Shepkowski: Cubs Finally Showing Their Promise

The Cubs may have gotten the kick in the rear that they needed.

Nick Shepkowski
July 19, 2019 - 2:30 pm

(670 The Score) Remember back in sixth grade when report card day would come around and some of your biggest fears were realized?

You weren’t failing, but you knew that mom and dad weren’t going to be happy. Perhaps you had a couple A's, a B or two and maybe a C and D. You were at no risk of not moving onto the seventh grade, but you weren’t knocking on the door of high honors either.

Your parents would see the report card eventually. They weren't mad, but they were disappointed. They knew you had so much more in you.

That's how I felt about the Cubs at the All-Star break, when they sat in first place in the NL Central by a half-game but were only 47-43. They were disappointing like a first-semester report card, as four games over .500 overall and an 18-25 stretch in the final 43 games before the break left you wanting so much more, given the team's talent and what it was built to do.

A week into the second half, the Cubs are doing much more. They won five of their first six games out of the break and have played quality baseball, save for a forgettable three innings in a loss to the Reds on Monday night. 

The team's starting pitching has been on a tear -- and that’s still without the ever steady Cole Hamels. The same Pirates team that made the Cubs look silly during the Fourth of July week were suddenly the frazzled ones at Wrigley Field last weekend. The Reds -- who had the Cubs' number in the first half -- were a couple of bad infield miscues away from getting swept earlier this week.

I hesitate to say this Cubs wasn’t focused in the first half, because they played some really good baseball at times, but the month-and-a-half leading to the break was beyond rough to watch when your stated expectations are to win a pennant. Perhaps part of it was rest and part was refocusing, but early returns show a Cubs team that's getting after it in the second half.

On paper, it’s a team that's the most talented in the division. While everyone in the NL Central is attempting to win -- unlike many other divisions -- it’s not exactly a group consisting of real World Series contenders.

The Cubs have received steady production from several key areas. Outfielder Jason Heyward has played his best ball since joining Chicago ahead of the 2016 season, while right-hander Yu Darvish has turned a corner with consecutive excellent starts. Third baseman Kris Bryant is currently seeing a beach ball each time he steps to the plate. Bryant will cool off at some point, but it's worth noting he's having his best offensive season, aside from home run totals.

Baseball is an unforgiving game built largely on failure, so the Cubs could see regression in some aspects among those performing so well. But they also have several spots due for an uptick.

The black hole at second base has slowed a bit as Cubs fans have gotten to know Robel Garcia in the last few weeks, over which he’s played well. It’s been a big disappointment in terms of production at at second base, but I have trouble believing the Cubs won’t improve there regardless of who ultimately gets the most starts in the second half.

Sometimes you need a kick in the rear end to help realize your potential. Perhaps these 2019 Cubs are like many of us were in middle school, and that kick in the rear end came when their boss made it crystal clear exactly how mad he was a few short weeks ago.

The Cubs might not be on the honor roll yet, but the early returns in the second half show a team fully capable of being on that list at the end of September.

Nick Shepkowski is the executive producer of the McNeil & Parkins Show on 670 the Score in afternoon drive. Follow him on Twitter @Shep670.​