Who's to blame for Cubs slow start to second half?


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Matt Marton - USA Today Sports
Matt Marton - USA Today Sports

I had a tough question posed to me this morning by a friend: “If you had to make one personnel change on the Cubs, who would it be?” The truth is, I don’t know how to answer that.

Many of you don’t like Joe Maddon, but Maddon is not the cause of the Cubs issues; at least not in my opinion. He took a last place, 2014 team, managed by Rick Renteria and transposed them into a team that was playing in the NLCS the following year. We all know what he did with the Cubs in 2016, and he led them to a repeat bid for the NLCS last year.

I hear fans screaming that Jim Hickey is the issue, but is he? He may offer suggestions for changing a pitcher’s stance, release point, etcetera, but do you think Jim Hickey is going to change anything about Jon Lester’s pitching? After all, Lester is a five-time All-Star with three World Series titles, and Hickey’s never spent a day in the majors. Hickey and the bullpen coaches may be the answer for tweaking and prepping the up and comers, but they’re not likely going to change anything significant with the veterans.

So maybe some of you think it’s Chili Davis’ fault. Again, not likely, as the Cubs continue to hold a +92 run differential. Davis has changed the team’s objective from hitting the long-ball to more of a station-to-station approach. Over the course of the 2017 season, the Cubs finished with a run differential of +104 (average of +1.56 runs per game), and that number is only slightly less this year, with the Cubs averaging +1.26 runs per game.

While I’ve advocated that the Cubs needed to be more aggressive on the base-paths, there have been some base-running decisions lately that have been…well…just plain ridiculous, which leads me to believe the players are getting overly desperate to score runs. There is no way that first-base coach, Will Venable, or third-base coach, Brian Butterfield have orchestrated some of the reckless decisions as of late. We all love when Javier Baez goes screaming through a stop sign at third, especially when he tallies a run, but when Willson Contreras tries unsuccessfully to stretch an obvious single into a double, well, that’s on him.

In my mind, the coaches are coaching, but the players aren’t playing, at least not to their full potential. Yes, I know, I know… the Cubs are still in first place, but that seems to be only by default. Someone in the NL Central has to lead the division, and the Cubs are just there because nobody else has stepped up yet. You can’t reasonably expect the Cubs to retain first place when they have to rely on Milwaukee and Pittsburgh losing to do so.

So to answer the original question, I couldn’t replace one person in the organization, as I don’t think it would make a significant difference. The management and coaches aren’t losing these games, the team is.

I’d love nothing more than to be wrong this time, but until the Cubs start playing ball, and playing like they want to win, they’ll remain a second place team that happens to be in first place.

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