The week in overreactions: The Cubs can't win because they're the Cubs
The Cubs' ongoing rebuild is getting a lot of positive attention these days. But are they doomed to fail because of who they are?
It's time for another installment of "The Week in Overreactions" -- the idea that was
stolen borrowed with approval from our friends at Eye on Football. To the narrative machine!
The Cubs, because they're the Cubs, won't pull this off: The Cubs are getting quite a bit of positive attention these days, at least by the standards of last-place teams. That's because the deep rebuild undertaken by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and company is finally starting to yield good things at the major-league level.
Javier Baez and Jorge Soler have already arrived, and Kris Bryant and Addison Russell aren't far behind them (at least in terms of readiness). There's also 2014 top pick Kyle Schwarber, who's presently cutting a swath through the Florida State League. That's to say nothing of young talents already on the active roster like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, each of whom is enjoying a strong season. Pair all that offensive talent with the Cubs' deep coffers, and things are looking up for the North Siders. Contention -- maybe as early as 2015 -- is possible.
But then there's the pushback. In many quarters, this takes the form of: "They're the Cubs. Of course they'll screw it up." This, after all, is the franchise that hasn't won the World Series since 1908 and hasn't run a pennant up the flagpole since 1945. This is also the franchise that authored collapses in 1969, 1984 and 2003, among others. These are the Cubs, and the Cubs, ipso facto, can't get it done, in which "it" means anything good, lasting and worthy of banners.
It's easy and lazy to use this kind of self-reinforcing nonsense to shut down any discussion of the Cubs or any other team standing athwart the forces of sporting history. At a base level, though, it's superstition. To believe that the 2015 or 2016 or 2025 Cubs can't win because Billy Sianis's goat couldn't get into Wrigley or because the '69 Cubs blew a mid-August lead of nine games or because Leon Durham let a Tim Flannery grounder scoot through his legs or because Steve Bartman reached over the line is not a manner of thinking that befits an adult.
The current Cubs roster, farm system, dugout and front office have no meaningful connection -- save the uniforms -- to those past failures. If the Cubs' current efforts come to grief, it will be because the young talent failed to live up to expectations, and that will be because success at the highest level of baseball is a rare and elusive thing. Prospects are not known quantities, and no matter how impressive the Cubs' stores of young talent are, the possibility for partial or even wholesale disappointment is real and substantial. It's also something that's been endured by other franchises not supposedly foreordained for cosmic misery.
Again, whoever underwrote the mistakes and collapses of the past has nothing to do with the current organization. So to think that the Cubs will fail because they're the Cubs and not because building a team is an exercise in imprecision is to believe that, I dunno, the spectral forces of yore choose to intervene at just the proper moments. Meanwhile, the more rational among us will leave you with that particular bedtime story.
The Marlins are contenders: Let's take a step back from the idea that Miami is in the heart of the heart of the playoff race and that Giancarlo Stanton should be honored to sign a long-term extension with a franchise of such towering relevance (OK, no one's saying that second part, but just go with it). At this writing, the Marlins are in third place and 10 games behind the NL East-leading Nationals. So, barring sports miracle, a division flag isn't happening. As for the service entrance -- i.e., the wild card -- the Marlins are five games back of the second spot and behind the Braves and Pirates in the "outside looking in" queue.
What does all this mean? Well, per FanGraphs the Fish and their sub-.500 record as of Thursday morning have a 2.0 percent chance of making the playoffs. Maybe that's sort of contending if you squint and tilt your head just so, but it's not really contending, at least at the present juncture. The Marlins are much better than they were in 2013, but that doesn't mean they matter very much.
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