Archive for the ‘General’ Category

5 Things a Cubs Fan Needs to Know on September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Cardinal Rules Broken

With the series opener in Philadelphia postponed due to inclement weather, God has afforded Cubs’ fandom the world over an extra day to bittersweetly bask in the afterglow of a series win against the Cardinals. The series of the week, so far, has proven – bullpen issues aside – that the Cubs can be legitimate contenders insofar as their offense is willing to cooperate alongside solid pitching performances. Jon Lester, with his gritty seven innings in Wednesday’s game, was granted what must be one of the most difficult no decisions he has ever faced. But, unfortunately, such is the season of Jon Lester thus far this year. He has given himself no excuses, and with the fiery and realistic competitor he is, I have little-to-no doubt of his ability to continue down the path he began to forge Wednesday. What is most important to remember is that the Cubs not only beat the Cardinals two games out of three, in Busch Stadium – where the Cardinals have a Major League-leading 50-24 record – but did so in a dominating fashion. They won 26 of the 27 innings played, out-hit them in each game, and only trailed in the disastrous 8th inning Wednesday that saw three runs come across versus four different Cubs’ relievers. Cub hitters were seeing the ball, the defense was turned key double plays, and the starting pitching was solid. The bullpen that has of late been relatively consistent faltered, but this has not happened to this degree in quite some time. With the roster call-ups, and Carl Edwards, Jr.’s shutout performance in Monday’s contest, it should be solidified these weeks leading up to the playoffs. With a going away, shutout win Monday, a solid win Tuesday, and a Lemony Snicket series of events leading to Wednesday’s loss, the Cubs and the unwavering fandom have reason to hope and for optimism.

The Resurgence of Castro, Starlin

The one player that impressed continually over the weekend – with Javier Baez aside, and meant for further discussion – was Starlin Castro. He has taken so well to the revoking of his starting spot, and has gone out of his way to contribute in any way that he can. After not playing Monday, Starlin went 2 for 4, with 4 RBI’s in Tuesday’s win, with 3 coming on a belted 3-run homerun to the deepest part of Busch Stadium in left-center field. In his one pinch-hit appearance in Wednesday’s game, he reached with a solid single. So, according to the principles of addition/Math, he was a combined 3 for 5 with 4 RBI’s. Though this improvement has been happening over the course of these past few weeks, this series merely continued to highlight his professionalism and eagerness to contribute in whichever capacity is best for the team. His resurgence could not come at a more opportune time, as the Cubs’ – gearing up for the coming playoff run – needs lie in contributors, and not those who are struggling to do so. Joe Maddon’s Hunger Games-like approach to those who make the starting line-up has worked insofar as it is bringing the best out of players. Starling is certainly no exception, and I can only hope that this is but a glimpse of him back into the 3-time All-Star form we are used to.

A Fun Team to Be Around

What is key to assessing the Cubs overall performance this year is a look into the culture cultivated, warmly, by their fearless and cool leader: Joe Maddon. Nate Head wrote a wonderful article yesterday on why he deserves to be manager of the year, and I wholeheartedly agree. What I find so amazing, and is so rare in professional sports, is the sense of camaraderie the team has, and the respect for one another both in the dugout and on the field. Joe Maddon’s quirky personality is exactly what is needed for a group of young, uber-talented players seeking to adapt to playing on a high-level Major League ballclub. It was reported last week that, after a win against the Diamondbacks, the players, facilitated by Joe Maddon, were talking about the win, and what it used to feel like as a kid post-game. The discussion quickly turned to the post-game snacks, and juice boxes, as Anthony Rizzo enthusiastically added: “Orange slices!” With Joe Maddon’s enthusiastic, “Duh!” blessing, Anthony reportedly bought oranges and cut them up for the dugout for the following day’s sweltering home game at Wrigley. This sort of story – one that is genuinely good and fun – is so rare to find amongst a field of professional athletes that is so increasingly competitive that one cannot help but point to Joe Maddon and his unending, unwavering excitement about his players, with matter-of-fact acknowledgment of shortcomings and weaknesses that still manage to inspire confidence in the players. It all translates onto the field, and this young team has a legitimate chance to make history in their very first year of playing alongside one another.

Top 30 Prospect List

The Cubs have revealed what is considered to be their top 30 prospects in the farm system, and it looks promising. The top 5 includes: Gleyber Torres (SS), Billy McKinney (OF), Carl Edwards, Jr. (RHP), Duane Underwood (RHP), and the highly-lauded Albert Almora (OF). With a wealth of position players and pitchers alike, it will be intriguing to see how these men fit, or don’t, into Joe Maddon’s utility vision.

What’s on Tap?

