To DH or Not To DH, That is The Cubs Question and a Wrigley Rain Out

Wrigley Field

Yesterday’s game was rained out due to weather.  So, American League vs National League? I mentioned before that I wasn’t a big fan of interleague match ups. I don’t like them because baseball is such a unique game that when the World Series comes around, the opportunity and challenge of the championship lies in the fact that we have two teams that haven’t played each other and folks, that presents a World Series of obstacles.

It makes for great baseball.

As for the difference between the two leagues?

“It’s just the National League game itself,” Maddon said. “There’s so much more to think about. And if you want to really get fans engaged, I would like to believe the strategy of a National League game exceeds that of the American League game.”

I’ve never been a big American League fan. The DH position doesn’t bring the kind of excitement I like in the game. Unless of course, your name is David Ortiz. He can be a game changer, don’t you think?

In fact, the Toronto Blue Jays were never a favourite team of mine. I always preferred the Montreal Expos to the Hog Town Jays.    There’s a lot to get excited about  the possible return of the franchise. It’s been over a decade since the team left and it’ll be awesome to come back.

Besides, I’d be able to go see a lot more Cubs games.

When Commissioner Manfred spoke to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, he wanted to make sure that the market was there.

“I want Montreal to gain back a team eventually, but I wanted to open a channel. I clearly wanted to show that it’s not just about gaining back a team – it’s about how can we get baseball back to Montreal?” Manfred said.

The one thing I hope doesn’t happen if Montreal comes back is that the National adopting a DH rule. Call me a purist, but I love change however, this would not be the change I want. In my opinion, there’s more skill in the National League. Joe Maddon’s proved that by getting the pitcher to bat in the different order.

“I’ve always thought I liked [having the pitcher bat], and I do,” Maddon said. “The DH is a really difficult position to acquire, a really good one. It’s normally a really expensive position. And there’s not many guys that could sit around for a half hour or whatever and give you a really good at-bat on a nightly basis.”

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Cubs Are in Danger of Becoming A Cliche

Chicago Cubs

In their first interleague matchup of the season, the Chicago Cubs lost to last year’s World Series finalists, the Kansas City Royals, 8-4. “We played well today, and then we broke down at the end,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “They showed why they went to the World Series last year, and we showed why we’re not ready yet.” It sounds like a cliche when managers and coaches talk about not being ready for championships, but is there ever a team that is ready for a championship? I believe sometimes it all comes down to smart playing of course, but the other team’s miscues and failures.

The bottom line? On any given day, any team can beat the best. For example, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell provided the home runs yesterday. Solar connected with a two run shot and Addison Russell with a solo rocket. So it was a little too late, but when the Cubs lose they still win. They’re learning every game and I’m seeing a lot of improvement with them, not only individually, but as a team.

“It’s always a bad thing, a leadoff walk when the game’s on the line, tie ballgame in the eighth inning,”Pedro Strop said. “The walk is a big issue. You’ve got to be able to get those outs.”

And that’s where the Cubs’ wheels fell off. Notice the cliche there? It’ll be something that they’ll work on for sure but if they want to catch the Cardinals, they can’t just work on it, they have to execute those plays to perfection. The Kansas City Royals made the playoffs last season, not as a fluke but they got hot at the right moment but also their on base play saved them. That might not happen again for them. The season’s only two months in and I know I’ve been getting excited about the Cubs chances but there’s still plenty of ball to play.

“You cannot make the physical or mental mistakes, and you’ve got to make pitches in order to beat good teams late,” Maddon said. “You have to have that will to beat them, and you do that by repeating fundamentals and techniques and having good at-bats.” The Cubs look like they’re in the hunt in the likes of Ben Zobrist. What do you guys think of that? Or what if they call up Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez could be ready soon. There’s also a question of Starlin Castro. I think they should trade him.

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Cubs Hendricks is The Professor

Chicago Cubs

Here’s an interesting series coming up against Kansas City. Not unlike the Washington Nationals series where the teams were filled with the youngsters but the similarities of base running between the Royals and Cubs and their approach to the game is pretty darn close.

The Royals are at the top of their division so the Cubs have their work cut out for them.

As mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of Kyle Hendricks. The lanky pitcher is on a bit of a role recently and I think he has the potential for greatness. He doesn’t have much heat on his pitches but he can really pick the batters apart. It’s awesome to watch him. He struggled at the beginning of the season but it goes to show you how confidence can play into baseball and perhaps, life in general.

