It is a reflection of the state of things that, as I sit and observe the Cubs on a five-game winning streak – their longest in over a year – I am tugged internally by two thoughts: I hope this continues, and they win 20 in a row … or I hope they stop messing around.
It’s a terrible way to feel, but its borne out of the reality (noted by President Theo Epstein over a year ago) that, for where the Cubs are right now, there isn’t a lot of glory in finishing with 75 wins instead of 70. If you’re not going to surprise and make the playoffs, or at least be competitive on into September to keep fans coming out, winning five extra games can pretty much only hurt you (draft week pretty much hammers that point home, doesn’t it?). I don’t want to completely discount the developmental benefits of winning, and I’m sure the players are enjoying it like a guy falling into a lake in the middle of the desert. But, from a fan perspective – especially a Cubs fan perspective – it’s hard to think about much other than the playoffs.
At 9 games below .500, and 10 games out in the NL Central (5.5 out in the WC, but behind eight teams), to realistically be in the playoff conversation in the near-term, and to have the kind of record you’d need to see in late June to change your thinking about your July plans, I really do think the Cubs would need to win another 15 or so in very short order. It would make for a hell of a story, and nothing would make me happier – but it seems fairly unlikely, given the offensive holes, and the likelihood that we see a little pullback in rotation and bullpen performance.
Since I don’t believe the Cubs will go on to win 20 games in a row, does that mean I’m angry they’ve won five in a row? Of course not. Even I can’t go that far. Seeing the Cubs win is still an enjoyable experience for me. It’s just that, in recent years, it’s become harder to simply enjoy a win on that given day without acknowledging the pesky long-term implications gnawing at the back of my mind.
The only thing I’m angry about? The fact that tough-luck sequencing has the Cubs with a mere -8 run differential, but 9 games under .500. Worse, when you look at the underlying statistics and determine how many runs the Cubs should have, and how many they should have given up, their record should be about 30-29, according to BP.
At a game over .500, and riding a five-game winning streak, everyone everywhere is thinking and saying entirely different things about this 2014 Chicago Cubs team.
For today, I’m just going to keep trying to fight the demons in the recesses of my brain, and hope the Cubs make it six in a row.