A Long Warm Winter For Chicago Cubs

Starlin Castro

I have to admit, it’s going to be an awfully long winter. Sure, El Nino predicts it’s going to be an unusually warm off season and that will help with the baseball starved fans around North America but for Chicago Cubs fans it’s going to be long. The World Series has barely thrown out the first pitch and suddenly there’s rumblings of David Price heading to the North Side. Whether or not that happens, the bottom line is the Cubs need one more pitcher for 2016. In a three game series during the year, every team needs three “Lights Out” starters in their rotation. The Cubs have two.

“I would love to have our entire position group back,” Theo Epstein said the day after the season ended. “I think the competition is good, the depth is great, the redundancy is important, and it’s a significant competitive advantage to have a solution at the ready if something goes wrong. It’s a competitive advantage to make out a lineup tailored for that night’s opposing pitcher. It’s a huge advantage.”

In today’s baseball, that rarely happens. Suddenly, Kyle Schwarber’s name has been tossed around as potential trade bait in order to land that big pitching acquisition. What? Trade the guy who brought you to the post season? He practically carried the team on his back until the New York Mets showed up.

No, the one player that should and will likely be missing in 2016 is Starlin Castro. Sure, he put on the afterburners in the final months but the Cubs have Javier Baez and Addison Russell in the mix. For every good month Starlin has, there’s four months of futility for the veteran shortstop.

The Cubs need that third pitcher to bolster the rotation. Whether that’s David Price, Jordan Zimmermann or James Shields, it’s that one last piece to the championship.

“The lesson to be learned here now is that they’ve learned how to win this season,” Joe Maddon said. “They’ve learned how to win at the Major League level. They were participating in the playoffs, with only four teams left, which is pretty impressive at their point of development. For me, at this point, it’s been one big positive.”

We couldn’t wait for the 2015 season to get here, well now that we know what these Chicago Cubs can do, maybe El Nino should be their third pitcher.

Believe it.

Cubs Will have A Busy Off Season

Thank you

It’s hard to tell whether this will be a celebration or a mourning period for our North Side heroes. There’s a lot of positives to take away from this season but let’s face it, there will be some holes to plug in the off season. There’s pitching.

“Once you reach a point where you have a pretty good team, you approach the offseason in two ways,” Theo Epstein said. “One is looking for ways to get better. And the second is trying to anticipate everything that could go wrong that will get in the way of you being really good again the next year or even better the next year.”

In a five man rotation, the Cubs have two solid starters in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. This we know and they’re not going anywhere. However, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and Dan Haren weren’t exactly “Lights out” material.

“Some good things are happening with the pitching,” Epstein said of the organization, “but we have to continue to be aggressive and add as we did last winter.”

Dan Haren will more than likely be moving on, but what to do with Hammel and Hendricks? The way I look at and it’s based on logic and logic alone is the Cubs had two pitchers who can do lights out magic on any given day. In order to sweep a season series, a team needs at least three victories so a team needs three aces on the roster. The Cubs lacked that in 2015. Hammer and Hendricks weren’t terrible but they struggled. I hear Zack Greinke will be available but at what cost?

Aside from pitching, there’s a lot of players that will either get a raise or be shuffled along like Dexter Fowler. The Cubs will decide his fate. Of course I’d like to see him stay with the team but if the Cubs are going to land a high priced ace, they’ll have to part ways with Fowler.

The Starlin Castro saga will continue. Javier Baez could fill that role and Addison Russell will be back. Starlin redeemed himself in September but still, the Cubs’ depth in the infield is staggering and I think won’t be back.

Whatever the Cubs choose, we know that 2016 is going to get even better.

How would you improve the team?

Believe it.

Cubs Gave Us a Season To Remember and a Future To Believe

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

but there is no joy in Chicago — the mighty Cubbies have struck out.

Except this morning there is joy in Chicago. There is solace that next year will be Next Year. Perhaps the 2015 Post Season was just a warm up for greater and better things. This year, the Chicago Cubs accomplished many things that they’ve tried to do before. Promises were made and delivered.  Joe Maddon promised a Post Season. Anthony Rizzo guaranteed a National League Central Division title.

The promise was kept.

The Chicago Cubs didn’t play poorly against the New York Mets, they were beaten by a better team. Daniel Murphy set a MLB record for consecutive post season home runs with six. Well folks, when an MLB record is broken, chances are it’s going to be difficult to beat the man and the team that set it.

“They did not let us up for air at any point,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Their domination of the early part of the game and their pitching was impressive. They played well. They didn’t make mistakes. So it’s not so much to be disappointed in our performance. They were just that good for four days, man. I’ve got to give them credit.”

We do give the New York Mets credit. They were tough.

