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The coast is clear: Anthony Rizzo implies Cubs took foot off gas

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Everybody has an opinion about why the Cubs, losers of 15 of their last 21 games, crawled into the All-Star break. That would include various Cubs.

Second baseman Ben Zobrist implied that fatigue might have played a role, railing against a schedule that had the Cubs working 24 straight days.

Others suggested that nothing is wrong that a few healthy bodies won’t solve.

Manager Joe Maddon said everything is fine and that, if you tilt your head, those dark clouds look like fluffy bunnies.

But until first baseman Anthony Rizzo spoke up Tuesday, I hadn’t heard anyone suggest that the bored Cubs had been guilty of playing with their food.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” he said. “Not that there’s not every single day. But you build a big lead, and I don’t want to say we were coasting, but I guess we were. It’s good. You can’t be good all the time in this game. It’s impossible. We’ll be ready for the second half.”

The coasting explanation is more perplexing than it is understandable. It’s human nature to ease up when things are going well. The Cubs started the season 25-6. On the other hand, they haven’t won anything – not even their division last season. How is it possible for a team that got swept in the National League Championship Series to coast?

The Blackhawks are the only team I know of that can turn it on when it wants to and win. They’ve also won three Stanley Cups in the past seven seasons.

The problem with explanations is that they sound suspiciously like excuses. The fatigue issue isn’t just a Cubs issue. Squeezing a 162-game schedule into a six-month box ensures that every team will play a lot of games in row at some point.

The Cubs have some injuries? So do other clubs.

The Cubs were coasting? Maybe. But it sure looked like Jake Arrieta couldn’t pitch more than five innings at a time. And it sure looked like the starting rotation was flagging after a great start.

The Cubs need this rest. They also need to come out of the break roaring. To hear Rizzo tell it, that’s a choice, not a hope.