Tag Archives: expectations

OK Cubs Got Swept; I Was Getting Nuts

I’m fine with the Cubs getting swept by the Pirates. Really.

I’ve been getting way ahead of myself, treating this September like I would when the Cubs might actually have something to play for in the final month of the season. Baez-mania gave way to an epidemic of Soler-ia. I even drew a little cartoon with a bear eating a Cardinal.

Now, I can go back to my mental vacation from stressing about Cubs wins and losses, feel good about the long-term building project and use my sports angst to wonder how the hell the Bears can lose to the Bills … AT HOME.

For the past few years, I have been on a vacation of sorts when it comes to the Cubs. After Theo Epstein was hired and said that this was going to be a multi-year rebuilding process, that they were tearing down before building back up, that the draft and international signings would restock talent, but that we wouldn’t actually see this talent in Wrigley for years, well, I bought it. I lowered expectations accordingly, and it felt great.

Like most of us Cubs fans, I lived and died with each pitch. I yelled at the TV. I saw doom around every corner and booked my tickets to the World Series after a two-game win streak … in April. Basically, I was nuts — when it came to the Cubs (I swear, that’s it). I sounded like I knew what I was talking about because I know a little about the game and I’ve been around long enough to know a thing or two, but I was a transparent homer.

And then it was gone. Theo said that we know we’re going to suck for a while and all the pressure was off. I still celebrated victories but in a subdued “hey, look what I found” kind of way. I got excited about individual achievements from young players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, but I didn’t really expect them to win a division by themselves. I felt like help was on the way, but the cavalry was coming from the moon, so they’d have to take their lumps for a while.

But then Javier Baez was called up and he hit balls harder than I’d seen in a while. Kyle Hendricks kept fooling batters. Jake Arrieta was looking like an ace. Jorge Soler arrived and launched bombs and hit for average. Kris Bryant wrapped up an minor league MVP season. Rizzo had 30 homers. Castro’s average was back up. And, and, and … it all coalesced into an excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time. The Cubs could be good, like, soon. The switch was turned back on.

Even when Rizzo and Castro went down with likely season-ending injuries, the switch remained on. See, that’s what I mean about being a little nuts when it comes to the Cubs. I still expected them to own September, to show the rest of the Central what was coming. And in my defense they were playing damn good. They swept the Brewers after all.

Then the Pirates came to town and gave me a nice slap in the face. “Snap out of it, fool,” they said. “You can’t lose guys like Rizzo and Castro and win every game. Settle down.”

“But what about Soler?” I implored.

But they slapped me again. “Wow, you got it bad,” they said. “I hate to admit it, but you’re time will come. It just ain’t now.”

I took a deep breath for the first time in a month.

“OK, OK,” I said, settling down. “When is the draft?”

You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.

No. 2 — How Baez Ranks With Cubs Hall Of Famers

Yawn. Another big game by Javier Baez. Ho hum.

The Cubs’ rookie second baseman went 2-for-4 with his fourth home run in nine games and teamed with Anthony Rizzo to form a potent 1-2 punch in a 4-2 win over the Brewers on Wednesday.

Check out Baez’s swing below. The guy is not cheated, and the result looks so damn awesome.

Baez is still tracking with the beginning of the careers of Cubs Hall of Famers. I put together the slash line for the first nine games of HOF players since Hack Wilson. Baez ranks fourth in OPS and third in slugging among the elite group.

9gameOPS

9gameSLG

Rizzo hit his 27th homer on Wednesday, maintaining his steady ascension to stardom. Kris Bryant is tearing up the minors this season to the tune of .341/.448/.689/1.137 between Double A and Triple A. Jorge Soler has posted ridiculous .367/.464/.753/1.217 numbers between three levels this season and may be looking at his fourth, the big leagues, in September.

With Rizzo and Starlin Castro putting up All-Star numbers, Baez debuting with a bang and more slugging on the way, it begs the following question:

You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.

How Baez Ranks With Cubs Hall Of Famers

When you’ve been wandering in the desert for years, any water tastes delicious. Javier Baez is treating us to champagne.

Certainly Baez, who has three home runs in his first five major league games, could turn into a mirage. Let’s drink it up the good stuff while it lasts, though. And he is giving up good stuff, almost unprecedented stuff. The Cubs have been around for a long time, and Baez is arguably off to one of the best starts of any Cub ever.

Seem like hyperbole? Well, let’s compare. I’ve put together the slash line through five games for all Cubs Hall of Famers going back to Hack Wilson (seemed like a fair cutoff in terms of the makeup of the ball, how the game is played etc.)

I sorted them by OPS, and as you can see Baez ranks fourth.

4gameOPS

Not too shabby. If you sort by slugging percentage, however, he’s top of the list. This many homers in this short of time will do that for you.

4gameSLG

Five games is a ridiculously small sample size. As you can see, Ryne Sandberg ranks dead last in both charts through five games. (Note that I used Ryno’s first experience with the Cubs in 1982 although he appeared with the Phillies in September 1981 but had only six plate appearances.) Just as in Sandberg’s day, Baez’s small sample size does not prevent close dissection. Couple of strikeouts, he stinks. Home run, he’s going to the Hall of Fame.

