August 20, 2017

Hungover in Wrigleyville

Sep 12, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) pitches to a St. Louis Cardinals batter during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-262552 ORIG FILE ID: 20160912_ajw_ac1_104.jpg

Wrigleyville and hangovers go hand in hand. This website is called the Tailgate Society. Hangovers should need no introduction. For decades Wrigleyville has helped Cubs fans drown their sorrows and fuel their hope that THIS IS THE YEAR. Last year, it was.

Last year the Cubs jumped out to a 27-9 start to reach May 15th a full eight games up on the Cardinals. They wound up with a 17.5 game lead by the end of the season. This year, the Cubs are 18-19 and 3.5 games behind the Cardinals. Last year the Cubs lost their 19th game on June 13th…when they were 43-19. An historic start when you are trying to rewrite 108 years of history. The Cubs got off to a hot start last year, ran away, and hid. They were the best team from opening day to extra innings of game 7 of the World Series.

The Cubs were lead by an incredible pitching staff, an old veteran catcher, and a great lead-off hitter.  And all of those are gone. Dexter Fowler is the main reason the Cubs won the World Series. He was an incredible leader, a great clubhouse personality with that amazing smile – a great glove, and the prototypical lead-off hitter that the Cubs got in a trade from Houston. He was going to go to Baltimore but at the last minute, showed up at Spring Training so Anthony Rizzo could deliver uppercuts to his solar plexes.  He also hit a leadoff homerun in Game 7. Dexter left for (vomits) the Cardinals (vomits more). He has left and the Cubs no longer have a true leadoff hitter. The Schwarber experiment is not off to a strong start, though it looks great on paper. Dexter setting the table is sorely missing on a Cubs team that can’t score runs.

David Ross is also gone. Dude is too busy Dancing with the Stars. Good for him, bad for the Cubs. Non-Cubs fans don’t get the David Ross love. Cubs fans and even Yadier Molina gets it. David put the professional in professional ball player. He was a great mentor for young guys who needed a player to help them through a long season and an excruciating game seven. David may not be the best player, talent wise, but he has the intangibles that we hear so much about during the NFL Draft. He was the heart and soul of the clubhouse and kept the team from getting too up and too down. He kept them focused on the goal. He’s gone and he’s missed.

Pitching has been…meh this year. Jake Arrietta looks more like Jake from State Farm than the Cy Young candidate. The bullpen has been a mixed bag. Carl Edwards Jr. has been amazing, as has Wade Davis. It took WEEKS for them to give up runs, but a guy like Travis Wood is sorely missed. He could start, he could pitch in long relief, he could hit, and heck he could even field.

That brings us to what else is missing this year. The fielding. It hasn’t been awful, but last year was great. Javy Baez is an amazing athlete and a ninja near the bags, but overall, the Cubs defense has been…average. It shouldn’t be concerning, but after you had a remarkable defensive season, the expectations have been raised.

Unreasonable expectations. That is what is really going on with the Cubs. Expecting a team to win the World Series when you haven’t done it in 108 years is an unrealistic expectation. Truly believing “This is the year” when you have Jeff Blauser’s old, crusty, white ass in your line-up is an unrealistic expectation. Now that Cubs fans finally tasted it all, and finally reached the promised land, the expectations are even more unrealistic. They want a dynasty., but that’s almost impossible. It’s been nearly 20 years since the Yankees did it. So a season like this leads to anger and depression and overreaction. Every fan base does it. The Cubs fans go full Spinal Tap and take it to 11.

The Cubs are NOT that far away from being good again, but it’s not going to be easy. Last year was easy. Last year was an anomaly. This year is hard. It should be hard. Arrietta will get it figured out. The bullpen has actually been very solid and has improved. The defense is good just not outlandish like it was last year. The hitting will come around. Jon Jay has been a solid veteran and hit better than expected. He’s still holding down the fort until Albert Almora Jr. is ready to take over the everyday role. AA Jr. is also going to be the lead off hitter of the future.

Baez is struggling mightily, but it’s familiar territory for him. He struggled a ton in Iowa for a while. I saw it with my own two eyes. Then suddenly, he got red hot and never looked back. He’s got it in him, and he has Joe Maddon behind him all the way. Maddon said many times last year that this team was too young to know that they shouldn’t be this good. This year, that youth is showing a little bit. Major League Baseball isn’t easy. It came easy last year, this year, reality is hitting a lot of young guys. But it’s also a young season, so there is time for them to get it figured out.

The Cubs also avoided major injury bugs last year. Granted, they lost Schwarber before he could get a hit, but this season a ton of nagging injuries have hurt a number of guys. You play 162 games and it’s going to happen. It’s better to happen in May than it is September.

Joe Maddon is the Dude. He’s cool. He’s kind of a hippie. And he’s always smooth sailing. Only Walter could get the Dude riled up. Only umps, especially Joe West (worthless) can get Joe riled up. But he is the Dude for the Cubs. He will be the calming and supportive force the young team really needs. He’ll get the Cubs back to the top of the NL Central before you know it. It’s a long season and there is plenty of baseball left to be played. I wouldn’t worry as a Cubs fan. We did that crap for over a century. “Trust the process” as Joe suggested. but…don’t expect another World Series victory. It’s just not likely to happen. Hopefully it’s not in the Cards.

That…would be torture.

J.T. Nutt 16 Articles
Staff Writer

JT "the" Nutt graduated from UNI in 2006 and worked at WHO-TV for a few years including Soundoff. JT then spent the past five years covering UNI most recently for On Press Row. He works as a cameraman for the Iowa Wild, Iowa Energy, and Iowa Barnstormers. JT loves the Cubs, UNI, Avalanche, Chargers, beer, hockey, the WWE, and cat memes.

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