With the postponement, the Cubs face a doubleheader day at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, with Jake Arrieta (18-6, 2.03 ERA) looking to extend his quality start streak to 16 against the Phillies’ Adam Morgan (5-5, 4.42 ERA) in the first contest set to begin at 4:05pm CT. The second game – its time still TBD – will see Kyle Hendricks (6-6, 4.08 ERA) aiming for higher against Alec Asher (0-2, 10.61 ERA).

Bonus Thing to Know

Registration is now own to potentially buy post-season tickets. They are going to be in demand so the Cubs are using a lottery system for the right to purchase. Gone are the days of lining up outside the park or at Dominick’s at Ticketmaster. We have the interweb now.

You can enter your name here, but please don’t. It just makes our chances of winning a little less.

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Why Joe Maddon Deserves to Be Manager of the Year

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

What is it that defines a great manager? Better yet, is there a prototype for a strong Manager of the Year candidate? The answer isn’t clear cut; success has been achieved in baseball from skippers with vastly different coaching styles. Lou Piniella and Terry Francona, for example.

The easy way to asses a manager’s performance is by their team’s win-loss record. Sure, a stellar record doesn’t hurt one’s case for the accolade, but there is certainly more to consider. Perhaps the most revealing aspect to think about is a team’s performance given the particular roster’s strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, which manager is the best at making the most out of the pieces they have?

This year, that guy is Joe Maddon.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Chicago front office executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer gave Maddon an abysmal roster to work with. Chicago’s crop of young players is rightfully acclaimed as the best in baseball, but they simply lack major league experience. On a daily basis, Maddon’s lineup consists of four (sometimes five) rookies. Anthony Rizzo (26) is the only starting infielder over 25 years old. Yet, they keep winning, and it’s time for the magic methods of Maddon to receive its due credit.

At some points this year, it literally was magic.

Flash back to June 30, the Cubs were in New York riding a five-game losing streak. How did Chicago’s first year manager react to the adversity? Maddon conjured up a magician visit to the clubhouse before the game and the team responded by rattling off seven wins over the next nine games. Now more than ever, camaraderie among a team is crucial. The 61-year-old Maddon is a connoisseur in that department, and he always seems to press the right buttons at the perfect times—even if his actions are unorthodox. Maddon has combated fatigue from setting in during the season by cancelling batting practice periodically, and don’t forget about the pajama “onesie” party he recently orchestrated that teamed up with Jake Arrieta’s no-hitter to lighten the mood after a rough 2-4 West coast road trip.

On the field, the team is thriving. Sporting an attractive 80-58 record, the Cubs are in the driver’s seat for the second wild card spot with a 8.5 game lead over San Francisco. Despite their mark at 22 games over .500, the Cubs are only third in the NL Central because (naturally) St. Louis and Pittsburgh are having historically impressive seasons.

Maddon’s fingerprints can be found on every Cubs victory this season.

Maddon has treated every game like it’s the playoffs, never hesitating to opt for a fresh arm out of the bullpen the moment he senses his starting pitcher’s “stuff” declining. Consequently, this doesn’t always sit well with members of the starting rotation—Jason Hammel was visibly frustrated when Maddon pulled him in the fifth inning with a 5-2 lead, two runners on, and nobody out in a August 6th showdown with San Francisco at Wrigley. Maddon’s intentions were pure: he did what he thought was best for the team, who, by the way, squeaked out a 5-4 win that night. Hammel’s quarrel with his manager was merely heat of the moment frustration, water that has likely evaporated under the bridge by now.

In the National league, a strong case for Manager of the Year could also be made for the manager of the Cardinals, former major league catcher Mike Matheny. His team has the best record in baseball, without ace Adam Wainwright nonetheless. However, proven veterans can be found up and down St. Louis’ roster: Matt Holliday (15-day DL), John Lackey, Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta, etc. Matheny’s team has been to the postseason before; they know what it takes to reach October—a sharp contrast to Maddon’s bunch, many of whom are still adapting to life in the big leagues.

With a young team like the Cubs, confidence is key. Maddon has been enthusiastic about their play all season long, commending his troops in moments of excellence and encouraging them when it goes awry. It’s no secret that the team loves Maddon; his personality is genuine, and he consistently involves his entire team as Cubs box scores are often littered with pinch hitters and defensive replacements.

Any way you spin it, Joe Maddon has been a fantastic manager this year.

The best, actually.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on September 10

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

It Was Still a Good Series

Despite winning 2 out of 3 games at Busch Stadium, after Wednesdays game it felt like a series loss. A win, and the conversation about possibly winning the division would have started up right away. A win, and the Cubs would have been just 5.5 games back of the Cardinals. With the loss, the Cubs are now 7.5 games back in the NL Central. The Cubs only needed 6 outs with a 2 run lead to finish the sweep, but the Cardinals showed their experience and completed the comeback (Man, that was really hard to say). The Cubs took an early 2-0 lead on back-to-back doubles in the 3rd inning by Anthony Rizzo and Tommy La Stella. The Cubs final run of the game came in the 2nd inning, when Dexter Fowler singled home Jon Lester. Speaking of Lester, he pitched a fantastic game. He allowed just 2 hits, both in the 1st inning, a walk and recorded 7 strikeouts over 7 innings pitched. The bullpen just couldn’t get the job done in the 8th inning. Pedro Strop allowed 2 earned runs in a third of an inning, Clayton Richard then gave up the game winning run, and Fernando Rodney finally got the last 2 outs. All hope is not lost, however. There are still opportunities to gain ground on both the Pirates and Cardinals before season’s end.

