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Should the Cubs Add a Villain?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Celebration of the Cubs looking like the Cubs of two week ago lasted long into the wee hours of this morning for this guy. In my glazed-eye state, unsure of why I was still awake, I stumbled upon the final few moments of MLB Network’s late night show with none other than the “great” Harold Reynolds.

Reynolds and Eric Byrnes were discussing players who should be on the move come late June or July when the name Ryan Braun comes up. The Brewers are bad and kind of direction-less after losing Prince Fielder and CC Sabbathia a few years ago, leaving Braun to carry them to a handful of last-place finishes. Moving Braun for younger pieces makes plenty of sense.

The conversation carries on with each former player offering a team Braun would make sense on, including the Indians and Mariners. Byrnes briefly interjects with a notion that Braun would make sense in either league, but his familiarity with the National League could make him a fit with a team like the Phillies.

I shake my head to my cat, Ella, but Byrnes corrects himself by saying that would only make sense if the Phillies surprisingly good start continued further into the season. He adds as a final note that Braun would not be a great add for the top teams in the NL because of their depth in the outfield, to which I do concur and begin to reach for the remote to head to bed.

Since we enjoy hot takes on the interwebs and the fallout from them, I offer to you a hot take from someone other than me.

In what had to be a weird out of body experience or maybe it was just the shandy, Reynolds seems to correct Byrnes in saying that a top team in the NL could be interested in Braun because of his offensive prowess.

At this moment I begin to yell internally, ‘DON’T SAY IT HAROLD.’

He did. He says the Cubs could use Braun and that he would be an upgrade over anyone in their outfield currently.



Yes, I assume you are having the same reaction as me in this moment.

Okay, now that we’ve briefly recovered from such a thought, let’s quickly break it down. Putting aside all ill-fated thoughts about the former* PED user for the Brew Crew, Braun is obviously a great offensive player. He’s made six all-star games and has a lifetime average just over .300, something the Cubs don’t currently have in their outfield.

I’m not going to compare Braun to Dexter Fowler because there’s no way he could play center well with any consistency. In theory you could move Jason Heyward to center, but that just seems like spinning tires for the sake of doing so.

Braun is a better offensive player than Heyward at this juncture and few would doubt that, but what Heyward provides from the depths of the outfield make up for a few of his deficiencies. The Cubs top two outfielders have combined for 156 putouts, three assists and no errors through 44 games, as well as a 1.0 defensive WAR through the first quarter. Heyward’s .6 mark is only lower than David Ross (.8) and Addison Russell (.7).

Braun is essentially average at .1 in 36 games played. He’s not a liability like he was at times during his transition into the outfield earlier in his career, but he’s not even upgrade on Soler despite posting better numbers this year. Soler’s one errors in more limited chances hampers his early-season score, but Braun cannot match the arm strength in left or right.

So essentially it all boils down to offense in Harold’s rhetorical world, but at what cost? The Cubs offense has had its fair share of letdowns this season, including the most recent stretch of futility that cost them a couple series in succession. Soler has been one of the most frustrating of the bunch, often over-swinging on breaking balls away and low. Frustration with Soler is warranted, but he’s one of the lower salaried members of the lineup and was supposed to keep working as a rotational player this year.

Braun would be an upgrade in the lineup over Soler, but where does he fit in reality? Second? Third? Sixth? It would create an embarrassment of bats, but at what cost?

Even if you could get a good deal for a bat like that, would fans ever be able to get over the fact that he’s been an NL Central villain for the better part of eight years?

What say you?

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Winning Covers A Lot

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Chicago Cubs - Won 12-3 over the Cardinals

If the last few days have got you down, hopefully yesterday’s win with the promise that today is Jake day has you feeling just fine. My guess is the coffee tastes better today than it has been.

Jason Heyward made his return to the lineup and did Jason Heyward things (0-for-5 with 2 K), but the rest of the team, including the bat boys, clubhouse attendants and even the organist did their job well. At what point do you move Heyward down in the order? We’ve seen Joe Maddon move other guys around in the lineup, but not Heyward. I want to see him in that seven or eight spot in the lineup until he can play his way out of it. I’m done with him at the front end of the lineup.

