The Penalty Box: Cubs Fans, Prepare For Pain

July 10, 2024 at 8:00 a.m.


It is July, and like so many months of July before, this one will end with pain for fans of the Chicago Cubs.
That pain will come in the form of watching the Cubs front office send away players viewed by other teams to have value in their own playoff efforts in exchange for minor league players who have potential to be good someday.
We believed that this would be a season where the Cubs would be buyers—that it would be the Cubs who would be sending their youngsters to someone else while the Cubs would be trying to solidify their hopes of bringing another World Series title to the North Side.
But the reality is this: The Cubs are going to be sellers this season.
How?
Why?
Where did this go so wrong?
To start with, they didn’t add enough quality position players and bullpen pitchers in the off-season. Instead, they settled for players that were on the team last year and were counting on them to produce at the same rate as they did last year.
That was unrealistic. So many players had clutch, two-out, run-scoring hits last season that it would be almost impossible for a baseball team to duplicate that. Baseball doesn’t work like that. Baseball is a game played by hitting a round ball with a round bat, and the bounces just don’t go your way like that in consecutive years.
You must stock your team with talented players, not lucky ones.
The Cubs didn’t do that.
This is on the front office.
What they did do is spend a bunch of money on a new field manager, pilfering Craig Counsell from Milwaukee in a daring deal that seemed to put the Cubs in a position to take the Central and put themselves in a position of power like they did in 2015 when they hired Joe Maddon away from Tampa Bay.
We assumed that Counsell would be able to unlock the team and set them on a short course for greatness.
We assumed wrongly.
What the Cubs are in 2024 is actually a much worse baseball team, and overall, they remind us much more of 2014 than 2015.
They don’t hit for power. They don’t hit for average. They don’t catch it. They don’t throw it. They don’t hold leads. They find ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win them.
When they get behind this season, they have little hope of mounting a comeback. When opponents score first, the Cubs record is a dismal 10-32.
Why?
How?
The team batting average is .228, and that’s come up 10-percent over the last 10 days. Add that to their on-base percentage of .310 and there isn’t a lot of traffic on the bases. They are 23rd in home runs and 26th in slugging percentage.
They are fundamentally on a level just below a high school team. They botch rundowns. They rarely have productive plate appearances. They get a leadoff double, for example, and then follow that up with a strike out, a ground out to the third baseman and a third out that leaves them empty handed.
The middle of the field was a mountain of strength in 2023, but it has been a valley of despair this summer.
Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner have not been sharp on defense and are both below .250 at the plate.
Injuries have played a significant role, to be sure. But this farm system that was supposed to be stocked with major-league-ready ball players has been largely unsuccessful in plugging the holes.
And, as I previously mentioned, the Cubs have blown almost 20 save opportunities this season. If you convert 15 of those 20 games in which they led in the ninth inning, they would be in first place right now.
Instead, they are in last.
The trade deadline is at the end of the month. Teams are calling Jed Hoyer, asking about players and what it would take to get the Cubs to part with them.
What the Cubs would get back from trade deadline deals are more kids—kids who show the same promise and potential that the Cubs themselves supposedly have stacked up in the minors.
This is the alleged “big brother baseball team” from the third largest market in America and from the largest market within a thousand miles of the coasts or the southern border. Yet, they act like a small-market team. They tip-toe around like are afraid to hurt the Pirates, Brewers and Reds feelings.
At some point, the Cubs have to say, “we are the Cubs, and we are from Chicago, and we are here to take over.”
Until the Ricketts family allows that to happen, the month of July will continue to be predictably painful.

It is July, and like so many months of July before, this one will end with pain for fans of the Chicago Cubs.
That pain will come in the form of watching the Cubs front office send away players viewed by other teams to have value in their own playoff efforts in exchange for minor league players who have potential to be good someday.
We believed that this would be a season where the Cubs would be buyers—that it would be the Cubs who would be sending their youngsters to someone else while the Cubs would be trying to solidify their hopes of bringing another World Series title to the North Side.
But the reality is this: The Cubs are going to be sellers this season.
How?
Why?
Where did this go so wrong?
To start with, they didn’t add enough quality position players and bullpen pitchers in the off-season. Instead, they settled for players that were on the team last year and were counting on them to produce at the same rate as they did last year.
That was unrealistic. So many players had clutch, two-out, run-scoring hits last season that it would be almost impossible for a baseball team to duplicate that. Baseball doesn’t work like that. Baseball is a game played by hitting a round ball with a round bat, and the bounces just don’t go your way like that in consecutive years.
You must stock your team with talented players, not lucky ones.
The Cubs didn’t do that.
This is on the front office.
What they did do is spend a bunch of money on a new field manager, pilfering Craig Counsell from Milwaukee in a daring deal that seemed to put the Cubs in a position to take the Central and put themselves in a position of power like they did in 2015 when they hired Joe Maddon away from Tampa Bay.
We assumed that Counsell would be able to unlock the team and set them on a short course for greatness.
We assumed wrongly.
What the Cubs are in 2024 is actually a much worse baseball team, and overall, they remind us much more of 2014 than 2015.
They don’t hit for power. They don’t hit for average. They don’t catch it. They don’t throw it. They don’t hold leads. They find ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win them.
When they get behind this season, they have little hope of mounting a comeback. When opponents score first, the Cubs record is a dismal 10-32.
Why?
How?
The team batting average is .228, and that’s come up 10-percent over the last 10 days. Add that to their on-base percentage of .310 and there isn’t a lot of traffic on the bases. They are 23rd in home runs and 26th in slugging percentage.
They are fundamentally on a level just below a high school team. They botch rundowns. They rarely have productive plate appearances. They get a leadoff double, for example, and then follow that up with a strike out, a ground out to the third baseman and a third out that leaves them empty handed.
The middle of the field was a mountain of strength in 2023, but it has been a valley of despair this summer.
Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner have not been sharp on defense and are both below .250 at the plate.
Injuries have played a significant role, to be sure. But this farm system that was supposed to be stocked with major-league-ready ball players has been largely unsuccessful in plugging the holes.
And, as I previously mentioned, the Cubs have blown almost 20 save opportunities this season. If you convert 15 of those 20 games in which they led in the ninth inning, they would be in first place right now.
Instead, they are in last.
The trade deadline is at the end of the month. Teams are calling Jed Hoyer, asking about players and what it would take to get the Cubs to part with them.
What the Cubs would get back from trade deadline deals are more kids—kids who show the same promise and potential that the Cubs themselves supposedly have stacked up in the minors.
This is the alleged “big brother baseball team” from the third largest market in America and from the largest market within a thousand miles of the coasts or the southern border. Yet, they act like a small-market team. They tip-toe around like are afraid to hurt the Pirates, Brewers and Reds feelings.
At some point, the Cubs have to say, “we are the Cubs, and we are from Chicago, and we are here to take over.”
Until the Ricketts family allows that to happen, the month of July will continue to be predictably painful.

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