Cubs Get Rained On and October is Around The Corner

Kawasaki

PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 29: Munenori Kawasaki #66 of the Chicago Cubs on deck in the second inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

For the first time since 1993, the Chicago Cubs finished in a 1-1 tie against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It won’t be made up due to the amount of time left in the season.

So, I want to talk about the other night a bit. We know Jake Arrieta was a little bit upset not knowing there’d be a catching change. There were arguments that it felt like a spring training game but you know, I disagree. The Cubs have the best record in baseball with 101 wins. Everything’s guaranteed except the wins in the playoffs. Home field advantage through the NLCS? Check. So putting in non starters and experimenting a bit should be all good, right?

“Going into the game, I was really unaware we were going to go with a catching change,” Arrieta said.

Well Jake, you probably weren’t listening at the meeting or Maddon’s message did’t get through the beard. Arrieta’s Cy Young season was last year, not this season. Sure, he’s still having a great season–By mere mortal standards–but this is Jake “Freakin” Arrieta and we kind of expected him to continue with the run he had in 2015. The game on Wednesday was a terrible game for Jake. He didn’t have his stuff and was rocked in the first inning.

Big deal.

Every pitcher throws a bad game now and then. Get over it and move on. In fact, I think it’s smart that they put Willson Contreras in to play because next week he’s a going to get his first taste of post season action and he’d better be ready to play, there’s no do overs in October.

“They all knew what was going to happen before that game,” Maddon said Thursday afternoon. “There were no surprises. And there’s been no surprises.”

Ok, so to weigh in on the Epstein extension, he’s got his work cut out for him. This year is probably going to be the peak year in his tenure. The next five years are going to prove difficult.

How does he negotiate contracts for players like Kyle Hendricks and Javier Baez? They’re going to want their cut and market value. There’s no denying that this season has been a special one for the North Siders but nothing’s going to last forever regardless if a guy like Theo Epstein is at the helm of one of baseball’s most iconic franchises. It would be nice if Hendricks turns in a Greg Maddux style career with the Cubs. It would be fitting if Anthony Rizzo becomes the face of a team just like Derek Jeter playing with the New York Yankees and I would love to see Kris Bryant‘s number waving out to the Lakes years from now when I’m old and grey, a stiff breeze rocking my joints when my son takes me out to Wrigley in an April home opener and as they call out the player introductions, my son yells in my ear, “Dad! Dad!” as I fumble with my hearing aids and cursing “Today’s” players. There’ll never be another guy like Bryant, you remember his MVP 2016 season?

The best part about baseball is the worst part. It brings us back to our childhood. A moment where time is limitless until years from now when we see our memories in marble halls and think the glory days were just last year. Children live for today. No tomorrow. Enjoy it, Chicago Cubs. 2016 is your childhood.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs Extend Epstein’s Contract

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

Sep 28, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (49) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What’s not to love about the Chicago Cubs right now? Their President Theo Epstein has just signed a 5 year contract extension, they have their most wins with 101 since 1910 and they finished first in all of baseball. Even the staunchest St. Louis Cardinals fan will be turning their heads and saying,”You know, the birds might not make October, but damn those Cubs are good!” All right, I might have went too far on that one.

Last night, the Cubs fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 and I think what set the tone was a little squabble between Jake Arrieta and the umpire, Chris Guccione. There were a few questionable phrases that went along with those questionable calls that might have rattled the beard of Arrieta.

“He got a little upset in the first inning, and I don’t know if that took him away from throwing a good game,” Miguel Montero said. “I really thought he had good stuff going on. I don’t know what happened. Did it feel like Spring Training? I do believe that, and that’s not a good feeling for a pitcher or a player, knowing you’re going to play four innings, five innings.”

Perhaps Joe Maddon was giving all of his players a rest last night but yeah, it felt like a different ballgame, not the usual fire that the Cubs bring to the park. The fire was burning for Arrieta after the game. He was mad and I could tell just by the way he stared down Guccione after the altercation in the first inning.

