Cubs Run Into A Not So Jolly Roger

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It wasn’t too long ago when I said that the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have the Cubs’ number but they bid it again by cruising to a 7-3 victory over those cuddly north side bears. Despite a couple of rookies banging out some long balls in the forms of Javier Baez and the Amazing Arismendy Alcantara, the Cubs turned in a mediocre performance.

“The hope is that the knowledge they’re gaining and the things they have to do in terms of adjusting as to how the pitchers are attacking them, they’ll grow,” Rick Renteria said. “It’s impossible for me to look into a crystal ball and say it won’t happen again. We have to allow that to play itself out. Their skill sets are very good skill sets. We’re hopeful they can play well at the Major League level.”

Maybe that’s the key? Perhaps we were a little hopeful that Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara,  and Jorge Soler would lead the Cubs into that hallowed place where few ballplayers have gone before(actually, it’s just a little old town in upstate New York).

Maybe a little too premature?

One thing is a given; this isn’t the same team that took to the field in April. Remember, there was a disgruntled Jeff Samardzija and a closer called Jose Veras, who I think was unceremoniously dumped. Ah, but then there was the Strange Case of Edwin Jackson. A player with a skill set that’s pretty deep but for some reason just can’t connect on the mound. What will the Cubs do with him next year? Is there a taker for him? Exciting times to be a Cubs fan and a player looking for a new place to hang a uniform.

The 2014 season has of course, produced its ups and downs with the successful debuts of the rookies, but Starlin Castro’s resurgence as a superstar has captured the imaginations of everyone going forth into next season.

“This is a great season for me,” said Castro, who is batting .292. “I think I can improve more than what I’ve done. I want to be healthy, I don’t want to go into the offseason not playing. I want to play — if it’s three games, I’ll play three games.”

There you have it folks, the difference in Starlin Castro. The guy who once walked to the dugout because he wasn’t aware of how many outs there were is now becoming that leader.

But why three games, Starlin?

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Season In Toronto

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I’m glad that’s over. It’s hard to believe that just over a month ago, I foolishly predicted the Cubs would sneak into a Wild Card position on the basis of how well the rookies were playing. All right, I was wrong. That series against the Blue Jays proved just how far things need to improve with the Cubs. The Toronto Blue Jays who are in a Wild Card chase picked apart the Cubs in an 11-1 lopsided win. In total, the Blue Jays outscored the Cubs 28-3.

“I’d love to be able to explain to you exactly what’s going on the last five or six days, but stuff just happens,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We have a well-needed day off and we’re leaving for Pittsburgh, and hopefully we’re able to recover and get something started Friday.”

Kyle Hendricks was decent but in the end he wasn’t any competition for the Melky Cabrera less Blue Jays. You can blame it on the absence of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, hell, blame it on the astro turf, but in the end if a team can’t compete without their star players, they don’t have a snowball in Miami’s chance at the post season.

“For me personally, I’m just going to move on,” he said. “As a team, we have to take it, get away from the being-at-the-field every day routine. It’s a day to relax, get away from the park and come back Friday.”

The good news in yesterday’s lopsidedness was Jorge Soler scuffing the leather and sending the ball into the echo laden Rogers Centre for his fourth Home Run in twelve games. Now that’s awesome.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Feeling Blue After Loss To Jays

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There was a lot that happened in last night’s match up against the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs. Javier Baez reached base but despite going 2 for 3 and collecting eleven hits, the Cubs couldn’t capitalize. That folks, is how far the Cubs have fallen since Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro hung up their jersey’s until next season due to injuries.

Was it Jake Arrieta’s fault? Nope. It was their bullpen. Neil Ramirez had his cage rattled by Joey Bats and you know what? that’s OK because Jose Bautista is a future hall of famer and the Blue Jays are a hungry team in search of that ominous Wild Card spot.

“That was probably the worst game we’ve played all year,” Renteria said. “These men know that there are a lot of things that we have to do, but certainly staying in a big league ballgame is one of those things that requires a lot of commitment in terms of bearing down, really continuing to play the game and being aware of the whole circumstance.”

Seeing Rick Renteria in the fuming after another Cubs error made me nervous. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the Cubs locker room after the game.

The Cubs need Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. They need them bad, because Javier Baez’s slump can be connected to their injuries. There’s not that many games left and believe me, I wish the Cubs could have snuck in. Mr. Al Yellon, you were right my humble sir.

“No one likes losing the way that game ended up developing,” Renteria said. “And it really did just steamroll. It would be foolish of us to ignore it. You talk about it. And they’re bright young men, capable of taking information and putting themselves in a position where they can regroup and get back after it.”

Tonight Kyle Hendricks will try to avenge the losses.

Believe it.

