Cubs

The sky is not falling: Reason for optimism regarding Cubs' playoff chances

The sky is not falling: Reason for optimism regarding Cubs' playoff chances

The Cubs are obviously not off to the start they want in their title defense campaign, but things aren't as gloomy as their 25-26 record would indicate.

Yes, the 2017 Cubs have 20 more losses than they did a year ago at the time of their 25th victory (they began 2016 on a torrid 25-6 pace). 

In fact, the Cubs didn't even reach their 26th loss until June 25 last season and they had already racked up 48 wins and 10-game lead in the division by that point. By comparison, on the final day of May last season, the Cubs were 35-15 with a +128 run differential and 6.5 lead over the 29-22 Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.

Following five straight losses, the Cubs woke up Wednesday morning with only a +1 run differential, but they're also only 1.5 games out of first place thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers winning just three of their last 10 games apiece.

Currently, the NL Central is far and away the worst division in baseball, which is interesting given this is the same unit that sent three teams to the playoffs in 2015.

But it's the weakness of the division that is the Cubs' saving grace right now, at least in terms of panic.

In fact, FanGraphs' playoff odds still give the Cubs an 85.6 percent chance of making the postseason:

That's down from 95.6 percent at the start of the season, but the Cardinals (46.3 percent down to 44 percent) and Pirates (15.5 percent down to 9.4 percent) have also seen a drop in their own playoff odds while the first-place Milwaukee Brewers are only handed a 6 percent chance of making the postseason.

Coming off the 7-2 homestand a little over a week ago, the Cubs were 25-21 and sitting atop the division heading into a weekend in Los Angeles. At that time, the Cubs' playoff odds sat at 93.3 percent wiht an expected won-loss record of 93-69.

So things have dropped a bit thanks to this five-game losing streak — Cubs are now projected to go 90-72 with those 85.6 percent odds of making the postseason — but it's not as precipitious as it may seem. Part of the freak-out is because two of those losses have come to the San Diego Padres, the only team that woke up Wednesday morning with a 0.0 percent chance of making the playoffs.

FanGraphs still gives the Cubs an 11.7 percent chance to win the World Series, down only slightly from the 15.3 percent on Opening Day.

Only the Los Angeles Dodgers (19.4 percent), Cleveland Indians (15.3 percent) and Houston Astros (15.1 percent) have better odds to win it all.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is there change coming to baseball's diversity problem?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is there change coming to baseball's diversity problem?

While trying to get the season going, the MLB and baseball as a whole are starting to address another problem: the lack of diversity. NBCS Cubs reporter Maddie Lee is joined by former Cub and professor Doug Glanville, Laurence Holmes and Eugene McIntosh of "The Bigs" to discuss ways MLB and baseball need to address the issues and how they can benefit from it.

(2:00) - Ian Desmond's comments really struck a chord in baseball

(12:06) - Youth baseball for young Black athletes

(26:09) - Glanville remembers being the only Black athlete on teams in MLB

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(30:14) - Current Black players in majors are still dealing with racism

(32:26) - Ways Theo Epstein is trying to help find solutions to the lack of diversity in baseball

Listen here or below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Race and baseball: For a young Doug Glanville, 'Baseball was diplomacy'

Race and baseball: For a young Doug Glanville, 'Baseball was diplomacy'

Doug Glanville remembers watching a teammate get kicked in the chest after a High School baseball game fraught with racial tension.

“Thank goodness my coach was really quick,” the former Cub said on the Cubs Talk Podcast this week. “The bus was right there. And all he could do was whisk people onto the bus because the last thing he needed was a brawl with young high school Black kids and this angry white mob of workers throwing N-words at us.”

Glanville shared the story as part of a round-table discussion on the declining number of African American players in Major League Baseball, and the sport’s access issues from the youth level on up. He, NBC Sports Chicago’s Laurence Holmes and The Bigs Media co-founder Eugene McIntosh talked about experiences from their playing days and sought solutions to the league’s diversity problem.

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Glanville grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey. The town voluntarily desegregated its public schools in the 1960’s.

“I came along in 1970 and watched a town that was truly committed to inclusion,” Glanville said. “So, I had this integrated, diverse experience where my teammates were from different backgrounds and different walks of life. And we were sort of this sesame seed inside of a Bergen County that was mostly white suburbs with a lot of wealth.”

He and his teammates took pride in that. Not only were they playing to win, they were fighting in the name of diversity.

“Baseball was diplomacy in my world,” Glanville said. “And it was a diplomacy of seeing players of color, diversity, taking on mostly homogenous teams, catholic schools, and representing.”

During his sophomore year, against one such homogeneous team in what Glanville describes as a “blue collar town,” Glanville and his teammates endured heckling all game long. A spectator hurled a racial slur at Glanville’s teammate, and the teammate said something back.

The encounter grew so heated that Glanville’s team had to climb the football stands to get to the bus. At the top, Glanville said, one of the people in pursuit kicked the team’s captain, who was Black.

“But you know what was so powerful about that was our team bonded even more over that,” Glanville said. “… We were like, we are one family, and we’re not going to put up with this.”

Can MLB harness baseball’s powers of diplomacy? For more stories and analysis from Glanville, Holmes and McIntosh, listen to the Cubs Talk Podcast.

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