Archive for the ‘General’ Category

5 Things A Cub Fans Needs to Know for July 22

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

The Schwarber Game

There are games that will stand out in your memory from a season or a decade or a lifetime. Last night we saw one of them as Kyle Schwarber put the team on his broad shoulders and carried them to a victory. It was very reminiscent of the Ryne Sandberg game, and if you’re a Cub fan, you don’t need me to explain what I mean when I say the Sandberg game. Schwarber hit a game tying moon shot in the 9th inning with two strikes on himself after fouling off some pitches, and then won it with a homer in extras. You guys joke and poke fun at me for saying his bat is special, but I’m telling you, it is. He doesn’t bring a lot behind the plate, but that dude can hit. Anyone looking at him and not seeing a part of the core for this team going forward is crazy.

Boo Boo Healed?

Jason Hammel made his first start since leaving early right before the All Star break with tightness in his left hamstring. He pitched 97 pitches and didn’t appeal to be in any pain or discomfort. While he wasn’t able to get past the 5th inning, it’s encouraging to see that the injury appears to be very minor and healed with rest. His next start will probably come Sunday against the Phillies.

No More Pressure Situations For You

If you just look at the box score and nothing else, you’ll think that Travis Wood was the issue out of the pen last night. While that is technically true since he was credited with giving up the runs that allowed the Reds to take a 4-2 lead, it was really Pedro Strop. Coming into the game with one out and runners on 1st and 3rd, Strop allowed Joey Votto to steal 2nd and then promptly gave up a single. It all happened so fast. At this point, I think you have to start looking elsewhere for relief when it comes to guys on base and a jam that needs wiggling out of. Strop is not getting the job done. I can barely trust him to come in and pitch an inning without runners on. To ask him to come into a situation like last night is like asking for the impossible right now. He needs to get some confidence in his stuff in low leverage situations for a while. Send him to the dog house.

What’s On Tap

It’s a double header today, starting at 12:35p EDT, so by the time you are reading this, the game may have already started. Kyle Hendricks will take the bump against potential trade candidate, Mike Leake in game one and then Dallas Beeler, who will be the 26th man, will face off against Tony Cingrani in the night game. Watch for Anthony Rizzo and Chris Coghlin in game one as they’ve had good success against Leake.

More Injury Updates

Miguel Montero received good news on his thumb. He only sprained his left digit, which means he should be able to return sooner than the original timetable. He is scheduled to rest for the next two weeks before being re-evaluated by the Cubs to determine what the best course of action is. If Schwarber continues to rake, there isn’t much need to rush him back.

Javier Baez should also be returning to action this week in the minors. If he can come out of the gate hot, you may see more teams inquire about him as part of a package deal before the deadline. If not, you have to wonder if the Cubs would look to sit Starlin Castro for a bit, move Addison Russell to short and promote Baez to play 2B. I’m a Castro guy, but I’m losing faith rapidly.


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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2012Ron Santo, who died at the end of 2010 disappointed about not being selected for Cooperstown, is inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame. In tribute of the team’s former third baseman and beloved broadcaster, the Cubs click their heels as they jumped over the third-base line to begin the bottom of the first inning during their game in St. Louis, invoking the memory of the Chicago infielder’s signature move after a victory.

2013 – The Rangers trade three prospects, third baseman Mike Olt, pitchers C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm, to the Cubs for Matt Garza, a player the team has attempted to land for the past two seasons. The deal also includes the Cubs receiving a player to be named later, Neil Ramirez.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for July 21st

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

1. Series Opener in Cincinnati

The Cubs have 4 games in 3 days against the Reds this week, and  that series got off to a disappointing start last night. Though the Cubs were able to push 4 runs across the plate last night, the bats of Jay Bruce and Marlon Byrd for the Reds ultimately proved to be too much. I was happy though to see Addison Russell go 2 for 3, and the RBI double from Jorge Soler was a good thing to see as well. Our offense has been rather sleepy lately, so the hope that some of the guys like Soler and Russell can start producing offers a possibility that our offense can put it together in the second half stretch of the season. From the bullpen, recent call up Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless 8th inning to keep the Cubs within one run, but in the top of the 9th, Aroldis Chapman proved to be too much for the Cubs bats. Tonight the Cubs will send Jason Hammel to the mound against Raisel Iglesias in hopes of shifting this series in our favor. On Wednesday they will play a doubleheader to finish the series.

By the way, if you didn’t catch it, take a look at the video of Brandon Phillips making a ridiculous play at 2nd last night. You can’t even be all that mad about Soler losing out on a base hit there.

