Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs
All the close games. The late-inning losses. The handful of games kicked away in the field.
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has seen it before. That doesn’t make it any easier to watch. But, strangely, it gives him hope.
“It’s eerily similar,” Bosio said.
Eerily similar to what he saw develop from the Seattle Mariners’ barren landscape under manager Lou Piniella and a core of players Bosio joined in 1993.
Specifically, he’s talking about the 2½ painful, often ugly seasons the franchise endured under new leadership, until breaking through with a second-half run to the playoffs in 1995 before a seven-year window of contention.
“Is it identical? No,” Bosio said. “But it’s very similar. It just feels like it, the way we’re playing the games. We’re in the majority of the games that we play, and as young clubs do, you tend to beat yourself.
“And once you start to figure it out, you tend to win more games and win more series. And I think that’s where we’re at. We’ve started to find out about our identity.”
The big difference is there aren’t any Ken Griffeys or Jay Buhners or Edgar Martinezes in the Cubs’ lineup. Never mind the lack of a Randy Johnson in the rotation.
But Bosio said, “Who knows where we’re going to be a year from now, a year and a half from now, with some of our young players that we have down in the minors. There was a lot of superstar power that was already there [in Seattle]. But the possibility of some of these young star players that we have in the minor leagues coming up — the [Javy] Baezes, [Albert] Almora, some of the young arms that we have down there — you just never know.”
For now, it’s the pitching and role-player acquisitions, as well as the growth of some of the young players, that seem to have Bosio reliving his Mariners past.
If guys such as Kris Bryant, Baez and Almora don’t pan out — and if the Cubs don’t find some front-line pitching, especially in the wake of the imminent Matt Garza trade — all bets are off.
But Bosio said he sees signs of an attitude change and a tightening of some of the loose baseball the Cubs have played since he was hired last year.
If that minor-league talent is as good as the club believes, then the final 2½ months of the season should be an indication of the progress of the Epstein-Hoyer-Sveum program, Bosio said.
“Our younger players are going to get better,” Bosio said. “They’re going to learn from experience, whether it’s good or bad.
“It took a couple years [in Seattle], piecing things together, finding players, younger players, learning from their experiences.”
And playing so many close games.
Those Mariners teams Bosio was on played 84 one-run games in 1993 and ’94, going 42-42. The Cubs have played 48 games decided by two runs or fewer already this year (21-27).
“There’s more there than people perceive,” Bosio said. “These guys are starting to get a little fire in their belly because it’s becoming more competitive. And it’s a good atmosphere. It’s a lot better than what it was. And it’s going to get a lot better. Because now these guys are getting a taste of it.”
NOTE: Highly regarded prospect Junior Lake is expected to join the Cubs on Friday in Denver. Lake, an infielder-turned-outfielder, was hitting .295 at Class AAA Iowa with four home runs, 18 RBI, 14 steals and an .803 OPS in 40 games. He takes the place of outfielder Brian Bogusevic (hamstring), who is headed to the disabled list.