—Mark

The Great White Northside

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The Cubs rolled into Hogtown last night and well, the Toronto Blue Jays put on a Stro, Man. That was bad I admit it. The worst part came when my now infamous words, “This ball has second deck written all over it.” I have witnesses seconds before Jose Bautista made one fan happy. 8-0

“It’s one of those situations where you’re trying to make a pitch that if he doesn’t swing, you put him on, and if he does he’s probably out,” Turner said. “And like I said, I didn’t execute when I needed to. It’s a big moment in the game. That’s on me. If we get through that inning from where we’re at, it’s a totally different game.”

My allegiance was split last night because the Jays are in a Wild Card chase and so I was kind of happy they won. Just a bit. Jacob Turner pitched ok last night, it was just the Jays were hitting him deep on just about every one.

Well, then there was Marcus Stroman, the rookie pitcher for the Jays who deserved the Complete Game. I always say, if you want to measure the pure awesomeness of a pitcher, look at their Complete Games and that’ll tell you how good they are. 

“His ball was moving. He had everything working,” said Valaika, who also struck out twice. “It was more than just his fastball. First time around he was getting ahead with that fastball and then later in the game he started flipping that slider in. He had great stuff and great fastball command and kept us off-balance all game.”

Believe it.

—Mark

 

 

 

Cubs Drone On

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That’s a 10-4 good buddy! Oh C’mon, like there isn’t lots of writers using that one this morning? For some reason, and there might be something to this troubling curse that’s been kicking around Wrigley Field all these years, but the Pittsburgh Pirates always seem to have Chicago’s number. They play them hard or get lucky.

It’s no secret that Travis Wood has been having a tough season and there are lots of us who believe he’s better than the numbers show. They’re right. He’s a great pitcher having a rough time.

“It wasn’t Woody’s day today,” Rick Renteria said. “They came out swinging and he got two-strike at-bats, but couldn’t finish them off. It happened kind of quick.”

Three home runs against “Woody” isn’t a pretty number. Even though the Cubs have all the talent in the world with the young kids and those swings, when a team is missing two of their biggest hitters in Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, nothing is going to save a team. It’s going to be interesting though, the season is winding down but Wood could possibly face the Pirates again and it might be a different result.

Does Wood have an answer for his disappointing season?

“Obviously, something is different, whether it’s the hitters’ approach off me or just not being able to execute pitches the way I did last year,” Wood said. “That’s something to be addressed in these next couple starts.

All right I have to say this. This series against the Toronto Blue Jays is going to be an interesting one. The Jays are still very much in the Wild Card race and even though I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Cubs have a chance, the likelihood is just not there. I want the Cubs to win, but there’s a little part inside of me that won’t be sad if the Blue Jays get through this series.

Believe it.

—Mark

I Hear Rain Is Good For The Ivy?

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Well, it sure does rain in Chicago.  It’s been an unusual year for weather and an unusual year for Cubs baseball. Sometimes I wonder if there really is some truth to the curses in the team’s storied history?

Even when they get on a roll, it seems Mother Nature throws her hand down over Wrigley Field and says, “We don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up.”

“We’ve had bad luck because of all the rain delays and long games,” catcher Welington Castillo said. “I think we have to stay with it, because if the other team stays with it, we have to stay with it. We’ll be fine. We have a lot of young guys in here who can handle it.”

Perhaps it’s a test of their resilience you know, to build that dynasty? It could be, or more likely, not.

One thing is for certain; Jorge Soler is for real. He continued with his impressive streak collecting an RBI.

The game continues today at 2pm

Believe it.

—Mark

 

Don’t Anyone Say That It’s Just A Game

So now that some of the Cubs key prospects are getting their chances to shine at the Friendly Confines, it’s time for the, “I told you so” segment of our show.

I’m going to start by saying that I had no idea these kids, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks were going to be this good. No idea!

The problem with us Cubs fans is we get set up for disappointment far too much. A hundred and six year absence from holding a championship does those things to you.

All the scouts can say, “I knew this kid was awesome since the day he was pooping home runs in his Pampers” but the truth is nobody knows how great a prospect is until they hit the fields and swing at the first pitches.

“He was impressive from a baseball standpoint, a tools standpoint,” Special Assistant Louie Eljaua said of Jorge Soler. “We see all kinds of players, all shapes and sizes, but when you see a kid that physically impressive and strong with the tools, it gets your attention. He played third base at the time. When we were scouting him in the Dominican, we let him take ground balls at third because it was his favorite position at the time.”

Louie might be an expert in his position, but truthfully when he wakes up in the morning makes his way to the bathroom and before he slaps on the Barbasol, two things go through his mind:

1. I still have a job.

2. Let’s play two.

That’s about it. You see, as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid scribe William Goldman said, “Nobody Knows Anything” There couldn’t be a more truer statement in film, life and heck, baseball.

It’s a tough world that we live in, check your IPad for the latest headlines and you’ll see, but if you read between the headlines there’s another story going on. Last week, we were watching a game on tv and my son was playing in the kitchen. He heard that familiar opening, ‘Take Me Out To The—” Shoot, I don’t have to spell it out for you but my son came running into the living room and put his arm around my shoulder and we sang the rest. He’s a few weeks from four years old, folks. There’s no cynicism when he yells out, “Let’s get some runs, Cubbies” there’s only belief that the mighty Chicago Cubs is his team and they’re champions.

