Cubs 2018 season eulogy: What went wrong, what happens next
Cubs 2018 season eulogy: What went wrong, what happens next
Unfortunately-timed weather, injuries and poor performances at the worst times sunk the Cubs this season, and the offseason ahead is the most important of Theo Epstein's tenure since he joined the club in 2011.
The Chicago Cubs won 95 games in 2018. On paper, that's really good. In reality, this Cubs team was nothing but a constant disappointment. Anyone who watched the Cubs play the last few months would be hard-pressed to explain how, exactly, this team won 95 games. Looking back, it was a trip to Washington, D.C. in the first week of September that doomed this team. The Cubs were followed by inclement weather all year, starting in April. They played double-headers on scheduled off-days, and they traveled to Atlanta at the beginning of a long road trip to play just one game. When they arrived in D.C. on Sept. 6, rain was on its way in the days ahead of Hurricane Florence. The Cubs beat the Nationals 6-4 and pushed their division lead over the Brewers to 4.5 games that day. They sat at 83-57 and had just finished the 17th of what was supposed to be 23 straight games without a day off. But the rain fell on Sept. 7, forcing the Cubs and Nats to play a double-header on Sept. 8. The Cubs were swept in that double-header, seeing their divisional lead drop to 2.5 games. They were rained out again Sept. 9, which forced Major League Baseball to scratch one of the Cubs' final two off-days. The team would travel back to D.C. in the middle of a homestand just days later. By the time they landed in the nation's capital, the Cubs were just one game up on the surging Brewers. All in all, they had faced 30 games in 31 days. Milwaukee, meanwhile, finished the regular season on an eight-game winning streak. Christian Yelich – the likely [MVP winner in the National League](https://www.betchicago.com/handing-out-mlb-regular-season-awards) – posted a .458/.649/1.208 slash line with five home runs and 17 RBI in that eight-game stretch. The Brewers were rested, motivated and most of all, talented. So the last few days of the Cubs' season felt more like facing the music than battling for a championship. Their offense frequently disappeared while their bullpen was in shambles, thanks to injuries and poor performance at the worst possible time. It was impossible to envision a scenario where the Cubs somehow sparked a magical postseason run. The tiebreaker game against the Brewers on Monday and the wild-card game with the Rockies on Tuesday played out like a [two-day funeral](https://www.betchicago.com/cubs-wild-card-game-) -- for Cubs fans, like a funeral for a close friend you had lost touch with. It's sad, of course, and there's a bit of awkwardness to it, too. You go because you have to, but you just want it to be over so you can move on. The Cubs played a total of 22 innings over those two days and scored just two runs. Two. It represents both the number of runs scored by the Cubs offense and the number of times the visitor's clubhouse got a champagne bath. Now, moving on is our only option. There are a lot of questions for Theo Epstein and his front office as they head into their most important offseason since joining the franchise in Fall 2011. The first questions pertain to their most recent acquisitions. The Cubs spent a lot of money last offseason, signing pitchers Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood and [Brandon Morrow](https://www.betchicago.com/brandon-morrow-injury-cubs-national-league-playoffs) – none of whom were on the roster for the wild-card game. Darvish is expected to be healthy and return next season at age 32. Morrow should be back, as well, in year two of a three-year deal. The jury is out on Chatwood, who also signed a three-year deal but was completely broken and unable to command his pitches in 2018. [What do the Cubs do with Chatwood](https://www.betchicago.com/cubs-tyler-chatwood-stats-rotation)? How much can they rely on Darvish? Do they need to bring back Cole Hamels or acquire a closer? Those questions would be easier to answer if the Cubs didn't also have a tremendous need in the middle of their batting order. In addition to a major shoulder injury that ruined Kris Bryant's season, many of the young Cubs players took a step backward in their development at the plate. Remember when Ian Happ homered on the first pitch of the season off Marlins starter Jose Urena? So much more was expected of him at that time, but Happ would hit .233/.353/.408 with a 106 wRC+. Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Willson Contreras were awful in the second half, going 89, 62 and 47 in their wRC+ respectively. That's not even to mention the brutal [Addison Russell](https://www.betchicago.com/addison-russell-cubs-aministrative-leave-ex-wife-abuse), who likely has played his last game in blue pinstripes. Can the Cubs return all these players and rely on them to play major roles on offense? In free agency, the big prizes will be Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. There have been [plenty of rumors about Harper and the Cubs](https://www.betchicago.com/bryce-harper-cubs-odds-next-team) the last few years, but the truth is the Nats right fielder is going to get a massive contract. Is Epstein willing to allocate those kinds of resources for just one player? He has never been afraid of signing a player in the past, but it hasn't always worked out like he wanted it to. When the Cubs arrive for spring training next year, they'll be looking to turn the page on a disappointing 2018 season. But without a handful of major changes in personnel, either in free agency or on the trade market, next year's Cubs will continue to disappoint. Don't worry, in their hearts the Cubs know this is true. Before the dirt is even cold, Epstein and his front office will be hard at work planning their strategy. And there is no time to waste, there's only 133 days until pitchers and catchers report.2018-10-03T12:04:37.717Z2018-10-03T08:04-04:00