2019 NL Wild Card: Because the rules say somebody has to win

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals looks on after the game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: Juan Soto #22 of the Washington Nationals looks on after the game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
(Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs

Current position: 81-68, 1.5 GB from 1st WC

Listen, I love the Cubs. They’re my team. But they’ve had every opportunity to prove themselves the last two seasons and they keep coming up empty.

They’re playing entitled right now, which is neither an effective nor entertaining way to play baseball. Body language is horrible across the board. Mental errors and lack of focus continually lead to wonky errors and extra work for an unreliable, if potent offense.

The first inning against the Pirates on Friday afternoon is case and point for why this team doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs:

Of course, the rest of the series is case and point for why they should be involved in the postseason:

After giving away four runs in the top of the first, they countered with three home runs of their own to take a 5-4 lead. That’s an awful lot of drama for a first-inning one-run lead against a team they should be able to beat in their sleep.

Notably, the third shot of the inning came from emergency rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner in his first AB in front of the Wrigley faithful.

Hoerner gives the team a bit of a boost in terms of watchability – any good playoff contender ought to have a fresh-faced rook or centerpiece player who’s a playoff neophyte. Whether Hoerner keeps the job through the WC game or loses it to Javier Baez returning from injury, there’s a pretty good story to track at shortstop (so long as it’s not Addison Russell taking over, please god).

They also made the best deadline acquisition of the year in freeing Nicholas Castellanos from Detroit. The Cubs get points for going for it at the deadline, and Castellanos gets one point for every ball he sends beyond the basket. Spoiler: he’s raising their dWAR by the day.

Still, this team’s been there before, and there’s no outdoing their run in 2016. A surprise return to form in the final two weeks could make them interesting again, but if the tune doesn’t change, these Cubs are played out.

Why do these Cubs deserve the postseason? Because Theo. Because Joe. Because nostalgia. Because the number 108. But most of all: because Nick and Nico.