By Kevin Powell
Something just never felt right with the 2018 Cubs. And it never really looked like they hit their stride despite winning 95 games.
“I think it was because we were paying attention to other teams because we were going down,” Javier Baez said after the Cubs season-ending, 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Rockies in the NL Wild Card. “Because we lost so many people (to injuries) from our lineup we were just paying attention to what other teams were doing. And that’s not how it works.”
The standard is different in Wrigleyville these days. It’s win the World Series or bust.
“It is disappointing because our anticipation or expectation is to play the last game of the year and win it,” Joe Maddon said after the loss. “It’s just that this year we had a lot of things go awry. I mean I’m not going to stand here and sit here and number them. And furthermore the schedule was rather difficult towards the end, I don’t even know how much that played into it.
“But I just complemented our guys on the fact that none of them complained, none of them made excuses, and to the very end like in the dugout it was very much alive supporting one another.”
I think it’s fair to say that this season can be classified as a disappointment. They won 95 games and it didn’t seem like they were even close to playing their best.
Some fans want change. Some want Joe Maddon to be fired. But it still appears that he has full support in the clubhouse.
“We love our manager,” Baez said.
It was a fitting end to the Cubs season. Another game with missed opportunities and bad at-bats.
Game 164: One run and just six hits in 13 innings.
“Yea, we played that game a lot.” Maddon said. “Believe me, it was on my mind for a large part of it. We had some opportunities, we just could not cash in. They pitched really well too, but we need to figure that out in the off-season and next spring training.”
Maybe this is what the Cubs needed. A kick in the teeth. A wake up call. Maybe complacency was beginning to settle into the clubhouse.
Jon Lester admitted that this team needed to get knocked down. Javier Baez agreed.
“If you never fail, you never know how you’re going to get up,” Baez said.
It’ll be interesting to hear from Theo Epstein in the coming days. Was hiring Chili Davis the right call? How about Joe Maddon’s job security? And how will the offense be addressed?
Maybe the most frustrated player after the game was Kris Bryant. He’s a former MVP who dealt with a nagging shoulder all season. That resulted in the worst year of his young career.
“I’ve said I’ve learned a lot about myself this year,” Bryant said. “I’m going to approach this off-season a lot differently than I have in the past. I would love to get my shoulder stronger so I don’t ever have to deal with that again.”
It didn’t sound like Bryant would be taking too much time off. He’s ready to get back to playing like an MVP. And if the Cubs offense is going to be great again, it needs a healthy Kris Bryant.
So, the season ends like this for the Cubs. It started with Yu Darvish drama. Tyler Chatwood was a mess on the mound. Kris Bryant missed significant time with a shoulder injury. Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave. The division crown was ripped away on day 163.
And on game 164, a crushing defeat in 13 innings.
“Gritty,” is the way Maddon described the Cubs season. “Again, you’re not going to hear me make excuses and this is not an excuse we have had a lot of things go awry this year and in spite that have still tied for the most wins in the National League in a 162 game season. Again, that speaks to the quality of the player in the room of the and even though maybe the numbers offensively didn’t matchup, these guys put up 95 wins.
“That speaks to the heart of the player, that speaks to the attitude of the group. So we lost some tough games in the postseason, in this postseason rights now, or getting to the postseason, but I think grit is a wonderful word that describes this group and it also I’ve talked about the heart, even a couple years ago when we won the World Series and don’t forget the heartbeat. I think the heartbeat within this group is very prominent and as a manager that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of.”
Maddon added that he does not anticipate much change in terms of personnel this season.
I agree. But I do think Theo & Co. will be as aggressive as ever when exploring ways to make this offense better and more consistent.
Yes, it’s a disappointing season. But the championship window has not suddenly slammed shut. Don’t be at all surprised if the Cubs are playing in October a year from now.
So let the countdown to Spring Training begin. Only 144 days until the Cubs first game in Mesa!
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7pm. Follow on twitter @kpowell720