“There are times you’re lacking confidence,” Hendricks said. “When I don’t have that command and know exactly where it’s going, it’s hard to have 100 percent confidence out there. You can’t lie about that. Once I was able to put together that good game and show myself, ‘OK, it’s back. I have my command back; I can put it where I want it,’ then confidence comes hand in hand with that.”

I see big things for “The Professor”

“It’s fun talking baseball with him because he gets pitching,” said Jason Hammel, 32. “He is the epitome of a pitcher. His stuff plays, it’s not overpowering, but what he does with it makes him a dominant force.

Everybody by now is busy getting their votes in for the All Star Game coming up this summer. I’m one of those few that love the All Star game. It brings out the best in baseball and unlike other sports, it doesn’t necessarily turn into a circus side show. However, what I don’t like is the fan vote in portion of it. Maybe they should change it up and allow one fan vote in per league. I want to see the best of the best when comes to the mid summer classic and the best should only be there at the game. Go by statistics only. Period.

By The Way, if we’re going by stats, Bartolo Colon is second in wins.

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Cubs Still need Improving

Canuck Cubbie in Chicago

It was a battle of the heavyweights and they didn’t disappoint, well except the 3-0 loss to the Nationals.

“Obviously, Max threw the ball just a little bit better than I did,” Jon Lester said. “It was fun. We lost, and that’s not the ultimate goal, but if you’re a pitcher or just a purist of the game and like watching pitching matchups, that was fun tonight. That’s what it lived up to be.

It was a lesson on pitching from the two of the best and the Cubs rookies took note. Even though there were errors committed, it was a good game and part of the growing pains that the Cubs are going through this season. Yes, even the much improved Starlin Castro continues to make errors. All right, I’m going to put it out there right now; I was a big fan of Castro but the last couple of years have proven that he’s become a lazy player. His on field attitude is terrible. He’s too cocky and when you got guys like Addison Russell and Javier Baez (yes, the verdict is still out on him but I’ll give him another chance) I really think the Cubs should part ways with him now. He’s talented, sometimes for his own good but not my type of player, man.

“We have made a lot of really good plays on defense, and the one that seems to bite us is more the routine stuff,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s just repetition and technique. It’s just being fundamentally sound, and we’re working on it always. I will never denigrate the work of this group or the coaching staff. [The mistakes are] a little bit of a youthful thing.”

Yes, but Castro is a veteran now and he should know better. He shouldn’t be having those mental lapses anymore.

As for the Nationals/Cubs series? Even though the Cubs came up short, they learned a few things and could be a huge step forward this season.

“The takeaway is, we can play with these guys. I feel very confident about that moving forward. Entertaining baseball at Wrigley Field for the last three days.” Madden said.

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Cubs Prove Formidable Foe Against Nationals

Chicago Cubs

That was a pretty impressive win last night as the Chicago Cubs narrowly beat the Washington Nationals 3-2. In fact, they’re still searching for Kris Bryant’s home run ball.

“I thought it was over the board,” Joe Maddon said. “It was really pummeled. That got everybody stirring a little bit.”

Addison Russell with the walk-off winner. Pretty darn awesome.

“Addison coming up huge — he was due for a big day today,” Kris Bryant said. “That was awesome to see that out of him. He’s only 21 years old. The kid’s going to be special.”

Another thing that was impressive was the play of Kyle Hendricks. The Professor coming off of a complete game pitched another great game. I tell ya, I can’t say enough about the kid. He seems like he came out of that corn field in Idaho with Shoeless Joe.

If the season were to end today, the Cubs would be in position for a Wild Card spot. Do you guys get the feeling that there’s a rivalry brewing against the Nationals? Man, those two teams are playing each other well and tonight’s matchup is shaping to be a pretty intense game with Jon Lester and Max Scherzer on the mounds.

“He throws a baseball and it looks like a whiffle ball from the side,” Maddon said. “It just moves so much. At that time [with the Tampa Bay Rays], I was hoping he’d stay in the National League. Now I’m wishing he was back in the American League. He’s got that kind of a free, funky delivery. I think it’s really hard to pick the ball up on him.”

Speaking of Wiffle Balls, our son Darcy picked up his uniform yesterday for Tee Ball with the games beginning next week. His shirt is orange and when the coach asked him what number he wanted to wear, well, he said #10. Folks, he doesn’t know who Ron Santo is but it kind of sent chills down the back of my neck because it was a poignant reminder about how good the game of baseball is. Now, I never met Ron Santo and my only experience of him was the broadcast booth like most of you. However, I can almost guarantee that Ron will be cheering on every kid this summer as they take their first swing and that someday, that kid just might hit that Wrigley Field scoreboard.

