Manager David Ross had few words for his team after the Chicago Cubs got swept out of the playoffs. There really wasn't much to say, other than this.
“Just remember how this feels when you’re working in the offseason,” the rookie skipper said. “This is a terrible feeling. I’m proud of them. I’m very proud of this group. This is a season like no other. As a mamager, I’m very proud of this group.”
The Cubs won the NL Central at 34-26 in Ross' first year and returned to the playoffs after missing out last year. Yu Darvish built on a strong second half last year and thrust himself into the Cy Young Award conversation.
But the Cubs stalled after winning 13 of their first 16 games in the pandemic-shortened season. They got swept at home by Miami in their wild-card series, managing just one run in two games.
They haven't advanced in the postseason since reaching the 2017 NL Championship Series. And they're facing some big decisions about a core that in 2016 helped bring the long-suffering franchise its first World Series championship in 108 years.
The team holds options for next season on veteran starter Jon Lester and slugger Anthony Rizzo. Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber can all become free agents after next season. Even president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has a contract that expires in 2021.
Maybe that explains how Bryant felt after the Cubs got knocked out by the Marlins in a 2-0 loss on Friday.
“It’s just a different feeling than every other year when we get eliminated and I don’t know why," he said. "It’s just a weird feeling.”
Here are some things to know:
ON THE OFFENSIVE
The Cubs have to figure out a way to fix their broken offense, whether the help comes from within or the outside.
They ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 average and had the fifth-highest strikeout total.
Bryant (.206, four homers, 11 RBIs), Báez (.203, 8, 24), Rizzo (.222, 11, 24), Contreras (.243, 7, 26) and Schwarber (.188, 11, 24) all struggled during the regular season. And they didn't find their stroke in the playoffs, either.
Báez, Bryant and Rizzo combined to go 1 for 24.
“Offensively we just could get it going at all," Rizzo said. "There were spurts here and there, but it’s just tough, tough to swallow. There’s no regrets. I think everyone has laid it on the line every day.”
Lester might have pitched his final game for the Cubs.
The team holds a $25 million option with a $10 million buyout, on the five-time All-Star, who signed a six-year, $155 million deal prior to the 2015 season. The five-time All-Star has expressed a desire to return. But at 36, he posted a career-worst 5.16 ERA.
If this is it for Lester in Chicago, it's been quite a run — with that drought-busting World Series championship and three trips to the NLCS.
While the Cubs won't be hoisting a championship trophy, Yu Darvish might get some hardware.
A four-time All-Star with Texas, he pitched his way into the NL Cy Young Award conversation. The 34-year-old right-hander tied Cleveland’s Shane Bieber for the major league lead with eight wins and was second in the National League to Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer with a 2.01 ERA.
Jeremy Jeffress re-established himself coming off an injury-riddled season with Milwaukee.
Signed to a $850,000, one-year contract by the Cubs, the 2018 All-Star took over as the closer after Craig Kimbrel struggled in the early going. The 33-year-old right-hander converted eight of 10 saves and went 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 22 appearances.
With the Brewers in 2019, he finished with a 3-4 record and a 5.02 ERA in 48 games and got cut with about a month left in the season.
The Cubs' first exhibition game is scheduled for Feb. 27 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The season opener is April 1 against Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field.
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