The 2019 Chicago Cubs lost another 10th inning heartbreaker against the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals. This coming after losing a 10th inning heartbreaker against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night. Instead of being 2 games back of the NL Central lead, the Chicago Cubs now sit 4 games back. If the season were to end today, the Chicago Cubs would be packing up for vacation.
While you can blame these shortcomings on a plethora of things, in my opinion there is one person that deserves blame the most.
You could argue these last two games were as must win as they come with the possibility of gaining 2 games on the Cardinals in the division race and the Brewers right on the Cubs tails in the Wild Card race. These were tight games where having dependable relievers was necessary. Let me show you just who the Chicago Cubs leaned on in this desperate time of need:
Duane Underwood Jr.
Now let me take a deeper dive into each of these arms.
David Phelps: Joined the Cubs on July 30th, a desperation move by Theo since the bullpen was not addressed in the offseason
Pedro Strop: One of the most dependable relievers in Cubs history, I will not knock Theo for Pedro falling off the map. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that.
Kyle Ryan: Called up in early April to help a struggling bullpen. He has been decent this year but still not someone who was expected to have a huge role going into this season
Tyler Chatwood: Starting pitcher that Theo threw millions of dollars at to fill the rotation in 2018. He was so bad that he was demoted to the bullpen. Luckily for Theo, he has turned out to be halfway mediocre in the pen. Needless to say, not initially signed to be a dependable reliever during a playoff race.
Rowan Wick: Reliever Theo traded for after posting a 6.48 ERA with San Diego last season. Once again, he has been solid but not someone you are looking to lean on in a playoff race.
Derek Holland: Trade deadline desperation move to help patch up struggling bullpen.
James Norwood: 2014 draft selection by Cubs, made MLB debut in July. Just the guy to depend on.
Duane Underwood Jr.: Cubs minor leaguer who has made spot starts throughout the year, another shut down reliever…
Brad Wieck: Trade deadline acquisition to patch up struggling bullpen.
Danny Hultzen: 2011 2nd overall pick, made his MLB debut 12 days ago…
Craig Kimbrel: Major signing by Theo, tossed into the fire in non save situation after being out for weeks.
Steve Cishek: Solid member of 2018 bullpen, one of the few dependable arms in the bullpen.
What is my point with all of this? How many of the above players are pitchers Theo Epstein went out and made a splash for prior to this season? Zero. The bullpen was an issue going into the year. Everyone and their mother knew this bullpen was not going to be enough to win in an era dominated by dominant bullpens.
Let’s take a look at what I wrote back in February about this bullpen:
In an era where having a dominant bullpen is pivotal come October, the Cubs decided to go with the quality over quantity approach. This is once again a downfall of not opening up the check book. Brandon Morrow will be out for at least a few months. The Cubs signed Brad Bach and Tony Barnette. I am sure they will be fine relievers but those don’t sound like names I can trust to shut down the game in a pivotal moment in October.
Brad Bach and Tony Barnette were not fine relievers. The Cubs made a huge splash with Kimbrel, kudos to Theo on that move. Allowing Craig Kimbrel to pitch in a non save situation after not pitching for weeks was a bonehead move. A pitcher that is taking the mound after an injury is going to make sure he has one thing first: command of his fastball. Matt Carpenter is a veteran hitter. He knows Craig Kimbrel needs command of his fastball in order for his nasty breaking pitches to work. He is sitting dead red and hit the ball to the god damn moon.
I know there have been injuries. I know this bullpen has actually been halfway decent at times this season. My point is there was never a time when you thought to yourself “this bullpen can carry this team through October”. That never once entered your mind and that goes back to Theo Epstein not opening his checkbook. Go ahead and blame Joe for his management of this bullpen but can you really blame him? Look what he has to work with. It truly is a damn shame this team is going to be wasted once again because of a lack of preparation by the front office.
I think this team will make the playoffs one way or another. They are too good not to. I also know this bullpen is not good enough to do what matter most: win a World Series. I will continue to believe it can happen. It is my duty to be that optimistic fan that thinks anything can truly happen once you make it to October. In 2019 Cubs fashion, I am sure they will win these next 3 games and be within 1 game going into the final week of the season. That is just the year it has been.
It is just truly disappointing Theo did not make the moves necessary to put this team in the best position to win a World Series while this window is open. That’s all.