As the official start of summer draws ever closer, the Chicago Cubs are already starting to set their sights on fall baseball.
The Cubs were just two games behind the San Francisco Giants for the best record in the National League on Sunday after sweeping the hated St. Louis Cardinals.
They’ve now dropped the last two contests to the New York Mets and are tied with the Mets for third place in the NL, just four games behind the Giants. They’re also tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the NL Central.
It’s quite reassuring that the Cubs find themselves in first place in mid-June, seeing as though the club has battled injuries all season.
But despite a first-place record and a 65.7% chance to reach the playoffs according to Baseball-Reference, it’s still been a roller-coaster year for the Cubs and their fans.
The Chicago Cubs face off against the hated St. Louis Cardinals for four games in late July, and the outcome of that series could have resounding effects on the team’s long-term future.
The team started out the season with a disappointing 11-15 record in April before surging to first place in May with a 19-8 showing.
The boys have also struggled to find their groove on the road, as they’re five games below .500 and have lost six of their last nine away from the Friendly Confines.
It seemed in April that the Cubs would be sellers at the trade deadline, and that the remaining core from the 2016 World Series championship would be launched away in a fire sale.
Now it seems as if the team can add some starting pitching and a some small pieces to the offense and could realistically contend for a World Series with the right additions.
But a lot can happen between now and July 31, and it’s hard to have much confidence on a front office that has cried poor, neglected to make many major additions in four years and traded away Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish without hardly batting an eye.
In a 162-game season that spans half the year, it’s hard to imagine four games playing a huge role in determining the outcome of not only the season, but numerous careers. But the Cubs may just find themselves in that situation.
The North Siders face off against the Cardinals in a four-game set July 19-23, and just over a week before the July 31 trade deadline. Given that the club has struggled on the road, series loss or (gulp) sweep could very well be the nail in the coffin on the 2021 season.
That’s not to mention any potential nails in the coffins of core members’ Cubs careers, either.
The Cubs could essentially be playing for their season and future roster spots that series, and it’s not hard to envision management deciding to sell if the Cubs plummet in the standings during that crucial four-game set.
The Brewers, by the way, are off for two of those games and face off against the unimpressive Kansas City Royals for a two-game set at AmFam Field.
Given how unpredictable the front office has been the past few years, it’s hard to say what they team will do come July 31. But it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a poor showing in those four games could have resounding effects on both the current season as well as the future of the team.
We’ll have a better idea once we get to the All-Star Break, but for now let’s enjoy some first place Cubs baseball with most of the 2016 core intact.
Oh, and please get this club on the first flight out of New York City on Wednesday.