The Delicate, Frustrating Balance of Preparation and Competitiveness and Other Bullets

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The Delicate, Frustrating Balance of Preparation and Competitiveness and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

jake arrieta cubs homeI can’t speak for Chris Coghlan’s ankle, but mine is really starting to feel a lot better after last Wednesday’s sprain. I was pretty aggressive in resting/icing/elevating/crutching the first few days (as aggressive as one can be with a newborn and two little kids in the house, anyway), which I think has helped. I was able to do a light strength workout on Tuesday plus a walk, and then I could ride the exercise bike yesterday. Today, I’m hoping to go for a jog without issue.

  • Context is always important, and I’m not going to stretch to create an air of drama around a team that has 101 wins and long locked up a playoff spot. That said, it’s always been the case that, when a team locks up as early as the Cubs did, there will be a delicate balance between resting up and staying healthy, while also keeping guys sharp and competitive. To my mind, so far, Joe Maddon has done an excellent job of something that can’t be all that easy to pull off in a clubhouse full of competitive guys, all of whom want to win on a given night because that’s what they do and they just want to win. Some are playing for individual checkpoints (which is totally fine by me when you consider where things stand), some want to see the Cubs continue to put up a historic win total. I’ve got no beef with any of this, but it will sometimes run at odds with the organizational interest in keeping guys healthy, fresh, and working on certain things to put the team in the best position to succeed when the bell rings next Friday.
  • So, then, against that backdrop, I offer up some comments from Jake Arrieta and Miguel Montero here at CSN and ESPN, each seeming to express frustration about the Spring Training feel to last night’s game. Setting aside the fact that frustration about the poor results were probably wrapped up in there, too, you can’t argue that the game had a Spring Training feel, as many have in the past week. Montero was removed mid-game so that Willson Contreras could get some work with Arrieta. Even when Arrieta was giving up hits, he was left in to get in his pitches. I can imagine it is difficult to be quite as sharp when you understand that, at an organizational level, dominating at maximum ability on a given night is not the priority. And when you have only so many outings in a season – the final of which shoots your ERA up over three – frustration is expected and perhaps even desirable, from a competitive standpoint. At the same time, though, the loss was just the Cubs’ second in their last nine. Spring Training feel or not, the Cubs are still winning these games. Isn’t that the best of both worlds? I know that last night, in particular, could be troubling – it’s not like Arrieta gets to pitch every game, and that was his last start for a long time – but overall, it still seems to me that the Cubs have been balancing rest, playoff preparation, and ongoing competitiveness pretty well.
  • Is this where I have to remind you that today is a bullpen day for the Cubs? Hey, they won a lot of those last year, so …
  • For his part, despite the frustration, Arrieta is still has the 80-grade confidence he’s always had, as he discussed his impending near two-week layoff ( “I’ll just throw my sides and prepare, and whoever I face will be in trouble.” I know it’s been an up-and-down second half for him, but it’s hard not to believe him, right? I wouldn’t bet against a well-rested, playoff-amped Arrieta.


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.