Cubs in turmoil

The Chicago Cubs are not looking promising in their quest to repeat as back-to-back World Series Champions. The season started out...well, bad. Small sample size and all that, you can shrug things like that off. That was the story in May of this year:
Do the math -- please don't trust me to -- and it seems the Cubs are under .500 today at 18-19.

How embarrassing it must be to be at the same number in relation to par as the White Sox, who aren't even trying to win this year.

The Cubs haven't been under .500 this late since the middle of 2015. They were 27-10 after 37 games in 2016. They weren't out of first place after April 9 last year.
The early season struggles were already starting to look like a pattern. Flash forward about three weeks and the situation got worse. Way way worse.
Cubs slump reaches new low after being swept by the Padres in San Diego

How's this for unexpected statements: The Chicago Cubs were swept by the San Diego Padres.

It's true. The Cubs dropped Wednesday's game by a 2-1 score, giving them six consecutive losses -- their longest losing streak since they dropped seven in a row back in September 2014. The Cubs' recent slump puts them at 25-27, which prompts the question: what's going on?

When it comes to the Cubs' offense, the answer lately has been "not much." The Cubs have scored two runs or fewer in five of their losses, and were shut out in two of the three games they played against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, the Cubs have scored more than two runs in a game just once during their losing streak -- a four-run "outburst" that amusingly came against Clayton Kershaw.

That kind of underperformance has been a theme of Chicago's season. Consider, for instance, how Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber both have OPS+ figures in the 70s; or how John Lackey and Jake Arrieta both possess ERA+ figures in the 80s; or how even Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester are playing below their norms. Whatever's to blame -- small-sample size, World Series hangover, or some combination thereof -- the Cubs have it bad.
As quite often happens when a team has trouble like this on the field, there is related trouble off the field.

It's hard to say exactly which spurs which, or if it's part of a cycle of regression. The first off-field issue was Addison Russell's wife accusing him of cheating on her, which as these things often do, turned into wild accusations of physical and mental abuse that don't appear to correlate with any police investigation.

Next came the Arrieta/Montero situation. Jake Arrieta has been definitely slumping this year: his opponents' hard contact rate went up 29% over last year and his fastball velocity is down 2% (which is actually a notable change when you remember that a changeup is only 10% slower than a fastball). A lot of people have noticed a deterioration in his game this year. One of those was backup catcher Miguel Montero, who accused Arrieta of "allowing stolen bases" and costing them a game against Washington. Montero was eventually designated for assignment and is probably going to wind up signing with another team for less money. Finally came the Cubs trip to the White House where Albert Almora, Jr. apparently was caught on camera giving PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP the finger. (It was about six seconds later derided as "Fake News" since when you look carefully at the picture you can see his other finger is right there, just partially hidden by his jeans.)

But the off-field distractions are nothing compared to the on-field issues. As previously mentioned, Arrieta hasn't been himself both with bases empty and runners in the corners (his response to the Montero situation, by the way, was to concede that Montero was right and he wasn't keeping players from stealing well enough). On June 8th the Cubs lost both Brett Anderson (meh) and Kyle Henricks (gah). Henricks isn't expected to return until the All-Star Break. Zobrist and Heyward are both on the 10-Day DL. Addison Russell apparently hit his wife a little too hard and threw out his shoulder. And worst of all, Kris Bryant last night rolled his ankle against the Nationals and he's probably out for 2-3 weeks at minimum. Add in Kyle Schwarber being demoted after spending all of last year on the DL, and it results in the bizarre situation where the Cubs only have one player looking to win the All-Star voting this year and he may not even be able to play...in 2016 the Cubs filled the entire NL infield.

It's not looking good. Presently the Cubs are .500 (39-39) and 1 game back of the Milwaukee Brewers, compared to this time last year when Cubs lost to the Mets to drop to 51-27 and a win percentage of 0.654. They were a whopping 10 games up on St. Louis and 16 games up on those same Brewers.

The team is starting to have locker room spats and unfortunate injuries. With the possible exception of Bryant (who might be playing good to back his case for a bigger contract as he's apparently still upset over his nonsense grievance situation) there isn't a single member of the Cubs roster who has improved his play from last season. None of the offseason moves could be charitably said to improve the Cubs strength at any position.

Cubs fans waited over a century to see a World Cup win in 2016. At least some of those fans hoped to see a second in their lifetime.

It's worth noting, of course, that the last time the Cubs won the World Series they were back-to-back champs in 1907 and 1908, and they lost to the White Sox in 1906. They then skipped a year and lost in 1910. If you were a Cubs fan around that time in history you must have thought you were the team of destiny: 4 appearances and 2 wins in 5 years. Little did you know that you'd only appear in three more Series over the next quarter century and your great-grandchildren would be dying of old age before the Cubs won again.

Obviously I have no inside information about this specific case, but I've seen it before. A woman leaves her man for some reason: sometimes something he did, sometimes she just met a new guy and made the switch. Pretty soon though she starts telling friends and acquaintences that he had bad behaviour to justify her decision. Often (but not always) the first bad behaviour is true. But pretty soon the sympathy boost she obtains from that accusation starts wearing off, so she ups the ante. He was verbally abusive, he hit her...I've even had two separate women claim that they caught their husbands involved in child porn and worked out a deal with him where he'd concede extra in the settlement and she wouldn't go to the police. The fact that each woman had a divorce lawyer on the payroll alone tells you that this is complete bullshit. So Russell may be guilty of something. But the newer the accusations, the less likely they are to be true.