Rough Return From Injury

Yesterday, Kyle Schwarber was re-inserted into the starting lineup after missing time with a rib injury. He really struggled against the Cardinals pitching today, striking out 4 times in 4 plate appearances. It’s hard to tell whether the injury is still bothering him or if he just needed a game to get back into the swing of things. Either way, the Cubs sure could use his bat during this stretch run.

Bullpen Questions

I feel like this comes up much too often, but perhaps that speaks to the state of the Cubs bullpen. For the Cubs to win in the playoffs, someone from the bullpen is going to need to step up. No one besides Hector Rondon has proven they can keep the other team off the scoreboard for a whole inning consistently. This is a problem that Joe Maddon is going to have to figure out in the next few weeks before the playoffs begin. Yesterday, the Cubs did activate Neil Ramirez from the 15-day disabled list and bring up Yoervis Medina. We’ll see how much of an opportunity they will get to try to prove themselves as effective pitchers in high leverage situations.

80 wins

Just a quick note, with Tuesday’s win over St. Louis, The Cubs hit 80 wins. It has been 6 years since the Cubs last finished over 80 wins when they posted a mark of 83-78 in 2009. Obviously the Cubs will certainly pass 83 wins this season, so that’s just another positive to take away from this highly successful season.

What’s On Tap

Tomorrow the Cubs will begin a 4 game series against the Phillies in Philadelphia. The Cubs will have Jake Arrieta on the mound, who will look to continue to build up his Cy Young resume. The Phillies will counter with Alec Asher who has really struggled in his first 2 starts with the Phillies, posting a 10.61 ERA.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on September 9

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Game notes

CUBS 8 @ CARDINALS 5 – The Cubs continued to roll last night as they beat the St. Louis Cardinals for the second night in a row, this time by a score of 8-5, to extend their winning streak to five games. Apparently the bats hadn’t cooled off from Monday night as the Cubs offense plated eight runs, with All-Star Michael Wacha on the hook for six of them. Chicago pounced early; Anthony Rizzo hit a towering two-run home run in the first frame, Jason Hammel helped himself with a RBI single in the second, and Starlin Castro belted a three-run dinger three batters later. Cubs hitters cooled off until the seventh, where once again, the duo of Rizzo and Castro inflicted damage on Cardinal pitchers. Castro doubled home a run, and Rizzo brought him in to score with a single.

Jason Hammel has had his issues lately, but flashes from his terrific first half of the season could be seen in his performance last night. Hammel kept St. Louis off the board until he ran into trouble in the 7th, where pinch-hitter Randal Grichuk hit a two-run home run off the right-hander. Hammel finished the night with six strikeouts in six innings, walking four, while allowing three earned runs. All things considered, this was a quality outing for Hammel. The bullpen made it too close for comfort, but ultimately, the Cubs secured the win as Hector Rondon saved his 27th game of the year.

Castro can Contribute

Starlin Castro has made it clear to the media since he was benched in early August: he wants to be in the lineup while the race to the playoffs is in full swing. And why wouldn’t he? Castro is one of the few members of the team who has seen the club at their very worst, as he was greeted harshly by the big leagues with five consecutive losing seasons on the north side to begin his career. Think back, during those times of despair, Castro was one of the few bright spots on the team—highlighted by a Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and three All-Star game appearances. Baseball is a business, I understand that. It just feels wrong seeing the team prosper while Castro battles for playing time.

Castro lost his everyday job at shortstop on August 7th. Even a Castro supporter like myself had a difficult time attempting to defend his .236 batting average and shaky defensive play. Since then, Castro has proved he can contribute to this team. At the plate, the 25-year-old has been squaring the ball up and the trend of weakly hit ground balls of his bat has appeared to give way to line drives. In the last 28 days, Castro is hitting .350/.350/.483, which has raised his season batting average to .252.

Injury Updates

It was nice seeing Kyle Schwarber at the plate last night in a pinch hit appearance. The young slugger has been sidelined due to oblique soreness since September 2nd, although the move was said to be just a precaution. The Cubs’ offense has hardly missed a beat in his absence, scoring 43 runs combined in the last six games. According to, Schwarber could be back in the lineup as early as today.

