Bernstein: Last Gasp For Cubs

Plagued by injuries and poor play, the Cubs are just trying to survive.

Dan Bernstein
September 09, 2019 - 2:16 pm
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(670 The Score) Pick a metaphor for whatever this Cubs team is right now, because any can work. They can be the fighter plane that has taken enemy fire and is now lurching in on a wing and a prayer toward a carrier deck tossing in rolling seas.

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They are the once-hot restaurant for which you now see Groupon discounts and half-price wine on Tuesday nights, the expensive movie that needs a last-minute anonymous script doctor after audience testing, the Joad family car not yet close enough to the salvation of California, the patient on the table as the defibrillator builds a charge and the nurses start to stand clear. 

Or they're the Monty Python version of the Black Knight, insisting that all is well despite having their legs and arms lopped off, still fighting to the bitter end.

The problem with any of these is that they're examples of just needing to survive, somehow making it through an ordeal. The Cubs are still actually trying to win the World Series -- as incredible as that may seem at the moment -- and might end up being better served by a comparison to Don Quixote, now dreaming an impossible dream only they can still imagine.

Javier Baez has a broken thumb, Kris Bryant a bum right knee and Addison Russell is out while being evaluated for a concussion after taking a fastball to the face. The Cubs have nobody left to play the most important infield position despite the expanded big league rosters, so they called up top prospect Nico Hoerner on Monday out of a combination of hope and desperation, letting the 2018 first-round draft pick skip Triple-A level entirely and starting his arbitration clock because they think they must need him.

Cole Hamels looks like he never quite recovered from the oblique muscle strain he suffered in late June, fighting himself mechanically as he tries to get velocity to return while surrendering a second half slash line of .348/.407/.570 to opposing hitters that turns all of them into Cody Bellinger. Jon Lester is also being hit hard, looking like we thought he would at the back end of his contract as he's given up .311/.372/.484 over the same period. And this while manager Joe Maddon scrambles to figure out who he trusts in high-leverage relief roles, cycling through whichever fading holdover or scrap-heap deadline acquisition is next.

The entire 2019 season has been one of unlikely peaks and valleys, but this is as deep as it has been since the Cubs snapped back from that 1-7 start. Their remaining 20 games feature 13 against losing teams and seven head-to-head with the first-place Cardinals, so there's reasonable chance for them to hold together enough to at least tack an extra game or three to the campaign before they run into an easily superior playoff foe. But that's what it feels like it would be, rather than any real opportunity to make a real run.

All the Cubs are doing is trying to hold off the eventual reckoning as long as they can, the end of this version of the competitive phase as we have known it. They all seem to know it's coming, as if somehow deserved.

Perhaps we should be comparing them to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.