Ok… Full confession.
I am not a journalist. I am not a baseball scout. I am not affiliated with Major League Baseball in any way other than the fact that I am an avid fan of the Chicago Cubs. I have held my two season tickets in the cheap seats at Wrigley Field since the 2013 season, and those came to me after spending nine years on the STH waiting list…
If you have read my stuff, you would know that I am a fairly positive, cheerleader-type fan. I am not an Armchair GM. I am not a Monday Morning QB, or whatever the hell the baseball equivalent is. I am not that writer or Tweeter or loudmouth that will tell you who is not pulling his weight. I am not the guy who screams who “needs to go” or who is untouchable. I can’t stand the “fan” who declares who is trade bait and who is a trade target, and I especially hate that clown who negotiates fictitious contracts. It’s pretty easy to spend fictitious money, especially when it’s someone else’s…
So that’s what I’m not.
What I am is the fan who pays his admission, and then cheers for the Cubs team that takes the field that particular day. Come the off-season, I wait patiently as the signings and trades are announced, and then I look for the positives rather than the negatives.* I am very nearly a Die Hard Cubs Fan (almost) though I very much rise and fall with this Cubs team. In my world, a Cubs win makes a good day better, and a Cubs loss makes a crappy day crappier.
This is my team, but I do not run it. Very simply put, I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs. I only ever will be.
Now, there’s been a lot of background noise this off-season about 2018. Need I remind any of you, it has been a very long time since the Chicago Cubs had this level of success. We’re watching the most consistently successful Cubs team in over 100 years. Success breeds expectations, and I get that. It also breeds bandwagon fans and (as I call them) the nouveau riche fans. Regardless, this noise is why I am looking at the Cubs this week. I will forsake the in-depth analyses that have been performed throughout Chicago and MLB sites.
Let’s keep this simple. It comes down to this: Do I know it when I see it?
Does it pass the eye test?
I was curious as to why some players were better than their statistics and some were not. My interest was in taking a more of a macroscopic view than microscopic. I’m not interested in advanced analytics but seeing the big picture here. I also try to remain cognizant of the fact that these players are human beings with actual hearts and souls and thoughts and desires for success. No player is out there trying to fail. No player likes losing. No one is trying to let the team down.
I am both frustrated and intrigued by the 2018 Cubs. They had a very good season, maybe even a great one, but fell short at the end. Why did this happen? I’m going to look at players and coaches in pretty simple terms. Did the player exceed expectations? Did he hit it out of the park, metaphorically speaking? Did they fall short of their goals? Did he miss by a little or did he miss by a mile? Or was he just kind of meh? If I’m using the word “meh” you should know how serious and in-depth this analysis is…
But this is not all about the players. Did the skipper make the right moves at the right time? Did the coaches extract everything they could from the players for a win? Did the front office do everything in their power to win another Commissioner’s Trophy?
That said, let’s get to the analysis… I will address the Manager Joe Maddon, his field coaches, and the front office executives in this first installment.
Joe Maddon, Manager: (My Rating: ++)
Joe has been catching his share of flak for the ending of the 2018 season. The three things that have been laid at his doorstep are the Brendan Morrow injury, the Pedro Strop injury, and the changing lineups. Keep in mind that he led a team with several major injuries to key players to a 95-win season. He also has the best record of ANY Cubs manager in his first four years EVER. Despite this, rumors came out that Joe was going to be let go (side note: Shame on you, Bob Nightengale and Ken Rosenthal). Let’s put it this way: Joe Maddon will likely manage the Cubs until he decides he won’t. That’s Theo Epstein’s business, I know, but Maddon is also very cognizant of the fact that a message loses its effectiveness over time. And that, according to Joe, is when it’s time to move on.
In addition, veteran players like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward credited Maddon with the success this team had. Said Anthony Rizzo, “I think he managed his ass off this year with what we’ve been dealt with as far as losing Yu, as far as losing Morrow, Stroppy going down late, K.B. not being healthy, and we still figured out a way to win. That’s all a credit to him.” That is called a ringing endorsement, folks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a finalist for Manager of the Year.
Support Staff: (My Rating: +) By support staff, I am referring to the Hitting Coach, Pitching Coach, First Base Coach, Third Base Coach, Bullpen Coach, and Bench Coach. Aside from the Chili Davis controversy, the coaching staff performed well. The bullpen carried the team early when the starters were not going deep. We took good chances coming to home plate and didn’t get thrown out at an insane level. We led both leagues in moving from first-to-third on singles. The 40 games in 41 days at the end of the season could have derailed us, but didn’t due to proper rest and preparation. The hitting, which was pretty damn good in the first half, became our Achilles heel in the second half. Or did it? We were playing some teams down the stretch that gave us literally all we could handle. We played playoff caliber games against some teams that had nothing else to play for. And have you seen the strikeout totals in this year’s playoffs? Not surprisingly, they are way up. All in all, the team performed well in just about every aspect of the game, so let’s see what happens with a new hitting coach.
Front Office: (My Rating: +) I like to give credit where credit is due, so I give credit to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer for the roster they built. The team was strong and redundant coming into the season, with depth that was the envy of almost every team in baseball. Unfortunately that depth got tested this year. Yu Darvish barely pitched 40 innings. Tyler Chatwood forgot how to pitch strikes. Kris Bryant missed over 50 games. Addison Russell was injured and then suspended. And what did the front office do? They plugged Mike Montgomery into the starting lineup with some success. They went out and got Daniel Murphy and Cole Hamels at the trade deadline. They brought up some nobody named David Bote who played great ball and also had the greatest home run possible in Wrigley this year. And they kept plugging away, giving the coaching staff everything they could so that the team could find success. Many hits, some misses, and the team is going to be strong again (on paper, at least) coming into next year.
Coming next will be the position players and the pitching staff. I promise to say nice things about Tyler Chatwood.
*Except for the Milton Bradley signing. That had to be the single worst player this team has signed in my lifetime. I said so when it was announced, and it was an unmitigated disaster.