Jorge Soler (15-day DL) doesn’t seem to be progressing as well as anticipated, unfortunately. There has yet to be a timetable released for Soler’s return, but it was reported that he has begun to hit off the tee and play catch. When Soler does return, it will be interesting (to say the least) to see how manager Joe Maddon adjusts the playing time rotation.

Lester to the Mound

Today is a big start for Jon Lester. Lester hasn’t been terrible this year (9-10, 3.59 ERA), but it is safe to say that Chicago’s surge to the playoffs has overshadowed his average season on the mound. The Cubs have gained momentum with two valuable wins over the first-place Cardinals, and Lester has the chance to put the nail in this series’ coffin with a quality start today. Lester has seen St. Louis three times this season, and has enjoyed success against the division rivals, only allowing four earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched. Bottom line: pitchers Dan Haren and Jason Hammel put their struggles aside the past two days and now it is time for the rotation’s breadwinner to do the same.

What’s on Tap?


1965Sandy Koufax‘s perfect game against the Cubs bests Bob Hendley‘s one hit effort, 1-0. The Dodger Stadium gem is the southpaw’s record fourth no-hitter.

2007 – In the first inning at Detroit’s Comerica Park, Curtis Granderson steals his 20th base of the season to become only the third major leaguer to belong to the 20-20-20-20 club. The Tigers center fielder joins Frank Schulte (1911- Cubs) and Willie Mays (1957 – Giants) as the only players to record 20 home runs, 20 triples, 20 doubles and swipe 20 bases in a season.

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5.5 Things for Cubs Fans to Know on September 8

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 9-0)

I could bask in the wonder of yesterday’s game for a long time, especially that third inning. I take nothing but pure delight in knowing that the Cubs absolutely silenced the Cardinals from the beginning, and did it in St. Louis too. It is hard to tell how the next two games of this series will go, but I assure you, the Cubs shellacking of that team from Missouri was no fluke yesterday. I am tempted to focus solely on the offense first, but I actually want to highlight Dan Haren to begin.

When the Cubs first traded for Haren, I was content but not overly excited. He seemed like the kind of guy who could shore up the back end of the rotation and eat some innings when needed. And come playoff time, he probably wouldn’t be needed to pitch very often. That said, his first several starts in a Cubs uniform were more than frustrating. That’s a big part of what made yesterday’s start so interesting. Maybe it was the motivation of pitching in front of the St. Louis crowd, or maybe he just had his good stuff, but Haren was just delightful to watch pitch. He spread 7 hits out over 7 scoreless innings while striking out 5 and walking just 2.

Haren may also have benefited from a dynamite offense yesterday too. It’s a lot easier to pitch well, I suspect, when you are doing so with a 8-0 lead after 3 innings. Dexter Fowler jump started things with a homerun in his lead off at bat and then later added a 2 RBI double. And if Addison Russell is heating up, he could not be doing it at a better time, as he hit a 3 run HR in the third inning that saw 5 runners score.

Let’s hope that Monday’s game sets the precedent for how the rest of this series goes. The Cubs can gain some serious ground in the NL Central, especially as the Pirates seem unable to beat the Reds.

2. Additional call ups

Speaking of yesterday’s game, the Cubs brought up 2 more pitchers, including top prospect C.J. Edwards, who made his major league debut in yesterday’s game. Edwards gave up a walk, but needed just 10 pitches to get through a scoreless 8th inning. He transitioned to the bullpen recently, and if yesterday’s outing was any indication, he could be a very, very valuable part of the bullpen in this last month of the regular season and in the playoffs. I am increasingly confident that the Cubs can win game 163 and get to a NLDS series, and as much as that has to do with what our offense is capable of, it’s also because of the strength I see in our pitching.

The Cubs also called up Zac Rosscup, and he saw action yesterday as well. Rosscup pitched a pretty phenomenal 9th inning, striking out all 3 of the batters he faced to finish the game. Rosscup had last pitched for the Cubs on August 27 after having spent most of the first 3 months of the season in the majors.

3. Injury updates

Two very key pieces of our offense are on the shelf right now, and both look to be hopefully returning fairly soon. Jorge Soler hit off of a tee over the weekend, according to a tweet from Mark Grote. It’s still pretty unclear as to when he might return, but it is very encouraging to know that he’s starting to swing the bat. I would love to see him return in time for the playoffs, but if I can make a bold suggestion, I think the Cubs can win without him. I’d rather see them preserve his long term health than rush him back.

Kyle Schwarber is not expected back from his rib injury until after the Cardinals series is over, but he did take swings in the cage yesterday. He seems to want to try and return at least by Wednesday, but I would also like to see the Cubs show some patience with returning him to the lineup. He has made himself an integral piece of the offense in a very short amount of time, and he’ll be especially needed next week, as the Cubs will face the Cardinals again as well as the Pirates.