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Cubs Playing With The Big Boys

Wrigley Field

The Cubs started a home stand against the Washington Nationals yesterday but fell 2-1. Kris Bryant recorded his sixth home run of the season and the similarities between the two teams are staggering. Both Bryce Harper and Bryant are old friends.

“When we were younger, we used to call him ‘Silk,’ ” Bryce Harper said about Bryant. “He was so smooth with everything he did. He played third. Played short. Played a little outfield when we were younger. Pitched of course. He always hit very well. He’s a great talent. I’m excited for him.”

Look at the Nationals now? That’s the position the Cubs would like to be in a few years. The Cubs are playing a better team and that’s a good thing. Cubs fans would love a championship on the North Side but that’ll come. What they would love now is to see brilliance of Bryant, the leadership of Anthony Rizzo, the burgeoning power of Jorge Soler and hopefully a maturing Starlin Castro. I’ll take that for now.

It was a close game and that’s where the Cubs need to be. They need to just not keep up with the better teams but play them like it were the playoffs. I still maintain that the Wild Card spot will not be unachievable. The one run games that the Cubs have played this season proves that.

“Both sides pitched really, really well today,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s what I’ve been talking about. … Both sides pitched really well. It was a great baseball game. Outstanding. Entertaining. We just have to figure out how to win those games. I will take our effort, take our performance, and also my takeaway is we’re as good as anybody we’ve played so far. I’m also enjoying that about it.”

The last few seasons have at times(all right, most times) been really bad baseball. This season hasn’t been the case. Just about every game, the Cubs have had the opportunity to be the better team and in a few games, been the better team. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a fan of, “Well, as long as they’re entertaining.” No, this isn’t Tee Ball. We expect the team to go out and win every single game. You don’t get fruit boxes after winning the World Series. I never see Anthony Rizzo sucking on a Freezie.

Nope, the Cubs should win the division this season.

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Cubs Get Bitten and Another Starts Tee-Ball

Chicago Cubs

This isn’t a rebuilding season for the Cubs. Not even close. It’s more of a relearning season and even when the team loses like they did yesterday to the Diamondbacks 4-3, the team still wins.

When guys like Paul Goldschmidt goes 5 for 10 and knocking out two home runs, the Cubs take away a .500 record from an always difficult western road trip.

“Go .500 on the road and take care of business at home, you’ll end up in a pretty good spot,” Jason Hammel said. “We keep playing these tight ballgames and sooner or later, they’ll go our way. We continue to battle. You really can’t shake your head. We played good baseball.”

They did play good baseball. Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan each hit home runs as if to prove that the Cubs are a much deeper team than those young guys that we keep talking about but it was the play of Goldschmidt that did in the Cubs.

“It’s always fun playing against the top players,” Rizzo said. “He’s all around, he steals bases, he plays good defense, he grinds every single at-bat out. He’s one of my favorite players to watch, for sure.”

Speaking of favourite players to watch, my son starts Tee-Ball tomorrow. Last week, he ran the bases at Wrigley Field. That picture says it all. If anyone ever disputes the impact of baseball, this is what happens when kids run the bases at Wrigley. He took off like a road runner, his four year old feet skimming the dirt while Respecting 90. Yup, Joe Maddon should have scouted him.

I hope that the Kid gets the number 99 (because 100 is too big for the shirt), he wants to hit more home runs than Anthony Rizzo and of course, he just wants to have fun. All last week, he told everyone that he ran around the bases and stomped on home plate after giving Clark the Hi-Five. He was pretty proud of himself. This picture was taken just as he came off the field and I asked him if he liked running the bases. He jumped up and down and reenacted the home plate stomp.

Oh, and Rizzo, that voice you heard last Sunday against the Pirates was, “Go Rizzo Go”

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Anthony Rizzo Shoulders The Cubs To Victory

Anthony Rizzo Chicago Cubs

It should have been called the Anthony Rizzo show as the Chicago Cubs downed the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-6. It started with a deep hit to the corner that everyone thought it ended up in the bullpen which concluded a three run double.

“He has high standards, really high standards for himself,” Joe Maddon said Saturday after Rizzo drove in six runs, including three on a game-winning home run in the ninth, to lift the Cubs to a 9-6 victory over the D-backs. “I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve not seen that kind of play for this long.”