Jason Hammel pitched another solid game and has been, arguably, our second best starter this year. I think I would still trust Jon Lester over Hammel, but Jason has really pitched well this year. You know me, I’m a skeptic and was ready to jump off the Hammel train this spring training, but I’ve been running behind that train all season trying to grab on and hoist myself back up for the ride. I’m almost there, and I’ve begun to wonder if there is a chance Hammel makes the All Star team. The Cubs the potential to send multiple representatives, and perhaps Hammel should be one of them.

It was a big win last night to get some momentum heading into this afternoon with Jake Arrieta, and I fully expect the Cubs to win this series.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Won 8-3 over El Paso

The win ends an 8 game losing streak for the I-Cubs

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Off Day

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Won 3-2 over Carolina

South Bend Cubs (A) – Won 8-3 over Great Lakes

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#Cardinals Kick the Cubs in the Twig AND the Berries

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Chicago Cubs - Lost 4-3 to St. Louis

If you came away from last night’s loss to the Cardinals angry, you have every right to feel that way. It was a game we should have won and we couldn’t close it out. It sucks, especially at the hands of the Cardinals, but take a breath and look at the standings and let’s get them tonight.

Where is the Offense? - I genuinely thought the Cubs would score 1,000 runs this season, or at least get close to it, but that looks to be far fetched at this point. As a team, the Cubs have hit .213 / .307 / .348 over the last seven days. That’s not going to get it done, especially when some of those games are against competent teams like the Giants and the Cardinals (though the jury is still out on them). Players go through slumps, but unfortunately all of our guys have chosen the same time to do it. It sucks, but things can change in the snap of the fingers.

Where Would We Be? - What a blessing Ben Zobrist has been this season. He had another great night at the plate and has been wonderful this season. Imagine this team had he not been brought in and had Dexter Fowler not spurned the Orioles and come to Chicago. We could be a team that is much closer to the pack had those guys not come here.

A Veteran is Released – Prior to the game, the Cubs made the announcement that they had released Shane Victorino, who was brought in with an opportunity to win a job and had been playing on a minor league contract with a Major League option should he be called up. It was another edition of the Theo / Jed Educational Lottery, but this ticket was not a winner. It happens. The Cubs felt that with Matt Szczur healthy now, they were blocking Victorino and wanted him to have the opportunity to play somewhere else. Translation: This guy isn’t very good and has no chance to play here. Release him.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Lost 6-1 to El Paso

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Won 3-2 (12 innings) over Biloxi

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Won 3-1 over Lynchburg

South Bend Cubs (A) – Won 6-3 over Lake County

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It’s Not Easy Being the Best Team in MLB

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Chicago Cubs - Lost 1-0 to San Francisco

I know that as you read this, you’re disappointed. I know the last 10 games or so have been discouraging and making you possibly revert back to the traditional Cubs thinking that this isn’t our year after all, but I would encourage you to stop that thinking and that attitude right now.

Here is where the Cubs stood in the standings over the last 3 years on this date:

2015: 23-18 (3.5 GB)

2014: 17-28 (9.5 GB)

2013: 18-27 (11.5 GB)

We’re 29-13 and have the best record in baseball. Slow your roll and relax.

  • Kyle Hendricks didn’t look great, but got into the 6th inning and only allowed one run. That’s a positive.
  • Jorge Soler played good defense in LF. That’s a positive.
  • The bullpen was perfect. That’s a positive.

