Even After Hitting Blackjack Saturday, Cubs Still Can’t Break Even

The Cubs outscored the Pirates 29-12 over the last four games and still managed to drop three of them to fall into fourth place in the division at two games under .500 (7-9). It’s actually pretty impressive when you think about it, though only in the same way it’s impressive to see a pileup in an auto race where every driver walks away unscathed. Outside of Saturday’s wild 21-0 drubbing, the Cubs went meekly in three losses as they did little more than threaten with their patented fake rallies.

More than the fear of what this does to their playoff chances, which were slim to begin with, is how the lone win may have spurred Tom Ricketts to expand his nascent sportsbook to include table games like Blackjack. Maybe a poker room too, but that’s hard when you can’t get a full house. And if you’re raising your hand to object on the grounds of legality, consider how ownership managed to finagle federal landmark status in spite of their $500 million renovation and the pending new addition.

Don’t worry, I’m not really serious about the table game thing. Not yet, anyway.

I am, however, a little concerned that the “It’s Different Here” slogan and ticket sales ads touting the forecast are a fairly clear sign that the organization is more interested in selling the #brand than a better brand of baseball. Not that I’m sharing some kind of revelatory concept, though it has appeared at times as though the Cubs’ patient, high-contact approach was indeed yielding the kind of results we’ve long begged for.

You almost get the feeling the team is trying to fill the ballpark up again before opening up the money dam, rather than the other way around. Because if they’d just spent a little more money, damn, you can see where the Cubs could take legitimate strides forward. Instead, they’ve constructed a roster so thin that Jason Heyward is the primary center fielder and Jonathan Villar has to spend significant time at shortstop.

That makes managerial decisions all the more important, so when Nico Hoerner and Alfonso Rivas sit despite providing superior performance both on the field and at the plate, well…

There’s really no reason to pull this particular thread any further because it’s not like there’s a sweater waiting to be unraveled. In fact, the sheer number of loose ends with this team means picking at them right now amounts to little more than toying with a fidget spinner. I suspect things will start to get sewn up one way or the other by the end of May, at which point pulling could again become constructive.

We’ll actually have a little more clarity a week from now when the roster will have shrunk by two. At some point very shortly before or after that, the Cubs will activate Wade Miley, Alec Mills, and Andrelton Simmons to create even more of a roster crunch. Will they make some difficult decisions to move on from players who won’t be part of a more competitive future? I guess we’ll see.

My strong suspicion is that those serving as general contractors for this work in progress will opt to keep the ceiling a little lower for the time being. From there it’s just a matter of hoping they’ve got the tools and the wherewithal to raise it again in the coming years.

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