthy of the most grandiose of celebrations.
Willson Contreras will throw his bat out of the stadium if he walks here. pic.twitter.com/kZHB4gOEdB
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 3, 2018
Wait ’til next year, am I right? The Rockies advanced to the NLDS with a 13-inning 2-1 victory over the punchless Cubs, and the Northsiders get to live with the burning memory of watching two teams advance and celebrate on their turf on consecutive nights.
The Cubs are in obvious need of change. They need a new direction offensively and they need to find a better way to manage their lineup and bullpen. On a night when Jon Lester was simply dominant, the Cubs capped their season by scoring just two runs over 22 innings spanning the two most important games of their season.
During the upcoming postmortem, you’ll hear a lot about how the Cubs battled all kinds of adversity, including the brutal end-of-season schedule that had them play 45 games in 46 days. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will say that this is what the organization has been built to do, make the playoffs year after year no matter the outcome. And that’s all true. This was a fantastic team that won a lot of games, but none of the ones that counted the most.
Is it time for a managerial change? Maybe, but cooler heads always wait until frustration dissipates before making those types of decisions. In other words, don’t count on a knee-jerk reaction from this team’s front office. That’s just not how Theo and Jed do things.
I wouldn’t fire Joe Maddon, but if there is another overhaul of the coaching staff the organization is basically saying that Maddon didn’t get it done for the second straight season. And that’s the rub. If any quick decision is forthcoming, it is likely to be the Cubs terminating their association with hitting coach Chili Davis. Other than Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist, the Cubs regressed a great deal offensively this season. Only the Baltimore Orioles — who finished with the worst record in baseball — had more games scoring one run or less in the regular season.
#Cubs change in slugging percentage from 2017 to 2018 by regulars in the lineup:
Baez: +85 (.480 ➡️ .565)
— Greg H (@OutOfTheVines) September 26, 2018
The Cubs allowed only five runs in 22 innings of back-to-back, must-win home games while scoring just two. It’s not difficult to find fault. Pitchers and catchers report in 19 weeks. Time will tell if this team has some answers before then.
Cubs News & Notes
Let’s wait for the dust to clear before we address all the rumor and innuendo. There are plenty of years where we would have been deliriously happy with 95 wins. Expectations are obviously a lot higher now, and that’s a great thing. If you don’t believe me, I’m sure Epstein, Hoyer, and Maddon will emphasize that in the coming days. Are we (and they) disappointed? Yes. But don’t let that take away from an incredible season.
Thank you, #Cubs fans, for your continued support.
You pack the park every day, at home and on the road, and we are grateful to have the best fans in baseball.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 3, 2018
The Cubs were forced to play the final five innings without Anthony Rizzo, who was replaced by designated runner Terrance Gore after singling in the 8th inning. Though Gore stole second and eventually scored the team’s only run, that was a big bat to replace. Rizzo has hit six career playoff home runs. Gore has had one hit in 16 professional at bats and was horribly overmatched in two plate appearances last night.
The Cubs were 9-for-71 combined in the last two games with just two extra base hits. That’s a .127 average.
For the season, the Cubs did not have a single starting pitcher reach 200 innings. The bullpen was overtaxed and it showed during the last few weeks.
Last night’s game set a few records:
- Longest winner-take-all game in MLB postseason history by innings played (13).
- Longest playoff game in Wrigley Field history (4 hours, 55 minutes).
- The Cubs used 23 players, tying an all-time MLB postseason record.
- Most in-play hugs (1); Javier Baez and Nolan Arenado shared a warm embrace on a fielder’s choice in the 11th inning.
- With nine strikeouts last night, Jon Lester tied for the most in his postseason career.
Jon Lester: 9 strikeouts tonight, tied for his most this season and tied for his most in his postseason career.
Lester has passed Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson on the all-time postseason strikeout list, moving into 8th place. pic.twitter.com/Oa3IXwDhJ5
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 3, 2018
You can pick a team to root for through the World Series, simply love baseball without a favorite, transition into football season, or wait for next season to start while you get a jump on what should be a busy offseason. Or you could simply hibernate until February.
- Here’s a synopsis of the best available free agents this winter. Free agency starts at 9am on November 1. Hopefully Bryce Harper will be donning Chicago pinstripes before this season’s first snowfall.
- Here’s a look at some of the more interesting games on next season’s MLB schedule.
- With newcomers Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay headlining the ballot – and Edgar Martinez up against a deadline – this year’s Hall of Fame induction class could be a sizable one. Mike Mussina, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have outside chances to be voted in as well. All players who remain eligible from the 2018 ballot and all players who retired following the 2013 season with ten plus seasons in the major leagues are eligible for induction. Inductees will be announced at the end of January.
- Cubs Convention will be held January 18-20, 2019. Hope to see you there.
- Pitchers and catchers are due to report to Mesa, AZ on February 15 or 16 (still TBD).
- The Cubs first home spring training game will be held on February 23 against the Brewers at Sloan Park.
- The Cubs are scheduled to open their 2019 regular season in Texas against the Rangers on March 28.
They Said It
- “We had some opportunities, we just could not cash in. They pitched really well, too, but we need to figure that out [heading into] next spring training. As my buddy Dave would say, we left too much chicken on the bone right there. We’ve had plenty of opportunities and I’m not here to denigrate anybody, our work’s put in, the hay’s in the barn, everybody cares, it just didn’t play out this way offensively.” – Joe Maddon
- “We played our hearts out. It sucks losing this early. Give credit to the Rockies, but it’s tough.’’ – Anthony Rizzo
- “Sometimes you just have to take the bad with the good. Maybe we needed to get knocked down a peg or two to see nothing is given to us.’’ – Jon Lester
Off Season Walk Up Song
Nothing From Nothing by Billy Preston. Boy that season ended fast. I’m taking a baseball day off but I’ll return on Friday morning.