 2. Schwarber behind the plate

Something to keep an eye on through the course of the next 3 games is Kyle Schwarber‘s defense behind the plate. He may not necessarily start all 3 games because Taylor Teagarden will probably be used for one of the games of the doubleheader, but this is a good opportunity to pay attention to how Schwarber performs defensively. We know what we’re getting with the bat, but the part of his game that has held him back has been his defense. Obviously, he was called up before the Cubs had planned because of the extent of Miguel Montero‘s injury, but Schwarber has a chance to show that he is capable to playing defense sufficiently enough to merit regular starts at catcher. In the 2 games that he has played so far (Friday and last night), he has done fairly well. The real test may be if he is ever given the opportunity to catch a game when Jake Arrieta is pitching, but that doesn’t look likely for now.

3. What’s up, Starlin?

I had long wondered if too many seasons of listening to Bob Brenly criticize Starlin Castro had soured him unfairly on a lot of fans and had led to quite a bit of harsh and unfair criticism, but this year has made Castro hard to defend against his critics. He is on pace to have a career worst season, rivaling his performance in 2013, when he slashed .245/.284/.347. To be fair, on that 2013 team, Starlin and Anthony Rizzo were just about it talent wise and both had bad seasons because of what they were being asked to do at the plate, but this year has been different for Castro. He’s sitting at .244/.278/.314, and has 62 strikeouts already, and could match or exceed his 2013 total of 129, which is unusual for a guy who usually strikes out just about 100 times a season typically. I hate to overly speculate, but knowing that Javier Baez is 3 weeks from returning to Iowa and then likely to the Cubs not long after that, Castro’s starts at shortstop could dwindle in the last month or 6 weeks of the season, especially if playoff hopes are still alive.

4. Let’s talk about playoffs

For the first time in 7 years, the Cubs have a very real chance at being in the playoffs this season. Even after last night’s loss, they are a game ahead of the Giants and two games ahead of the Mets for the second wild card spot. They are 4.5 games behind the Pirates in the wild card, and it is possible that they could move past them. Otherwise, winning the NL Central looks nearly impossible, as the Cardinals have never really slowed down from their hot start in April. The next couple of weeks present a great opportunity for the Cubs to rack up some wins with series against the Reds, Phillies, Rockies, and Brewers. And then, in the first week of August, they’ll have very important series against both the Pirates and Giants, so the next 3 weeks of the season could tell us a lot.

5. Trade rumors

Right now, the Cubs look most interested in adding bats to supplement their offense, and Ben Zobrist is a commonly mentioned target. The Cubs have some competition there, as the Royals, Nationals, Mets, Yankees, and Pirates are also rumored to be in on him as well, per MLB Trade Rumors. Another very intriguing possibility is that the Tigers have been rumored to be willing to part with David Price and/or Yoenis Cespedes. This possibility, though very exciting for the Cubs should they pursue either (or both?) players, would come with a very significant prospect cost. Keep in mind that Price will be a free agent this offseason, so it might be better to sign him in the winter rather than unloading prospects to get him now. Maybe. If the Cubs have a real shot at getting him this season, I’d be for it.


 

 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1892: In a match up of 300 game winners at the Philadelphia Baseball Grounds, Phillies’ submariner Tim Keefe sinks Jim “Pud” Galvin and the Browns, 2-0. The next time two National League pitchers with 300 or more victories will face each other will occur in 2005 when Greg Maddux of the Cubs beats Astros ace Roger Clemens at Minute Maid Park, 3-2.

1956: In a 13-6 defeat to the Cubs, Dodgers’ shortstop Pee Wee Reese becomes one of five active players to collect 2000 hits and teammate Junior Gilliam sets a major league record by handling 12 assists at second base.

2008: Diamondback left-hander Randy Johnson becomes the first major leaguer to collect 2,000 strikeouts for two different teams. The Arizona southpaw, who fanned 2,162 batters pitching for the Mariners from 1989-98, whiffs Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez to earn the distinction.

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Looking Back at Week 13 of MLB

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Todd Frazier took home the Derby crown, the American League will play host to this year’s World Series and Kyle Schwarber is back in the Friendly Confines. Week 13 gave an exciting look into the future, so let’s recap:

New Home Run Derby a Success 

The new and improved Home Run Derby took place on Monday, with Reds’ third baseman Todd Frazier defeating Dodgers’ center fielder Joc Pederson in the final round by a score of 15-14. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant were first round outs, losing to Josh Donaldson and Albert Pujols. Pederson had the longest home run of the night, mashing a ball 487 feet. Now based on time instead of 10 outs, the competition seemed to exhaust certain players (Prince Fielder) and become much more about endurance and athleticism. The new features seemed to be well received, and made for a much more interesting finish. Frazier made a thrilling comeback that likely could not have happened in the old format.

