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SportsMonday: Maybe The Cubs Should "Panic"

Maybe those comments about lineup changes feeling like panic in the clubhouse weren't exactly the right thing to say there, Mr. Manager.

David Ross made an obvious, rookie mistake when he floated that theory last week. And now, when at the very least Willson Contreras must be moved up in the lineup and Javy Baez back, Ross has boxed himself in. How can he make a change when he has forecast such a dire outcome?

Yu Darvish is the bomb and the Cubs avoided catastrophe with their 2-1 victory on Sunday. Yes, "catastrophe" might be a bit strong but I'm not the one who started this conversation with chatter about a basic baseball adjustment inducing "panic."

By avoiding the sweep the Cubs held onto their comfortable lead atop the NL Central (which my son the White Sox fan can make a pretty convincing case at this point is by far the worst division in baseball) and didn't completely cede baseball superiority to the South Side.

But come on, the Cubs have serious issues. The White Sox are much, much better than the North Siders right now. They easily won the series without using their ace, Lucas Giolito. They hit so many balls into the stands over the weekend a bleacher fan could have torn his rotator cuff throwing them all back.

At this point, the Cubs are down to one hitter in the lineup who is having a starring season. That would be Mr. Ian Happ, he of the OPS still over 1.000. Everyone else is a disappointment, and with Anthony Rizzo having slumped massively of late, this team is about as punchless as punchless can be.

Yes, they are still going to the playoffs and, yes, if the season ended today Darvish would be the National League Cy Young. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Darvish by the way? His other-worldly strikeout-to-walk ratio since the middle of last year. He is well over 12 and no other pitcher in the majors reaches 10.

And the Cubs have clearly figured out that the best way to go with their ace is to let him take absolutely as much time as he wants between pitches. Yes, he puts his fielders to sleep with his slow pace, but when you are striking out about half the guys you face, it doesn't matter as much.

And the defense is still stellar as well, although it has also taken a hit of late. Len Kasper was right on the mark late in the week when he pointed out that so far in his career Baez has been remarkably good at not letting hitting slumps impact his awesomely good defense . . . until lately.

Yes, there were a few other promising developments on Sunday, primarily Kyle Schwarber shooting a double down the left field line in one plate appearance and then launching the critical two-run homer to center the next. The problem is that Schwarber's overall numbers once again make the case, as they have for his entire career, that he is a platoon player. There was no way in the universe he should have been in the lineup Friday against Dallas Keuchel, and the Cubs' atrocious hitting performance in that one set the tone.

The Friday game also featured Ross leaving Lester in the game far longer than he should have (into the fourth) and resulted in the rapidly aging lefty giving up four home run bombs for eight earned runs. Ross should have taken him out earlier but it wouldn't have mattered with the Cubs batters flailing away lifelessly against Keuchel inning after inning.

The Cubs now set their sights on a weekend series against the Reds. Just two of three in that one would be just the tonic for what ails this crew.
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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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