Here we go again. The Chicago Cubs just completed a sweep of a lowly Houston Astros at Wrigley Field. Anthony Rizzo has finally been called up, and he’s even hit a home run and showed some impressive defense. But now the Cubs have to take the show on the road, which the first half of the season suggests won’t be a pretty sight.
At the beginning of June, the Cubs swept the San Diego Padres at home and then embarked on a 10-game road trip. I predicted at the time that the Cubs’ road woes would translate into two or three wins, and 2-8 was the best they could do on that trip. So, I feel qualified to make some more prognostications for the trip at hand and, Rizzo or no Rizzo, this is going to be a rough stretch for the Cubs.
Unlike the last road trip, where the Cubs played two sub-.500 teams in the Brewers and the Twins, both of their upcoming opponents are good teams. The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets are giving chase to the Washington Nationals, so neither will have a game to spare against a team with the worst record in baseball.
But, but, but, Anthony Rizzo is here, Cubs fans will state, correctly. I would point out that his five games and 19 at-bats have all come within the Friendly Confines. How he will perform in a park that isn’t buzzing about his presence in the dugout and on the field remains to be seen. I want him to succeed, certainly, but I also know that he’s not playing in triple-A anymore, either. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
On the other hand, any trade value Ryan Dempster might have had went flying out the window with his second trip to the DL this season. When all is said and done, Dempster is 35 years old, and will be a large risk for any team that wants to offer him a multiple-year contract when he hits the free-agent market after this season.
Dempster will likely be shut down until after the All-Star break and then given a start or two afterwards to see if there’s any interest in a stretch-run rental. But his age and his contract demands (he won’t get $14 million dollars ever again, but he may want at least half of that for next year) suggest he’ll be wearing someone else’s uniform next month.
With the half-way point of the season fast approaching, the Cubs could decide to show some life on the road this week. I wouldn’t look for it, though, because the only road series they’ve won this season happened eight miles south of Wrigley, at U.S. Cellular Field. That’s not likely to improve before the All-Star break comes around, either.