Chicago Cubs: Defending world champs quiet in All-Star selections

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Kris Bryant
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Kris Bryant /

A year after sending seven players to the All-Star game, the Chicago Cubs will send only one to the 2017 Summer Classic. Systematically, not every All-Star plays for a great team, however, it does seem the Cubs’ lack of participation is in line with all else that has gone wrong this season.

What were the odds, a year after winning the World Series, that the Chicago Cubs would have just one representative in the 2017 All-Star game? Moreover, the lone representative being a reliever? I don’t even think Vegas had the audacity to draw that one up.

Last year’s National League All-Star team welcomed seven Chicago Cubs. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, and Dexter Fowler each earned a starting nod. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester were among the nine starting pitchers selected. A few of them may have benefited from Cubs’ Nation and the overwhelming popularity of the team at the time, however, a selection is a selection.

None of the seven players endured a repeat selection in 2017. Even the reigning MVP Kris Bryant fell short in the NL final vote, a vote entirely determined by the fans. Instead, Cubs’ closer Wade Davis will be the team’s single participant in this year’s Summer Classic.

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The Chicago Cubs’ disappointing showing is unlike any other defending World Series champion. Looking at the previous four World Series champions, none have been held to one All-Star in the following season. The Kansas City Royals (2015 champs) had four All-Stars in 2016, the San Francisco Giants (2014 champs) had four All-Stars in 2015, the Boston Red Sox (2013 champs) had two All-Stars in 2014, and the Giants (2012 champs) had three All-Stars in 2013. And those teams didn’t have the infinite ceiling which the young Chicago Cubs appeared to have.

The fans got it right this year. The only Cub worthy of an All-Star bid was and is Wade Davis. That worldly Cubs rotation from last season has become commonplace in 2017. Chicago’s starting pitching ERA is 4.66, ranking 17th in the major leagues. Jon Lester has a 4.25 ERA and has factored in only 11 of his 19 starts, pitching to a 5-6 first half record. Jake Arrieta has a 4.35 ERA thus far, his highest mark since 2013 with the Baltimore Orioles. Arrieta has given up 1.2 home runs per nine innings this season, comparing to 0.7 in 2016 and 0.4 in 2015. He has been far more hittable this year as opposed to his previous Cy Young caliber seasons.

An argument could have been made for practically every Cubs’ position player to make the All-Star team pre-season. However, things have changed drastically as the season has played out. Only Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have competitive numbers this year. Bryant and Rizzo have not played to their own expectations. I’m sure they’d be the first to admit they are not worthy of an All-Star selection in 2017. Additionally, neither Bryant nor Rizzo have been up to par with their All-Star competition.

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The Cubs are more concerned about their current standing in the division rather than their lack of All-Star participants. But All-Star prominence often signifies team success. The Cubs’ seven All-Stars helped lead the team to a historic World Series victory in 2016. If their lack of All-Star representation is any sign of things to come, this may not be the year for the Cubbies. They better hope their 2016 All-Stars wake up in the second half of the year.