There was a time when the sight of rain at a Chicago Cubs game would elicit a smile and bring back a happy memory. After all, rain is associated with the team’s 2016 World Series championship, as much as anything that went down in their Game 7 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Using a twist of a Joe Maddon saying, there is little doubt they let the pressure of the moment exceed the pleasure of the game.
“No matter what the end results end up being, the character is not determined by the final results,” veteran outfielder Ben Zobrist said as philosophically as possible. “It’s determined by how you go about the process. We do believe in the process here.”buy nike nfl jerseys cheap
But that process might be broken. It’s possible that it began to break the day the Cubs won that World Series, but first, it started to bend. And then bend some more, in 2018, and slowly but surely, the team — and its players — lost what set them apart in 2016.
“It’s hard to pinpoint anything,” Maddon said of the breakdowns this season. “Lot of guys are having really good seasons. We’ve lost a lot of one-run games. Is that the lack of a hit or is that lack of a pitch? I don’t know.”
It’s a lack of everything, including the fundamentals of the game. Some numbers lie, but some don’t: The Cubs lead the majors in outs made on the bases, are third in the National League in errors and have the worst save rate in the NL in the ninth inning or later, blowing an MLB-worst 15 of 50 opportunities. They do some things well, such as hitting home runs and shutting down the opponent during blowout wins.cheap nfl nike jerseys china
In perhaps the most misleading statistic of any team, the Cubs actually rank third in bullpen ERA in the NL. But take a shovel and dig just below the surface — not very far at all — and you see the underbelly of a bullpen that has been a mess. In high-leverage situations — you know, close games — the Cubs’ relief crew is last in the NL in walk rate (13.6%) and K/BB ratio (1.6) and 12th in WHIP (1.50) and opponents’ OPS (.856). Talk about the pressure exceeding the pleasure.
It happened over and over again to the Cubs this season. Not good enough to run away from teams, they also weren’t good enough to grind their way to a better season.
Then came the injuries. Baseball has a cruel way of revealing who you really are over the course of 162 games. And so do the baseball gods. What they told the Cubs over and over again — including Maddon — was that they weren’t good enough or deep enough to play sloppy baseball and still win enough games. The team fought back on that notion, reinforcing the roster by calling up hot-shot Double-A prospect Nico Hoerner to fill in for the ailing Javier Baez. And before that, the front office traded for doubles machine Nicholas Castellanos. We’re deep enough now, they thought.