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SportsMondayTuesday: Cubs Unanchored

One thing we can all agree on: The Anchorman theme for the current road trip is a miserable failure.

One other thing that is becoming apparent: Joe Maddon is a great manager who has been on an amazing multi-regular season roll, but he has no idea what sort of extracurricular activities inspire better play from defending champs.

And with that in mind, maybe the best thing to do is to refer back to some timeless baseball wisdom: Next time, don't mess with a streak.

The Cubs had it all going as they left Chicago for their current little jaunt to the West Coast. They had won seven of nine to rise to four games over .500 for only the second time this season.

But they have plummeted back to break-even with four straight road losses, the latest an especially frustrating 5-2 setback in San Diego on Monday.

Prior to that, the Cubs probably would have struggled against premiere Dodger pitching even if they hadn't played dress-up on their way out of town last week. But maybe the next time they get a hot streak going they can skip the theatrics and just keep doing what they're doing.

The primary thing plaguing the Cubs right now is young hitters not just struggling but also having lousy at-bat after lousy at-bat. Or at least that was what plagued them against the Dodgers. Then yesterday the Cubs walked 10 times (10!) and couldn't score more than two runs.

And it is all probably a blip. Then again, it could be a blip in the context Chris Sale used it yesterday when describing last season with the White Sox. He said the season was generally fine but that there had been "a couple of blips."

I'm afraid a vocabulary lesson is in order after that one. A veteran pitcher (and last year was his seventh with the Sox, making Sale a veteran) expressing anger with a front office decision is a blip. When that pitcher essentially curses out a club official for his decision to end an exception to a rule that had allowed a player's son to be around the clubhouse considerably more than he should have been, that is more than a blip.

And then when the veteran pitcher reacts to the news that he will be pitching in throwback uniforms by tracking down some scissors and then cutting up multiple uniforms, making it impossible for the team to wear those uniforms and getting himself suspended, that is way, way more than a blip. The still incredibly immature Sale had to go at the end of last season. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn got an impressive haul of prospects in the resulting trade - end of that story.

Still, the Cubs have a great chance to bounce back and at least split these final two games with the ultra-weak Padres and limp home with a .500 record. They will certainly look back on this stretch of schedule with regrets, but even very good teams have bad road trips. That's the way a typical marathon baseball season goes.

Oh, and the starting pitching has been struggling again. The offensive performance was brutal yesterday for the third time in the previous four games (after it wasn't so bad in game three against the Dodgers, in which the Cubs totaled four runs), but Kyle Hendricks brought some wisdom afterward.

He pointed out what Earl Weaver first said way back when: "You can't lose a shutout." And what Weaver was talking about was that if the pitching is good enough in a given game, the tiniest amount of offense will result in a win every time.

The best way to end a baseball slump is for a pitcher to put up zeroes. And the Padres' lineup is so bad, the Cubs will have a delightful opportunity to do that today and tomorrow.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Oct 22, 2021