I get that question all the time, and I always find it strange.
Maybe it’s because I worry obsessively, but, from my perspective, it was OK to worry about the Cubs on Day One. We worried a bit about aging in the pitching staff, we worried about the depth behind them, we worried about Wade Davis’s forearm, we worried about Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop bouncing back, we worried about the youth on the roster, we worried about Jason Heyward’s precipitous decline, we worried about the outfield defense, we worried about Willson Contreras’ transition to starting catcher, and on and on.
On the whole, most of us felt like the Cubs were still a very clear playoff team – maybe even a great one – but there was always cause for concern. It’s baseball.
So if it was OK to worry then, it’s certainly OK to worry now. No need to ask for my approval.
But, like I discussed two weeks ago when first addressing my own worries, do yourself a favor and make sure you frame the question for yourself: worry about *what*?
That the Cubs have flaws? That individual players are dealing with issues that may not naturally correct themselves this season? Yup. Big, legit worries there.
That the Cubs won’t be able to address some of their flaws in-season via trades? Eh, some worry there, since you can never count on trades (and adding a bat is logistically very difficult for this roster). But it’s an option for the rotation, for sure.
That the Cubs won’t make the playoffs? Well, that’s where the cruddiness of the rest of the division comes into play, and why I always talk about how the rest of the division is doing (and the roster moves and/or injuries that impact them … turns out it really does matter to the Cubs!).
I think that’s what most of you are wondering when you ask if it’s OK to worry now. And the answer, again, is of course. Even considering the cruddy division, current playoff odds projections – as Michael discussed yesterday in the always excellent Off-Day Check-In – give the Cubs a very healthy 25% to 40% chance of NOT making the playoffs. Such is the bed they’ve made for themselves.
Given that some of the issues the roster is facing may not turn around and may not be able to be addressed in trade (I’m thinking of the offensive production of players who will not be replaced in-season), and given that the rotation troubles/injuries are significant, I think it is OK to worry that the Cubs might languish for months around .500, ever so slowly falling behind whichever NL Central team is able to get a few games over .500 (for now, it’s the Brewers, but I’d still keep my eye on the Cardinals and a late run by the Pirates as they get players back).
It is, of course, equally (if not more) possible that it is the Cubs who slowly start to pull over .500, and create a little distance in the Central.
So, then, worry away. I will. But I will also enjoy each win all the more than I might have if the Cubs were already staring down from a 20-game lead. I wouldn’t be complaining about that, of course, but we got that experience last year. This year will just be different.