“I don’t think you know how hard this game is unless you play it,” Arrieta said. “I feel I can have another season like that. People have done it before. Why can’t I do it? I can do it again. So, yeah, I appreciate it. But at the same time, that’s what you strive for. That’s why you work hard. You go out and you try to perform that way.”

There was some good stuff that came out of the loss. Anthony Rizzo knocked his 32nd home run into the stands and there was an odd switch of positions between Rizzo and Ben Zobrist but last night felt odd for this normally dominant Chicago Cubs team.

I like the stability that the organization is bringing to the Cubs. Signing Theo Epstein to an extension sends a clear message that they want this roller coaster ride to continue. The Cubs have become the class of the major leagues and to think that before Epstein was there, baseball was still reticent to look at stats and numbers when drafting and signing players. Embrace the change, that’s what Epstein brings to the table.

“This has been a wonderful environment in which to work, in which to build, in which to make great new friends and stand shoulder to shoulder with some amazing people from the top to the bottom of the organization, as we try to accomplish something that has a lot of meaning to all of us in the organization. I’m thrilled with the decision, I’m thrilled with how things have gone.” Epstein said.

Believe it.

 

2016 Chicago Cubs, Best Cubs Team Ever?

Kris Bryant

Sep 26, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) celebrate his two run home run with left fielder Chris Coghlan (R) against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to argue right now that the Chicago Cubs 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates means something. Sure, there are naysayers who think that a team in the Cubs position would have nothing else to play for and the Pittsburgh Pirates should just look towards next year for rebuilding. This series means something.  The Cubs need to keep focused and the machine well oiled because October isn’t going to be any kind of cakewalk.

John Lackey got the start on the mound last night. He pitched five pretty decent innings and when it comes to the post season, he’s going to be key. Lackey is the pitcher I’m worried about if only because he’s the older guy and he’s stubborn. He might want to stay in a little past his due date should a game go south, but on the other hand, when he’s on his game, there’s few that can match him.

“He’s thrown a lot of innings. He’s pitched extremely well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I think he’s been really good.”

Last night was a case of two teams going in different directions. When players like Chris Coghlan hit a three run triple, it’s going to be that kind of depth that will propel the Chicago Cubs through the post season.

Another thing that’s going to be the difference in the post season is Kris Bryant. He’s the guy that can be shuffled through the lineup and play 3rd base or the outfield, or just about anywhere Maddon’s going to put him. This has been one of the many strengths and keys to the Cubs’ success this season. The thing is that Bryant has been pretty good at every spot he’s put in.

“Versatility is great, but if you’re not doing a good job at the position, it doesn’t really matter,” Bryant said. “I just try to be that unselfish player who is willing to move around and do whatever I can to help.”

If the Cubs are going to be successful in the post season (which is 108 years in the making) then Bryant’s play has to shine. He’s been their best player all year and although Maddon is famously saying that when “Fowler goes, we go” in reference to leading off, I’m going to make the case that when Bryant is on his game, the Cubs are unbeatable.

“I’m looking forward to the four days off [before the playoffs begin],” Bryant said. “That will be great — just kind of decompress before the craziness starts and the most fun time of the year. Enjoy those days and get ready to go.”

Yeah, when I think about this season, I think about the bond that this team has. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have been the leaders and the pitching staff has been the best in baseball, it’s been a good year and it’s only going to get better.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Ahead By A Century

Javier Baez

“First thing we’d climb a tree
And maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently
And listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday
Cast in a golden light
No dress rehearsal,
This is our life”

Ahead By A Century- Tragically Hip

There are two ways to look at the Chicago Cubs 12-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates last night. One being that the Cubs are so dominant and this is hopefully a sign of things to come in the post season, or the Pirates are so bad that this game was merely just a tune up for the post season. Either way, the Cubs showed the sparse crowd at the awesome PNC Park just how good they are.

