Cubs Working on Their Field of Dreams With Help from Kevin Costner

John Lackey

 

Is it too early for John Lackey  to be considered for a Cy Young award? C’mon he’s a shoo in to win the coveted trophy. It’s one thing for the Chicago Cubs to beat rivals St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 in game one of their first series in 2016, but it’s another thing for Lackey, a former Cardinal, to get 11 strikeouts and be the only active player to have beaten every MLB team.

“It was a little weird at the beginning, warming up in the other bullpen, that sort of thing,” Lackey said. “I had a great time when I played here. No hard feelings on that situation. They went a different direction and I ended up in a great place.”

Keeping in mind that Lackey is  37 year old and he just collected 11 strikeouts. That’s a monumental achievement.

It was an important and emotional victory for the North Siders. Even though the Cardinals finished first last season, it was the Cubs that stole their thunder in the playoffs after defeating the Redbirds in four games.

This season, they poached two players in Lackey and Jason Heyward. It must have been a little awkward for both players staring across at the dugout.

“When I think about baseball, the way I learned playing it growing up is old-fashioned — you want to get dirty, play the game the right way, you want to do little things,” he said. “Big things are fun, home runs are fun, web gems are fun, but a team game is really emphasized in this division.”

Every time Heyward touched the ball or got near it, fans booed. Why not? it’s one of the most heated rivalries in sports.

But the night belonged to John Lackey. This is Field of Dreams stuff, Bull Durham and heck, even For Love of The Game.

Speaking about Kevin Costner, he wants to do one more baseball film. Guess who he wants to do the film about?

“I’ve got one more in me,” Costner told Larry King. “It has to do with the Cubs. I don’t know, I’ve gotta get it written.”

Yeah, I’ll be lining up to see that. The thought of Costner doing a film about our beloved Chicago Cubs sends chills down my spine.

The Chicago Cubs are currently the best in baseball, they have a 37 year old ace in their rotation and Kevin freakin’ Costner wants to do a movie about the Chicago Cubs. Could life not get any better?

“We’ve got a pretty good team here, and expectations are high, and we’re embracing those and we’re shooting high,” Lackey said. “It’s still early. Let’s play some baseball and see what happens.”

Believe it

 

Despite Loss to Rockies, Cubs Look Forward to Cardinals

Jon Lester

There are some games where no matter the things you do right, it seems like it’s just not enough to get the job done. Under normal circumstances, Jon Lester‘s 10 strikeout effort and recording a double after hitting a rocket of a ball, would have seemed enough to put the Colorado Rockies away but instead, Lester and the Cubs stumbled  in their 2-0 loss yesterday.

“We pitched extremely well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Except for one game, we’ve caught the ball extremely well. We’re working some good at-bats. Some guys have not hit their stride on the offensive side, but they will.”

The fact that Lester notched a double is an achievement. A pitcher not known for hitting or throwing to first base, had an all star calibre game.

It was the offence that couldn’t get things going. They’re going to have these games for sure. The other caveat to remember is these “softer” teams like the Rockies should be a practice instead of taking them lightly. On the other hand, when they run into a hot pitcher like Tyler Chatwood, it’s very difficult to get the job done.

“We’re capable of putting up multiple runs in the blink of an eye,” Jason Heyward said. “You just got to hang in there until the end of the game until the last out is made. We want to be in a spot to help the team to win, and we were right there in one.”

Tonight is the night though that Cubs fans have been waiting for.  It’s the first of the season in good ol’ fashioned rivalries between the Cubs and the Cardinals. John Lackey gets the ball against his old squad and Jason Heyward’s first meeting against the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s going to be an interesting matchup considering Hayward’s departure was met with a lot of scorn including the burning of his jersey?

“They paid for it, so they can do whatever they want with it,” Heyward joked.

Bad blood runs through this rivalry is an historic one and with two former Redbirds now with the Cubs it’s going to get a lot more challenging and interesting. For years, the Cubs were the underdogs but with the onset of tonight’s rivalry made anew, the tides have shifted and the Cubs now have the upper hand.

“Just another series,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. “That’s how we treat every series, playing a nameless, faceless opponent. That’s how we always try to approach things and not really worry about who we’re playing.”

Believe it.

 

 

 

Cubs Conquer Rockies

Jake Arrieta

Well Jake Arrieta is awesome. So far this season, Jake has picked up where he left off after his award winning 2015 breakout year. Yesterday, Arrieta pitched eight goose egged innings and extends his Wrigley Field dominance going back to last July.

