Saturday, Monday, Tuesday.
Those were the three days that did the Chicago Cubs 2018 season in (or, well, put in the final nails). On each of those days, the Cubs scored just 1 run, and on each of those days a different team – first the Cardinals, then the Brewers, then the Rockies – scored just one or two more runs than that. Had the Cubs squeaked out just a little more offense in any of those three games, they would have been resting up ahead of their fourth consecutive NLDS appearance, perhaps even as the division winners for the third year in a row. Instead, they’re at home. Resting. Waiting. Thinking about what could have been.
But for however mad and disappointed I am (believe me … it’s still a lot (as it should be)), I simply refuse to get too down on this team. I know we all hate hearing it, but this *was* another successful season. The Cubs won 95 games – as Theo Epstein put it, nine times out of ten, that wins you your division – and reached the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. That is not just nothing, it is very much something.
But what that “something” actually is still a fair question. Is this a dynasty? No. I don’t think anyone can say that it is, with only one championship in the four-year stretch, and only one trip to the World Series. (Maybe if the Cubs win the World Series next year we can start thinking about it?)
Even if it isn’t a dynasty, is this probably the single best era of Cubs baseball and one of the finer stretches any team has had? Actually, yes. It is.
At FanGraphs, Craig Edwards has a piece I think we all need to read today: The Cubs Aren’t a Dynasty and That’s Okay. In it, he discusses how close they did (or, rather, did not) come to becoming a dynasty, but how what they’ve already accomplished – four straight postseason appearances, a boatload of wins, a World Series title, etc. – still ranks among the best runs for any team. And most importantly, Edwards points out, it’s not even close to over.
Here’s a chunk of the article to that latter point, I believe is worth sharing:
“A rotation featuring Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and a potentially declining Jon Lester is still a good one. If Yu Darvish is healthy, it could be dynamic. A healthy Kris Bryant would more than make up for some regression from Javier Baez or a decline from Ben Zobrist. The bullpen is better than it showed in the latter part of the season. Albert Almora, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber are all quality contributors. And that’s all without accounting for the kind of signing or trade which the organization’s resources allow.”
When you read that, you feel a bit better, right? I know I do.
That rotation is good and it doesn’t even include Mike Montgomery or Drew Smyly, both of whom could play big roles next season (Tyler Chatwood bounce-back, anybody?!?!). That offensive group still includes players I believe in, and it’s still quite young. Moreover, it might also be significantly improved over the winter – this is one of the most exciting free agent classes in MLB history. And of course, the Cubs still have a boatload of young talent from which they could finally look to trade. In short, the team is already well-positioned to be good again next season and they have multiple significant and realistic avenues for improvement.
So, no, this season did not go as we hoped (I mean, it did in a way – 95 wins is EXACTLY what we hoped for, but you know …), but next year looks as bright, if not brighter, than many recent seasons have been. And that’s something.