The Chicago Cubs’ Sunday afternoon series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed due to inclement weather. This was a mercy to fans who have endured a 2-13 stretch to end the first half of the season. After climbing atop the division to start the month of June, the wheels fell off the bus to close the month. The Northsiders lost 11 straight beginning on June 25th, falling into third place. While there have certainly been some highlights this year, the sour end to the first half has fostered pessimism among the fanbase about the front office and ownership’s willingness to extend its star players and field winning teams in the immediate future.
1st Half Record: 44-46 (.489)
Games Behind: 8.0
MVP: Kris Bryant (134 OPS+)
Cy Young: Craig Kimbrel (700 ERA+, 1.12 FIP)
Run Differential: -24.0
Team Defensive Runs Saved: -4 (11th)
Team Fielding Percentage: .985 (8th)
All-Star Selections: Bryant; Kimbrel
All-Star Snubs: Kyle Hendricks
1st Half Highlight: Combined no-hitter versus the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24. This was the last Cubs victory before the 11-game losing streak. Zach Davies outpitched Walker Buehler, allowing no runs and no hits over six innings before handing the ball over to Ryan Tepera. Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Kimbrel continued to shut down the the LA offense for the first combined no-hitter in Cubs franchise history. The no-no was also the first received by catcher Willson Contreras.
1st Half Lowlight: 13-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 5. The Cubs took an early 2-1 lead over Philly on Jake Marisnick‘s solo blast and Javier Báez‘s RBI double. Didi Gregorius‘s solo shot in the 4th inning would tie the game, and the Phillies took the lead on Andrew McCutchen‘s RBI double in the 6th inning. The visitors continued piling on the runs in the late innings, tallying six in the 8th and three in the 9th to finish the game with a ten-run margin of victory.
Where Do They Go from Here?
When the team was in first place, it looked like the Northsiders were going to make moves at the trade deadline. There were even rumors about acquiring three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The slide into third place has caused the narrative of the Cubs being potential deadline sellers as the team’s stars approach free agency to regain traction. Current big cheese Jed Hoyer has made noises about how “sentimentality” is at odds with what leadership thinks is best for the team long-term. (Translation: I will ship your World Series heroes out of town if the ownership group orders me to cut payroll.)
Jed Hoyer on #Cubs' approach at trade deadline: "We need to make sure that we're not afraid of roster turnover based on sentimentality. We need to think about what is the right thing for this organization long term." https://t.co/bXKcaP47mx via @LaurenceWHolmes Show pic.twitter.com/x8BNPBd720
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) July 9, 2021
In theory, there is plenty of time left for the Northsiders to turn things around and make a run for the division title. However, it’s difficult for me to see them healing from the eleven-game skid. Contreras recently made headlines when criticizing the team’s lack of effort following their most recent loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
I feel like everybody was off. Everybody was distracted. I don’t know why. Probably because the All-Star break is pretty close. (Sunday) is the last day of the first half. I don’t think that way, but I didn’t think we were on today.
While Chicago Tribune columnist Paul Sullivan believes Contreras’s words showed leadership, manager David Ross downplayed the catcher’s comments as coming from a place of frustration and that he should have kept his concerns “in-house.” This does not reflect well on Ross’s ability to lead the team through adversity. Sullivan also notes the following:
No good will come out of Contreras’ criticism unless it is heeded. And if Ross believes Contreras was wrong about the lack of effort in the first place, there’s no reason for the team to listen to the catcher.
If Ross is unable to resolve Contreras’s concerns, this could further fracture the clubhouse, leading to more losses and a massive deadline sell-off. Also, does anybody remember what happened the last time a Cubs catcher criticized a teammate’s effort and the comments were blamed on frustration?