Trout Takes Second Straight ASG MVP Award

Mike Trout lead the American League to victory over the National League in the All Star game, as the AL took home the win for the 10th time in the last 13 years. Trout won his second consecutive All Star Game Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first player in nearly 40 years to accomplish that feat. Rizzo began the game as the designated hitter and was hitless in two at bats, before being replaced by Rockies’ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Bryant replaced Pederson and drew a walk. With the American League victory, the ALCS winner will play host to the 2015 World Series, a stakes that seems to be losing favor rapidly among fans. This might make finishing the October Classic in Wrigley slightly more difficult, but don’t give up hope.

Cueto a Hot Commodity as Deadline Nears

As the trade deadline nears, buyers and sellers will begin to emerge. Just around the corner, rumors are already spreading about where some of the game’s top arms will finish out the year. Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto is one of the stars expected to be dealt soon, and the winning suitor will likely have to pay an exceptionally steep price for the 29-year-old right-hander. Jon Morosi reported on Sunday that the Yankees had scouts in attendance to watch Cueto, and they figure to be one of several possible destinations. Cole Hamels and David Price will be watched similarly, as all three pitchers are unrestricted free agents in the upcoming offseason. The Cubs will be one of the interesting teams to watch at this year’s deadline, as they should be in the Wild Card race down to the wire. Whether they elect to add a piece on July 31st for a late season push or to wait until the offseason is anyone’s guess, but an argument can be made for either case.

Cubs Young Stars Represent Team Well

Following the All Star Game’s completion, the Cubs announced the decision to give top prospect Kyle Schwarber another shot with the big league club. The catcher is filling in for Miguel Montero, who is currently sitting out with a thumb injury. It has only been a few games, but Schwarber is reminding everyone why he is an elite youngster (as if anyone forgot). Still eight games out of the division lead, the Cubs still lead the race for the second and final Wild Card spot. Following this weekend’s series win in Atlanta, a four game road series against the scuffling Reds and a three game set versus the league worst Phillies should give the Cubs the chance to get hot and rattle off some more wins. The MLB Draft Amateur Draft signing deadline was Friday, but the Cubs were diligent with their draftees and managed to avoid deadline deals and signing drama.

Rookie Watch

The All Star festivities highlighted just how talented this year’s rookie class is, and the immediate impact that it is making. Pederson and Bryant may not have won the derby, but Pederson especially had a better than expected performance, losing in the final round to Frazier. Both leagues, American and National, are littered with young stars hitting near or above .300, regularly making dazzling plays with the glove and emerging as faces of their respective teams. The eventual champion of the National League Rookie of the Year race will leave one fan base, Los Angeles or Chicago, with a feeling of being slighted, but both players showed in Cincinnati that they are each deserving.


MVP of the Week: Mike Trout takes the hardware home this week after leading off the All Star game with a home run to right field and eventually winning the MVP of the game. Trout has now hit for the cycle in lead off at bats in All Star Games.

Cy Young of the Week: Only a few days into the second half, there have been several outstanding pitching performances. Clayton Kershaw struck out 14 Nationals over eight innings on Saturday. Jon Lester gets the runner up for his seven hitless innings against the Braves on the same day.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know for July 20

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Cubs Take The Series Against Atlanta

After losing game one of the series, the first game out of the All Star Break, I was a little discouraged, but our two top of the rotation pitchers brought their best in games 2 and 3 and flat out dominated. It was good to see a series win right out of the gate. Yesterday, while the offense wasn’t dominant again, it did get the job done. I’d like to see five runs a game, but I’ll take four. Jorge Soler hit a home run, which was remarkably only his 5th of the season. I really felt like he’d be a 25-30 home run bat this season, but apparently this will be a learning year for him. Jake Arrieta did his usual Arrieta things and even Pedro Strop tossed a blemish free inning. Very encouraging series as we head to Cincinnati.

Goodbye E-Jax and Hello Soriano

After the game yesterday, it broke on Twitter that the Cubs had designated Edwin Jackson for assignment and promoted Rafael Soriano to the big league bullpen. Soriano was signed recently to a minor league deal with big league incentives. The contract immediately goes to $4.1 million in big league money with another $4 million in incentives. He will be with the team in Cincinnati. To be honest, we knew this move was coming soon, we just didn’t know who the unlucky guy in the pen who would lose their spot would be. The Cubs gave Soriano a clause in his contract to allow him to opt out if not promoted to the Majors by July 15th, so the time was ticking as he had already passed that date.

For Jackson, it was an experiment that failed. The Theo and Jed regime have had very few swings and misses, but this was one of them. For the most part, the have been able to hit on pitchers they signed and do very well with them. After losing out on Anibal Sanchez that off-season, I think they panicked just a little and made a rash decision. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. This team wasn’t winning anything anyway in the time Jackson was here.

