By Bruce Levine —
CHICAGO (CBS) — After being swept by the Brewers in a weekend series, the Cubs had an off day Monday that was marked by stories and talk of their recent demise.
With the Mets in town for the start of a three-game series Tuesday, the easy parallel to draw is to the 1969 Cubs, who collapsed late in the season and lost the division. That’s also a lazy comparison to make, as the 1969 Cubs led by as many as 9.5 games in early September before struggling mightily as the Mets finished off a late-season tear.
These present-day Cubs’ have never had a stranglehold on the division like those Cubs of yesteryear did. Chicago did lead by five games after a win at Pittsburgh last Thursday, but at no point this season have the Cubs left the competition in the dust. In fact, they trailed the Brewers by 5.5 games at the All-Star break.
Throughout the ups and downs, the players have stayed calm and collected.
“We just are playing baseball every day,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It is no different than April 1. We got to go play and win. That is the bottom line.”
The Cubs have scored just 16 runs combined in their past eight games, a slump that’s hard to understand given their track records.
“You can’t hit every day,” Rizzo said. “You can’t hit every game. Obviously, we are out there doing our best. You have to give credit to the Brewers this past weekend. They pitched really well against us and outplayed us.”
The Cubs’ offense is bound to show up again, a belief they hold strong. As they wait, they try to keep perspective.
“The positive of everything is we are coming off of a long two years (in the playoffs) and we are in first place,” Rizzo said. “I think every single person standing here right now is over looking that. I think where we are at right now is an unbelievable position that we can’t take for granted.”
After the Cubs ended their 108-year championship drought in 2016, the “oh no, here we go again” mentality should be washed from their fans’ psyches. After all, there’s no reason for panic.
“That does get tiring, because I am a fan of sports,” Rizzo said of some going into panic mode. “I am the same way with football. The guys in the clubhouse understand it. We have dealt with outside noise. It is all about being professional and handling things the right way. Like I say, take the positives out of everything to this point. We are coming off of the greatest championship in sports history. We are in the position to win our division again.
“Everyone needs to round around us even more now. We need a little more from them instead of panicking. This is the time we are going to get hot over the next three weeks and raise that banner again next year hopefully. This is the time we really need (support). Let’s just go out and play good defense, get good pitching and go on a nice little roll the next two weeks.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.