The Cubs collected their 100th win as well. To reach the century mark for the first time since 1935 is an omen. It was a year that they made the World Series and hopefully if all superstitions are kept in check could mean a great sign for the October ahead.

Javier Baez hit a grand slam and drove in six runs to showcase why he’s exactly what the Cubs need and Kyle Hendricks pitched six scoreless innings in the rout.

“It’s not too often you get this much talent in one room on one team,” said Kris Bryant, who celebrated the 100th win by driving in his 100th and 101st RBIs on a two-run homer. “We need to realize what we have here and be grateful for it. I couldn’t have pictured a better first two years in the big leagues.”

If there were any doubters of the greatness of Hendricks, they’re quickly rewriting their ballots on the Cy Young voting card. He only struck out five last night but he made batters hit into grounders with ease and that’s all any manager can ask from a pitcher.

That and what’s the mascot’s name at Dartmouth.

“He says, ‘So, if I was to go to the bookstore at Dartmouth, what would I see as the nickname of the school?'” Hendricks said. “I said, ‘Big Green,’ and he walked away.”

We all know that history isn’t exactly on the Cubs side. A 100 win season doesn’t exactly carry over to a sure World Series thing but one thing is for sure, the Cubs have won 100 games before. Those years were 1906, 1907, 1909 and 1910. Kris Bryant has more home runs then those teams did in each of their seasons.

Huh?

“The guys wanted that 100th win. I kind of like that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “A 100 is very significant for us. I’ve been on teams that have lost 100 games, so it’s kind of nice to be on the other end of the stick. It means we’ve been pretty consistent all year.”

So as the Cubs are checking off their milestone bucket list, I can guarantee that there’s only one more thing for them to check off and if that doesn’t happen this season, it wouldn’t exactly be a failure but disappointment would be the right word. No manager, GM or team president signs players thinking that this is it. What I’m looking for in the Cubs at the end of October is that 7th game, bases loaded, two out and David Ross at the plate kind of season. You can write the ending.

Believe it.

 

Cubs David Ross Homers in Wrigley Field Curtain Call

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ David Ross (3) waves to the crowd after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

As the baseball world mourns the loss of Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez who died tragically yesterday morning, the Chicago Cubs paid tribute to the fallen pitcher with a jersey hanging in the dugout with his name and number. Baseball players build a tight community and come through tragedy as well as triumph together. Cubs fans showed that to veteran David Ross last night in the Cubs 99th victory of the season, 3-1 over the Cardinals and David Ross’s last night playing at Wrigley Field; he hit a home run.

“I was overcome with emotion,” Ross said. “I’m so appreciative to the fans in Chicago for the way they treated me and the way they embraced me and treated me and this team and the way they give me so much credit that I don’t deserve.”

In the seventh inning, Joe Maddon came to the mound and Ross was livid. He thought he was going take Jon Lester out of a game where he was pitching extremely well but Maddon had other plans. The team celebrated Ross’s career. It was a classy move by a classy manager and a classy ball club.

“Honestly, I’m like, ‘Why is he taking Jon out?'” Ross said. “[Maddon] says, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I’m taking you out of the game.’ And then I pulled my mask down because everyone started telling me they loved me, and the emotions started, so I’m trying to get myself together before I walked off the field and then the fans started cheering again.”

It’s not only the on field success of the Chicago Cubs that can be attributed to their amazing season but it’s their friendship on and off the field like their respect for David Ross, a back up catcher playing in the final home game of the regular season and in him hitting a home run and receiving a curtain call, that’s what it’s all about.

“It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn’t it?” Maddon said. “I mean it had to have happened tonight.”

