Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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.

HOLD THE BUS.

What?

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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Memory and Perspective

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

In 2008, I liked our team and thought we had a realistic chance of making it to the World Series. That was only a short time ago, and yet many fans seem to have forgotten the utter joy and hard lesson of that wonderful season.

The Cubs had won the Central Division in 2007. Though they did not advance beyond the Division Series, the 2007 season ended with great optimism for the coming year. The Cubs were balanced and peaking. In a weak National League, many prognosticators picked the Cubs to win it all in ’08. It would be appropriately poetic. The last time they won the World Series was 1908, exactly one hundred years earlier. It was time to come full circle.

The idea that the Cubs’ time had come was not all poetry and daydreams. The Cubs had a solid and productive infield: Derek Lee (1b), Mark DeRosa (2b), The Riot (ss) and Aramis Ramirez (3b). They would begin the season with Alfonso Soriano, Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome patrolling the outfield. Jim Edmonds, one of my favorite mid-season acquisitions ever, was added later as an upgrade to Pie in centerfield. The rotation was high quality too: Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Kerry Wood would close. The only question mark was catcher, but Geovany Soto grabbed the opportunity and ran with it.

The season had a magical feel. We believed that, unlike in ’07, this time Lou Pinella would have the team ready for the play-offs. Dempster and DeRosa were popular team leaders. Jim Hendry worked hard to add pitching, bringing in Rich Harden in late July. Wood was the bridge to our past and saved 34 games. Soto had a brilliant rookie season and later earned rookie of the year honors. Everything felt right. No one went crazy offensively, but the team played well together and the Cubs ended the regular season with 97 wins, most in the NL. As predicted, the Cubs entered the playoffs riding high.

Dempster started the first game of the Division Series for us against Los Angeles. He was tighter than a drumhead. After some of his pitches, he stood behind the mound while facing centerfield and took big gulps of air. I never saw him do this before. I thought he would hyperventilate. In the end, he was ineffective. The Cubs lost 7-2. Zambrano was next. He lost game two 8-3. Rich Harden then lost game three 3-1, in the only well-pitched game of the series for the Cubs. Just like that, it was over. A great season, six months of being the best team in the NL, was done.

The lesson is simple. Nothing is guaranteed. Enjoy the ride. Have fun. And, yes, suffering at times is part of the fun. Will we win it all? Maybe. No one knows. But I do know this. I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

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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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Cubs Water Cooler Topics

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

The weekend rolling over to yet another Monday marks another day to avoid work talking Cubs baseball at the water cooler. This post briefly discusses a few hot topics on the North side…

Soler showing signs of hope?

It has been a tough season for Jorge Soler, to say the least. The 24-year-old Cuban slugger went from being the lineup’s main source of production in October to fighting for playing time in April. Last year, in his first postseason of his young career, Soler mashed .571/.769/1.571 in the NLDS against St. Louis and put up an impressive .417/.417/.833 against the stifling New York staff.

At the beginning of the season, there just simply wasn’t room in the outfield for Soler. He figured to platoon with Kyle Schwarber, seeing at-bats when the matchup was in his favor. However, a horrific season-ending injury to Schwarber jolted Soler ahead in the depth chart and has led to more in-game reps.

He has not delivered.

But, this past week could mark a turning point for Soler’s mediocre campaign. He hit .416 in his last five games—before running into the buzz saw that is Madison Baumgarner—including Friday night, where he went 2-4 with a home run and a few impressive catches in left field. He still is extremely susceptible to an off-speed pitch (particularly a good changeup) but appears to be looking a shade more dialed in on fastballs—the pitches that he should barrel up. Look for Maddon to keep giving Soler exposure in the lineup, looking to build off this recent momentum and boost his confidence.

What’s wrong with Rizz?

Anthony Rizzo has played in every game for the Cubs this season. It’s about that time for a day off. In his last six games, Rizzo only has one hit in 25 at-bats, whiffing six times. Rizzo doesn’t seem like he will ever be a guy whose batting average exceeds .300. And that’s ok—not everyone needs to—but .240 isn’t cutting it. On the bright side, his 11 home runs are fifth most in the league and his defense has been sharp. Also, it’s clear that he emerged as one of the leaders in the clubhouse alongside David Ross.

No, it is not even remotely the time to press the panic button on Rizzo. Rather, just suggesting that a day off to recalibrate (as Jim Deshaies would say) could prove to be beneficial. Maddon tried to shake things up for Rizz by putting him second in the lineup last night—no dice. Let him sit; I’m sure Baez is up for playing first again.

Responding to Adversity

Remember when the Cubs refused to lose two games (or even one) in a row? That was fun. Since dropping both games of the double header against San Diego on May 11, Chicago has treaded water with a 4-5 record, losing two of three games to both Milwaukee and San Francisco. Looking back even further, the team has lost the last 7 of 11 games. On the bright side, the pitching staff is still chugging along and doing their part to keep their team in the game. The blame falls onto the shoulders of a struggling lineup that is stacked from top to bottom. Go figure.

We knew (most of us did, anyway) that turbulent stretches were on the horizon after the Cubs jumped out of the gate to a sizzling start. Anthony Rizzo was quoted in a report by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers saying: “If anyone thought we were going to win 140 games, I want to know what they’re taking.”

The question is this: how will the team respond to such adversity?

Looking ahead at the schedule, the Cubs have a three-gamer in St. Louis starting today followed by a much-needed extended stay at Wrigley. It seems like the team has been on the road a ton lately, so a return to the Confines may be exactly what the doctor ordered to remedy this tough stretch. By the way, there are teams—like Minnesota—that would be grateful winning four of nine. Besides, if there’s a manager to get a team that is underperforming back on track, it’s Joe Maddon.

Deep breaths, Cubs nation.

 

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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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Prospect Spotlight: Dylan Cease

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

The Cubs 8th ranked prospect for 2016 is right-handed pitcher Dylan Cease. Cease was selected in the 6th round of the 2014 MLB draft out of high school in Georgia. During his senior season, Cease was injured and eventually needed tommy john surgery. Before the injury, he was a lock to be a first round pick in the draft. Time will tell if he will be able to reach the potential he showed before the injury, as he hasn’t had enough exposure to professional baseball to make a judgment quite yet. In 11 appearances in the Arizona Rookie League, he posted a 4.50 ERA and had some real command issues which led to a lot of walks. If he is going to be successful, that is what he needs to work on most. However, if he can work on his command and gain some control, his stuff has more potential than any pitcher in the Cubs minor league system.

His fastball has good movement and sits between 97-99 mph and can touch over 100 mph. He also has a good curveball and a solid changeup. It will be interesting to see how he performs in his first full professional season. During this spring in intersquad matchups, scouts were raving about how good he is looking. He showed improved command and his fastball was as impressive as ever.

Given his experience level in professional baseball, he will be starting this season at rookie ball. If he can perform like he was in the Spring, there is no reason why he shouldn’t move up through short season Eugene to possibly reach South Bend by the end of this season. Even with all of the great position player prospects the Cubs have, I would recommend keeping track of how Cease performs this year. He is a guy I can see making a big impact at the major league level in the next few years.

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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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