“I’m not hitting the panic button yet, but I like to know where it is, just in case…”
-Me, summer of 2018
This is the phrase I’ve used in the last few seasons regarding the Cubs when they struggled. I used this gem of a phrase when we were down 2-0 in the 2015 NLCS, rightfully so unfortunately. I dusted it off again in mid-2016 when the Cubs got swept by St. Louis and won just 2 out of 11 games heading into the All Star Break. We all know how that turned out. I used it last year when they underachieved through the season’s first half, only to light the league on fire in the second half. And I’m dusting it off now, as a matter of fact. This team has been playing some traditional Cubes-brand baseball of late (the kind we grew up on) and not Theo’s CHICAGO CUBS BASEBALL (the kind we have grown accustomed to in recent years). I can’t believe that this team – at 19 games over .500 as of this writing – has me feeling this way.
After Jon Lester had another poor performance Saturday and after Jose Quintana’s start yesterday, I knew Twitter’s reaction would be to start heads rolling. Drastic changes have to be made! Something is clearly wrong! Never mind that this team has earned the right to have an off day here and there. Anthony Rizzo said as much after Saturday’s loss, reminding us it was just one game. He essentially gave us the 2018 Cubs’ take on an Aaron Rodgers classic: R-E-L-A-X.
So let’s look at this thing objectively… This group will be OK.
You know who actually did hit the panic button this season? The St. Louis Cardinals, that’s who. You want to know what the panic button looks like? It looks like a team that fires its manager in the middle of the season. A manager with an overall record of 591-474. A manager who never had a losing season and who made the playoffs his first four seasons, mind you. Then the hitting coach got fired. Then the bench coach got promoted to Interim Manager. Still not satisfied? Neither were they. They promptly traded arms and bats for prospects and promoted AAA players to fill their places on the roster. Not done yet, they DFA’d one pitcher and cut another altogether while eating the entirety of his contract. The whole thing smelled of desperation. And almost all of it took place over two or three days.
That is what the panic button looks like, folks.
To be fair, it has yielded results for the Cardinals so far. Some of their veteran players are playing with new fire. Call-ups who played together in the minors are playing well in the Major Leagues. The team is playing with fun and passion again. Will it last? Odds say no, that a regression is almost surely on its way. Baseball is a game of adjustments, and the league will adjust to the new players. That won’t matter in St. Louis, since the self-titled best fans wrote off this season so early. If they can even enter the discussion for the wild card, let alone actually get one, they would likely be thrilled.
But that is not how these Chicago Cubs roll. These Chicago Cubs are not playing for a wild card berth. They are on a mission.
There will be all star caliber players returning from injury. There will be veterans returning to form. There will be a unity of purpose. There will be strategic trickeration from our Skipper. There will be wins. There will be joy in Mudville. And there will be a third straight division title.
But there will be no panic from this team.
Jimmy Olsen, Cub Reporter
On Twitter at @yourcubreporter