'There's no cute name for this one.' Chicago Cubs aren't panicking over slow start.
When the Chicago Cubs got off to a 16-15 start last year, it was chalked up to the "World Series hangover."
The Cubs had no such problem this year.
Heads were clear and fresh going into spring training, and all the talk was about getting off to a fast start after the Cubs fell short of the World Series last fall.
But just as they did last year about this time, the Cubs lost an extra-inning heartbreaker on Sunday Night Baseball and carried a 16-15 record into Monday night's series opener against the Miami Marlins at Wrigley Field.
"There's no cute name for this one," admitted Cubs president Theo Epstein. "It's just struggling. A number of guys are pressing, and we're slumping. It's not pretty. We know our fans are probably really frustrated and dying.
"Obviously, it's not the start that we wanted. We were pretty focused in spring training on coming out and having a pretty productive start. But that's baseball. You can't pick and choose how you're going to play at times, much to everybody's frustration.
"We're just not doing too many things well right now. Oftentimes, it's when you're struggling the most and when the game's at its most frustrating that you find out a lot about yourself. Our guys have been through stretches like this before."
Epstein pointed to three main areas for the Cubs' fitful start.
"We're deep in an offensive slump," he said. "We're deep in a defensive slump, to be honest with you. And our starting pitching hasn't gotten going yet."
Cubs batters were uncharacteristically last in the National League in walks drawn entering Monday. Anthony Rizzo, who did not start Monday, was batting .177. Willson Contreras was at .231, Addison Russell was at .240, Jason Heyward was hitting .227 and opening-day center fielder Ian Happ was at .228.
Cubs starting pitchers had 17 non-quality starts compared with 14 quality starts, and the defense was tied for last in fielding percentage.
Still, no one seemed ready to panic.
"This is, what, 31 games?" asked manager Joe Maddon. "I'm OK."
Inside the clubhouse, the same sentiments were voiced.
"I've never, myself, felt that we have had a sense of urgency ever since I've been in the big leagues," said center fielder Albert Almora Jr. "It would be, in my opinion, ridiculous to press and to get nervous and whatnot. We have a lot of games left."
Third baseman Kris Bryant agreed, even as the Cubs came off a series sweep at the hands of the Cardinals in St. Louis over the weekend.
"It is a little silly to lose our heads and get worried over a couple tough losses," he said. "It was a couple tough games. We still think we're the best team in the division, and we have all the confidence in the world we'll be where we want at the end of the year, just like where we were last year.
"We sort of have a track record here as a team. I think it's important to look at what we have done and how we have overcome certain things and gotten back to ultimately where we want to be."
In the meantime, fans will have to roll with it. Epstein said he sympathizes.
"Baseball is designed to torture you," he said. "That makes it that much better when things happen to go your way. A series like that (in St. Louis) can be tortuous. When you're watching it happen to someone else, you're saying, 'Thank God, it's not happening to me.'
"When it happens to you, it feels like torture. You just show up today and move on. We're going to be sweeping somebody sometime soon. We just swept a series without scoring any runs a couple weeks ago. I hadn't seen that one before, too. The game can turn in a hurry."
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