There isn’t a team in baseball that needs the All-Star break more than the Cubs do. A club that has lost 15 of its last 21 can use the time to get away from the game, to recharge, to escape the intense media attention – basically, to seek the solitude that only four days off can provide.
The Cubs have seven All-Stars, including the entire starting infield for the National League. What seemed like such a great honor only a few weeks ago now seems like another heavy-legged step on what has been a slog.
It’s only one game, and it’s supposed to be fun, but to say the Cubs are scuffling would be an insult to scufflers everywhere. Before their 6-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday, they had lost five straight games.
Perhaps the time in San Diego will remind the seven Cubs how dominant they were in the early part of the season, when they started 25-6. Maybe they can take a look around the N.L. dugout and remember that they are there for a reason – because zealous Cubs fans had voted over and over again in All-Star balloting. OK, strike that. Maybe the Cubs can remember that they’re still pretty good.
At least Dexter Fowler won’t be playing. The centerfielder has been out since mid-June with a hamstring injury but had hoped to take part in Tuesday’s game. One minor-league rehab game Friday apparently told him he wasn’t ready yet. Smart thinking. The last thing the Cubs need is Fowler reinjuring himself in a mostly meaningless game.
Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester will arrive struggling – especially Lester, who in his last two starts has given up a total of 13 earned runs in a combined 4 1/3 innings of work. If Joe Maddon throws himself in front of Lester on the lefty’s way to the mound in San Diego, no one will be surprised.
The winner of the All-Star Game gets home-field advantage in the World Series, so the Cubs, despite their two-month funk (a 28-29 record since May 10), still have designs on playing in the Fall Classic. Maybe that will perk them up. Nothing else has.
Let’s call it a working vacation.