The Cubs will be just fine, right? That’s what all the Homers say
You’ve met my friend Homer before.
At least, “Homer” is what I call him in print. What I call him when we’re just two old pals talking tends to be more, shall we say, colorful.
This is the kind of Chicago sports fan whose eyes turn the color of a Maxwell Street Polish at any suggestion the 1985 Bears might not be the greatest football team of all time. This is a guy who considers it the most depraved form of sacrilege to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan, or any team to the Jordan Bulls. And this is a Cubs fan. Oh, he is indeed a Cubs fan.
You may well have a Homer in your own life. If you do, you know how these guys roll.
“The Cubs? Come on, man, they’re fine,” he snapped at me this week. “They’ve played some of the worst baseball they could play, and they’re right there. What are you so worried about?”
Not any one thing, really. More like a whole list of them.
For starters, these Cubs couldn’t hit their way out of a wet popcorn box. Their .235 team batting average ranks one spot from the bottom in the National League. Their league-worst .221 mark with runners in scoring position is an abomination.
Not to be outdone is their shoddy pitching. Cubs starters have a combined ERA of 4.66, which is more than double what it was at this time last season. And they have all of 24 quality starts in 65 games, a puny total compared with last year’s 46 through 65 games.
And how about that 32-33 record? How about the pathetic 12-18 record on the road? Did I mention 14 of the next 17 games are away from Wrigley Field?
We could go on and on about what has gone wrong.
“They’re just playing down to the level of competition,” Homer said.
Yeah, well. So did Goliath.
“They probably need to trade for a starting pitcher,” Homer allowed, “but who are you willing to give up on?”
Ian Happ, perhaps?
“No, he’s the next big thing. You don’t want to trade him.”
“Get outta here.”
Javy Baez? Addison Russell?
“Look,” Homer said, his blood pressure rising, “the Cubs should be contending for a pennant every year for the next five to seven years. Absolutely. They should be in contention every year if they get enough pitching.”
Sure. And if they get enough hitting. And if they spend enough money. And if manager Joe Maddon stops confusing his lineup card with a game of whack-a-mole. And if the rest of the Central Division remains down. And if the Dodgers, Rockies and Nationals don’t become a bunch of world-beaters.
“You worry too much,” Homer said.
Maybe. Yet not much feels right about the 2017 Cubs, the most disappointing team in baseball. A year ago, as they were steamrolling to the World Series, everything they did felt right. Now, one strange thing after another is happening.
The latest: Maddon putting Anthony Rizzo — an RBI machine with the most home runs in the NL since the start of the 2013 season — in the leadoff spot like he’s Dexter Fowler.
Rizzo, We Go?
“It’s June,” Homer said. “They’ll figure it out.”
Or they won’t, I told him. In which case he and his ilk surely will be the last to know.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.