Dan's Dugout: Don't Bet on Series Repeat for Cubs • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Don’t Bet on Series Repeat for Cubs


CHICAGO – It might not take another 108 years but the Cubs aren’t about to win the World Series again.

In fact, they will have a hard time even making the playoffs.

Unlike last year’s juggernaut, the 2017 Cubs just aren’t clicking on all cylinders. They had trouble playing .500 ball during the first half, which they finished some five-and-a-half games behind the upstart Milwaukee Brewers in their own division.

Cubs logoSince the All-Star break, the Cubs have played better but so have the St. Louis Cardinals, who have now engaged Chicago and a Milwaukee in a three-way divisional struggle.

Whomever wins will wind up in the playoffs against the Washington Nationals, certain to be champions of the National League East, while the two losers will go home for the winter.

The wild-card game is pretty much a done deal between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, both denizens of the NL West, with the winner moving on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five Division Series. Don’t look now but the Dodgers are something like 50 games over .500 and on track for a historic season.

As for the Cubs, they still have a great old ballpark, a tremendous following, and a good team but they’re also dragging too many negatives.

For starters, always-tinkering manager Joe Maddon has tried 11 men in the leadoff spot. He’s had seven rightfielders, six leftfielders, five first basemen, and four catchers. Not to mention eight starting pitchers.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon

Cubs pilot Joe Maddon

The team is always subject to the vagaries of weather, specifically the wind in the Windy City.

When it blows out, as it did Thursday afternoon, the Cubs can count on lots of balls blowing over the vines. They hit six home runs against Cincinnati but lost a 13-10 slugfest – the first time a sextet of circuit clouts couldn’t salvage a win since the team lost to a 10-inning game to the Phillies by a 23-22 score on May 17, 1979.

At least the schedule favors the Little Bears. They don’t play an opponent with a winning record until September 8. In fact, after they finish their current weekend series against Toronto, the Cubs face an easy-pickins’ six-game road trip against the Reds and Phillies, the weakest teams in the league with the possible exception of the Giants.

Kris Bryant won't be the MVP this year

Kris Bryant won’t be the MVP this year

This year is must not last year for Maddon’s men. Kris Bryant, defending his Most Valuable Player award, has had a down season. So has versatile Ben Zobrist, the World Series MVP. Jason Heyward has had two stints on the disabled list. Kyle Schwarber hasn’t been able to hit his weight. And even erstwhile pitching ace Jake Arrieta hasn’t been the same.

Adding to the litany of unexpected woes, hard-hitting catcher Wilson Contreras is out for a month at a critical time with serious hamstring issues.

After this weekend, there are just 39 games left in the team’s 162-game schedule. Maddon wants to make sure he maximizes the positive: the work of Wade Davis, who converted his first 24 saves chances in his year as closer for the Cubs; a bullpen ERA that ranks only behind the Dodgers in the National League; and a powerful lineup that produced more home runs since the All-Star break than any other team.

But Maddon needs to find consistency and let his players know what to expect. Without that, they can expect a swift trip home at the end of the 162-game schedule.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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