By: Tom Maugeri
Hey Chicago what do you say, the Cubs haven’t won a road series since mid-May.
The Chicago Cubs dropped yet another series on the road the other night, losing 8-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals. They were only able to muster up three runs across the three game series and the offense proved that they are far from where they need to be. All-Stars Kris Bryant and Javier Baez went a combined 3-21 during the series which was good for just a .143 batting average. They totaled only one more hit than the Cubs other All-Star, catcher Willson Contreras, who only had eight at-bats. It’s easy to point fingers when teams go through slumps, but when a team has gone nearly three months without winning a series on the road, it’s clear that something needs to change. So what did the Cubs do to address this change? Well, they brought in left-handed reliever Derek Holland from San Francisco with the hopes of finally acquiring a bullpen arm tough on lefties. So naturally, Joe Maddon brought him in to face the switch hitting Matt Wieters and well…
There was a lot of frustration over the decision to go with Holland in this situation, but Maddon really didn’t have a ton of options here. Does he bring in an already taxed Steve Cishek in a three-run game with no outs in the sixth? It’s easy to overlook him because he’s not a huge name, but Cishek has been a workhorse for the Cubs, appearing in 51 games and pitching a total of 48.1 innings. Does Brandon Kintzler get the call in this situation? He’s been surprisingly terrific in a Cubs uniform this year and has just a 1.54 ERA over his last 26 outings. However, someone with his pitching prowess should be saved in case the Cubs were to make a push late in the game. Obviously Craig Kimbrel won’t be coming in for this situation, Pedro Strop is on the IL, and Brandon Morrow has been rehabbing since the day he entered the MLB. That leaves Holland or a lesser bullpen arm to try and minimize the damage.
This bullpen, and specifically the way the bullpen has been managed by Joe Maddon has a lot of people furious and it’s something that could end up costing the Cubs manager his job. Even before the season started it was speculated that Maddon’s stint with the Cubs may be coming to an end.
If the team keeps playing the way it is now, it’s hard to imagine that he remains the Cubs manager going into the future.
The Cubs have made more moves than just acquiring Holland, but most of the players they brought in either haven’t played to meet expectations or aren’t expected to make a huge impact. Take the signing of RHP David Phelps for example. He’s an okay arm that the Cubs traded for without giving up a whole lot, but the odds of him turning into a lockdown reliever are slim. Hopefully he’s someone that can take the load off the bullpen and eat innings when called upon.
As far as bringing in players that haven’t lived up to expectations goes, there’s a lot to unpack. Addison Russell is incredibly lucky to have even earned a second chance with the team, but he impressed no one during his time in the big leagues.
There was the Carlos Gonzales experiment, which started off pretty good, but ended in him being released from the team. Robel Garcia was brought up to spark the squad, but his struggles earned him a ticket back to the minor leagues. Does anyone remember Adbert Alzolay‘s brief stint? He made his debut out of the bullpen and was lights out, pitching so well that it earned him a start against the Braves for his next outing. How did that outing go you ask? Here’s the first pitch he threw.
To say that the Cubs moves thus far haven’t worked is a candidate for understatement of the year.
All hope is not lost for this team though. There is still reason to believe that they will turn it around. Kris Bryant is a former MVP and will break out of this mini slump sooner rather than later, Javier Baez is still one of the most exciting players to watch in all of baseball, and the recent trade for Nicholas Castellanos gives Chicago a solid hitter at the top of their lineup. However, one of the most exciting additions could be the Game 7 hero in 2016. After dealing with his divorce for most of the season, it appears that Ben Zobrist could be nearing a return with the club.
The addition of Zobrist provides not only some veteran leadership, but he may also be the leadoff hitter that the Cubs so desperately need. Kyle Schwarber simply doesn’t get on base enough to bat up at the top of the order (.222/.313/.472), the Robel Garcia experiment has come and gone, and Jason Heyward has voiced his displeasure with hitting leadoff multiple times. Ever since Dexter Fowler left, it’s clear there has been a void that needs filling in that leadoff role. Is Zobrist the answer? Can he really be what Dexter Fowler was to the 2016 World Series team? Only time will tell, but it’s clear that if the Cubs can’t find some consistency at the top of their lineup and start winning some games on the road, then there won’t be a whole lot of champagne popping at the end of the season.
Cover photo via: Chicago Cubs Twitter
Follow Edge Sports Network on Twitter: @TheEdgeSN
Follow Tom Maugeri on Twitter: @tmaugs11