I’m a big fan of complete games. The ability to go through nine innings of solid baseball is a true testament to the power and sometimes legendary status given to starting pitchers. Jake wanted to continue yesterday but I understand Maddon’s decision to yank him in the eighth.

“Of course he could have gone out there and possibly or probably thrown a shutout today,” Joe Maddon said. “But big picture, you as a manager have to look out for the team and him and his career and his family, too.”

The Cubs have to be very cautious this season on how they handle their pitching staff. If they want to make it through October, I’m predicting we’re not going to be seeing too many complete games in 2016.

“This game will humble you, and it can do it in a heartbeat,” Arrieta said. “I think remaining humble and working hard regardless of your success or failure is the way to approach it. … That’s why I try to work the way I do between starts, to prepare so when I take the mound, that’s the fun part.”

The Cubs defeated the Rockies 6-2 and really showed their dominance. We know that Anthony Rizzo can hit the bombers really well and yesterday was no exception. Rizzo launched his third home run of the early season, but it’s his leadership that catapults the rest of the team into action. Joining Rizzo in the home run category was Jorge Soler and Dexter Fowler.

Fowler launched a three run homer while Soler propelled a rocket of 442ft. There’s not too many times when a team will lose after they’ve hit three homers in a game. So far this season, the Cubs are second with 71 runs just behind the St Louis Cardinals who have 81.

Another guy who impressed me a lot yesterday was Javier Baez. It seemed like he was hungry enough to make the team. Although he won’t get much playing time behind Ben Zobrist, he made the most of it with a two hit game. part of me thinks that he’ll be gone during the offseason, but while he’s here, he’ll be contributing to the amazing depth of the Cubs.

“He’s got a high-maintenance swing and he’s young, so he needs to continue to get at-bats,” Maddon said. “That’s the difficult part about all of this … to nurture him along right now along with a team that has a chance to do something really special this year.”

By being a Chicago Cub, Javier Baez is all ready part of special things indeed.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Get Rocked On Jackie Robinson Day

Jackie Robinson

If this were the Chicago Cubs team of a few years ago, then nobody would have been surprised if the Cubs lost yesterday’s game against the Colorado Rockies 6-1. They would have said stuff like,”Hey, we’ll get them tomorrow.” or they’d be dissecting everything that went right in the loss, I know, because I was guilty of saying those same things. We were used to losing.

Not anymore.

It seems like five game winning streaks is the Cubs way when it comes to winning but yesterday’s loss was odd.

“We’ve got to come back tomorrow strong,” said Cubs shortstop Addison Russell. “If we bounce back tomorrow strong, I think we’ll be in a good position and have a lot more confidence.”

Huh? The Cubs aren’t lacking in confidence. A well oiled machine doesn’t lack confidence. Kyle Hendricks doesn’t outdo Zack Greinke only to lose to Chad Bettis.

No, the team got lazy. They took themselves for granted after their incredible start to the season and allowed the Colorado Rockies to get through them.

“It was a weird game all around,” Hendricks said. “The few errors, I even had a couple where it felt like my glove had a hole in it or something. Just a weird day.”

“Their pitcher was good, he did not permit us to really get into our game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Conversely, I thought we pitched really well today. … And I thought Kyle threw the ball extremely well today.

“Look at the score overall and you’d think some guys had bad days on the mound. We just had an unusual breakdown on defense.”

It was also Jackie Robinson Day A day to honour the player that broke barriers. Players wore #42 on their jerseys and some like Jason Heyward had it on their shoes.

“It’s awesome,” Heyward said. “Somebody made an impact on and off the field, and that goes a long way. … How do you handle failure? That’s a big part of our game. But how do you handle failure and hatred and all types of things? It’s just awesome, all the way around.”

The day is even more poignant when you take in accounts of recent events in the past couple of years, the day is not just about baseball. I wish I could go back in time and meet the man but I can’t.

We bought a book about Jackie Robinson called, “I am Jackie Robinson” by Brad Meltzer for our son. It’s a great book to teach kids about bullying.  He’s only five years old but he’s a big supporter of Anti- Bullying programs and Pink Shirt Days so we bought him this book. After reading the book to him, he asked the most simple question,”Why ?” I couldn’t answer that question but to him, bullying is wrong on all accounts.

Baseball is a game of inclusion and when everyone plays, it makes it that much better.

Believe it.

Cubs As Advertised

Kris Bryant

 

Last night, the Chicago Cubs posted a devastating victory over the Cincinnati Reds 8-1. just how devastating was it? It was so devastating that the Chicago Cubs are first over all in baseball.

Big deal, you might say. It’s only nine games into the season. It’s the Cubs, they might screw it up.

