June was an emotional roller coaster ride for Cubs fans. At one point, after losing six of seven games, fans were hitting the panic button, heading for the exits and cursing their team for letting them down once again—it was 1969 all over again, minus the bell-bottom jeans.
People will remember this past series against the Reds for years. “The Kris Bryant game” will go down in Cubs lore, fans won’t soon forget the “What the hell is going on in left field?” game and Anthony Rizzo’s inside-the-park home-run on Wednesday was a lot of fun.
At the end of the day, or should I say month, here’s what the Cubs did in the last 30 days: enough. They didn’t blow us away like the first two months of the season. By the end, we realized that single season records likely wouldn’t be broken by this team. But, they played well enough.
An 11 game lead in the NL Central? If they can double it, maybe Cubs fans can finally sit back in their seats a bit.
Kris Bryant—no, ladies, I don’t mean it like that. He caught fire the last two weeks at the plate, leaving himself with a .275/.372/.686 slash-line for the month of June. He also hit 11 round-trippers and drove in 23 runs. Forget about a sophomore slump, Bryant is the real deal. He also continues to prove his versatility in the field, playing each outfield position and spending time opposite his usual corner, playing some first base when Anthony Rizzo needed rest.
Speaking of, Rizzo had himself a month too. On the Buffalo Wild Wings sauce scale, he’s somewhere between wild and blazing. He finally looks like himself, slashing .378/.467/.744 in June with eight bombs. Bryant and Rizzo complement each other perfectly in the middle of the order and are a nightmare for opposing pitching—ask the Reds. Having to go after a righty-lefty power-hitting combo who both love to go deep in the count is exhausting.
Welcome to the show, Willson Contreras. The Venezuelan is off to a great start both at the dish and behind it. He’s batting .325/.426/.600 and already has three homers in 13 games in the bigs. Not to mention, he looks like a grizzled veteran when he trots out to calm a pitcher down. Javier Baez embraced his expanded role this month very well, playing all over the field and hitting .292/.337/.562.
Jon Lester looked like the ace the Cubs signed him to be this month. He was a perfect 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA and .784 WHIP. Opposing hitters had no chance against Lester this month—he’s working the bottom of the zone beautifully and striking out hitters with that cruel curveball. Better bring a fire extinguisher if you’re squaring off with the big south paw.
The entire bullpen. Since I don’t want Cubs fans to get another stomach ulcer, I’ll leave it at that.
Ben Zobrist has finally cooled off. After a ridiculous month of May where he batted over .400, he hit a modest .221/.339/.368 this month. Despite struggles at the dish, he continues to provide extreme versatility in left field.
Addison Russell hit .214/.333/.405 in June. He also struck out 26 times in 99 plate appearances. That’s bad.
Chris Coghlan is one of the luckiest dudes in the world. He was awful—I mean awful—in Oakland before getting traded back to the Cubs this month. Since his arrival, he’s batting .200 and hasn’t been too impressive in the field, either. He’s a Band-Aid until Jorge Soler and Dexter Fowler return, but for now, he’s not doing much to stop the bleeding.
Jason Heyward isn’t ice cold. But he’s definitely not hot. He had his best month yet as a Cub, but he still struck out 21 times. Right now, he’s making $17.5 million to do his job poorly. As a college intern, I’m envious. Maybe I chose the wrong field.
The Cubs are still the best team in baseball. Arguments could be made for the Rangers and the Giants—perhaps even the Nationals, Indians or Orioles as well. But, as I’m the world’s foremost authority on all matters, and since this is a matter, my humble, all-knowing opinion says that the Cubs are baseball’s best team.
They need bullpen help. If I got a nickel for every time I heard that this month…
Other than that, they need to keep playing the way that they are. They’re great on offense—they hit for power, they walk frequently and there’s not a guy in the order that you can go easy on. It never ends. The starting pitching is the best in baseball. Defensively, they’re versatile and smart. And, that guy in the dugout—he’s a wizard.
So, that leaves the bullpen. Hopefully help is on its way.
Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com