4. Down on the farm

There’s not a lot to mention at this point as the minor league seasons have come to a close, but it could mean call ups for Emilio Bonifacio (who is hitting .469 since joining the Cubs on a minor league deal) and maybe even Christian Villanueva, since their season in Iowa has ended.

The only team that still has games ahead of them is Myrtle Beach, and they will start a playoff series against Winston-Salem tomorrow night.

5. What’s on tap?

Tonight the Cubs will send Jason Hammel (7-6, 3.55) to the mound against Michael Wacha (15-4, 2.69). This is probably the toughest pitching matchup between the next two games, so our offense is really going to need to try to strike early like they did yesterday afternoon and get to the bullpen.

Hammel is coming off of a couple of decent starts, going 5 innings on both Sep. 2 and Aug. 28. Prior to that, he pitched 6.1 innings and struck out 8 batters against the Braves. We will need him to be more like that kind of pitcher today.

5 1/2. 2016 schedule

The full schedule will come out this afternoon, but last night it was announced that the Cubs will start the 2016 season on the road. If you take a look at this article (scroll to the bottom), you’ll see that they’ll start the season in Arizona and Los Angeles next April. In other interleague matchups, they’ll travel to Oakland and host the Rangers and Mariners. And, of course, the White Sox.



1977: Cubs’ relief pitcher Bruce Sutter strikes out the first six batters he faces, including three men in the ninth on nine pitches. The future Hall of Famer will earn his sixth victory in seven decisions when the Cubs beat Montreal in 10 innings at Wrigley Field, 3-2.

1980: Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspends Ferguson Jenkins as a result of the drug arrest last month. The suspension will last only two weeks before an independent arbiter surprisingly reinstates the Cubs right-hander.

1998: Cardinal first baseman Mark McGwire connects off of Cub hurler Steve Trachsel and sends a 341-foot line-drive over the left field fence for his historic 62nd home run, breaking the single-season home run record set in 1961 by Roger Maris. Big Mac’s historic homer comes in the fourth inning of a nationally televised game.

2012: Darwin Barney sets the National League record for consecutive errorless games by a second baseman with 124, surpassing Ryne Sandberg, another Cub infielder, who played his consecutive errorless streak at second between the 1989 and 1990 seasons. The major league mark for consecutive errorless games at second base is 186, established by Tiger infielder Placido Polanco from 2006-08.


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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on September 7

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Another Van Dyke Weekend

DIAMONDBACKS 4 @ CUBS 6 – Now, bear with me: as I write this, I am listening and sit-dancing to Dick van Dyke’s chimney sweep song from Disney’s Mary Poppins, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is my own personal, obscure phrasing for a Cubs’ sweep week/weekend; do feel free to use it. The Cubs’ win on Sunday was the final in the three game set versus the struggling, young Diamondbacks. It ended in a 6-4 contest that was not as close as the score suggests towards the conclusion, but was early on. Through four innings, the Cubs had been no-hit, and it seemed a struggling offense and a steamy, humid day at Wrigley were to blame; that was, of course, until Kris Bryant clobbered – a-la Benny Rodriguez of “The Sandlot” – a 495-foot solo homerun off of the scoreboard beyond left field in the bottom of the 5th to tie the game at 1. It is, to date, the longest homerun in the MLB this season. The very next inning saw the Diamondbacks use four pitchers to not record a single out, while giving up a grand-slam to Miguel Montero, followed closely by a solo shot by Jonathan Herrera – his second of the season. With the club up 6-1, Justin Grimm, Joe Maddon’s “6th inning closer”, did his duty in the 6th and finished with the win. Kyle Hendricks pitched valiantly for five innings, only surrendering one run in the 4th, and ended with a decisively optimistic no decision.

Magic Playoff Push

With the win on Sunday, the Cubs sit comfortably in the second Wild Card spot, with a 7.5 game lead over the Nationals, 8 above the Giants, and a magic number of 20. Magic seems to be a through-line of the season, as Joe Maddon’s magician in the clubhouse during a low-point has since had the Cubs bolstered mentally and seemingly physically. After Pittsburgh’s win on Sunday, the Cubs remain a pesky three games behind the Bucs for the first Wild Card spot. Fortunately, however, this seems to be the real “concern” with just under a month to play, as the lead for the second spot seems nearly insurmountable for the ailing Giants and uneven Nationals. And, though it remains the most unlikely of scenarios odds-wise, it is always worth mentioning: the Cubs are 8.5 games behind the Cardinals, and stranger occurrences have taken place over the last month of seasons.