Well, hold on a second. Sure, things could fall apart. They could be peaking and it could be all downhill from here. but—

“I like the way we’re playing baseball. I think we’re ready to play baseball,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “The things you talk about in camp or in meetings, our guys are doing it. That’s as well as I can explain it. Following game plans, having great at-bats, playing catch on defense, being in the right spot — that’s why we’ve won so many games.”

The other reason is chemistry. These ballplayers genuinely like each other. We laughed when a mime walked onto the practice field. We sighed when Anthony Rizzo cuddled with cute little bears and we sang along with them at Karaoke (Ok, maybe you did).

Now we get it.

We know Kris Bryant is going to have a monster year and judging from last night’s solo shot in the second, Wrigley Field will be very kind to Bryant this season.

The Cubs are delivering the goods. They are better than we expected. Be warned though that they’ve only played the Diamondbacks, Reds and Angels but it’s that depth that the Cubs are getting from the pitchers as well as their big bats that are doing the damage. last night, Jason Hammel got an RBI to add to his six shutout innings.

“I’m staying aggressive and not beating myself up like I was,” he said. “As long as I can stay with the thought process that I have right now and continue to execute when I need to, then it’ll be good.”

It’ll definitely be good. Everyone believes that the front line of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey would be the guys to take the Cubs to the promised land but if the team can continue to get key production from Hammel and Kyle Hendricks then that’ll be the ringer for this ball club.

So far, the Cubs have outscored opponents 64-21 and have tied a franchise best opening through nine games.

“When you get some runs to work with, you’re allowed to make mistakes,” Hammel said. “It’s like a family. So many guys bring so much to the table. It makes it easy to go out and have some fun. We’re having fun while we do our job.”

Now that the Opening Day/Opening Week festivities are over with and my wife can have the television back (and me as well), I have a mission for you Cubs fans across the United States, Canada and the world; enjoy this season, have fun with it and when the team goes through slumps like I know they will, this is going to be a great year. Theo Epstein is delivering on all that is advertised.

Believe it

 

Cubs Walk All Over Reds

John Lackey

The first inning in last night’s Chicago Cubs/ Cincinnati Reds game could have been viewed in two different ways; if you’re a Reds fan it was excruciatingly long but if you cheered for the North Siders as many of you readers are known to do on occasion, well then, this was worth the wait.

The Cubs beat up on the Reds badly in a 9-2 victory which saw Reds’ pitcher Alfredo Simon hurl 49 pitches across the plate resulting in 11 batters taking walks at the sphere. It gave Cubs’ starter John Lackey plenty of time to chow down on peanuts and rest that old catapult for later.

“You look at him on the bench, and I gave him a knuckle thing before the game, and he was totally absorbed in the game before it ever began,” Joe Maddon said. “Then you’re the shortstop or second baseman walking by and see the starting pitcher looking like that, Let’s go. He’s got the edge — it’s very contagious. He demands a lot. It’s great for us and, of course, for him.”

Lackey pitched a pretty decent game which included a base hit.

“I made better pitches tonight, did a few things smarter, mixed some things up,” Lackey said. “With the lead, it helps. I was able to locate pretty good. Guys made it a lot easier on me, the last two starts. They’ve swung the bats well. It’s been fun to be the pitcher on this side.”

2015 Rookie of The Year, Kris Bryant delivered his first home run of the season. If folks talk about a sophomore slump, well it looks like Bryant picks up where he left off. He’ll be on pace for many more moon shots this season.

“It’s always good to get the first one out of the way,” Bryant said. “It’s one of those days when you don’t expect it, either. It’s a nice surprise. I think I had some good at-bats today and I’m seeing the ball really good. I’m pleased with my approach up there.”

The Cubs are now 7-1. The young players are learning the game. One thing is for sure, and that’s the patience at the plate is serving them well. Chicago leads the league in walks with 48. Last season, their Achille’s was strikeouts. The Cubs led the MLB with 1518 strikeouts. This year, the Cubs have 67. They’re in 15th place overall. That’s the key to the season is patience. Waiting for those right pitches to come.

“You won’t hear me complain about hanging around watching guys score runs, I promise you that,” Lackey said. “I’ll sit there and get a coffee and wait as long as they want to hit.”

Believe it.

Russell Rattles Reds in Cubs Home Opener

Addison Russell

Chalk another Opening Day into the history books. The Chicago Cubs came from behind to demolish the Cincinnati Reds with a score of 5-3 and Cubs fans across the States and Canada including Cubs fanatic Raymond Monckton from Toronto rejoiced in the team’s first Opening Day victory in five years.