Since he was designated for assignment, the Cubs now have 10 days to do something with him. They can work out a trade with another team, allow him to go for free if he’s claimed on waivers, or release him. Normally outrighting him to the minors would be an option, but Jackson won’t accept that. We will see. Perhaps he’s a piece in a deal with the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon or Cole Hamels or both since the Phillies are willing to eat a portion of salaries. A compromise to that would be to take salary back.

It’s Schwarber Time in Cincy

Kyle Schwarber will get the bulk of the time behind the plate in Cincinnati. With Montero out, I’d love to see the Cubs keep David Ross on the roster and option Taylor Teagarden and start Schwarber full time. Let him learn under Ross and get his bat in the lineup. Just watching him at the plate, he’s special. We need that offense and I’m willing to sacrifice behind the plate to get it. I know this is a hot topic and many different opinions, but that’s mine. We need offense and Schwarber provides it.

Pitching Matchups for Cincinnati

Monday – Clayton Richard vs Michael Lorenzen

Tuesday – Jason Hammel vs Raisel Iglesias

Wednesday – Kyle Hendricks vs Mike Leake (Game 1) & TBD in Game 2. I would bet we see Dallas Beeler in that 2nd game

We No Longer Have Roach(es)

Donn Roach was claimed off of waivers by the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend and I wonder if we won’t potentially see him face Dallas Beeler on Wednesday in the second game of the series. At his age, there isn’t a reason to claim him if you’re not going to put him in the rotation and it could be a sign that the Reds are getting close to moving Johnny Cueto or Leake or both.

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5 Things A Cubs Fan Should Know For July 19th

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

I’m sure you figured it out, but just in case, I took the All Star break off from working on the blog and just relaxed from baseball once the home run derby was over. By the way, was that not the best home run derby in a long time? I enjoyed it a lot, but now we’re back and in full swing as Jared led us off yesterday with notes. Today it’s my turn to get you the things you need to now.

The Cubs Evened the Series at 1 Last Night

After losing game one on Friday with a grand total of 0 runs, my guess is that Jon Lester didn’t come into the game feeling very confident that he would get much support behind him at the plate. For the most part, he’d be right. The Cubs scratched out two runs through the first eight innings of the game thanks to Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who both had singles to drive home a run in the 3rd and 4th inning respectively. That was all Lester needed last night, though, as he took a no hitting into the 8th inning of play. For Lester, I felt while watching that that’s one of the best starts I’ve seen him turn in since coming to Chicago. A quick check at his game log for this year revealed that I was correct. Granted, I’m using game score, which is a semi-crude way to do it, but it does validate what I felt. His game score last night was an 80. His next highest score this season was 75, which was just two starts before against the Cardinals in a loss. I still trust Jake Arrieta, who goes today to try to get us the series win, more than I trust Lester, but I’m getting there.

Talks Might Be Heating Up on Hamels and the Cubs are Still in it

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports did a video blog yesterday afternoon and he mentioned that the Dodgers and the Cubs continue to speak with the Phillies about Cole Hamels. It’s hard not to get excited about that, but I go back and forth on if I feel like that would be the best course of action right now. It would, obviously, have to be determined by what the asking price would be for Hamels, but I’m not sure this core of kids is built to win this year. I think this is the learning year and next year is the window opening year. Right now guys like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler are still learning on the job. The counter to that is the fact that the Cubs haven’t done it in so long that you have to strike when you have the shot. My thinking is this: If the Cubs are still talking to the Phillies, it means they are past that awkward conversation in which the Phillies ask for a package of Bryant, Russell and Theo’s left testical. Since I don’t believe that the Cubs would even listen on Bryant or Russell (not sure on the testicle availability, but my sources are working on confirming there), the fact that the discussions are continuing is a good sign, right? That has to mean talks include guys like Javier Baez, C.J. Edwards, etc. If that’s the case, I’d probably make that deal.

In the end, I don’t see the Cubs bringing in a starter like Hamels this year when guys like David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, etc are on the market for cash in the off-season.

The Bullpen’s About To Get Real

Rafael Soriano pitched again in the minor leagues, striking out the side for the Iowa Cubs on Thursday and pitching another scoreless inning of relief yesterday. Since signing, Soriano has posted seven innings of work, striking out seven hitters and only allowing one unearned run. Joe Maddon indicated that Soriano could be up sooner than people expect, which implies to me that it may either be today or tomorrow, with my money being tomorrow in preparation for the series with the Reds. To that, add the rumors that Jonathan Papelbon is close to being dealt and that the Cubs are interested and you’ve potentially got two really good arms being added to the pen. Then, there was the news that Zac Rosscup is working on returning as well. I’m not sure where all these guys would fit it, but if I’m Edwin Jackson, Neil Ramirez, Travis Wood or James Russell, I’m on my best behavior when I get the call to come into a game.

