What a difference a year makes.
During the 2016 season, the Chicago Cubs sent seven players to the MLB All-Star Game. The list included five starters in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler, Addison Russell, and Ben Zobrist, and two pitchers in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Of course, on that moment the Cubs were the best team in all of baseball and ended their year winning the World Series in a thrilling seven-game series against the Cleveland Indians. So that was absolutely deserved.
Fast forward to 2017, and the reigning World Series champions only have one player on the ASG rosters. That’s their closer, Wade Davis, who has been one of the top arms in the National League. But what happened to the rest? Kris Bryant didn’t win the Final Vote, and the rest of the aforementioned players could not sneak into the event either.
There are lots of reasons to explain why the Cubs went from having seven to just one player in the ASG over the course of ONE year.
First of all, the Cubs have had a disappointing season. Entering Friday, the Cubs are second in the NL Central with a 42-43 record. The team’s record shouldn’t be the indication if a franchise deserves to have players on the roster or not – look at Joey Votto – but unfortunately, it has a saying. And cmon, who thought the Cubs would be under .500 at the All-Star break? They sit 4.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the division lead and also are 6.5 games behind the second Wild Card spot. That’s… not good.
It also doesn’t help that the Cubs haven’t been able to live up to the expectations. They were coming off an epic World Series run and have one of the most talented rosters in all of baseball, at least on paper. But the team has clearly underperformed. The rotation has been a struggle, the bats went cold, and the bullpen has been a mess. And as we said before, they are not even in first place in their own division. Surely no one saw this coming, although it’s too early to call them a “bust” since a good streak of victories could put them back on first place sooner than later.
On some cases, however, it was just because some players didn’t deserve to be there. Russell has not put up good enough numbers to return to the event. Same goes with Heyward and Zobrist, although both have dealt with injuries this year. And Fowler signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he has not been able to produce on the same level he did last year.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Byrant seem to be the most notable absences, though. But it is hard to make an argument to say they should be replacing someone else. Rizzo has been one of the best first basemen in the league, but Ryan Zimmerman has been far better. And Bryant got chosen for the Final Vote but lost against Justin Turner. Who could blame that choice as well? Turner has been one of the hottest players in the NL in 2017. And he is a pivotal piece for the Los Angeles Dodgers. See? The club’s record ended making a difference.
In the end, the Cubs certainly deserve to have only one representative in the All-Star Game. They have not lived up to their preseason hype and paid for it. They still might make the playoffs if they get hot in the second half of the season. But as of right now, they are right where they should be.