After the Cubs fell to 6-6 on Sunday following a sweep by the Pirates, a headline on ESPN.com asked, "Are the .500 Cubs an average team?"
Two weeks into the 2017 season is a little early to assume the World Series champs have fallen on hard times, but there definitely are areas that need to be cleaned up.
Going into Monday night's 6-3 loss to the Brewers, the bullpen had blown four saves after blowing 15 all of last season, the offense was 14th in the majors with a .240 average and the Cubs' 11 errors were tied for third-most.
When an attendant accidentally locked manager Joe Maddon's keys in his truck, it was a perfect metaphor for the Cubs' stalled start.>>
"It's always something," Anthony Rizzo said. "Nothing is ever perfect on any team. Guys are going to have good days, guys are going to have bad days. ... It's just the game of baseball."
No one should be too concerned. After all, the starting pitchers were second in the majors with a 2.56 ERA, and the offense isn't likely to struggle for long with so many solid hitters on the roster.
The bullpen? We'll see.
This early lack of domination could be a good thing in the long run. The 2016 Cubs faced little adversity on their way to the postseason, going on cruise control by August so Maddon could rest guys down the stretch.>
A real race would be welcomed, especially if it included the young Brewers and was able to rekindle a sagging rivalry.
"Could you imagine that postseason series?" Brewers first baseman Eric Thames said. "It's like Cubs at home or Cubs at the other home."
There's no user manual for fans to tell them how to react during the first season after ending a 107-year drought. Can there ever be a "tough loss" again after you've fulfilled your lifetime dream? Should the "L" flag be retired for good?>
Photos from the game on April 17, 2017, at Wrigley Field.
After the Red Sox ended their 85-year drought in 2004, then-general manager Theo Epstein said: "Everyone thought when the Red Sox won the World Series, it wouldn't be the same. It just enhanced the experience for everyone."
The enhanced Cubs experience has felt like a daily celebration of banner-raising and ring-giving. One Cubs executive even had one of those gold-lettered jerseys made for himself, as though he played.
Epstein, to his credit, has low-keyed his part, as he did during the Red Sox ring ceremony in '05, when he declined to go on the field with the players. His name was not even mentioned during the Red Sox's 45-minute ceremony.
Of course, he was still learning to deal with being a local celebrity then and had starred in his first local TV commercial — a Dunkin' Donuts ad in which Epstein made long-haired outfielder Johnny Damon give up his iced latte to conceal the "truth" that Damon actually was bald.
Critics lauded Epstein's comic timing.
"I act a lot when I talk to the media," he explained when the commercial aired.
Epstein hasn't shown up in any ads since the Cubs' title, though he certainly could cash in if he wanted. Many of his players are enjoying their moment in the sun, and more power to them.
Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta will appear in the Season 5 finale of "Chicago Fire" on May 16, in which a young Cubs fan gets in an accident, comes to Wrigley Field to feel better and meets Arrieta and Bryant, who play themselves.
"Chicago Fire" star Taylor Kinney asked them at the Cubs Convention if they wanted to do cameos, and their scenes were filmed a few days ago.
"It was almost like being ourselves," Bryant said. "I wouldn't call it too much acting. It was so easy.
"When I'm old, I want to sit back and say I did everything. I'm doing it all, man, because it may never happen again."
Hopefully the Cubs duo can meet the thespian standards set by former Dodgers pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. Drysdale memorably counseled a young Greg Brady in an episode of "The Brady Bunch," while Koufax once pitched to Mr. Ed.
"Mr. Ed?" Bryant said. "I don't know who Mr. Ed is."
Mr. Ed, the talking horse? Hello?
"C'mon, make me feel bad."
It's a shame kids today don't know the classics.
Source : http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/ct-cubs-slow-start-celebration-sullivan-spt-0418-20170417-column.html