The Rundown: Cubs Will Wait ‘Til Next Year, Offense Absent Again, Rockies Head to Milwaukee

My enduring memory of this season will be Willson Contreras’s pimp-tastic exuberance at drawing not one, but two walks in last night’s NL Wild Card game. After all, when you are part of an offense that that could not score more than one run in 40 of the 164 games they’ve played, and when you’ve barely hit .200 since the All-Star break, a walk is genuinely a monumental occurrence worthy of the most grandiose of celebrations.

Wait ’til next year, am I right? The Rockies advanced to the NLDS with a 13-inning 2-1 victory over the punchless Cubs, and the Northsiders get to live with the burning memory of watching two teams advance and celebrate on their turf on consecutive nights.

The Cubs are in obvious need of change. They need a new direction offensively and they need to find a better way to manage their lineup and bullpen. On a night when Jon Lester was simply dominant, the Cubs capped their season by scoring just two runs over 22 innings spanning the two most important games of their season.

During the upcoming postmortem, you’ll hear a lot about how the Cubs battled all kinds of adversity, including the brutal end-of-season schedule that had them play 45 games in 46 days. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will say that this is what the organization has been built to do, make the playoffs year after year no matter the outcome. And that’s all true. This was a fantastic team that won a lot of games, but none of the ones that counted the most.

Is it time for a managerial change? Maybe, but cooler heads always wait until frustration dissipates before making those types of decisions. In other words, don’t count on a knee-jerk reaction from this team’s front office. That’s just not how Theo and Jed do things.

I wouldn’t fire Joe Maddon, but if there is another overhaul of the coaching staff the organization is basically saying that Maddon didn’t get it done for the second straight season. And that’s the rub. If any quick decision is forthcoming, it is likely to be the Cubs terminating their association with hitting coach Chili Davis. Other than Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist, the Cubs regressed  a great deal offensively this season. Only the Baltimore Orioles — who finished with the worst record in baseball — had more games scoring one run or less in the regular season.

The Cubs allowed only five runs in 22 innings of back-to-back, must-win home games while scoring just two. It’s not difficult to find fault. Pitchers and catchers report in 19 weeks. Time will tell if this team has some answers before then.

Cubs News & Notes

Let’s wait for the dust to clear before we address all the rumor and innuendo. There are plenty of years where we would have been deliriously happy with 95 wins. Expectations are obviously a lot higher now, and that’s a great thing. If you don’t believe me, I’m sure Epstein, Hoyer, and Maddon will emphasize that in the coming days. Are we (and they) disappointed? Yes. But don’t let that take away from an incredible season.

Number Crunching

The Cubs were forced to play the final five innings without Anthony Rizzo, who was replaced by designated runner Terrance Gore after singling in the 8th inning. Though Gore stole second and eventually scored the team’s only run, that was a big bat to replace. Rizzo has hit six career playoff home runs. Gore has had one hit in 16 professional at bats and was horribly overmatched in two plate appearances last night.

The Cubs were 9-for-71 combined in the last two games with just two extra base hits. That’s a .127 average.

For the season, the Cubs did not have a single starting pitcher reach 200 innings. The bullpen was overtaxed and it showed during the last few weeks.

Last night’s game set a few records:

  • Longest winner-take-all game in MLB postseason history by innings played (13).
  • Longest playoff game in Wrigley Field history (4 hours, 55 minutes).
  • The Cubs used 23 players, tying an all-time MLB postseason record.
  • Most in-play hugs (1); Javier Baez and Nolan Arenado shared a warm embrace on a fielder’s choice in the 11th inning.
  • With nine strikeouts last night, Jon Lester tied for the most in his postseason career.

On Deck

You can pick a team to root for through the World Series, simply love baseball without a favorite, transition into football season, or wait for next season to start while you get a jump on what should be a busy offseason. Or you could simply hibernate until February.

They Said It

  • “We had some opportunities, we just could not cash in. They pitched really well, too, but we need to figure that out [heading into] next spring training. As my buddy Dave would say, we left too much chicken on the bone right there. We’ve had plenty of opportunities and I’m not here to denigrate anybody, our work’s put in, the hay’s in the barn, everybody cares, it just didn’t play out this way offensively.” – Joe Maddon
  • “We played our hearts out. It sucks losing this early. Give credit to the Rockies, but it’s tough.’’ – Anthony Rizzo
  • “Sometimes you just have to take the bad with the good. Maybe we needed to get knocked down a peg or two to see nothing is given to us.’’ – Jon Lester

Off Season Walk Up Song

Nothing From Nothing by Billy Preston. Boy that season ended fast. I’m taking a baseball day off but I’ll return on Friday morning.

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