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Demoralizing loss in Milwaukee frees Cubs from burden of making an attempt to contend in 2021

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The Cubs — to borrow a long-ago quote from Dennis Inexperienced a few completely different Chicago crew — had been who we thought they had been. And the gamers simply let the entrance workplace off the hook. 

Technically, positive, Wednesday’s loss to the Brewers was only one loss in a 162-game season. 

However it positive felt like a defining second — and never in a great way — didn’t it? The Cubs scored seven runs within the prime of the primary inning towards the Brewers, the red-hot division rival that not too long ago wrestled away management of the NL Central. The Cubs wanted this recreation to remain inside shouting distance. They wanted something optimistic, actually. 

They’d misplaced 5 in a row, together with the primary two video games of the sequence in Milwaukee — blown out within the first one (14-4) and snuck by within the second (2-1) — and had fallen 5 video games behind the Brewers within the division. They led the division, you’ll most likely bear in mind, by a recreation as not too long ago as June 18. 

In order that first inning felt virtually cathartic. A minimum of one thing lastly was going proper. 

Till it wasn’t. The Brewers scored one within the first and 5 within the second, chasing starter Jake Arrieta. Although it’s probably not his fault, Arrieta is symbolic of this Cubs membership, the distinction between what they as soon as had been — what they could have thought they nonetheless had been — and what they really at the moment are. Arrieta will eternally be a Cubs legend for his unbelievable Cy Younger season in 2015 and his position in serving to the franchise win its long-awaited World Sequence title in 2016. 

However he’s 35 now, and he’s not the identical. The best-hander reunited with the Cubs this offseason, a short-term deal that was fueled by nostalgic causes for each events. After letting Jon Lester go and buying and selling away ace Yu Darvish — a part of an offseason of exercise of a crew not precisely making an attempt to contend — the Cubs wanted somebody to hitch the rotation, ideally somebody the followers would get pleasure from seeing. Arrieta was the selection, regardless of a 4.75 ERA/4.83 FIP and seven.1 Ok/9 his final two years with the Phillies. In his first 4 full seasons with the Cubs (2014-17), Arrieta owned a 2.67 ERA, 3.04 FIP and 9.1 Ok/9.

Failing to carry onto a lead and failing to final previous the second inning in what simply may need been crucial recreation of the 12 months feels unavoidably symbolic. In 2021, Arrieta not is a Cy Younger contender, similar to the Cubs aren’t professional playoff contenders. 

The Brewers scored eight occasions within the fourth inning and wound up successful the sport in a rout, 15-7.

Think about dropping by eight runs in a recreation the place you as soon as held a seven-run lead. And picture that loss being the third in a row towards the crew you’re instantly chasing within the standings. Now, think about that being the sixth loss in a row total and the twelfth up to now 16 video games.

Doesn’t take a lot to think about that is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s again. 

And possibly, in the long term, that’s a superb factor for the Cubs. There’s a purpose the entrance workplace spent the complete offseason performing like a crew with no actual intentions of competing for a division title, a lot much less a World Sequence crown. They checked out their roster, with the truth of contract conditions at hand, and determined it could be higher to attempt to reload a bit for the longer term, as an alternative of loading up with reinforcements for one final run with the franchise icons. Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo are all free brokers after the season. 

And never solely did they ship out Darvish and pay Lester $10 million to go away, however they minimize ties with Kyle Schwarber — he clearly isn’t finished as an elite energy hitter — and the folks they introduced again had been Arrieta-esque. We talked about this at size at the start of June, a month all of us knew can be defining. 

The Cubs had gone 19-8 in Could, vaulting to the highest of the division. Doesn’t matter what the offseason plan was, no crew might really be sellers after they’re main a division or near that lead, proper? The White Sox received a World Sequence title in 2005 and are contenders for the title once more this 12 months, however no person has actually ever forgiven them for the “white flag” deal of 1997, when the Sox traded two of their finest beginning pitchers and their nearer to the Giants in late July for a handful of prospects regardless of being solely 3 1/2 again within the division. They completed in second, 6 video games again.

However now, it’s arduous to see any Cubs fan getting too upset if the membership pulls the plug on contending in 2021. June has been a catastrophe — one more chapter within the franchise’s notorious June Swoon guide — and so they’re now 42-39, six video games behind the Brewers (48-33). The hole between the 2 golf equipment feels a lot bigger that that, although. As a result of the NL West is top-heavy with the Giants (50-29), Dodgers (49-31) and Padres (49-33) proudly owning the highest three information within the NL, making an attempt for the second wild-card spot is daunting, too. 

Now, the entrance workplace is free from the burden of making an attempt to enhance the 2021 membership’s possibilities of contending with out decimating the farm system. Jed Hoyer, the president of baseball operations, not must be consumed with analyzing the market to seek out potential diamonds within the tough, gamers who may exceed expectations and spark a playoff push. 

Hoyer and firm can concentrate on the longer-term way forward for the membership. In a commerce market that’s lengthy on demand and brief on provide, his crew all of a sudden could be sellers, with guys like Baez, Rizzo and Bryant probably bringing again important longer-term upgrades. And he can commerce Craig Kimbrel, his dominating nearer who has a crew choice for 2022. What World Sequence contender wouldn’t need to add him to its bullpen? 

Yep, the entrance workplace is off the “now we have to contend” hook. Wednesday’s catastrophe/debacle/drubbing will permit the Cubs to select up the place they left off this offseason. Lastly. 

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