What a difference a week makes…
Just before the 2019 All-Star Game, we discussed — right here, actually — the current state of affairs for the North Side Ballclub. For the fourth straight season, the Cubs appeared to limp into the break and Cubs fans collectively held their breath and wrung their hands.
And they Tweeted. A lot.
So far this year, if social media is any barometer, and it’s actually not, the Cubs have been AWFUL followed by bouts of UNBEATABLE followed by AWFUL again. And then, like a refreshing rain delay on an early November night, the team had the chance to press the RESET button. This year’s All-Star break came and went, and the Cubs now look to — once again — prove their mettle.
So, what have we learned so far?
So far, we learned that the Cubs fear no one. No one. The Pirates took liberties against the Cubs in a four-game set in Pittsburgh before the break. Then Clint Hurdle and his Pirates came to town and Clint, possibly afraid of getting pummeled by Joe Maddon,*
decided to have his team play like gentlemen. They promptly got swept out of town. In the three-game series to open the second half of the 2019 season, the Cubs outscored the Pirates by a combined score of 22-10. There were no bean-ball wars, there were no bench-clearing brawls. But the Cubs sent a message that they will not be intimidated. And they took all three games.
A good start, no?
It was opined here that the Cubs are and have been a great second-half club under Joe Maddon. Prior to this season, the Chicago Cubs are 152-79 after the All Star break. The Cubs this week ran that record to 157-80, and show no signs of slowing down. Kris Bryant, as recently as last week, said that Maddon has his full support, because “all he does is win.”
Full disclosure: I don’t play baseball for a living. Hell, I don’t even write about baseball for a living, but I know when to shut up and listen when an actual baseball person is talking about baseball, and this is one of those times. Kris Bryant knows that his manager has delivered a .663 winning percentage in the second half of all the seasons since he’s been here. He also knows that the struggles are on the field and not in the dugout.
Kris Bryant: So young and so smart. With dimples…
So as if that’s not enough to deal with, David Bell and the Cincinnati Redlegs came to town. Cincinnati has played us particularly tough for the last two seasons. The Cubs handed away Game 1 with errors and sloppy play, and the Cubs dropped a game they surely thought they had in hand. But what is most important is what happened next: The Cubs didn’t wallow in self-pity or make excuses. They came out and promptly won two (very important) division games.
The division lead — as of this writing — sits at 2 1/2 games. The upcoming matchup against the Padres favors the North Siders, but only if they play smart ball and take advantage of the opportunities given them. A nine-game road trip follows, with the (red-hot) Giants, the Brewers, and the cardinals** awaiting us. Not one of these teams will be willing to roll over for us. Not one will give away wins willingly.
So it looks like we’re just gonna hafta go out and take them.
Featured Image via chicagocubs.com * Clint Hurdle would destroy Joe Maddon in a fight. ** The author recognizes his inability to capitalize the word cardinals and makes no apologies for it.