The Cubs Dynasty That Never Was
Joe Maddon will be leaving the Chicago Cubs after five seasons as their manager after leading them to their first World Series in 108 years in 2016. Maddon is a great manager and will for sure be managing very soon. Perhaps in Anaheim. The thing is someone in Chicago needed to take responsibility for their recent collapses.
The Cubs were in position to become a dynasty. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez in the lineup for years to come. After a five game lead in the National League Central in 2018 the Cubs lost the division to the Brewers in game 163 to lose the division. They later lost the NL Wild Card game to the Rockies to end their season. They managed to have an even worse collapse in 2019. The Cubs had a 86.5 percent chance to make playoffs in early September as they were five games up on the Brewers for the Wild Card. The Cubs ended up losing fourteen of their next twenty games. What went wrong? How do the Cubs fix this?
What Needs To Change
The cubs bullpen was terrible in September. It wasn’t a strength to begin with and Theo went out and added the best available reliever Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has been one of the best closers in the game since 2011 but has been abysmal for the Cubs since he was signed in June. A 6.53 ERA, three runs higher than his previous worst, allowed the most home runs he ever has in his career (again he signed in June) and even had a stint on the injured list. Kimbrel is an elite closer. No doubt. The real reason why he was bad this season was his late start. We’ve seen it with William Nylander in the NHL. Signing late doesn’t do you any favors for the season ahead. The Cubs better hope that’s the problem as they owe him thirty million over the next two seasons.
Pedro Strop another late inning reliever for the Cubs also had a rough season. He had 4.97 ERA average over two runs higher than 2018.
The Cubs bullpen had 28 blown saves were the fifth most in baseball in 2019.
19-27 record in one run games.
What Does Not NEED To Change
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant makeup are one the best corner infield in baseball. They were a major factor in the 2016 World Series title. Add power hitters Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber to the mix the Cubs have themselves a top five offense in the National League. They have so many offensive weapons that most teams do not have. Why change that via trade?
The Cubs have a very experienced starting rotation. Lester, Hammels, Hendricks, Darvish all have October experience. Is it time to rebuild the rotation though?
The ace Jon Lester is aging, Cole Hammels is a free agent, Yu Darvish despite pitching well of late has been inconsistent in his Cubs tenure.
There is still so much experience there. Lester is a three time World Series champion. Been a major part of all three. Kyle Hendricks has been a rock for the Cubs rotation for the past five years and even won an ERA title in 2016. We’ve seen the talent of Yu Darvish over the years. There are good core pitchers in that rotation. Again, there is not a whole lot of reason to change it.
The recent failures are frustrating for the fans and organizations. The Cubs have the second highest payroll in baseball in 2019. An investment owner, Tom Ricketts hoped would result in winning. Epstein only has one year on his deal. Do the Cubs replace him as well? They shouldn’t. Nobody in baseball can draft as well as Theo Epstein. He’s drafted starts like Rizzo, Betts, Boegarts, Vazquez, Bryant, Schwarber and Ian Happ in his sixteen years of a top baseball executive. I doubt he goes anywhere.
What Does the Future Hold?
This is the second major collapse for an Epstein architected team this decade. When the Red Sox had their epic collapse in 2011 the Red Sox fired Terry Franconca. Epstein was going to face the biggest challenge of his career in rebuilding the Red Sox but left for Chicago. What does Epstein do this time? Does he leave Chicago? Does he take the Cubs in a new direction? Does he still believe he built a team that was good enough to contend for years to come and just needed a different voice. This is Epstein's biggest challenge of his career. What he does next is sure something to follow.