Maybe the can’t-hit Cubs need a Maddonesque slogan: Try not to … well, you knowSteve Greenbergon April 13, 2021 at 8:34 pm

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers
Anthony Rizzo pops one up. | Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It worked in 2016, when they won the World Series. Any chance it might work again in 2021, when they’re face-planting offensively like no Cubs team in forever?

What was it former Cubs sloganeer Joe Maddon said again?

Oh, yeah: “Try not to suck.”

That rallying cry worked for the Cubs in 2016, when they — stop me if you’ve heard this before — won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. Any chance it might work again in 2021, when they’re face-planting offensively like no Cubs team has in even longer than that?

As long as we’re appropriating Maddonisms, “Do simple better” is another message that seems pretty on the money for this swing-and-miss-from-the-heels crew.

A lost April at the plate? That’s Cub, folks. Another lost season at the plate? That’s the question, and — heck, no — it isn’t too soon to ask it.

“We’ve got to find ways to put the ball in play, put the pressure on the defense, make things happen and spark something,” manager David Ross said Monday after a 6-3 loss to the Brewers in which the Cubs mustered all of four hits.

“Get the boys going. This is too talented of a group to do what we’re doing so far.”

That’s debatable, isn’t it? From the time the offense “broke” in 2018, according to Theo Epstein, right through the version we’ve seen through the first 10 games of this season, nothing much has changed. And if it has changed, it has only gotten worse.

Ten games in, the Cubs have 49 hits — incredibly, the fewest by any Cubs team in any 10-game span since 1901.

Their .164 batting average is the lowest through 10 games in franchise history. In fact, it’s the lowest in any 10-game Cubs stretch since the 1952 team slumped from June 14-24 to the tune of .163. Remind me to rip on Hank Sauer, Dee Fondy and Phil Cavarretta later.

To put that in context, remember the absolutely miserable 2015 NLCS against the Mets in which the Cubs were swept and did about as much damage at the plate as your 90-year-old Aunt Dotty on 50-Cent Wing Night? The Cubs hit .164 in that four-game nightmare of a series.

Entering Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee, these Cubs have the lowest batting average in all of baseball as well as the lowest on-base (.264) and slugging (.321) percentages. They’ve struck out a whopping 10 times per game, too. But those convinced strikeouts are the issue should know the Cubs are also dead last in batting average on balls hit in play (.194).

They swing and miss more than anybody. They drive home runners in scoring position less frequently than anybody. All these awful numbers? It’s kind of the Cubs’ M.O. Small sample size? Sure, that’s true. For whatever it’s worth.

But 10 games in, no one on the Cubs has reached double figures in hits. Some of the averages, if you can stand to see them: Jason Heyward .152, Ian Happ .143, Joc Pederson .129, Anthony Rizzo .118, David Bote .087. Oh, that’s right, only dinosaurs talk about batting averages anymore.

Anyone else miss complaining about Maddon’s lineup tinkering and quick hooks with his starting pitchers?

JUST SAYIN’

Yo, Nico Hoerner: Better stay ready, bub.

• White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer, one month ago: “I don’t expect to lose a game if we’re leading after the fifth inning.”

Same day, same sentiment from bullpen mate Evan Marshall: “We want to go 90-0 if we have the lead after six innings.”

Four blown saves into the season, the Sox are scrambling to settle what was supposed to be a huge team strength — the ’pen — before it implodes.

Funny game, baseball.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
No opponent is too lowly to make the Bulls look bad.

Nikola Vucevic has raised the talent bar. Daniel Theis has increased their toughness. Troy Brown Jr. has made them a bit more intriguing.

But still, the Bulls have yet to meet a game they can’t — and, if you give them enough time, won’t — lose.

Just when you think they’re getting better, they assure you they’re not.

• NFL MVP odds landed in my inbox this week, because who isn’t thinking about this stuff in mid-April?

Patrick Mahomes: 5/1. Aaron Rodgers: 9/1. Josh Allen: 10/1.

Andy Dalton, meanwhile: 100/1. Wager Junior’s college fund at your own risk.

• Anyone else impressed by the NL Central-leading Reds’ 95 hits — approximately double the Cubs’ total — after 10 games?

I’m setting the over/under on teams that will finish above the Cubs in the division at 2½. Coincidentally, that’s the same as the over/under on wings eaten by Aunt Dotty.

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