Cubs Skid Through Halfway Point Looking Like Anything But Contenders

The Cubs reached the halfway point of the season Wednesday night in San Francisco by putting up another forgettable effort that ended in a one-run loss. That’s their 19th such defeat out of 33 games decided by the slimmest possible margin, both the highest totals in MLB. They are seven games below .500 and five games out of the Wild Card as their poor play sees them sinking like a stone in a weak National League.

This is not a good team and it’s become nearly impossible to envision them getting back into the race. Even using a very modest target of 84 wins — current pace for the Padres and Cardinals — to earn a postseason berth puts the Cubs in a very tough spot. They’d need 47-34 the rest of the way, which would mean turning their .457 winning percentage into a .580 clip over the second half. I won’t go so far as to say I’ll eat a shoe if they do that, but I’ll gladly bet against it happening.

All that talk about them being a potential landing spot for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. evaporated quickly and now seems some sort of bastardized Mandela Effect. This team has far too many issues to address with one blockbuster, especially when such a deal would force the front office to break with its uber-cautious approach to trades and contract negotiations. The only real hope is that those internal improvements Jed Hoyer keeps hoping for will finally manifest and that a fringe move or three will pay off.

I mean, shit, it’s not like the Cubs can get much worse at this point. Only the Marlins and Rockies languish below Hoyer’s team in the standings, a damning indictment of organizational leadership that has now had four years to turn this thing around. Following year-over-year improvements in his first three seasons at the helm of this not-a-rebuild, Hoyer is presiding over a group with the same .457 winning percentage that led to 88 losses in 2022.

While this isn’t a totally fair comparison, his 265-302 (.467) record as the Cubs’ president of baseball operations looks even worse when compared to the 705-651 (.520) mark Theo Epstein compiled over nine seasons. And that’s with the 2012 and ’13 seasons in which the Cubs lost 197 combined games. Hoyer certainly deserves some credit for that as well, but it’s more than reasonable to ask whether he is best suited to be more of the tempering foil to a more aggressive decision-maker.

At least from the outside, the combination of Hoyer and Carter Hawkins appears to have created an echo chamber of conservativism in which good deals are prioritized over impact moves. I don’t necessarily agree with the notion that they’re trying to prove something by winning without star bats or electric arms, though I do believe both have a similar enough view of roster construction that the results tend to skew that way. It doesn’t help that the budget imposed upon them almost certainly narrows the focus of their potential pursuits.

To that end, I wouldn’t get your hopes up about that budget expanding in the near future. With overall revenue so heavily dependent upon broadcast deals, Marquee’s looming carriage issues pose a very serious threat to the size of the figure Crane Kenney and business operations give to the baseball side for next year. This is the part where I remind folks that there is absolutely no way in hell the Cubs are ever back on WGN. Stop it.

I wish I had an easy solution because it’s not as simple as moving on from Hoyer or making a trade for a middle-of-the-order bat. Nor is it acceptable to maintain the status quo and keep hoping every prospect succeeds immediately. This is a roster populated by good-not-great players, almost all of whom are performing below expectations. And I mean reasonable expectations, not those from folks who say “This guy sucks, trade him” every time a player has a rough patch.

Turning this thing around will probably take a creative move or two to clear salary, multiple prospects coming up and raking/shoving, and at least one big deal for a star player who can be the face of the franchise. It’s probably too late for that to happen this year, but do you trust the Cubs to make it happen in 2025? We may have to suffer through a few more months of bad baseball before we have an answer.

Back to top button