Welcome back to Zack’s Sack, the BP Wrigleyville mailbag! It’s been a bit since we’ve done a mailbag here, but the Cubs are as weird as ever, and so we have a few questions from the loyal readers this week. As always, the questions have been left unedited to make our readers look as bad as possible. So, as the Cubs try to keep some distance from the red-hot Cardinals, let’s dig into the Sack.
“Which Cubs player is most likely to survive a nuclear war?” — @rschultzy20
Should all Cubs players somehow survive nuclear annihilation, the answer is going to be similar to those who would survive a zombie apocalypse. Nuclear winter, battling roving bands of rogues and bandits, water wars—you’re probably going to want to go with Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta. Someone with wiliness, some hunting skills, a beard… ideally the Cubs group together and use their collective handsomeness and smarts to dominate the PABL (Post-Apocalyptic Baseball League).
“what’s your take on the 1977 Cubs collapse? Could it happen again?” — @MikeGianella
As someone born almost fifteen years after the 1977 campaign, I am an expert on the emotional toll that the season took on Cubs fans. Over the last 51 games of the ‘77 season, the Cubs fell from 67-46 to an even 81-81, a 16-35 free fall that placed the Cubs fourth in the NL East. The team’s pythagorean record was even worse than an even .500, though, with a -47 run differential on the season. Rick Reuschel had a career year, delivering a sterling 2.79 ERA, but the pitching staff behind him was middling, and the team boasted only three starters with an OPS above average (Bobby Murcer, Steve Ontiveros, and Jerry Morales). Overall, the team just wasn’t as good as they had played for the first two-thirds of the season, and their true talent reared its head in the form of an ugly skid.
So, it could happen again, if a Cubs team was truly mediocre. This year, the team is of the opposite composition: good players having down years, resulting in a surprisingly competitive division race. Disastrous years from Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist, plus prolonged rough patches from Jon Lackey, Addison Russell, and others put the Cubs in a position to find some legs down the stretch, some room to grow. If the Cubs collapse, it will be much harder to wrap one’s head around.
“If you were a Cubs bullpen pitcher, what would your go-to dance move be?” — @BrennanCasey11
I’m a very poor dancer, but the running man is always a solid move. I would probably go with some zany antics and skits if I had time to plan them, however.
“Which current NL playoff team do you think the Cubs would have the hardest time defeating in a playoff series?” — @BrennanCasey11
While he luckily avoided ligament damage, Bryce Harper is likely out for the season with a bone bruise recently suffered, so the Nationals look much less scary than they did at full strength. That team is still very good—they do have Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy—they don’t have the key to their offense. The Diamondbacks and Rockies each have some fairly large flaws, and while Arizona has a good rotation, the Cubs have a formidable top-three for the playoffs.
Simply, it’s the Dodgers, and we all know it. They’ve been streaking for months now, and their young players rival last year’s Cubs in terms of both production and star power. The staff is headed by Kershaw, and, despite the Cubs’ victory over him in the pennant-clinching game last fall, he’s wont to shut down a team on any night. An NLCS rematch would be both fun and nerve-racking.
“What do you foresee the rotation looking like next season?” — @marymcraig
With Arrieta and Lackey almost certainly departing, the Cubs carry three lefties (Lester, Jose Quintana, Mike Montgomery) and Kyle Hendricks into 2017. I don’t know if the front office will try to acquire another young starter via trade, but there are a few pitchers available via free agency who the Cubs will surely monitor.
There’s a small chance Johnny Cueto opts out of his large contract with San Francisco, much less likely than it was before the season considering the righty’s struggles in 2017. Yu Darvish will probably re-sign with the Dodgers or Rangers, and if he doesn’t, he’ll land a $200 million contract elsewhere. Someone like Alex Cobb or Andrew Cashner would appeal to the club, as would a Trevor Cahill reunion. More than likely, though, is that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will surprise us with some sort of acquisition. I go Lester, Quintana, Hendricks, Montgomery, MYSTERY PITCHER.
“What exactly should Shawon Dunston’s rookie card be worth, in terms of barter” — @euqubud
The year is 2017. Nuclear war has transformed five of the seven continents into ashen wastelands, with nomadic groups of the surviving humans scrambling from former town to former town in pursuit of food, shelter, and—the most precious resource of all—water. John, his gleaming dentures a reminder of the life he led prior to the war, wanders along the wreckage of what used to be Central Illinois, joined by companions Jason and Javy. Their beards betray the long days that have passed since their last flirtation with a makeshift town.
They scrape along the remains of I-55, a rare stray car littering the overgrown median every few hundred yards. As John descends the berm into a wilted field, Jason calls out:
The other two men’s heads perk up in unison, staring down the horizon. Jason’s right: a lumbering, black Ford pickup races towards them. Jason unties the hooded sweatshirt from his waist and waves it above his head as the truck nears. It slows, slows, then stops as the three men approach the driver’s side. It’s another heavily bearded man, and he introduces himself as Eric. Javy is the first to speak. “Hey, you were a PABL guy, right? I remember you. We’re hard up right now, do you have any food?” Eric nods, responds gruffly in assent, reaches into the backseat. A cooler appears, blue with a white top, an ancient red logo emblazoned on the broad side.
“Deer meat or squirrel meat, take your pick guys. Deer’s gonna be two McGwires or a Clemens and Puckett. Squirrel’s cheaper, a Gooden or Joe Carter’ll do.”
The trio is perturbed. They’ve spent most of their valuable cards, the Hershisers and Roses and Mattinglys. John rather sheepishly introduces Eric to this fact, and Eric scoffs, but with a hint of the kindness that lingers under his beard. “Yeah, whattaya got.”
John gestures to Javy, and the latter digs into his small satchel. In his left hand he holds the last card the three possess, a 1985 Shawon Dunston rookie, “1982 #1 Draft Pick” inexplicably placed atop the left corner, the shortstop himself with his nose scrunched up as if he smelled something funny. Javy hands it to John, and John extends it through the window.
“Buddy… I’ve got some dry-rubbed ribs in the back. Come on around.”
A Shawon Dunston rookie card is worth one rack of ribs.
Lead photo courtesy Dylan Zobel.