It’s not much, but shake it off and get ready for the Cardinals tonight.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Lost 8-1 to Tacoma

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Lost both games of a DH (5-0 & 6-5)

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Lost 7-4 to Lynchburg

South Bend Cubs (A) – Won 6-4 over Lake County

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MLB is a Whore, but I Love Her Anyway

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Chicago Cubs - Lost 5-3 to San Francisco

Explain something to me, because I’m just not getting it. Why is it that when someone has paid money to MLB to watch their product, which obviously shows that they have interest in the product and support the product, would you restrict their ability to consume the product? Last night I put the kids to bed and turned on the Roku about 7:30p EDT and was told that I was blacked out from watching the game. Keep in mind that this was NOT the game that was featured on my local Fox affiliate and it was not a game that was featuring a local team, but because MLB is a whore and willing to lock out their fans in an effort to make more money, I couldn’t watch. So, instead you get some general commentary about the news / notes before the game.

Before the game, the Cubs announced that Jason Heyward will only have to miss a couple games as a result of his injury in game one. That is huge news, because as we saw yesterday, the depth in the outfield could leave us thin. Matt Szczur was called up to allow for some depth in the OF (he was on rehab assignment with Tennessee), but to make room for him, the Cubs needed to make a roster move. The three candidates to get axed were Neil Ramirez, Tim Federowicz, and Clayton Richard. All were essentially out of options (Richard had three option years left, but enough service time to where he would have had to clear waivers first), so it was a move that essentially said “This player is done in our organization” and they chose Ramirez.

I get it, but I don’t have to agree with it. Personally, I would have parted ways with Richard or Federowicz, but I know Joe Maddon seems to like the flexibility of the three catchers and for some reason Richard is hidden in the back of the pen and people forget he’s there (until he gets in the game and we remember why he’s hiding). Don’t get me wrong, Ramirez hadn’t pitched well either, but I like his young, hard throwing arm rather than an older arm in Richard. It’s a move I don’t agree with, but it’s done and I wish Ramirez all the best.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Lost 7-6 to Tacoma

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Won 10-8 over Biloxi

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Won 6-4 over Lynchburg

South Bend Cubs (A) – Won 10-6 over Lake County

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What The Cubs Can Do If Jason Heyward’s Injury Is Serious

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

If you missed the game yesterday, and I will forgive you since it was a west coast affair, Jason Heyward went back on a ball in the 1st inning and made a great catch as he dove, but landed head first into the wall.

It was one of those plays that you know immediately that something will be wrong, but you don’t know just how serious it will be. Heyward left the game and was replaced by Tommy La Stella, and now we wait to see what becomes of Heyward’s injury. He is scheduled for an MRI today to get the full extent of the injury and we should know at that point if a DL stint is needed. That led me to evaluate what the state of the outfield looks like for this team should Heyward or someone else be shelved long term.

Looking at the current roster I see loads of flexibility and versatility.

Current Roster

Jorge Soler – LF & RF

Dexter Fowler – CF (He could probably play other spots, but I prefer him there)

Kris Bryant – LF and has played some CF. He said he even prefers CF

Javier Baez – Has played OF, but I prefer him at 3B if depth in the OF is shallow

La Stella and Ben Zobrist – They can play the OF, but again, I prefer them in the IF

Looking at the current roster, we have temporary fill ins that can hold down the fort if Heyward needs a couple days off, but what if it’s more?

40 Man Roster Options

Matt Szczur – He’s rehabbing down in Tennessee and should be able to come back very soon. If absolutely needed, he could probably come back as early as this weekend, but may be a little rusty.

Unfortunately, that’s it for 40 man roster guys, which means the long term answer, if not listed above, would require a roster move. The 40 man roster currently sits at 39 members, so there is flexibility there if a move is required, but who would get the call?

Other Options

  • Matt Murton – He’s 34 years old, hitting .264 / .280 / .304 for Iowa and I once saw him naked in a locker room, but he IS an option. I don’t really want to go that route long term, but he’s a guy that, if called up, could be designated for assignment, clear waivers and sent back down to keep the 40 man spot open.
  • Shane Victorino – Ideally you don’t want to go this route either since it costs you more than league minimum to bring him up per his contract and he’s playing terrible for Iowa
  • Ryan Kalish – Been there…done that. Got the T-Shirt.
  • Albert Almora – This is an intriguing option, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to go there yet. He’s playing great for Iowa and I could see him competing for a starting CF job when Dex leaves this off-season, but he’s not ready for regular at bats in the Majors, so you’d have to hang tight on that one. I do think we will see him sometime this season, though.