Baez Return and Early Results

The weekend saw Javier Baez receive regular playing time next to the now-regular rookies. He and Addison Russell turned a few beautiful double plays, and his defense seems better than it has ever been. His approach at the plate also looks to be permeated with more patience and a shortened swing. The unfortunate reality is that he has a natural habit to swing hard and with the power of a Babe Ruth-Manny Ramirez offspring; however, fortunately, his tireless work in the offseason seems to be paying off, as over the weekend, he managed to go a combined 4-16 with two walks – both of which were hard-earned, and one of which walked in a run – and a mere three strikeouts. The at-bat that saw him walk in a run is what I would like to assert as his highlight, however, despite him hitting a homerun on a rope and going 3-4 Saturday. Rather than swinging with the aforementioned power in a hitter’s count of 3-1 during this critical at-bat, he instead waited, and took what was a ball that he very easily could have, and more than likely would have, swung at last season. This patience is reason for the Cubs fandom the world-over to have hope for Javier as he continues to develop and mend his approach to more suitably fit the big-leagues.

Down on the Farm

Christian Villanueva and Emilio Bonifacio both had productive days for the I-Cubs, going 3-5 with a double and two runs and 3-5 with a run scored, respectively, in am 8-5 win over the Round Rock Express Rangers. The win saw the I-Cubs reach 80 wins for the eighth time in team history, with seven of those as a Cubs affiliate.

What’s on Tap?

Labor Day sees the Cubs taking upon themselves a laborious task, indeed: a 1:15pm contest in St. Louis against the top of the pile St. Louis Cardinals. Dan Haren (8-9, 3.89 ERA) will face Lance Lynn (11-8, 2.80 ERA), in the beginning of an intriguing three game set.


1978 – In a 9-4 victory over the Expos, Mets backstop John Stearns establishes a new mark for National League catchers with his 25th stolen base. Johnny Kling swiped 24 bases catching for the Cubs in 1902.

1984 – On his way to hurling a one-hitter, Dwight Gooden fans Cub Ron Cey for his 228th strikeout, setting a National League rookie record. The Mets phenom passes Grover Cleveland Alexander, who established the mark in 1911 with 227.

1996 – With 129 at-bats and a mediocre .254 batting average at the start of his major league career, Scott Rolen misses the remainder of the season, when his arm is broken by a pitch thrown by Cubs right-hander Steve Trachsel. The hit-by-pitch will prove to be a blessing in disguise when the Phillies third baseman, technically still a rookie due to one less at-bat last season, will have an outstanding year next season, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award.

1998 – In the first inning at Busch Stadium, Cardinal first baseman Mark McGwire ties Roger Maris‘ single season home run mark, hitting his 61st in a nationally televised Labor Day game against the Cubs. Big Mac hits his historic homer on his dad’s 61st birthday.

2001 – Ranger infielder Alex Rodriguez breaks his American League record (42 in 1998 and 1999 for the Mariners) for home runs by a shortstop with his 43rd long ball of the season. In 1958, Cub Hall of Famer Ernie Banks established the major league record for homers for that position with 47.

2006 – The Cubs are honored by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks for their preservation efforts at Wrigley Field. The venerable old ballpark receives Chicago Landmark Awards for Excellence for the bleacher expansion project which improved circulation in the seating section, increased the number of bathrooms, and dramatically improved access for fans with disabilities.

2010 – A statue of Billy Williams, who played 16 seasons with the club from 1959-74, is dedicated by the Cubs on the corner of Sheffield Avenue and Addison Street outside of Wrigley Field. In attendance for the unveiling of the sculpture, that portrays the Hall of Famer outfielder finishing his sweet swing from the left side, is his wife, Shirley, former teammates Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo and Glenn Beckert, along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on September 6

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Yesterday I looked at the clock and saw that it was 1:15 and did the mental math as to if I had enough time to mow the lawn, shower and be in place on the couch for the start of the game at 2:20. It’s weird to think that way right now for a few reasons. First, it’s rare that I would be talking about the Cubs when I make that statement at this part of the year as opposed to say Notre Dame football. Second, it’s rare that I would want to watch a game live as it happens as opposed to DVR, but when Jake Arrieta is on the mound it’s appointment television at this point.

About Last Night

DIAMONDBACKS 0 @ CUBS 2 – I’m sure you already know what happened and who won the game, but I came away with some things that I wanted to mention.

I mentioned earlier that Arrieta starts are appointment television. I go into them genuinely expecting him to not give up a run. It’s gotten to that point and I feel like we’ve returned to watching guys like Mark Prior (don’t shoot me for saying that) when he was in that dominant season in 2003 or early Greg Maddux. I don’t expect the Cubs to lose when Jake is on the mound. Yesterday, though, I was bothered a little by Joe Maddon‘s decision to let Jake come out to pitch the 8th inning. It was a hot and humid day in September and Jake had thrown 103 pitches to that point and was coming off a start in the no-hitter in which he had thrown 116. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total pitch count baby the pitcher type of guy, but at that point in the game I saw no reason to bring Jake out to pitch the 8th. In that situation you go with Pedro Strop and you go with Hector Rondon and you go grab a steak to celebrate. The Diamondbacks are not grinding out wins. They aren’t going to come back from that. I didn’t like the call.

