Call it coincidental timing, call it the Anthony Rizzo effect, call it luck, or call it anything you want, but the truth of the matter is that the Chicago Cubs have been a legitimately good baseball team over the last few weeks. Since the Cubs were dismantled by the New York Mets on June 27th, they have gone a cool 12-4. While 16 games is a relatively small sample size throughout a 162-game season, when a team is 26-49 --which is what the Cubs were after that ugly loss to the Mets-- a 12-4 spurt makes you wonder if something changed.
The strange thing is that something did change. Anthony Rizzo was called up and made his Cubs debut on June 26th. The addition of one player doesn't suddenly turn an entire team around, but Rizzo's presence has brought a shift in mindset, or so it would seem. I'm not here to debate the source(s) of the Cubs' recent success; I'm curious to debate whether or not the Cubs have any kind of chance to make some kind of miracle turnaround here in 2012. The addition of the second wild card spot makes the question a little tougher still.
While a certain part of my fandom requires me to believe there is always hope for my belabored Cubbies, logic is seemingly shouting in the opposite direction. The Cubs' recent statistical ascent has been fun to watch, but the unfortunate reality is that they are still 13 1/2 games out of first place, and 12 games out of a potential wild card spot. Another unfortunate reality is that the team is set to begin unloading talent prior to the trade deadline on July 31st. The majority of the talk seems to be around Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, but there are plenty of names --Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson, Alfonso Soriano, etc.-- who could find themselves out of Chicago by the time the deadline rolls around. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a slight curiosity to see what would happen if the Cubs opted against unloading players, but never in a million years would I suggest they do that.
We'll know pretty quick the chances of a change of fortunes for the Cubs, seeing as their next four series are against the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. If the Cubs can make a run throughout these next couple of weeks and do some damage against divisional opponents, they might be closer than we think to a surprising finish.
Or the Cubs will come back to Earth, get swept by both teams, and make me look even more foolish for even mentioning the possibility of a turnaround. Oh well, isn't that what being a fan is all about?
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed Major League Baseball throughout.