For the rest of us, “Someday We’ll Go All The Way.

Believe it.

—Mark

 

Cubs Leave Milwaukee In a Stupor

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Baseball is a funny game. A damn funny game. I’m just checking the standings here and the Cubs are 9 1/2 back in the Wild Card standings. All right, all right it’s a long shot but still, there’s a very real chance that the Cubs can get in there. Don’t believe me? They’ve got a better record then the Boston Red Sox. The World Series Champions.

First off, is there any truth to the rumour that Kyle Hendricks could be a candidate for Rookie of The Year? Is there? The reigning National league Rookie of The Month for August, and nobody can take that away from him until next August went 4-0 before heading into last night’s game. His record is 6-1 since joining the club.

“That’s what you like coming out of the gate,” Hendricks said of the first, “but overall, I didn’t have my stuff tonight and I had to battle. I gave up some weak hits, but overall, I didn’t make a lot of good pitches. Luckily, I was able to get away with it, and guys put up a lot of runs early, which is nice. I had some balls hit hard in play that guys made good plays on.”

If there was an award for the most improved team, it would be the Cubs. Without Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the Cubs rookies have been picking up the slack. The Cubs have won three straight without their two All Star. While we are on the topic of rookies, what about Chris Valaika? Did anyone see him coming?

“We’re playing good baseball now,” Valaika said. “I’ve seen it all year with these guys in Triple-A. If we keep this rolling, showing teams we can play going into next year, I think we’ll have something special.”

I noticed there was a lady in the crowd holding up a sign that read, “The Big Blue Machine is Coming.” and somebody else had one with 2016. Sounds Biblical.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Brewing Up The Wins

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Watching Starlin Castro limp off the field was like watching a prized race horse snap a leg out of the gates. All right, there’s nothing more tragic in sports than seeing that but you know what I mean.

So, how good are the Chicago Cubs? Without Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the soon to be mighty Northsiders poked holes in the sides of the Milwaukee Brewers’ kegs in a 7-1 lopsided victory.

Arismendy Alcantara, the “Quiet One” of the rookies, rocked a two run home run extending his season total to eight. The Cubs have now helped the Brewers lose seven in a row. Oh boy, I’d hate to be in that management’s office in November.

“I think he hit it better than me, he made better contact than me,” Welington Castillo said of Alcantara. “He’s a small guy but he’s got pop — he’s a strong guy. Everybody sees him as small and little, but he’s really strong. He’s been hitting way, long homers, so that doesn’t surprise me.”

Pitcher Jake Arrieta continues to hold onto that “Ace” status collecting his second win in his last six starts and received tons of run support with the win, even Ryan “Give us back that MVP” Braun gave props to Arrieta.

“You never want to fall behind, but especially against a pitcher of his caliber,” Braun said of Arrieta. “I think he’s established himself as one of the best pitchers in the National League. He’s really good — throws above average probably four different pitches. So you certainly don’t want to fall behind to a guy like that.”

Aw shucks Ryan, now hand over that award. Seriously, this Cubs team is definitely not the same club that started the season. There’s a lot more run support, the pitching has settled into a groove and they’re knocking out those home runs. Gosh darn it folks, the Cubs are starting to look like winners.

Believe it.

—Mark 

 

Cubs Leave Brewers Tapped

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You know, there was a time when I mildly cheered for the Milwaukee Brewers. The “Brew Crew” “Roll Out The Barrel” enjoying a good brew every now and then, well it’s just like what Ben Franklin says, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” and yes, it is a myth that Canadian beer is better than American beer. Both have some mighty fine brew.

Ryan Braun. That’s the reason why I can’t stand the Brewers. We all know what he needs to return and make an apology to children everywhere.

So the Cubs beating up on them really puts a smile on my face. if there was one team I can’t stand, it’s the Brewers.

Now the Cubs have some great heroes and Chicago has suddenly become a great place to play. Hometown heroes, that’s what it’s all about. Jorge Soler notched a pair of doubles.

“For a guy who just got called up, it seems like he has a good approach at the plate,” said Cubs starting pitcher Jacob Turner. “That’s what I’ve been most impressed with. Obviously, he has a lot of power, but I think that approach at the plate will be the biggest key for the future.”

Turner enjoyed his outing as well. The Cubs went on to beat the Brewers 4-2 and knocked the Brewers out of first place and Turner received his first win as a Cub.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Turner said of the outing. “I’m just happy I’ve been able to build on some of the stuff that me and pitching coach Chris Bosio have been working on. I made the pitches when I needed to when guys got on base, especially in the first inning. Getting through that catapulted me through the rest of the game.”

The Cubs have a .500 record at home. 33-33 it’s going to be an exciting September so if anyone were to ask me how the Cubs are doing this year?

Pretty damn good.

Believe it.

—Mark