The Cubs almost resembled the Mudville Nine if it weren’t for the with inning heroics of budding superstar Addison Russell  sent a torpedo  leather wrapped sphere into the crowd for a souvenir.  After the three run home run, the Cubs went up 5-3 and never looked back.

#NeverLookBack

Yeah, I kind of like that for this season.

“I was just smiling, and trying to soak it in as much as I could, and trying to round the bases slow,” Russell said. “My heart was beating a lot. Once I stepped on the plate, it was an awesome feeling to see Jorge Soler and Ben Zobrist there. It was a great game for all of us tonight.”

What was just as impressive as the game was the crowd. It was playoff atmosphere clinging to every play and every foul tip.

Deafening.

Rightfully so. The fans have waited a long time for the Cubs to be this dominant. They know the players and wouldn’t settle for any mediocrity. No way. It is arguable that this is the most anticipated Cubs season in history.

The festivities were poignant after tributes to departed teammate Starlin Castro who was traded to the New York Yankees such as Anthony Rizzo deciding to use his walk up music “Ando en la Versace” by Omega much to the delight of the 40 000 fans.

“He’s been part of this organization for a long time,” Rizzo said. “He taught me a lot, how to be a big leaguer. Trading him was tough for a lot of us. To get the crowd excited like that was pretty cool.”

There was also standing ovation for Kyle Schwarber as he was introduced. He had a season ending injury so it was fitting that the team place his home run ball from last year’s NLDS  back on top of the Bud Board.

But the night was Russell’s. For this 22 year old to hit an Opening Night home run and undeniably christen the 2016 Major League Baseball season at Wrigley Field was nothing short of spectacular.

“To be able to take a walk, power a ball into the left-field stands, his whole game is going to keep improving because he’s strong and he cares and he works pretty hard,” Joe Maddon said. “Just appreciate that he’s only 22 and what he’s doing now.”

Then it’s only fitting that this 22 year old shine so bright in the hyped season of the Chicago Cubs.

Believe it.

 

Arrieta Could Win Batting Title

Jake Arrieta

I think Jake Arrieta should run for President of The United States. He’d give all those presidential hopefuls a run for their money.

The Stare!

Yesterday, not only did the Cubs beat the Diamondbacks 7-3 and Arrieta picking up the win, but he absolutely crushed a 440 ft home run that they might have to enshrine in those nifty collector’s boxes you find at Cooperstown.

“I hit it good,” Arrieta said. “That one felt pretty nice. It felt like hitting it off the sweet spot on a seven iron.”

So the Cubs finished their west coast road trip 5-1 margin and are ready to kick off life back home in Chicago. Yeah, that frigid place where balaclavas in April are the norm. Tonight’s temperature is expected in the 30’s or for you fellow Canadians, between 0-5 Celsius.

Yikes!

This will mark the 101st home opener at Wrigley Field and the fans are just going to go nuts.

“It’s a special time in Chicago, obviously for Cubs fans but also for us,” Arrieta said. “It’s what you live for, starting a season off like we have and going home to play in front of your home crowd is a special feeling.”

So far the Cubs have been living up to all expectations in the early goings and if Mr. Arrieta continues the way he’s been doing, he could possibly not the batting title as well.

“We’ve been playing a complete game. Batting order up and down is working good at-bats, defense has been pretty tight. We’ve been catching the ball pretty well. Baserunning, which nobody talks about, has been extraordinary. The pitching has been really, really good, starters and relievers. You play a complete game like we’ve played over the first six games, you should win several games. We’re just playing good baseball.” Manager Joe Maddon said.

It’s going to be an evening game against the Cincinnati Reds with Jon Lester getting the call.

If you’re heading down to Wrigley to catch all the action(regrettably, I’ll be huddled in a blanket watching from my sofa) here’s some suggestions you might want to consider.

For those of you watching from the cheap seats at home like me, what are your Opening Day traditions? We’ll be having Chicago Style Sausages with Cubs paraphernalia brought up from the Man Cave as that once a year thing before heading back down to the cave.

It’s an exciting day not just for baseball or Chicago, but the home opener signifies get togethers, hope and traditions. It’s the unofficial kick off to spring and rejoicing in all that is good.

“It’s the history,” said David Ross, the gray-bearded catcher who won a ring with the Red Sox at Fenway Park. “I love going in there and feeling the energy. Old ballparks, the fans are right on top of you, and the green. … For me, all the old, faded green, I love it.

“I love the tight quarters. It just feels like baseball. You’re crammed into this little bitty dugout at Wrigley. Some people complain. I love it. You get to know your teammates, and everybody’s cheering, and nobody lets anybody slide.

