Approximately half of the Cubs 2017 campaign has been played and it can be perfectly encapsulated in a quote by pitcher Jon Lester Sunday night following their 14-3 loss, “It’s embarrassing.”
Yes, 14-3, you read that right and no that is not a Bears score. The veteran left-hander conceded 10 runs in the top of the first inning and was pulled after just 53 pitches and two outs. This made him the fourth pitcher in MLB history to allow 10 runs and fail to make it out of the first.
To put that astronomically bad performance into better perspective 10 runs is two more than Lester gave up in the months of August AND September during the 2016 run. Embarrassing.
Sitting at 43-45 the Cubs are certainly underperforming compared to their 2016 All-Star break record of 53–35, but that is not necessarily a fair metric to measure this year's team. The 2016 World Series champion Cubs had arguably one of the most impressive regular seasons that Wrigley Field has ever seen. We will likely never again experience something quite like that.
However, even the heroes of 2016 had their struggles. The Northsiders lost 15 of their last 21 games heading into the All-Star break. How quickly people forget.
The 2017 post All-Star break Cubs need one thing: a heavy dose of optimism. Skipper Joe Maddon said in an interview following Sunday's loss to the Pirates (42-47) that in the Cubs locker room there’s “nobody quitting or giving up.”
That type of morale is a great start to a strong second half. In addition to that, the boys in blue will hopefully get back their Ivy League stud, Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks, who finished third in 2016 Cy Young voting, has been dealing with a right hand injury for a good chunk of this season. He will certainly bring a boost to the mound where the Cubs are seemingly lacking this year.
Young talent like Ian Happ is grounds for optimism as well, hitting 12 home runs in this first half of the season at just 22 years old, Happ has made a name for himself.
Most importantly Cubs fans should remain optimistic that the second half of the season will awaken the sleeping giant from Middleton, Ohio. Kyle Schwarber, whose presence in the batter's box could help the Cubs offense and possibly spark something more as it did in the 2016 postseason.
If the Cubs aren’t “quitting or giving up,” then neither should Cubs fans. Let’s all take this four-day All-Star break to calm down, take a deep breath, and watch Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge trade-off launching baseballs into lunar orbit from Miami.