Hammel Exits Early in Loss. Trying To Make The Chapman Situation a Positive

Jason Hammel

Even though baseball is a past time and a sport, the frustration can get to players, just ask Jason Hammel after he was pulled with just 39 pitches in yesterday’s close loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2.

“I didn’t even pitch today in my mind,” Hammel said. “I barely threw 40 pitches. This is a side day for me, pretty much.”

It’s gotta be hard for baseball players when they get yanked from games. I mean every player thinks they’re good and they can contribute to the team. I’m not saying Hammel’s a bad player, not that at all, but yesterday just wasn’t his day and I’m sure he and Joe Maddon had some choice words for each other.

“Of course, he didn’t like what I told him, but I had to tell him, and that’s cool,” Maddon said. “I’m not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence or any other issues.”

It’s also a sign of a great team when the players fight for staying in the game. I believe that  with this kind of attitude, the Cubs are going to go places in the playoffs.

The flip side is that Hammel will be rested for his next outing.

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times about Caitlin Swieca( @CaitlinSwieca), a Cubs fan who has found a way to put the Aroldis Chapman situation into a positive. She’s pledging $10 for every save that Chapman earns to fight domestic violence.

“It’s a moral dilemma,” Swieca said. “There’s definitely two conflicted feelings: the feeling of wanting to just watch a game and not let the domestic violence thing bother you, and the feeling of not wanting to let the domestic violence issue just fade into the background.”

There’s a lot of conflicting attitudes towards the signing of Chapman. There’s no disputing his pedigree on the field, but there’s no excuse for what he did off of it. I think what Caitlin is doing is fantastic and a good way to cheer for Chapman because I’m finding it very difficult to do that.

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Cubs In Right Frame Of Mind

Joe Maddon

The Chicago Cubs are in a good position for the latter half of the 2016 MLB campaign. They own the best record in baseball 66-41 and yet besides Kris Bryant, who leads the National league in Runs with 82, don’t lead any other categories in position players. The only two team statistics the Cubs lead in is HBP(Hit By Pitch) with 70 and BB (Walks) with 452.

“We’re in a good position,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “And a good mental state. We’re getting everyone’s best every night, it feels like. That’s what you want. You want to be challenged.”

Even when the Cubs flirt with controversy with the signing of Aroldis Chapman, the road to October has remained clear. I’m a believer that all athletes are role models and that’s the most important part of their contract. Their every move is scrutinized off the field so it’s more important for the ballplayer to be that special person for the children to look up to. Believe me, kids watch grown ups like a hawk.

“I won’t watch the Cubs now,” says one-time Palatine resident Glenda Bailey-Mershon, former president of the National Organization for Women‘s chapter in Illinois, who can’t dismiss the fact that Chapman has a history of domestic violence. Chapman came to the Cubs last week after he was traded by the New York Yankees.

One player does not make a team despite an almost sound barrier breaking fastball. There are others on the team that have dug deep into the trenches and slogged their way to be at this point. Javier Baez, who’s name has propped up almost overtime the word Trade has been mentioned in the same sentence and yet, his defensive prowess has kept the perennial underdogs ahead of the pack all season ben when they were in a so-called slump just before the All Star game.

“I really hope our fans, when they evaluate our personnel, to understand you play this game on both sides to be really effective,” Maddon said. “He’s a game changer on defense.”

However the Cubs have done so far, these last two months can be the most gruelling and heart wrenching for an MLB team. This is the time of year where seasons can collapse right before your eyes or make a fan cry out triumphantly and taunt co-workers on the other side of the cubicles. This is where baseball becomes baseball.

“I think you still have to fight to get through August a bit,” Maddon said. “You still have to be mindful of giving people rest. Getting people in and out of there, you design this whole month with that in mind. Having a couple of off days is going to be very, very helpful. Beyond that, I think September creates its own energy. This next 30 days will be the 30 to really make sure that we stay the course, play as well as we have. Rest people and continue to build into that September moment.”