“Big dugouts seem empty sometimes.”

Believe it.

 

Cubs’ Hendricks Gives Homework To Diamondbacks

Kyle Hendricks

You can disagree with me if you want, but last night’s 4-2 Chicago Cubs victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks was all about precision pitching in the form of Kyle “The Professor” Hendricks. He’s not the most flamboyant, yeah, that’s the word I’ve been looking for, but he gets the job done by dismantling the strike zone and unassumingly lobbing the ball over the plate. Last night, he pitched 6 2/3 innings and quietly stole the thunder from Zack Greinke in front of the home crowd in the desert. Hell, Hendricks even got a hit!

“I heard a lot of comments on the bench that a lot of guys were really having a hard time picking his ball up, whether it was a breaking ball or the sinker,” Arizona manager Chip Hale said. “[There was] just a funny spin to it. Sometimes it happens. You just run into a pitcher that doesn’t look that overwhelming when you look on video, doesn’t look that overwhelming from the stands, but he’s hiding the ball and just spotted it. In, out, down. He did a great job. You’ve got to give him credit.”

But it just wasn’t Hendricks getting it done, Ben Zobrist got three hits for the Cubs and Sophomore Kris Bryant garnered two doubles.

It all goes back to the pitching. When the pitcher’s on his game, so is the rest of the team. If Hendricks can fill the back end of the rotation and keep executing his pitches the way he’s done in spring and yesterday’s game, then the Cubs are in great shape for the year.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can’t do, honestly,” Hendricks said. “We’ve got all the pieces here — we lost Kyle Schwarber, which is big for us, but at the same time we have plenty of other guys who can step in and fill in. Our staff did a good job first time through and now it’s just keep going from here.”

Not to say that he won’t have any bumps in the road but after his matchup against Greinke, the cream of the crop in the National League, Hendricks’s confidence will build just in time for the post season.

Today, Jake Arrieta takes to the mound  before tomorrow’s home opener against the Cincinnati Reds when Jon Lester plans to wow the Wrigley Field faithful.

It’ll be great to see the brown twigs on the wall in the outfield, get the BBQ fired up and truly christen the start of the 2016 Chicago Cubs season.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Lose First One of Season

Jason Hammel

Kyle Schwarber’s season is done after tearing his ACL and LCL. The unfortunate incident occurred during Thursday night’s 14-6 victory over the Diamondbacks while Schwarber and Dexter Fowler were competing for a ball. Schwarber took the brunt of the hit and wasn’t able to walk off the field under his own terms.

I thought we were really well-positioned to win in large part because of Kyle’s presence on the team,” Epstein said, “and now we’re really well-positioned to win for Kyle. I think that’s how his teammates are responding and will respond going forward.”

We all know there’s a lot of depth on the Cubs team and Menenori Kawasaki  is expected to fill those rather large shoes.

“It’s tough,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of losing Schwarber. “You see Kyle work so hard this spring and come into camp in shape and prepared to catch and play the outfield and do anything, anything he was asked to do. He did it all and he was ready to break out and be a bigger star in the game.”

Although the Cubs lost to the Diamondbacks 3-2, it was a good loss and shows that after starting the first three games of the season with a combined score of 29 runs, the team truly is living up to the powerhouse they’re predicted to become.

If there were any doubts I had about Jason Hammel, they were quickly squashed in his 2016 debut allowing one run over six innings of work. He’s another guy who is going to miss Schwarber.

“We worked together all spring and it was great,” Hammel said. “I feel terrible for him. It’s such a tough break. I was feeling pretty lucky last night when they said sprained ankle. When you go back and look at the replays, his knee was in a pretty bad place. Hopefully he’ll have a quick recovery and we’ll welcome him back. Hopefully he’ll be sticking around and hanging around with us as he goes through the long process of rehab. It’s a tough loss.”

Tonight, Kyle Hendricks will make his season debut. The often overlooked player had a terrific spring allowing him to make the rotation. I’m expecting “The Professor” to have a rebound year. He’s going up against Zack Greinke and although it’s not going to be the easiest of starts, I have faith in him.

“There’s a lot of headlines on our team. I’m pretty far down there,” Hendricks said. “That’s fine with me. I like it that way. I like focusing on myself, and if there’s not much going on, not much hype, that’s fine. I’m just going out there trying to do my thing and win some ballgames.”

All right, here’s my prediction with Kyle. He’s going to win 12 this year and his ERA will be trimmed to the low three’s. I have him in my fantasy pool and picked him last year. You’re going to see him come out of the shadows. Expect big things this season.

Believe it