The options are not great, so let’s hope Heyward is OK.

Chicago Cubs - Won 8-1 over San Francisco

  • Soler decided to show up and play baseball for once. Joe Maddon was giddy about his play last night.

    “It’s nice to see Jorge play a complete game because that’s what we’re looking for from all of our guys,” Maddon said. “We just don’t want hitters, we want guys that will play a complete game. I was really, really pleased to see that for him and for us.””I don’t care about the home run at all,” Maddon said. “It has nothing to do with how excited I am right now. Everything else I saw, I saw a major league baseball player out there. That’s what got me excited.

    “How about how he ran the bases? When he came in after scoring one run, I wanted him to know that’s how you run the bases.”

    “I want to believe he understands what we’re talking about,” Maddon said. “He went out and did it. That’s the kind of mental effort that can make him a superstar.” (Source)

  • Jake did Jake things (yawn…another win). Before the game, I saw this tweet from Brett at Bleacher Nation and I thought to myself…”that doesn’t look that hard”. Then I tried it.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Lost 9-4 to Tacoma

  • SP – Jake Buchanan – 5 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 2 BB, 2 K (Talk about taking one for the team. Yikes that is an awful night!!)
  • 1B – Taylor Davis – 3-for-4

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Postponed

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Lost 5-3 to Lynchburg

  • SP – Jeremy Null – 5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 6 K (Has a 0.75 ERA on the season)
  • LF – Ian Happ – 2-for-4, 3B, R (

South Bend Cubs (A) – Won 7-5 (10 inn) over Lake County

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Organization Recap – We Lost to the Brewers? Again?!?!

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Chicago Cubs - Lost 5-3 to Milwaukee

It’s been a little bit of a frustrating week to watch Cubs baseball. A series loss to the Brewers recently on the heels of a series loss to the Padres does not sit well with me, however I know this team is the best in baseball and you’re never as bad as you look in your worst moments or as good as you look in your best. I’m not sure if we’ve seen either of the best or worst yet this year, but I know this team is better than they played this week. Tonight is Jake Arrieta day, so that makes the world all better.

I don’t know how much else to say. I tend to subscribe to losses in a long season the way I subscribe to shots hit in the wood (there are many) when I play golf. If I waste time looking for them, it only makes me more angry. The same goes for losses. If we waste time breaking down every nook and cranny of the loss, it’s only going to make us happy. Instead, look at the standings, and then stare at a photo of Jake and question your sexuality.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Lost 2-1 to Tacoma

  • SP – Ryan Williams – 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 K (Left game with apparent injury. No update yet)
  • RF – John Andreoli – 2-for-4, 2B, HR, R, RBI

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Won 7-2 over Biloxi

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Won 4-3 over Winston Salem

South Bend Cubs (A) – Lost 5-3 to Great Lakes

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Are Sports Just One Big Conspiracy?

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Every now and then I’ll be driving and letting my mind wander. I’ve had a recurring thought that creeps in once in awhile that I quickly dismiss, but it always lingers in the back of my mind. What if the whole sports landscape is just one big conspiracy?

What if it’s like the Truman Show, where Jim Carey is living in this world and everyone around him knows it’s fish bowl, so to speak, where people are just watching. What if all of sports is just fixed and pre-planned like the WWE? Stop and think about it for a second. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years and haven’t been there since 1945. How is that possible? The Cavaliers just happen to win the lottery when Lebron James, who is from Cleveland, is in the draft. The Bulls win the lottery when Rose is in there. Things just seem fishy sometimes.

In the end, I don’t believe in my grand theory that everything is pre-scripted, however the older I get, the more I believe that their is corruption and fixing in all sports these days. There has to be shady things that go on behind the scenes. In a world as corrupt as the one we’re living in, it just has to be happening.

