By Parker Jones
If you follow the Chicago Cubs, you know that a World Series will have to wait—yet again.
Heading into Sunday, the Cubs were 52-64 and a whopping 18 games back in the National League Central Division. Plagued by injuries and underperforming players, the club is left with many dangling questions as it fades into the 2013 sunset and looks for hope next season.
Today we’ll address the top 5 issues, and what’s to come for the Cubbies.
1. What is Dale Sveum’s future as the manager of the Cubs?
During this year’s disappointing season, many Cubs fans have called for the firing of second-year manager Dale Sveum. But does he deserve to be the fall guy? Firing him during the season seems highly improbable. However, he did sign a two-year contract in 2012—with an option for 2014. Perhaps Sveum will walk away at the end of the year (more like pushed), but Theo Epstein can bring him back relatively cheap for 2014. Considering next season has already been dubbed a “rebuilding year,” this scenario seems likely. Expect Sveum back in April.
2. Is Jeff Samardzija worth bringing back as the Cubs ace in 2014?
The uncertainty surrounding starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija is just another issue the Cubs are dealing with. Coming off of his worst start in the majors, (Thursday’s 12-1 loss to the Phillies) Samardzija is clearly fading after a strong start to the season. His longevity is certainly an aspect to ponder, considering Samardzija not only played college baseball but also college football at Notre Dame. The question is, did Samardzija take the right career path of playing teams like the St. Louis Cardinals instead of the Michigan State Spartans football team? If Cubs upper management believes Samardzija has reached his peak, he may be in uniform for another team come next season. Could that ever be in the NFL or is it too late?
3. What is the status of the three players who were injured during Wednesday’s game with the Phillies?
The Cubs have been cursed with injuries all season. But who could have imagined three players going down within five minutes during the seventh inning of a 5-2 win over in Philadelphia? Outfielder Thomas Neal, reliever Matt Guerrier and catcher Dioner Navarro were all hurt in the game. Neal was placed on the 15-day DL, Guerrier was placed on the 60-day DL, and Navarro is listed as day-to-day.
4. Is there a quick fix to the Cubs problems in the bullpen?
Unless they can go out and get quality players like Cole Hamels, the obvious answer is no, but the Cubs seem poised to make a play for pitcher David Price in the offseason. While Price would immediately improve the pitching staff, he would only add a few wins. The Cubs will have to make some major moves during the offseason or hope for improvement from their current bullpen, if they want long term results.
5. So since we’ve written off this year, what are the 2014 odds looking like?
As laughable as superstitions may seem, the Cubs seem bound to bad luck. (Can you say Steve Bartman and the Goat Curse?) If there is any hope for a positive 2014 season, Lady Luck will have to finally shine upon the club. And part of that means other teams—like the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds—must start playing worse. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, that doesn’t seem likely.