Bryant Signed a Multi-Year Contract

If you missed the big news over the weekend, Kris Bryant signed a multi-year deal…with Fanatics…a memorabilia company. Sorry to be that guy this morning and pull the rug out from under you, but it had to be done. Good for Kris for getting some extra money as he has to wait to cash in on the field. His money is going to come, but I like the fact that he can make some now. According to Darren Rovell:

Bryant’s newly signed merchandise isn’t cheap. A signed authentic Cubs jersey is $600; a signed bat is $300; a signed cap is $250; and a signed ball is $200.

The Cubs Will Miss Cueto

With a four game set against the Reds next on the schedule, you would figure that the Cubs would have to see Johnny Cueto, but you’d be wrong. Cueto will take the mound today for the Reds in the series finale against the Indians, so the Cubs will get out of Cincy without having to face him. The Cubs have a pretty easy schedule down the stretch so anything to make it even easier is a welcomed relief. I’ll take it.

Baez is Close to Returning to Iowa

It’s been a long season for Javy, but word is that he’s getting close to returning from his rehab and playing in actual minor league action. I’d love to see him get in a groove for the last month and a half before the September call up time comes and then see him transition right into the Majors for good come September. His power at the plate would be a welcomed addition for an offense that has struggled a lot this year.

 

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for July 18th

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

1. First game of the second half

For as much as I enjoy the All Star break and its festivities, having meaningful baseball back is always refreshing, especially since the break has been extended by a day in recent years. I know the players need that time off, but it makes for a long two days without any sort of baseball to watch at all. The second half of the season started in Atlanta last night, and it wasted no time getting frustrating for Cubs fans. Chiefly because in an 8th inning 2-2 tie, we saw Pedro Strop give up the game. Even though we had been sitting at the 2-2 stalemate for 4 innings at that point, I trusted our office to push at least one more run across the board before it was over. The 2 runs that Strop gave up in the 8th left little opportunity from that point, and seemed to suck the wind of of the sails in a game in which the Cubs seemed to be wasting runners as it was. The Cubs left 12 runners on base last night, so the scoring opportunities were ample. On a brighter note, it was nice to see Jorge Soler drive in the 2 runs that the Cubs did score. Tonight Jon Lester will go up against Manny Banuelos and try to get things going in the right direction.

 2. Schwarber is back!

The news shot through the world of Cubs fans on Thursday afternoon that Kyle Schwarber was returning to the team from AAA Iowa and would be in the lineup Friday. His return came a lot sooner than I expected, but the injury to Miguel Montero played a large role in this earlier callup, and if I can speculate, the Cubs were probably also motivated by the desire to inject some spark into the offense. Schwarber did his part last night, going 3 for 4 and scoring one of the team’s runs, so hopefully he can add juice to an offense that’s been lagging a bit lately. The scary part about having Schwarber up is that he is going to play catcher predominately, and the concern about his defense behind the plate has been the reason for keeping him in the minors long after his bat was ready for major league pitching. The plan defensively, for now, is to have Schwarber sit out games in which Lester or Arrieta is pitching (so we won’t see him for the next two games unless he’s pinch hitting). He also isn’t expected to play any outfield for now, as he hasn’t played in the outfield since A ball in 2014, but that option hasn’t been ruled out entirely.

3. Montero out up to 6 weeks

With the excitement of the Schwarber news comes the reality that the Cubs have lost Montero for at least 6 weeks. At first, it looked like he might be able to return after the All Star break, but the injury is severe enough that he’s going to be gone for much longer. While this means that Schwarber is very unlikely to head back to the minors this year, the absence of Montero is significant. David Ross is a great backup defensively and the Cubs could not ask for a better mentor for Schwarber, but the extra game each week of Ross in the lineup could add up. For now, the Cubs will carry 3 catchers with Taylor Teagarden staying on the active roster, so Ross may not play more than once a week, but Teagarden’s bat doesn’t offer much either.

 4. The All Star game

Having both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant there was really nice to see, and I was especially happy that Rizzo was a starter, as he was very deserving. I wrote about the home run derby a few days ago, but in the game itself on Tuesday night, Rizzo and Bryant both got 2 at bats. Rizzo, who was starting at DH given the depth of position at 1B in the National League, went 0-2 and then was lifted for Troy Tulowitzki. Bryant replaced Joc Pederson in LF and drew a walk and flew out to the outfield in his second at bat. The NL ultimately lost, 6-3. San Diego will host the 2016 all star game, and my hope is that when the renovations to Wrigley are finished, the Cubs can host in the near future.