It’s not fair either way, but you don’t exactly think clearly after so many years spent lost in a wasteland.

We’ll see how Baez ranks compared to the Hall of Famers as the season winds down.

Meanwhile, let’s go with the craziness and vote on how his career will end up since he’s a robust five games into it.

How will Javier Baez's career turn out?

View Results

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You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.

Remember Sandberg When Watching Baez

Chicago appears poised to throw a parade on Michigan Avenue to celebrate the debut of Javier Baez. That’s good and it’s bad.

It’s good because Cubs fans need some things to get excited about. The rebuild feels like its in second semester of senior year of college. We’ve got ants in our pants to get on with real life — get a job, make some MONEY, buy a car, get an apartment and live it up. We’re basically mailing it in paying attention to classes. Just like we’re less than completely enthusiastic about watching the major league version of the Cubs.

Baez gives hope that one day these baby Cubbies will be all grows up and doing big things in the world.

And that’s where we need to take a deep breath and temper our expectations. Most of us ended up back home after college, listening to mom say to get our feet off the coffee table while we struggled to get a job and start our real life.

Baez will struggle. Even the great ones do. Ryne Sandberg hit .167 during his September call-up with the Phillies in 1981. The next year with the Cubs he didn’t get a hit until his seventh game. He was batting under .200 after a month. Plenty of fans said he was overrated, a flop even. But he adjusted and finished .271/.312/.372 and was sixth in Rookie of the Year voting.

You just never know in a small sample size. Mr. Cub Ernie Banks hit .314 in his 1953 September audition. But in his first full season the next year he was batting .148 after seven games, though he did have five RBIs. Did some people think the previous fall was an apparition? Certainly.

Baez will most likely post some mixed bag of numbers like that. He’ll strike out. He’ll hit some bombs. That’s the point. He needs to acclimate to the big leagues and make adjustments. He struggled when he started at a Triple A this year, but it all worked out.

We all just need to chill. It only feels like the entire Cubs season, maybe even the Cubs’ future is riding on how this 21-year-old kid does. That’s not the case. There are others coming. He’s just the first.

And in the Cubs rebuilding process, this is only the very start of what could be a real change — maybe the beginning of the end of a long, long, long period of suffering. See, I’m doing it too, having too much riding on this moment, this kid.

Guess I’m a Cubs fan.

You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.

Cubs Lose! Cubs Lose! Can I Handle It?

So what do I hope for the second half of the Cubs season? I want them to fail. And I’m hoping I can handle that.

To be more precise, I don’t want to see all of the Cubs fail. I want the players of the future — Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, some of the bullpen guys, a few of the young starters — to absolutely tear it up. At the same time, I’d like to see Theo and Co. trade off whatever veteran pieces can be moved and by doing so make it impossible for this year’s Cubs to actually win a lot of games.

If all of that happens, Cubs fans will have some tangible reasons to maintain hope, and the team will secure another high draft choice. It’s win-win, except there won’t be much actual winning.

It all sounds good in theory, but when it’s the seventh inning, the Cubs are within a run, the bases are loaded and Ryan Sweeney steps to the plate and grounds out to second to end the inning, I’m going to be pissed.

Cubs fans are really going to have to manage expectations and look to the big picture during the latter half of this season. Would it be better if Javier Baez or Kris Bryant were standing at the plate instead of Sweeney? Absolutely. Is it worth giving up a year of control of a potential star to play him during a lost season? No. But I say that like my 4-year-old would when I finally get him to admit that it’s a bad idea to take his remote control car into the kiddie pool. Would it be cool to see the wheels spin around in the water? Totally. Is it worth it if it never works again? “No,” he says dejectedly.

The second half of this season will not be simply about watching the Cubs at Clark and Addison. It will be about watching the Cubs organization as a whole. What are Albert Almora and Kyle Schwarber doing at Dayton? What are Jorge Soler and Addison Russel up to at Tennessee? What happened with Baez and Bryant in Iowa?

And what about the Cubs’ Quadruple-A team? Well, we can keep tabs on Castro, Rizzo, Rondon, Schlitter and some of the auditioning young starters like Kyle Hendricks or Dallas Beeler.

We’re building a mental collage of players that add up to a really good imaginary team. So it’s not your typical “Wait ’til next year” Cubs fan mentality. There have been countless lost seasons in Cubs history, but rarely has a lost season contained so much hope.

The Cubs before Theo and Co. would lose 90+ games and there was no farm system promising relief, usually just one overhyped guy — Felix Pie anyone — and retreads and overpaid fizzling stars. It was literally hopeless. And then everyone would clammer for the front office to spend more money to fix it. The front office would oblige by overpaying some fringe star who didn’t have what it takes to get the team over the top. And then we were all pissed about the losing and resentful of the stiffs making too much money for their meager contribution. It’s giving me a Cubs headache to remember the futility and frustration.

So let ’em lose this season. I’m going to take up yoga or practice meditation to not freak out when the Cubbies lose. A beer will probably help too, while I check out that Tennessee Smokies boxscore and imagine Soler’s home run landing on Waveland instead of in some minor league parking lot.

You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.