I liked the lineup that included Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, but in the long run that won’t be possible. When Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler come back, they will be in the outfield, so it doesn’t leave room for all those guys. It was nice to see it, though.

I’d like to see Addison Russell get the day off at shortstop today as he is off to a so so start to September and is playing the longest season of his career. Start Castro or Baez at SS today and let Russell watch.

Roster News

The news came out yesterday that the White Sox have claimed Mike Olt off waivers from the Cubs. Olt was designated for assignment at the end of August by the Cubs when they acquired Austin Jackson. Olt will join the Sox and have a few weeks to show he belongs in the Majors. He’s out of minor league options so he’ll need to make the opening day roster out of camp if he’s still with the organization. At this point, I don’t see him sticking in baseball much longer.

In other news, the Cubs also officially released Rafael Soriano. It was an experiment that you had to try for the cost, but it did not work out. Soriano will probably retire at this point, as I don’t see anyone else giving him a shot.

Magic Number Watch

At this point, I don’t see the Cubs catching the Cardinals, so it’s time to just come to grips with the fact that our whole season comes down to a one game, winner take all playoff with the Pirates. At this point the Pirates may be able to catch the Cardinals, but it’s highly unlikely. Instead, we need to focus on passing the Pirates and getting that game in Chicago. From there we need to make a call to Steve Trachsel to pitch game 163. He’s got experience doing it and it allows us to save Jake and Jon Lester for game 1 and 2 of the NLDS. I’m telling you, it’s the best option. Nevermind the fact that he’s 44 years old and hasn’t pitched since 2008. That just means he’s rested.

In all seriousness, the magic number to officially clinch a wild card spot is now at 21, but let’s be serious, do you really see the Giants or the Nationals coming back to make up the 7+ game difference at this point? I don’t. Noah had a really good tweet during the day yesterday before the games were done.

Down on the Farm

It’s hard to really consider Emilio Bonifacio a part of the “farm”, but he is finishing up in Iowa and did go 3-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base. He’s hitting close to .500 at this point in limited action and should be receiving a call up to help the Major League team as a spare piece down the stretch real soon. He’ll probably bring C.J. Edwards, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief yesterday, with him.

In other news, Albert Almora was injured in a game on Friday. The video is below:

That may end Almora’s season at this point.

What’s On Tap?


1948 – After 2,592 plate appearances, Emil Verban hits his first and only major league home run, establishing the mark for the longest homerless streak to start a career. The Cubs second baseman hits the historic home run off Johnny Vander Meer in the seventh inning of the team’s 3-1 loss to Chicago at Crosley Field.

2001 – Joining Babe Ruth (1927 Yankees), Roger Maris (1961 Yankees), Mark McGwire (1998 Cardinals), and Sammy Sosa (1998 Cubs), Barry Bonds becomes the fifth major leaguer to hit 60 home runs in a season. The 37 year-old Giant left fielder, who is the oldest to join this elite group, reaches the historic plateau the quickest, needing only 141 games to reach the milestone.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs to Know on September 5th

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

Offense From Everywhere

DIAMONDBACKS 5 @ CUBS 14 – The Cubs got back on track yesterday in the first game of the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cubs offense put up 14 runs thanks to patience and home runs. In the first inning, the Cubs scored their first 2 runs on back-to-back walks with the bases loaded by Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. In the second inning Addison Russell hit the first of his 2 home runs, a solo shot to left field. In the fourth inning, after a walk by Jon Lester, Russell hit his second home run of the game to left-center field. It was his first career multi-homer game. In the fifth inning, the Cubs exploded for 8 runs, highlighted by Anthony Rizzo’s second career “granny” (grand slam) and a 2 run home run by Baez. Lester bounced back from his last start and gave up 2 runs in 5 innings pitched. While this performance wasn’t spectacular, he got the job done and hopefully he regained some confidence for his next start. With all the offense today and barrage of home runs it is hard to give the player of the game to just one person, but I think I will take Russell because he is the only one who can boast about the plurality of his bleacher reachers.

Player of the Game: Addison Russell (2-3, 2HR, 3R, 3RBI, 1BB)

A Complete Transformation

What happened to the Baez of 2014? He looked to have a completely different approach at the plate. Despite his home run and 2 singles, I was most impressed with his first at-bat of the game when he walked with the bases loaded. Seeing him take close pitches and not being overly aggressive given the situation was very encouraging. I expected him to almost certainly be nervous and swing for the fences with every pitch. Instead, he looked calm and was pleased to take a walk. Don’t get me wrong, his home run was an absolute laser and put a big smile on my face, but the ability to draw a hard earned walk is the quickest way to my heart. If he can have an approach like this at the plate consistently, look out. That is a big if, but he is giving us reason to be optimistic.