This year has been especially great for Rizzo. Not only is he on top of his game hitting wise but he’s making great strides with his base running prowess.

During the offseason, Rizzo boldly predicted the Cubs would win the tough National League Central division. In many ways, he’s taken that prediction as his mantra to the season and hoisted the upstart Chicago Cubs up and brought them along for the ride.

“I try to come in every day and try to be the best version of myself I can be,” Anthony Rizzo said.

Modest as well. Check this out though, at 25, Rizzo has quietly become the right leader for this Cubs team. He’s confident and skilled, but he’s also one of them. Sure, you have guys like Miguel Montero and David Ross anchoring the backstop and sharing their insightful wisdom on these young bears, but it’s Anthony Rizzo who’s in charge. He’s been there through the lean years and he’s represented the Cubs in All Star Games when there shouldn’t have been any right for the Cubs to be playing in the annual event. So should that day ever come when the Cubs finally win it all, I hope that Anthony Rizzo is the first to congratulate and be congratulated on the victory.

“He’s in that really elite group of baseball players regarding how they work an at-bat,” Maddon said. “On top of that, he’s a very good defender. Now he’s turning into a really good baserunner. He’s really elevated his game on all levels.”

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Is Lester a Bust For Cubs?

Jon Lester Chicago Cubs

Are we putting too much pressure on Jon Lester? Last night, the Cubs fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4 in extra innings. I get that it’s a new team and I understand that the adjustments from American League to National League can take a while but seeing that it’s only two months into the season, is it too early to do something about it?

“I don’t know if pressing is the right word,” Lester said. “You come to a new team, new guys, new city, new everything and you want to get off on the right foot. Everybody knows with the contract stuff, I defintely don’t want to be one of those guys who at the end of it, you look at it as a bust.”

You can certainly see the reason folks might start calling him a bust. So, it raises another question and that is are these huge contracts putting too much pressure on the player and the fans judgements of that player? Now, I’m not questioning whether Lester is a good pitcher or not because he is. It’s the size of these contracts that could be putting the pressure on them. All right, Lester’s a pro and he should be able to settle in a groove soon. He’s a notoriously late starter but does that make it all right? What if they put him down in the rotation?

“The biggest thing we’re waiting on is the first hit,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That will truly get the monkey off his back.”

Another issue that’s plagued the Cubs recently which was of a main concern last season was Runners In Scoring Position. However, last night Junior Lake put an end to that which is another issue with such a young squad.

“It’s obviously a little bit frustrating but I believe part of it is the inexperience and youthfulness of a lot of our hitters,” Maddon said. “I know we’ll get better at it. If you believe in the law of averages and things starting to catch up, the game owes us a little bit. You’ve got to be encouraged that you can hold serve through this particular moment.”

Nobody said that 2015 Cubs edition was going to be easy.

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The Kyle Hendricks Experience Comes Through For Cubs

Kyle Hendricks Chicago Cubs

It’s starting to become a cliche but this western road trip that the Cubs are on is on its way to evolving into the most important road trip of the season. As the Chicago Cubs close in on the Cardinals with only 3 1/2 games behind, the most important statistic here is the fact that the Cubs are winning series. The obvious being that they’ll catch up to St. Louis in no time.

Last night, the Cubs defeated the San Diego Padres 3-0 but it was Kyle Hendricks who deserved the praise as he collected his first win of the season.

“When you pitch like that, you’ll win a lot of baseball games,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “He was in command of himself, in command of the game. It was really fun to watch.”

Yes, the Kyle Hendricks Experience pitched a complete game, his first in a young career. Being an advocate such as I am for pitchers who go deep into games, this only cements the idea that workhorse pitchers are a rarity.

“Not winning a game in a month and a half can drive a guy nuts,” said Hendricks. “I’m not going to say I needed [a win], but I needed it.”

Not to be outdone by Hendricks, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, delivered his fifth home run of the season and extending his hitting streak to 10 games in front of his Alma Mater.

“I finally got a hanging curve,” Bryant said. “I like to hit those. Those are usually easy to get in the air, and I saw that coming. I wanted to put it in the air.”

This is the team that fans have been waiting for. The dynamics with young pitching and hitting is the key to perhaps bringing a championship to the North Side. So far this season, the Cubs have kept the games close and battled back in the late innings but most importantly, the young players are developing patience at the plate and control on the mound.

“I definitely think we’re going in the right direction,” Bryant said of the young Cubs. “We had some good at-bats. I definitely think there are better days to come, and we’re all excited for that.”

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