But this is a Chicago Cubs team that will be back next year. Stronger, focused and best of all, experienced. They had a whiff of the post season. They now know the feeling of beating the St. Louis Cardinals and as they collect possibly some hardware after the season is over, yes Joe Maddon is likely to be named Manager of The Year, Jake Arrieta will win the Cy Young and Kris Bryant will collect Rookie of The Year honours, these Cubs for once in a long time live up to their namesake. They are young, hungry and ready for next spring.

“You can’t be too upset about the situation because of where we came as a team,” Jake Arrieta said. “I’m not big on outside expectations, but we accomplished a lot as a team. Ninety-seven games in a really competitive division with experienced teams — we played well from start to finish and got better as our young players got acclimated to this level and consistently had success. It stings right now to get swept, but to be one of four standing at the end of the year and still playing meaningful games in the middle of October is pretty special. We have to be happy with that and use it as motivation moving forward and understand the things we did well and try to get better at that and come back stronger for next year.”

I had fun as well, this was the best year for The Canuck Cubbie. I had the privilege of sharing the enthusiasm for Cubs baseball with new followers while chatting it up with the veterans. The blog will continue through the off season with great Chicago Cubs news and excitement for next year.

“The fans, going out there and tipping our caps to them at the end, they were behind us from day one. In my four years here, them being behind us, seeing it all come together this year had been unbelievable.” Anthony Rizzo said.

Thank you Chicago Cubs, see you next year!

Believe it.

Cubs Need That Come From Behind Magic

Chicago Cubs

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day;

the score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.”

The best and the worst part of the Post Season was out in full force yesterday as the Chicago Cubs fell to the New York Mets 5-2 and are down three games in their best of seven series.

“Win on Wednesday,”Joe Maddon said. “It’s just about tomorrow. … Of course, we have to win four in a row, absolutely, but I want us just to concentrate on tomorrow’s game, that’s it.”

I don’t believe the Cubs are out yet. It’s been done before where a team has bounced back from a 3-0 hole in the post season. You might remember a certain Boston Red Sox team in 2004 that were down in the hole. You also might remember that President of baseball operations Theo Epstein was at the control centre during their historic run.

“Show up and win a ballgame tomorrow,” Theo Epstein said. “If we show up and win tomorrow, we’re dangerous. Trust me. It’s been done before, rumor has it. We can do it. We’ve had nine winning streaks of four or more games this year, so we get hot, we get really hot, we can do it. We just have to show up and win tomorrow.”

It’s certainly possible for the Cubs to come back from the deficit. They’ve done it before this season. They’ve won four in a row, did it a bunch of times. They’ll just have to reach down in their little bag of tricks and find that magic.

“Things bounce your way when you play good, and we’ve definitely gotten outplayed these first three games,” Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t outplay them the next four.”

That’s all it takes. So, it’s easy to say that the Cubs winning 97 games in the regular season was a huge accomplishment for a team not expected to go far this season but just be a little better and next year will be the big year. Yeah, it’s easy to say that but for me, there’s still four more games to win.

Believe it.

The Cubs Have A Tale Of Two Kyles.

Chicago Cubs

This is what most kids dream about at night. An opportunity to lead a team onto the field for a dramatic turnaround in a major series. It might not be baseball but in this case, tonight, Kyle Hendricks will take the Chicago Cubs out onto the sacred grounds of Wrigley Field with forty thousand plus excited fans, trying to get back into the NLCS.

“These are the starts you want,” Kyle Hendricks said. “It’s a big opportunity for me, but I’ve got to remain calm — keep the ball down and make good pitches. It’s the same game.”

Well, I hate to burst your bubble Kyle, but isn’t the same game. This is game three of the NLCS. This is on your turf and the Chicago Cubs are down in the series 2-0. Then again, maybe it is the same game.

“Yeah, there’s pressure,” Hendricks said. “It’s the playoffs. There’s always going to be some pressure, but you’ve got to let the pleasure exceed that. We’ve heard Joe say it a lot.”

I like Kyle Hendricks. He’s a thinking pitcher, but tonight he’s got to turn his brain off and let the ball do its thing.

Hold Ball.

Throw Ball.

Wait For Strike.

Should the Cubs lose tonight, and heaven forbid that from happening, Hendricks will be a better pitcher after tonight. He will learn control and he’ll learn that there’s no time to think about the pitch in October.

Another Kyle that needs to have a big game is Kyle Schwarber. His bat has fallen silent this series, but that’s due to pretty darn amazing pitching.

“The way he’s swinging the bat in the big moments, doesn’t expand outside of the strike zone, stays within himself, great approach, great person, great teammate — I could go on and on about this kid about what kind of person he is as well as what kind of a talented baseball player he is,” Catcher David Ross said. “He’s a pretty good catcher, too, that nobody’s getting to see, in my opinion.”