Chicago Cubs - Won 2-1 (13 Innings) over Milwaukee

  • David Ross was a boss again last night. He was throwing guys out on the basepaths like his life depended on it. He was a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t normally click on the videos in these posts to watch them, go back and watch the one above as it highlights the day he had. I’m so happy that he’s having the season he is, so it doesn’t feel like charity keeping him on the roster in his swan song.
  • Offense struggled again last night, but got it done when it mattered. Addison Russell is a beast when it comes to clutch situations. It seems like he’s always the guy up in those spots and he almost always does enough to get the job done. It’s amazing to step back and look at how young he is and how high his ceiling still is.
  • The bullpen was magnificent. I harp on the 13 man pen, and I still disagree with it because it causes rust and gives less flexibility for offensive and defensive switches, but last night the pen produced seven innings of shutout relief work led by Pedro Strop, who tossed two scoreless with three strikeouts. Mad props to the pen last night. They saved us and are the reason we won that game.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – No Game

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Lost 5-0 to Birmingham

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Split a DH with Winston Salem 5-9 & 2-0

South Bend Cubs (A) – Lost 5-4 to Great Lakes

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Organization Recap – Cubs Sign A Closer?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Mad props as always to Randall Sanders for another nice logo for us to use for our site. Make sure to follow him on Twitter at (@RandallJSanders)

Chicago Cubs - Lost 4-2 to Milwaukee

When you’re scheduled to face a guy like Chase Anderson and a team like Milwaukee, both who are not considered giants in terms of skill, you need to come out with a win or at least play better than the Cubs played last night. To their credit, they hit the ball hard, but right at people. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, that’s what makes this game fun. Any team can beat any team on any day. It’s why the season is as long as it is. We get a true separation of the best teams when the dust settles and when that happens the Cubs will be on top and the Brewers will be somewhere near the bottom.

If we look for positives, I would highlight the following:

  • Jason Heyward hit his first HR of the season, to which I say “It’s about freakin’ time, dude”. Hopefully this will be the start of a hot close to the month for Heyward. He needs to have some of the pressure of that signing this off-season be lifted with some success.
  • Trevor Cahill pitched 2.2 scoreless, hitless innings of relief for Kyle Hendricks who was not that great in his outing. Sometimes you have to step back and just sort of marvel at Theo and Jed’s ability to bring in starting pitchers who are down on their luck and refurbish them for resale or internal use. Cahill was really bad for the Braves in 2015 before coming here and not great for the Diamondbacks the year before. Essentially his best days were long gone. A move to the bullpen and something done behind the scenes and he’s a new man. Throw in guys like Scott Feldman (who brought Jake Arrieta), Clayton Richard, Travis Wood, etc and you see that Theo and Jed can bring in scrap and potentially turn it into something usable. It may not be gold they spin, but usable parts for scrap is a good move and when you string enough of those together, you will like the results.
  • That leads to the last positive yesterday. The Cubs announced late in the afternoon that they had signed Joe Nathan to a contract. He’s immediately placed on the 60 day DL, which means that even though he has a Major League contract, he will not burn a spot on the 40 man roster as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery in 2015. John Heyman reported that Nathan can earn up to $2.4 mil in incentives this season and as much as $4.6 mil in 2017. The signing reminds me a lot of what they did in the past with guys like Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, and Jason Motte. Two produced positive results and one did not. That’s good value right there.It’s important to remember that we’re not getting a guy that can be the best closer in the game. IF Nathan can come back and produce, it would be as a veteran with high leverage experience, which is always needed come playoff time. I’m not counting on him and if he comes back this year (supposedly sometime in late July or early August) and is productive then that’s just gravy.

Iowa Cubs (AAA) – Lost 5-3 to Reno

Tennessee Smokies (AA) – Won 9-4 over Birmingham

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-Adv) – Postponed due to weather

South Bend Cubs (A) – Won 2-1 over Lansing

  • SP – Carson Sands – 5 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 3 K
  • OF – Donnie Dewees – 1-for-4, 2 RBI and a nice defensive play (see video)
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