I write this from vacation in Wisconsin. On the way up here I was listening to 670 The Score in Chicago. Boors and Bernstein (not my favorites, I’m a Murph guy) were discussing what the Cubs should actually be focusing on in these last few weeks given that they were going to make the playoffs.
When fans would call in about Milwaukee possibly passing the Cubs for the division lead, Bernstein would whine back at them saying, “It doesn’t matter! The Cubs are in!”
He was suggesting that even if Milwaukee did overtake the Cubbies, which he didn’t believe would happen, there was no way the Cubs wouldn’t at worst qualify for the playoffs via the wildcard.
Now I can’t remember the last time anyone, let alone cynical Chicago sports radio, thought the Cubs had a postseason spot locked up in early-mid august.
But the truth is, I think he’s right.
What do the Cubs have to do to prepare for the playoffs? Two answers.
The obvious answer that flies out of every nervous mouth is: stay healthy. This first principle was put to the test last Thursday when, in a matter of split seconds, third base coach Mike Quade decided that Aramis Ramirez wasn’t a necessary piece to the post-season puzzle and sent him rushing home even though the relay throw from the outfield was already in the infield.
The throw was was off-line and Ramirez scored diving headfirst while simultaneously banging his hip on the ground. For a few moments, Cub fans around the world gasped, some vomiting on the spot, others screaming profanities. And then… The big cleanup hitter who’s cool enough to wear shades in the batters box rose to his feet and slowly walked off the field. Were you all over Quade or unconcerned?
I still maintain that Ramirez is one of five key players we cannot afford to lose. Can you name the other four?
Secondly, manage the arms and the bats. After winning nine straight road games, the Cubs finally lost. Not in the starting lineup for the loss: Lee, Ramirez, Soto. Lou is thinking long term: rest them now, lose a game, get the game back, rest ‘em some more.
I’m not arguing with the guy. As far as the arms are concerned, Piniella opted for Marshall over Marquis and Harden on short rest. No reason to push the arms.
Let the other teams wear out before October.
This week Cincy and Washington. We have to pad the lead before September’s road trips.