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Baffoe: The Cubs Are Fine

By Tim Baffoe--

(CBS) Sandwiches are interesting creatures over which people sure enjoy arguing. This past celebratory weekend featured ignorant fascists across the country crawling down from their elitist towers to whine that hot dogs — those so very American of German sausages — aren't sandwiches. They're wrong and stupid, and history continues to prove such sad folks fools.

The latest sandwich up for debate certainly tastes much worse than any hot dog. It's the one created by two slices of garbage feelings from the Chicago Cubs playing the St. Louis Cardinals surrounding the upbeat Cub feelings in the week between. Nothing ruins good Cubs vibes like losing a series to the Cards, the measuring stick for which all who haven't yet bought in to the Cubs' obvious growth apply to the North Siders.

The Cubs were in a bad state when they landed in New York last week. Young, budding talent galore had stood no match for established juggernautery of the Cardinals, as they had been summarily swept out of St. Louis following two letdown losses to the Los Angeles Dodgers after having taken the first two of four against aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

All of a sudden, the bats they weren't a hittin'. Anthony Rizzo was in a funk. Miguel Montero evaporated. Compounding it all was that it all seemed to localize on a nationally viewed stage as the hated Cards embarrassed Major League Baseball's cute story of the first half of the season. When the Cardinals show you that you're still not as good as them even at the peak of your excitement, there comes a sudden fever dream that you'll never be that good.

Logic dictates a freakout is unnecessary despite Cub fans' stomachs filling with extra Provel-induced acid.

Wrote Sam Fels last weekend of the Cubs:

"Perhaps we shouldn't be so bummed. This team has already exceeded most of our expectations. They reached a high of nine games over .500 this week, at the end of what is far and away the toughest part of the schedule. They did that with Soler missing time. With Fowler and Montero being woof-tastic for long stretches. They did it without Baez being called up. They did it with their free agent pitcher swinging from what we thought we were getting to being Greg Hibbard (and that's probably unfair to Hibby Hibby Shake, who really wasn't all that bad. Speaking of which, Jake Arrieta would like you to stop calling Jon Lester the Cubs' ace, if it's all the same). They did it with the bullpen lighting its own nose hairs on fire for six weeks. They did it with basically no bench. They did it with Castro being terrible at the plate in any month that wasn't April. They did it with Chris Coghlan being one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball."

Now, those words were printed prior to the third game against St. Louis, and Fels may well have lit his computer on fire and ran for the hills that night, but he had a point. And that was without foretelling the soothing tonic that is a sweep of the Mets.

Five days ago, the baby Cubs were licking wounds amid mounting worry that 2015 was just another rickety step in the Theo Epstein Medicine Show rather than part of its culmination. Then last Thursday night after taking all three from the Mets, they sat having swept a season series of 7-plus games for the first time since giving the 1885 Buffalo Bison a good what for about the face and neck for all their 16 meetings.

It was a weird series at Citi Field, as Cubs/Mets seems wont to be. The first two games seemed at times to be in favor of whomever didn't want to win less. Fortunately, the Mets' bats could only hope to reach the Cubs' mediocrity of the moment, and 1-0 and 2-0 scores were sufficient. While Rizzo defied space and time, Jonathan Herrera hit his first home run since 2013, and and it all led to a romp in the third matchup.

Then the Cubs took two of three from the Marlins at Wrigley this past weekend. Kris Bryant did Kris Bryant things. Cub manager Joe Maddon used the series to give Castro and Rizzo a breather for a start apiece, and Jorge Soler returned from the disabled list. There was some good meat to this sandwich of trepidation, as preparations are made for the heel of this loaf of Cardinal madness starting Monday night.

Meanwhile, the Cubs sit 3.5 games ahead of the Giants for the second wild-card spot. The Pirates are 2.5 games ahead for the first wild card.

The Cubs' offense still isn't clicking in an ideal way — and it will — yet the team finds itself well above water anyway. Maybe it clicks against the Cardinals, who found themselves in a mini-rut last week after sweeping the Cubs. If not, and if St. Louis continues to show it's the superior 162-game team, it'll still be OK.

The Cubs-as-division-champions ship has probably sailed. But get their collective foot in the door via the wild card as they should, and little about 2015 Cubs/Cards will matter in a small, immediate October sample size.

Bread. Meat. Simple.

The Cubs are in a good place, all things considered (like the front office not yet making a big trade). Don't let a Cardinals sandwich topped with their weird processed cheese distract you from that, should it all go bad for the Cubs in this four-game series. Think bigger picture and apply logic. And down the road you can look back at your worries and laugh.

Just like when you initially balked at defining a hot dog as a sandwich.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

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