No Fireworks for Two Sports Entities: Cubs and Kaepernick


The Fourth of July arrived this week, but there were no fireworks for two sports entities: one, a baseball team that has been a surprising disappointment, and the other for an NFL quarterback who thought he would be ready for a new chapter in his career.

The team, of course, is the World Champion Chicago Cubs. The quarterback is Colin Kaepernick.

Let’s start with the Cubs, who appear to have a better chance than Kaepernick of turning it around.

After their thrilling seven-game triumph over the Indians in last October’s riveting World Series, the Cubs not only ended over a century’s worth of heartbreak, but established themselves as a club headed for perennial success.

Heady times in the Windy City were predicted and why not?  Coming off a 103-win year, capturing the NL Central by 17-and-a-half games, then finally winning the Series, the Cubs loaded with talented young players with superb futures, a top-notch manager who was, while sometimes making strange moves on the field, expert in keeping things even-keel, there was nothing but huge upside everywhere you looked.

But so far in 2017, it hasn’t worked out that way.

After a 51-30 record at the midpoint mark last season, the Cubs stumbled to a 40-41 log this year. There are reasons and it’s the reason why forecasting the future is silly.

The biggest of all?  Injuries, of course. The Cubs have been hit with their share.

It affects the daily lineup that Manager Joe Maddon posts in the dugout…making consistency an iffy thing. Jason Hayward, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell (to cite their key players ) have all missed time.

Last season, the Cubs were basically intact except for Kyle Schwarber who was out practically all year, and lead off man Dexter Fowler for a long stretch. This time there seems to be more of a daily roster juggle.

But the injury picture is only a part of the story.

The second issue is pitching.  Without it, you can’t win. Simple as that.

Unlike the days I grew up when it was common for starting pitchers to go the distance, work every fourth day and hurl 300 innings a year, today’s barometer for pitchers is much different.

A quality start is when a pitcher goes six innings. Then the parade begins as relievers come into a game for one-inning apiece regardless how well they may be doing. But that’s a subject for another day. Don’t get me started.

Last year, the Cubs brilliant staff had 54 quality starts at the halfway point of the 162-game season marathon.  Thus far, they’ve had only 34.

Jake Arrieta, the Cubs ace, was impressive Sunday in going seven innings to beat the Reds, and he turns it around and prevents all those stolen bases, the entire Cubs outlook could change.

Arrieta allowed seven stolen bases recently against Washington and his catcher Miguel Montereo criticized Arrieta’s slow delivery to home plate, basically absolving himself from the blame and pointing a finger at a teammate. The next day Montero was sent down to the minor leagues.

The Cubs were right to make that move. There is no place on any club for a selfish teammate who goes public to protect himself and criticize a teammate, especially their best pitchers.

Then there is the hitting. The Cubs have been shutout seven times already.  They were only blanked six times all last season.

The saving grace for the Chicagoans?  They are in second place only two games as of July 3rd behind the leaders, the Milwaukee Brewers.

The NL Central appears weak this season. So while it’s not 2016 again for the Cubs, they are likely to advance to the post-season where things really count.

There, they will face the likes of the Nationals and the Dodgers and will have their hands full just to get back to the World Series.

They may wind up just as they did a year ago.

And maybe not.

Another shining example of why there is no such thing as a foregone conclusion in the world of sports.

Neither is there for an NFL quarterback who at one time led his team into the Super Bowl, but now faces serious questions as to whether he’ll ever play another game.

Colin Kaepernick had some spectacular moments for the 49ers in a losing Super Bowl against the Ravens. He used his legs to advantage and his coach Jim Harbaugh thought the world of him. Harbaugh ultimately was fired by a dysfunctional front office and the former Bears QB has vaulted Michigan back to the stratosphere in the Big Ten. Chip Kelly succeeded Harbaugh and lasted one season. He didn’t see Kap the same way Harbaugh saw him.

But enough of Colin Kaepernick the player.

Last season Kap, as he is known in an abbreviated world, took a stand in 2016 in refusing to do just that during the playing of the National Anthem.

He would kneel, or take a knee, during the Anthem in protest of what he viewed as the oppression of non-white races in the United States.

There was strong reaction to Kapernick’s actions. He had some support of other players, including other players on other teams, who also refused to stand for the National Anthem.

To say he had a polarizing effect for his actions would be a gross understatement.

There were even U.S. military veterans who were on his side. But in a fan poll, he was voted the “most disliked player in the NFL.”

I had a chance to talk to him before he made his starting debut against the Buffalo Bills week 6 last season. He was soft-spoken, anxious to start again (he was in there due to an injury to Blaine Gabbert), and I felt a mix of disappointment and disagreement with Kap’s stance, but also I felt a bit sorry for him that this widespread controversy might derail his career.

He was the losing QB in that game. Started the rest of the season and the team finished 2-14.

The disastrous year wasn’t all his fault. It was a total team effort. But the 49ers cleaned house and brought in John Lynch as GM and Kyle Shanahan as head coach. They had no plans for Kaepernick who became a free agent.

Since then, Kaepernick has found nothing but dead ends everywhere he’s looked to hook on with another team.

There were reports the Seattle Seahawks might be interested, but nothing came of that.

The feeling you can’t avoid is that teams are wary of taking a chance on a player who has been so polarizing. Remember the poll of the fans.

Without coming out and saying so, why would an owner take a chance on someone who could destroy the chemistry of a team, and turn off it’s fan base?

Look, Kaepernick had every right, in this free country, to express his beliefs in protest.

We see it every day.

But an owner of a professional sports team has that same right to reject any player for any reason.

Lynch recently declared that Kaepernick should reaffirm his commitment to football.

Perhaps he should do all his talking to owners of teams. Perhaps he should be front and center in saying how much he wants to play.

Let it go from there.

Kap has no legal recourse here. The NFL is under no legal requirement to sign him.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denies the league is punishing Kaepernick.

I believe if the signing of Kaepernick was going to happen it would have occurred already.

I wonder about one thing… If we were talking Tom Brady, would teams react differently?

I also wonder what will happen moving forward, if a team suffers an injury to its quarterback, will they be forced to come calling for Kap?

In any event, I have to believe Colin Kaepernick, who once brought a team into a Super Bowl, and at age 29, is still young enough to be an asset to an NFL team, had to realize that when he protested against the American flag for causes he felt strongly about,
he was putting his professional career on the line.

If he didn’t, this is a terribly sad story, indeed.


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