 5. Down on the farm

Our minor league system has had a busy few days as well, but the most impactful news for the Cubs in the near future is that both Tsuyoshi Wada and Rafael Soriano are pitching successfully in Iowa and both could be ready to return to the Cubs soon. Soriano would be a bit ahead of schedule, but he has done well enough that he could be ready. His presence in the bullpen could very likely cause notable changes to the late innings from the bullpen, as he could even take the closing role, as it seems now to be a spot that is sort of Jason Motte‘s, but no one has a clear hold on that spot in the late innings.

 


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1948: After the first two Cubs get on base in the bottom of the ninth inning at Wrigley Field, Phillies rookie right-hander Robin Roberts appears to pitch out of trouble by getting the next two batters out. The 21 year-old hurler and future Hall of Famer, however, proceeds to hit the next two consecutive batters with a pitch, Phil Cavarretta and Andy Pafko, giving Chicago a 3-2 walk-off victory.

 

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The Chicago Cubs All-Time Home Run Team

Friday, July 17th, 2015

I must admit I watched little of Tuesday’s All-Star Game.  I feel the game lost its zeal long ago…about the time inner league play began.  In my humble opinion, the elimination of inner league play would help restore interest (at least mine) in the former “mid-summer classic”. Instead, the importance of the game is propped up by manufactured value…the winner receiving home field advantage during the World Series.  Do you know anyone who endorses this home-field lunacy? (Other than Bud Selig)

While I once again had no interest in the actual All-Star game this year…my attentiveness to the home run derby was up one thousand percent.  Obviously this was due to the inclusion of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.  Unfortunately their performances could be classified as “Cub-like”.  Rizzo, the guinea pig in the new format, came out swinging like Rocky Balboa in his first fight against Clubber Lang in Rocky III-which didn’t turn out too well.  Bryant, who admirably found it more important to have his father throw to him than to win, received about as many hittable pitches as he does from opposing pitchers. (Incidentally…did anyone else notice how upset Prince Fielder looked when he realized he was eliminated? He looked like Clubber Lang after the second fight in Rocky III)

All-Star games, Home-Run derbies and Rocky films aside…the derby made my mind wonder into Cubs history…specifically home-run hitters.  I started to ponder the best Cubs’ homerun hitters at each position, that I have seen play and then form them into a mythical line-up. So without further ado (and anymore Rocky movie references) here is my all-time Cubs’ home run hitter line-up:

Leading off and playing centerfield, 1976 Rick Monday with 32 homeruns.  Monday had a .346 on-base percentage and his sweet lefty swing is perfect at the top of my fictional line-up.  The second slot will be manned by (duh) 1990 Ryne Sandberg.  Not only does our team gain Ryno’s 40 homers and 100 RBI’s, we get a gold glover at second base.

Batting third and playing shortstopis 1958 Ernie Banks. Now I am stretching a bit here…but I did actually see Banks play as a very, very young boy.  His 47 homers and 129 knocked in from one of his MVP seasons had to be in the lineup.  So I reached a bit here…but it’s worth it. (Not to mention the Cubs haven’t had a plethora of power hitting shortstops)

Sorry millennials, but playingright field and batting fourth, is 1987 Andre Dawsonnot Sammy Sosa. Setting aside “cork” jokes and enhancement talk…I just enjoyed Andre more as a player.  Andre hit 49 homers in 1987 with 137 RBI’s, had a cannon for an arm, and no “hop”.   Had Andre played his career injury free, I am confident he would be considered one of the top players ever.

Batting fifth I put 2014 Anthony Rizzo at first base.  Even though Rizzo’s 32 homers pales in comparison to Derek Lee’s 46 in 2005, I am trying to balance out the line-up a bit…and Rizzo is already one of the better left-handed sluggers in Cubs’ history.(there hasn’t been many).  If my fictional team plays with a DH, then 2005 D-Lee will be a nice addition to the line-up.

In the sixth slot, and in left field,is 1979 Dave KingmanI encourage you young bucks out there to YouTube some of Kingman’s 1979 homers.  You will be amazed at some of the 48bombs that were launched onto Waveland that summer. Sure he struck out a lot (before it was cool), and once sent a rat to a reporter as a joke, but for one season Kingman was a prodigious slugger.  Many of his shots today would be hitting the giant video board.

Here is one for the youngsters…I have 2006 Aramis Ramirez playing third base and batting seventh.  Aramis hit 38 homers in 2006, and upon further reflection I believe Aramis will go down as one of the best in Cubs’ history. Ramirez was a key offensive piece for three Cubs’ play-off teams. (Quick…name someone else you can say that about!)

Catching and batting eighth is the absolute epitome of a one year wonder…1993 Rick Wilkins.   Wilkins hit 30 homers in 1993…and never came remotely close to that achievement again.  However for the purposes of our team, his lefty stick will add to that balance I mentioned earlier.  So what if he only did it once?

