Just a few days into the season, we’ve already received difficult news: Kyle Schwarber will miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL and LCL. Schwarber suffered the injury after colliding with Dexter Fowler in the outfield chasing a fly ball during Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s unfortunate, not only because it hurts the Chicago Cubs, but also because it’s a big blow to a promising player on his way to a great career. It could still happen, but this is a tough break.
At the end of last year, we were all excited about the Cubs, not only because they had a great year, but also because they have several young players with exciting futures. The assumption was that Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Schwarber would all get even better. It’s far too soon to write Schwarber off, and all of them could still have great careers. But this injury is a reminder that nothing is guaranteed in this game.
As Cubs fans, we should know this. We can look no further than 2004, when the team was also coming off a great year and had built a promising young starting rotation led by Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano. But Wood and Prior both had their career derailed by injuries, while Zambrano had some success but let his emotions get in the way of reaching his full potential. Meanwhile, the Cubs never won another playoff game with that group.
This is exactly why building a deep roster is important. Last year, the Cubs had a lot of talent, but they didn’t have a lot of depth. It didn’t really get exposed during the regular season, since they had few significant injuries. When the Cubs re-signed Fowler early in spring training, at first I thought it was unnecessary, since they already had Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler, and Schwarber as starters. Now, just a few games into the season, it looks like a move that is already paying off. Soler would be a starter on some teams and likely will see lots more playing time than we originally thought.
Compare the Cubs’ situation to that of their current opponent, the Diamondbacks. They have lost star outfielder A.J. Pollock, possibly for the season, due to injury. So far, they’ve been using the likes of the light-hitting Chris Owings and the unproven Socrates Brito in his place. Maybe one of them will turn into a capable replacement, but they weren’t as prepared to deal with something like this as the Cubs were.
Before the season, everyone was picking the Cubs to be among this year’s World Series favorites. This is still an elite team, but with all they hype coming into 2016, this injury is a reminder that nothing comes easy. Hopefully, the other Cubs players will pull together to overcome this, while a couple of players will step up and at least come close to replacing Schwarber’s production. Injuries like this are tough, but not insurmountable. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the year and still won the World Series, and last year he missed most of the season with injury while the team still won 100 games. It can be done.
I’m upset about the Schwarber injury, along with so many other Cubs fans. But I’m still just as optimistic about this season. There’s no reason to believe that this team isn’t still a World Series favorite even after this injury. It’s just one more thing they’ll have to overcome.