But every celebration should end and the Cubs are back to work tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Kyle Hendricks will try to secure the Cubs 100th win of the season and just like last night where it was fitting that Ross homered at Wrigley Field, it would be fitting that the next generation of pitchers seal the deal tonight. The pitcher with the lowest ERA in baseball leading his team to a possible 100th victory, well Hollywood couldn’t tell a story like that. Unless Hendricks was wearing a cape. If there was a sequel to this film, it would happen at the end of October but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Believe it

 

Cubs Get Attacked By Cardinals 10-4

Jason Hammel

The one thing that is certain about the Chicago Cubs 10-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals is that Jason Hammel has solidified the Cubs #5 spot in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta , Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Not that it was any surprise, but his game has been out of whack lately.

“Honestly, I’d love to be a part of it, as the rest of the guys on the team would love to,” Hammel said of the postseason. “I know there’s only a certain amount of spots. If I’m handed the ball, I’m ready. Obviously, you want to be part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has been part of something special to get to this point. We’re all very proud. We still have eight regular-season ballgames left to build some momentum. Postseason, whether I’m on the roster or not, I’m still going to enjoy it.”

There was a bit of excitement when Dexter Fowler almost hit for the cycle. He was just a home run shy of doing the great achievement. In fact, there have only been 14 natural cycles in MLB history.

“Dexter is looking like he did in the first half,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s nice to see.”

Before the Cubs head out to the playoffs, the Cubs  will have another chance to be 100 winners at Wrigley Field tonight when Jon Lester will get the opportunity to be the hero in front of a nationally televised audience to strut his stuff  and if the Cubs win, they’ll set a franchise record at home for wins with 57 and the Cubs will win the season series against the Cardinals. Should the Cubs face the Cardinals in the post season?

“They would be very tough,” Maddon said of a potential playoff matchup. “They’re very good offensively. They can match up out of the bullpen. They do a lot of things.”

The Cardinals and the Cubs meeting in the playoffs again would be that fitting conclusion to a dream season for the North Siders.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Secure Home Field For NLDS and NLCS

David Ross

It was a pretty exciting day for Chicago Cubs, their fans and David Ross. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 with Jake Arrieta earning his 18th victory of the season. Before the shellacking, Cubs catcher and clubhouse grandfather David Ross, was honoured for his years in baseball.

“The things they said about me is kind of overwhelming, and the way they treat me, and how much respect they have for me,” Ross said. “I’m a guy who tries to work hard and ends up with some years in the big leagues and has done some fun things, and with this group, trying to win a ring this year, the emotion comes from looking back when you reflect on your career. I don’t try to do that, because it gets really emotional.”

On top of the win, the Cubs clinched home field advantage through the NLDS and the NLCS after the Pittsburgh Pirates downed the Washington Nationals 6-5.

Arrieta now has 18 wins on the season and is in a three way tie topping the national league with Max Scherzer and teammate Jon Lester.

“That was more reminiscent of what we saw last year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. “He’s not 100 percent there, but that was pretty darn good. [The Cardinals are] a good hitting lineup. That lineup they threw out today was a great test to see where he’s at.”

Of course this is the best time for Arrieta to get going, he struck out 10 batters in the rout of the Cardinals.

“The big thing for me is controlling my effort,” Arrieta said. “When I’m able to do that, my stuff speaks for itself. … Sometimes the competitiveness, the stubbornness gets in the way. Once I push that to the side, the stuff works pretty well.”

October 7th the Cubs begin the journey for the history books. Their 98th win of the season was the most by a Cubs team since 1945, which was the last time they played in a World Series game. Another interesting fact is if the Cubs can win two more games for their 100th win, it’ll mark the first time they have reached that milestone since 1935 which was another year they made it to the World Series. The bad news in winning 100 games in a season is the unfortunate statistic of during the last 30 seasons, a major league team finishing the season with 100+ victories, have only won the big prize twice. That was the Yankees in 1998 and 2009.

Yup, those aren’t incredibly satisfying odds, but then again, this 2016 Chicago Cubs isn’t no ordinary team. They’re different. They’re relaxed, confident and they’ve got destiny on their side.

Believe it