I might be adding a bit of “crazy” to the line-up in the ninth slot; but the best hitting Cubs’ pitcher I have ever seen is Carlos Zambrano.  The switch-hitting, Gatorade cooler bashing, catcher fighting Zambrano hit 6 in 2006,  and will give the line-up its fourth lefty when facing a tough right hander.  So a quick review, with homerun totals:

CF       1976 RICK MONDAY                    32

2B       1990 RYNE SANDBERG               40

SS        1958 ERNIE BANKS                       47

RF       1987 ANDRE DAWSON               49

1B       2014 ANTHONY RIZZO                32

LF        1979 DAVE KINGMAN                 48

3B       2006 ARAMIS RAMIREZ             38

C          1993 RICK WILKINS                      30

P          2006 CARLOS ZAMBRANO        6

This line-up produces a nice 322 homers, and averages 39.5 round trippers per each position player.  The line-up features Hall of Famers in the 2, 3 and 4 slots in the order…so who cares if we have a one-hit wonder (Wilkins), a malcontent (Kingman) and a pitcher (Zambrano) who looks like he could just might be crazy enough to kill?

So feel free to point out admissions…I like my line-up! I would just have two wishes if this team did actually take the field…

I hope the wind is blowing out…and I don’t want to play the Yankees all-time homer team. (Yikes! Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Maris, Nettles, Reggie and on and on)

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Home Run Derby Recap

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

GENERAL THOUGHTS:

First, I should say that I have been a fan of the all star game and the home run derby for as long as I can remember. Even in the last 6 years or so since the advent of the MLB Network, I have found myself sucked in to the parade during all star break as well. However, the home run derby had gone a bit stale for me in recent years, if I am being totally honest. The last year that I remember being really excited about it was 2008 because of Josh Hamilton, but the sad irony of that derby is that he was not even the winner, as Justin Morneau took that honor. I wasn’t sure what to think of the new format when it was announced because there were so many changes, but my initial reaction was a happy one, and it grew even more so when I learned that both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant were going to be taking part in it.

Really, the change in the home run derby was probably long overdue, but that’s baseball. Changes to the game in any sense tend to move at glacier-like speeds. The move to a timed round had an immediate effect. I saw far fewer pitches being passed on, as the hitters were much more concerned about capitalizing while they had the time. That alone was enough to ramp up the excitement in the derby, but the addition of a bracket style tournament was also a very nice touch. Why this wasn’t put in place 25 years ago is beyond me, because it’s a more than proven format. It did make things tough for Rizzo and Bryant, I thought, but I’m fine with that. I expect that both of those guys will make multiple returns to the derby before it’s all said and done.

FIRST ROUND:

Rizzo was the very first hitter to go, which I think we can agree is a tough spot no matter what you are doing, but he put up an impressive performance with 8 long balls. It wasn’t enough, though, to move on. Josh Donaldson, his matchup for the first round, knocked 9 out of the park, so Donaldson moved on. The eventual star of the derby, Todd Frazier, won in walk off-esque fashion to move out of the first round past a very tough opponent in Prince Fielder. On the other side of the bracket, Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson bested Orioles third basemen Manny Machado to move on to face the winner of Bryant and Albert Pujols. Here was another tough spot for our Cubs, as rookie Bryant is going up against a very experienced veteran in Pujols. Ultimately, that experience was just enough for Pujols to move past Bryant.

 SEMI-FINALS:

Once again, hometown favorite Frazier won in a “walk off,” hitting just one more home run than his semi final opponent, Donaldson. Perhaps the chance to take part in the derby in his home park paid off, or perhaps he has just the right kind of swing, but Frazier looked pretty dominant all night. Pujols, after overtaking Bryant in the first round, was bested by Pederson in the semi finals, in spite of the fact that Pederson’s brother might have had a bit of a rooting interest in Pujols.

FINAL ROUND:

I will openly admit that I was rooting pretty hard for Frazier at this point. In that absence of  being able to see either Rizzo or Bryant win the whole thing, I was excited about the prospect of a Reds player winning it in Cincinnati. Division rival or not, I think that was a great moment for that city and for that fanbase. Pederson was hard for me to root against, but seeing Frazier win the whole thing in the same fashion as he had the two rounds prior was pretty exciting.

In general, I sincerely hope that they keep this format. This was easily the most exciting home run derby that I have watched in a long time, and that’s even with the two Cubs representatives getting eliminated in the first round. Here’s to hoping for an equally exciting All Star game tonight.


 

 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1964: The Cubs overcome making five errors in the top of the third inning and beat the Mets, 4-2. The Chicago miscues, that include shortstop Andre Rodgers and catcher Dick Bertell each committing two and first baseman Ernie Banks contributing to the total by dropping a pop fly, account for all of New York’s scoring in the Wrigley Field contest.

