Monday, September 18, 2023

The Fall of the 2016 Cubs


I was at Wrigley Field in 2015, right as the team was getting good and gearing up towards their unforgettable playoff teams. I was in the big ol' team store across the street from the stadium, and had enough to get a player team shirt, and was torn between two; either I'd go with Anthony Rizzo, who was the trusted veteran that hadn't steered the team wrong since coming over in 2012, or I'd pick the new rookie call-up Kris Bryant, who'd been up for a good month by the time I came by. Ultimately it came down to trust. I knew Rizzo had some excellent career accomplishments to this point, accomplishments I could base off of several years of play. Bryant, his stock as high as it was, I could only base a month off of. So I went with Rizzo. 

Honestly, all things considered I still think I made a pretty good choice. Rizzo's been more durable, has been a consistent power hitter, and became a fan favorite with the Yankees right up until the concussion. Bryant did win an MVP, and was one of the biggest stars in the game despite some injury issues, but the last few seasons haven't been to scale. Bryant has played 113 games in Denver altogether, and cumulatively has a .274 average with 15 homers and 44 RBIs, which would be weak in ONE season for him, let alone two. There's a possibility that Bryant peaked at 27, and there's also a possibility that he's about to hit hyperdrive next season. We're not sure.

It's a trend that people have been noticing in several ex-members of the 2016/7 Cubs teams; diminishing returns when let out of Maddon's control. Jake Arrieta noticeably gave diminishing returns on his Phillies deal, while Jon Lester's last season split between Washington and St. Louis was a far cry from his Cubs numbers. Then you have people like Javier Baez, who seemed indestructible with the Cubs but just can't get things together for the Tigers. 

There's really only been three 2016 Cubs that have had any decent work to do currently; Willson Contreras, who's improved since a rough start in St. Louis, Jorge Soler, who's getting the hot bat again in Miami since being activated, and Kyle Schwarber, who has 44 homers. None are completely dominating in the way that they did in Chicago, but they're all still good. Schwarber especially will end the year in the league's home run leaderboard, so that is something. But the biggest guns of that team are currently nowhere to be found in the playoff race. Really, one of the only major Cubs of that era that's still fighting for a playoff spot is a current cub, Kyle Hendricks, who's finally looking like his old self.

I think this does say a lot about Joe Maddon's methods, how they only really work under his employ, and can't work near as well with other coaches. It also says a lot about how that whole team was in their prime and now they're having trouble sustaining that. But it also says a lot about David Ross's methods in that this Cubs team seems to have an approach that isn't self-contained, and may not doom its members if they join other teams. Though hopefully that's something they won't have to worry about for a bit, Bellinger notwithstanding.

Coming Tonight: Says a lot about how the Yankees' season is going when this guy, an adept role player before all else, is one of our best players this year.

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