All things considered, the Cubs have played pretty well since I delivered a Cubs tongue lashing one month ago.
I wrote that post after the Cubs rolled over and played dead during a three-game sweep at Arizona.
For me, it was the absolute low point of the season. The Cubs didn’t do much of anything right against the Diamondbacks, and what little they did do correctly was largely done with the games out of hand.
Was it the team’s woeful record that finally caved-in crushing their spirit? Maybe it was the looming trade rumors, or the ‘Anthony Rizzo Wait’ that caused a lack of focus in the desert?
Whatever the case, it wasn’t pretty, or acceptable play.
Naturally, I was curious how the Cubs would respond after such a lackluster series. Would Sveum give the team a piece of his mind, and if he did, were his troops even listening?
THE CUBS REKINDLED SPIRIT
Surprisingly, the Cubs roared back to life after the Arizona series defeating Johan Santana and the Mets at Wrigley Field the following day. It was the start of a (14-5) run marking the major’s best record since that very evening, June 25.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this weekend happened. A new low point during a dreadful and pathetic three-game sweep at the hands of the rival Cardinals. It was a brutal performance. It was hardly watchable.
What excuse was there this time? No trades have been made and Anthony Rizzo has been well entrenched at first base for weeks.
GET’EM ON, GET’EM OVER, GET’EM IN
The Cubs offense in St. Louis was nonexistent: one lousy run in three games–0-for-13 with RISP for the series–while the Cardinals outhit the Cubs 36-18 and outscored them 23-1.
The pitching was, well, record-setting for one particular evening allowing the Cards to send 17 batters to the plate to score 12 runs on eight extra base hits in one inning–the bottom of the 7th in Game 2.
I guess it’s debatable which series was worse, Arizona or St. Louis, but quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.
I’m more upset with the Cubs low-level of motivation this weekend, it’s lack of focus and willingness to get knocked down without getting back up. After all, how else does one explain 25 consecutive scoreless innings by mediocre Cardinal pitching?
WINNING DOESN’T ALWAYS COME EASILY
All is well when winning comes easily, the starting pitching sparkling and the offense clicking, as it has for the better part of three weeks. But winning is also about fighting through adversity, taking punches and the ability to keep moving forward, a lesson the Cubs have clearly yet to learn.
The Cardinals punched the Cubs in the bottom of the first inning Friday night scoring three runs against Ryan Dempster, snapping his 33.0 consecutive scoreless innings streak, and the Cubs simply wilted from there on out.
You can’t put the blame squarely on Dale Sveum, he wasn’t the one swinging the bat and tossing meatball pitches. But Sveum is obviously responsible for the outcome, and the effort of all parties involved.
No team, of course, lasts an entire season without a poor showing or two. The Cubs, however, have had one too many if we include its 12-game skid in May.
Troubling stretches is somewhat to be expected with a roster on the rebuild and a team poised to trade it’s best players any day now. But losing the way the Cubs did this weekend simply can’t be tolerated.
SVEUM MUST RIGHT THE SHIP
If there’s ever a time Dale Sveum earns his money this season, this is it. The pennant chases are tight and heating up. The Cubs will be easy targets, especially following the trade deadline, and winning won’t come as easily as it has over the last several weeks.
St. Louis splashed a bucket of cold water on the Cubs as a reminder of this, returning home after a 1-5 road trip poised to get healthy against Chicago–and did they ever.
There’s no question the Cubs next two opponents, the Pirates & Dodgers, will be ready to do the same kind of damage.
How Sveum and his team respond this time will be even more telling. But as I’ve said since Opening Day, I can handle the losing, I just can’t stomach the Cubs giving games away.
It’s tough enough the Cubs have been out of the race since late April. But for heaven’s sake, show some fight, go down swinging. Pride is always worth playing for, and so is the tattoo on Dale Sveum’s right arm: ‘Give’em Hell’.
The effort might not equal wins this year, but it will do an awful lot to teach this young ball club what it takes to be a winner next season.
And for the fans, that’s something still worth watching.