Schwarber Injury Update

Kyle Schwarber will not be playing this series against the Diamondbacks due to a strained right rib cage. Schwarber has said that he could play if he was needed, but the team has decided to let him rest to make sure the injury doesn’t get worse. Unless there are any further developments, he should be back for the series in St. Louis starting Monday.

Down on the Farm

Remember that guy Arismendy Alcantara? He has been struggling at Iowa this season but had a good game yesterday going 3-5 in an 8-1 victory over Round Rock. His production this season has been disappointing, considering the time he spent in the majors where he flashed some potential. I can’t be too picky I guess since the Cubs already have so much young talent, but it would be great to see him get back to what he used to be, even just as a piece to use in a future trade.

What’s on Tap?

The Cubs will look to win their second in a row against the Diamondbacks tomorrow. Jake Arrieta will get the chance to follow up his no-hit performance against Robbie Ray of the D-Backs. The Cubs definitely have the advantage on paper but they need Arrieta to be ready to go. Arrieta’s focus always seems to be on point, but after a no-hitter, there could be different thoughts running through his head. He needs to stay calm and just go out there like its business as usual.


1918 – At Comiskey Park, Babe Ruth of the Red Sox six-hits the Cubs in the opening game of the World Series, 1-0. The Fall Classic game, which started earlier than usual due to World War I, is played at the White Sox home field rather than Weeghman Park (renamed Wrigley Field in 1926) due to the larger seating capacity.

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Yesterday’s News: D-Backs preview, award winners, Ryno return?

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Diamondbacks series preview

After the frustration of losing three consecutive series, the Cubs have the opportunity to change their course this weekend with a series against the Diamondbacks. Like the Reds before this, Arizona really should be a team that the Cubs can beat up on and get some wins at home before things get rough this month. The pitching matchups are pretty favorable, too:


Jon Lester (8-10, 3.59) vs. Zack Godley (4-0, 1.90)


Jake Arrieta (17-6, 2.11) vs. Robbie Ray (3-10, 3.72)


Kyle Hendricks (6-6, 4.15) vs. Rubby De La Rosa (12-6, 4.46)

Obviously, Saturday is our best chance to get a win, and Sunday is probably the biggest question mark , but don’t look past Godley today.

Ryno return?

I don’t know if there’s much to this, but Ryne Sandberg recently had lunch with the Cubs’ front office (as our very own Joe Aiello tweeted yesterday), and given his history with the team and the fact that he is moving back to Chicago and has expressed interest in returning to the Cubs in some capacity.

It’s hard to give much thought here, as his run in Philadelphia was not exactly successful, but I also don’t feel like he was placed in the best position for that to happen. Sandberg was a valuable minor league manager in our farm system for a long time, but I doubt that he is returning to work in that capacity. This will be an interesting story to follow if anything materializes.

Injury updates

Jorge Soler is still expected to return to the Cubs before this season ends, and hopefully he can, as he would be a very valuable piece in a game 163 and hopeful playoff series after that. He is hoping to resume swinging a bat today, so we will see if he can get back in the lineup within the next few weeks.

Equally troubling is the news that Kyle Schwarber could be out for a while with a rib injury. He was pulled from Wednesday’s lineup and had an MRI yesterday. There isn’t any news about the results yet, but if he is out for an extended time, that means more of Austin Jackson.

Bring on the hardware

Surprising no one, Arrieta was named the National League pitcher of the month for August. Overall, he was 6-0 in August and posted a 0.43 ERA for the month, including, of course, the no hitter on the 30th. Arrieta has easily been our best pitcher overall this season, and it has lead me to reconsider a previously held stance that Lester should be the starter in a likely play-in game. Arrieta has only pitched shorter than 6 innings in a start twice this season, and it hasn’t happened since his start against the Indians on June 16. He is making an extraordinarily strong case for being this year’s Cy Young winner.

On the offensive side, Kris Bryant was named the National top rookie of the month for August, and he is equally a viable candidate for an end of the year award. He won this award in May as well, so I expect that there is a strong possibility that he wins the Rookie of the Year award, and I his stiffest competition might actually be Schwarber, depending on his health. Bryant had an OPS of 1.042 in August and hit 7 HRs (not to mention Wednesday’s game tying effort). I genuinely expect both of these players to finish the year with some hardware for their personal collection.


 1916: Reds’ player-manager Christy Mathewson, pitching his only game not in a Giant uniform, beats his long-time nemesis Mordecai ‘Three Finger’ Brown and the Cubs, 10-8. In the 25 contests the two legends have faced one another, Matty, by winning the last decision, takes a 13-12 advantage in their final meeting.

1998: Defeating the White Sox, 11-6, the Yankees win their 100th game on the earliest date in major league history, besting the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 1954 Cleveland Indians by five days. The 1906 Cubs set the major league record for fewest contests to reach 100 victories, accomplishing the milestone in 132 games.


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