Welcome to Choketober, when losing jobs is usually what follows losing playoff games.
It was supposed to be Cubtober. It has been Cubtober since 2015. It certainly was Cubtober in 2016.
But Cubtober became Choketober on Tuesday after the Cubs blew the National League wild-card game at home to the Rockies.
Actually, Cubtober became Choketober on Monday when the Cubs blew the NL Central tiebreaker at home to the Brewers.
Any other opponents want to celebrate in Wrigley Field? Hey, you never know, it might become a new revenue stream for the Cubs. Maybe they could buy some hitting.
That’s because they need some. They couldn’t hit down the stretch. They couldn’t hit well enough to protect a five-game lead in September. They couldn’t hit well enough to win a tiebreaker. They couldn’t hit well enough to win the wild card against a team that was playing its third game in a third time zone on a third straight day.
The Cubs scored one run Monday. They scored one run Tuesday. They scored two runs in 22 innings at home in those games. The first cost them a division title. The second cost them their season. That’s the kind of thing that costs someone a job, coaches and players.
When it mattered most, the team with a former MVP in Kris Bryant, a current MVP candidate in Javier Baez, a former World Series MVP in Ben Zobrist, a former NL Championship Series MVP in Daniel Murphy, a star in Anthony Rizzo, an All-Star catcher in Willson Contreras, a compelling World Series orator in Jason Heyward and a folk legend in Kyle Schwarber scored two runs in 22 innings.
Schwarber went 0-for-3 in the two games. Contreras and Heyward each went 0-for-6. Bryant and Murphy each went 1-for-8. Zobrist went 1-for-9. Rizzo and Baez were the hitting stars of this group, going 2-for-8 and 2-for-9 respectively.
That’s a .123 batting average from eight guys who can’t stink like that.
The two best things the Cubs did at the plate against the Rockies?
Baez’s run-scoring single and Contreras’ epic bat flips after walking twice.
Yes, bat flips after walks. Woo.
The Rockies got the biggest hit of the game from a .170 hitter, Tony Wolters, who singled up the middle in the 13th inning to score Trevor Story for a 2-1 lead that would stand up because the Cubs couldn’t match a .170 hitter’s approach and execution.
Wasn’t that supposed to change this year under Chili Davis?
Wasn’t the new hitting coach hired precisely to teach and refine and demand more contact and smarter contact?
Wasn’t Joe Maddon’s choice to replace the hitting coach Maddon fired supposed to help this team move up runners by being more dangerous to all parts of the field?
And wasn’t it stressed that Davis’ teachings were all about winning in the postseason after the Dodgers vaporized Cubs hitters in last year’s NLCS?
Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I remember it, and the Cubs’ first chance to show how much more dangerous they had become in their preparations for playing through the month lasted one playoff game into October.
Er, Choketober. And now it gets interesting. Does somebody pay for Choketober with his job? It won’t be the manager, who will return for at least the one year remaining on his contract.
Arguably, this was Maddon’s best managing job under the circumstances, coaxing a league-high 95 victories despite losing 40 percent of his rotation to bad pitching or injury or both and despite losing the player formerly known as Bryant, not to mention the descent of Contreras’ power.
But might it be Davis? Does a name player or two get traded? Would Schwarber bring a quality arm if they sign Bryce Harper? What would Albert Almora Jr. or Ian Happ fetch? How big would the Cubs go?
At his season postmortem Wednesday, President Theo Epstein indicated an organizational toward evaluating production instead of talent — hard evidence over educated predictions — perhaps an omen that some players could be changing uniforms.
This franchise is about winning World Series, or at least getting there. That’s clear to everyone, as clear as the fact that the Cubs now are going on three years since they won a championship.
Changes will come. They have to. It’s hard to imagine that nobody will get fingered for Choketober.