1969: At Wrigley Field, Bill Hands and the Cubs edge Tom Seaver and the Mets, 1–0. After the last out is made, Ron Santo jumps up and clicks his heels for the first time, a move the third baseman will repeat each time Chicago wins for the rest of his career.

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5 Things a Cubs Fan Needs to Know for July 12

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Lester is Starting to Annoy Me

Down a game in the series to the crosstown rival and facing one 0f the best pitchers in baseball yesterday should have been the ingredients for a pitcher paid to be an ace to show up and dominate. Chris Sale showed up and did just that and Jon Lester did not. Sale is making $6 million this year and Lester is making $15 mil and scheduled to make $20 mil next year. I understand that his ERA is 3.59 and his FIP is even better at 3.14, but the fact is, when you’re paid to be an ace, you win like an ace. Lester has not done that.

He spoke after the game and had the message that the team needs to “figure it out”. At this point, I need Lester to figure it out. I need him to get a win.

Montero Has  a Boo Boo

Miguel Montero is having an MRI done on his left thumb after leaving the game early yesterday. He reportedly jammed the thumb in the 1st inning of play and left the game shortly after his at bat in the 2nd. Right now the Cubs have one day before the All Star break. You would rather not see Montero go on the DL for a jammed thumb, but if it turns out there is a fracture there, David Ross would be eligible to be recalled from the concussion DL to take his spot. Personally, if Montero goes to the DL, I call up Kyle Schwarber and let him start as many games behind the plate as possible until Montero returns. He could provide an offensive boost that this team is lacking. He’s not able to be called up today unless you want to have him switch his Futures Game plans, and I don’t see the Cubs doing that. My guess is that we could see a 24 man roster today for the last game and then have Montero have a few days to be re-evaluated.

Futures Game Tonight

If you’re into the prospects, both Schwarber and C.J. Edwards will be participating in the game tonight. I’ve often said that I think MLB should forgo scheduling any MLB teams on Sunday night baseball, which allows them to maximize their amount of rest for the break, and instead showcase the Future’s Game as Sunday Night Baseball. It’s obviously not done that way from a revenue standpoint as ESPN would not draw near as many ratings as possible, but MLB needs fans to know about future stars and needs guys to be recognizable. With nothing else going on, this would be a good time to do that. If you’re interested, you can watch the game today at 3p EDT on MLB Network, but I’d recommend watching the Cubs game instead. Jim Bowden also released an article with the participants most likely to be traded before July 31. Take it with a grain of salt as their is a reason why Bowden is no longer a GM.

Home Run Derby Pitchers

If you missed it, Anthony Rizzo announced that his pitcher for the home run derby tomorrow night is Franklin Font, who throws to Rizzo during Cubs batting practice. Kris Bryant is scheduled to take his dad yard in the contest. I don’t know if I’ve been this excited about the derby since I was in high school. I’m not sure if it’s because the Cubs have two representatives in it, or because of the format change, but I’m pretty excited to watch.

Down on the Farm

Junior Lake (remember him?) hit a pair of home runs for Iowa yesterday and is now hitting .305 / .396 / .454 for Iowa with 4 HR in 43 games. At some point, you would have to think he’s going to come up or be part of a trade package. Tsuyoshi Wada made another rehab start, going four innings and allowing two runs, only one of them earned, and sub-marine reliever, Ben Rowen pitched two scoreless innings of relief. That’s three scoreless relief outings since coming to Chicago and I’m a little intrigued.


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1910 – The legendary verse detailing the Cubs’ double play combination of Tinker to Evers to Chance, entitled That Double Play Again, is published for the first time. When the ‘New York Evening Mail’ republishes the same poem six days later it will use the title by which it is best known today, Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.

1931 – After setting a major league record in the first game with nine doubles, the Cubs and Cardinals combined to hit another twenty-three two-baggers in the second game for an incredible total of thirty-two doubles in their doubleheader.

1992 – In the Braves’ 7-4 victory over Chicago at Wrigley Field, Jeff Blauser becomes the fourth shortstop to hit three home runs in a game‚ joining the ranks of Ernie Banks (Cubs, 1955)‚ Barry Larkin (Reds, 1991)‚ and Fred Patek (Angels, 1980). The Atlanta infielder had hit only 39 homers in the past six seasons.

1996 – In a scene reminiscent to yesteryear, the first basemen leave their mitt in the field between innings throughout Montreal’s 3-2 victory over the Cubs. The Expos’ first baseman David Segui is really sharing his glove with Chicago’s Mark Grace, whose equipment did not arrive at Olympic Stadium due to a shipping error.

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