So tonight, get ready because the balls will be flying over that scoreboard and the New York Mets will be given a not so warm welcome to Chicago.

Hey Chicago, what d’ya say?

Believe it.

The Rocky Road Back To Chicago

NLCS

This was not how it was supposed to happen. In a fairy tale way, the Chicago Cubs were supposed to sweep the New York Mets and power their way to the World Series. Instead, the mighty North Siders are down 2-0 going back to Chicago.

The Cubs had Bill Murray in their corner, but couldn’t thwart the mighty hammer of Thor,  Noah Syndergaard. Our great hero, Jake Arrieta was powerless to stop the barrage of bats that swung his way. Yet, it wasn’t exactly the way the Cubs played(yes, there were a few miscues, Javier Baez) but these New York Mets aren’t the New York Mets of earlier this year. No, they’re something much different.

“They got us here,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “A five-game series is a little bit more daunting, but for right now, it’s seven. It’s been done before, we can do it ourselves. And from our players’ perspective, I want us to focus on the next game, not the fact that you’re down two or try to win all three at home. Just try to win the next game.” As the theme from Rocky blasted through his office.

The team were stymied by Curtis Grandson who has had a resurgence in New York. That hit by Chris Coghlan should have cleared the wall but as October’s go, it was caught. Coghlan raised his hands to his head and the look on his face said it all. The officiating was wobbly as well but tomorrow is a new day.

They have a day off today as they travel to Chicago where long waiting fans are salivating like, well, hungry Cubs to take a piece of the Mets.

“We’ve got work to do,” Jake Arrieta said. “The good thing is we get to go home and play three games at Wrigley Field and come out ready to go. Two tough games here, but the series is not over. We feel good about where we’re at.”

It was an ocean of orange and blue in New York, but tomorrow it’ll be different. The New York Mets will face not only the young Chicago Cubs, but they will face Ernie Banks,  Harry Caray, Ron Santo and all the rest of the North Side Legends. There’ll be Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance Yes New York be ready, tomorrow you’ll be facing ghosts. Tomorrow, you’ll be at Wrigley Field, baseball’s hallowed ground.

It’s a whole new ballgame.

“We’re going to stick with our game plan. We’re confident in ourselves. We’re not going to lose confidence in ourselves, and we’re not going to panic. We haven’t given up these last two nights. It’s been a grind down to the last inning, to the last out. It’s playoff baseball. This is what you’re in for, and we’re still going to be confident in ourselves.” Kyle Schwarber said.

Believe it.

Cubs Regroup For Game Two Of NLCS After Tough Loss To Mets

NLCS

It’s quite exciting to see Chicago Cubs players wearing balaclavas at this time of the season. At least, it took me a couple of innings to get used to the idea that they were playing in the middle of October. Usually we see them wearing those things and we get excited because baseball is back and it’s April ball in Chicago.

Last night was game 1 of the NLCS. The New York Mets defeated the Cubs 4-2 in front of a chilly crowd at Citi Field. It’s not that the Cubs didn’t play well, but Mets pitcher Matt Harvey just was brilliant.

“It’s just one game,” Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber said. “We’ve got possibly six more games to play. We’ve got to move past it. We’re not hanging our heads. We lost. We know we lost. Time to move forward tomorrow and play our ballgame.”

He’s right. This isn’t a one game loser go home Wild Card nor is it a five game series. This is the big time seven games.

Jon Lester had a good night as well and he might get another crack at the Metropolitans on Thursday.

“Go back to work tomorrow,” Lester said. “That’s all that I can do. Obviously it [stinks] and I hate to lose, but you can’t sit here and dwell on it and beat yourself up about it. We have plenty of other chances to come back. This is just one game. We just have to come back and fight. Hopefully we can leave New York with the series tied, 1-1.”

There was a scary moment in the game when Cubs’ 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo was dinged on the hand while reclaiming first base. The Chicago Cubs’ big 1st baseman shook it off and continued.

I have one criticism of the Cubs last night. Sending Starlin Castro home. He was thrown out at the plate by Yoenis Cespedes, who quite possibly has the strongest arm in the majors from left field. He threw a rocket to put Castro out at home. If I were the Cubs, I’d be a little careful tonight.

“You could say possibly not send the runner,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “but we did, and it was just a good baseball play on their part. There’s different things you could possibly do, but Jonesy (Cub’s third base coach) has been aggressive all year.  He’s been a great third-base coach all year and I never second-guess him.”

Tonight, Jake Arrieta gets the ball and fans will all tune in to see what kind of magic he can pull out of his stoic frame. It’s only game two but sealing a victory in New York with the Cubs’ potential Cy Young candidate will only give the team the confidence they need to move forward in the NLCS.

Believe it