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Cubs Deal With Controversy, Rain Delays and Victory

Jason Heyward

It’s funny that the Chicago Cubs most intriguing news happens when I go on vacation. On Monday, the Cubs signed the most controversial pitcher in the game today in Aroldis Chapman. It’s still hard to fathom that he’s on the North Side. My views and thoughts are best exemplified in  Bleed Cubbie Blue’s fantastic piece on this issue. If the Cubs should go all the way, I’ll be cheering on the team and not Chapman.

Yesterday’s monstrous win over the Seattle Mariners  12-1 saw the Cubs now legendary bats swing again after a dormant month. Jon Lester is beginning to resemble the player the Cubs signed those many moons ago. Right now he’s 11-4. That equals his total from last year. He pitched shutout baseball in 6 innings. That’s what the Cubs need from him going forward.

Then there’s David Ross, the “Old Man” of the team on his farewell tour, went 2 for 4 and took the cover off the ball for his seventh home run of the season.

What about Jason Heyward? His struggles this season have been well documented so it was a welcome relief that he cracked his first home run since June 11.

“This year has been tough, I’m sure, for him,” Lester said. “I’m sure people check the boxscore and they don’t watch the game. He’s squared a lot of balls up for us this year and hasn’t had much to show for it. That’s hard, because this game is built around results. He’s been grinding, and that [homer] was big for him to have that big swing for us and kind of get us going a little bit. Everybody’s in there rooting for each other and especially for him. That ball he ran down in the gap by [Robinson] Cano was a big turning point not only for me, but for us as a team. He brings so much other than what he does at the plate to this team. I think it gets overlooked at times. I’m sure it’s huge for him. He probably won’t admit it, but it’s big for him.”

When people talk about the controversy surrounding Chapman, they’re talking about the character of the team. Guys like Ross and Lester who show up everyday and push the team with no baggage and then there’s Heyward who’s been struggling all season and there were no complaints. Just support.

In a statement by Tom Ricketts, he addresses the situation with Chapman:

“Obviously, we are aware of the circumstances surrounding Aroldis Chapman’s suspension earlier this season. We are also aware that he cooperated fully with the league investigation and takes responsibility for his actions.

“Today, prior to completing the trade, Theo, Jed and I spoke with Aroldis. I shared with him the high expectations we set for our players and staff both on and off the field. Aroldis indicated he is comfortable with meeting those expectations.

“Finally, my family, this team and Major League Baseball take the issue of domestic violence very seriously and support efforts to reduce domestic violence through education, awareness and intervention.”

Domestic Violence does not wear a World Series ring, sign high priced contracts or has an option for extension.

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Cubs Have Some Serious Questions

Theo Epstein

The trade deadline is coming up and there’s been a lot of discussion involving Kyle Schwarber. I’m going on record to say that I hope the Cubs do not trade him. What happened to Kyle at the start of the season was unfortunate with his season ending injury but the team has endured.

“Kyle is a huge part of our personality and our culture,’’ Epstein told USA Today. “It wouldn’t be right to trade him.’’

Of course we know money talks and rightfully so that he shouldn’t be discussing any trade deals. My take on a possible Aroldis Chapman deal is that the Cubs should not go for him. Sure, he can throw a 105 MPH rocket but his off field drama would probably weigh too heavy on a young Cubs organization. His arm would be a huge asset to a struggling Bullpen but at what cost and he would more than likely be a rental player.

Bleed Cubbie Blue has an interesting scenario should the Cubs deal Schwarber, it involves Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer. It would work. The only reason the Cubs would trade Schwarber is due to his defensive abilities. He struggles a bit but nobody is disputing his plate approach, the kid has the tools.

The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and there are many questions to be answered. The Cubs have built up a lot of prospects that they have at their disposal should they be in the market to acquire some more firepower at the deadline.

“We also haven’t touched certain parts of our prospect inventory. That will keep us really viable for every opportunity that’s still out there between now and August 1. Sometimes you can be in an uncomfortable spot if you haven’t done anything and you’re sitting there July 31 – August 1 this year – waiting for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ It’s hard not to throw that last player in just to get a deal done if you haven’t done anything. It’s something to fall back on. It gives you the ability to say ‘no’ or draw a line if you need to. But it also keeps all our opportunities open. The prospects we moved weren’t in any other deals that we were talking about. We haven’t touched the prospects that we were potentially going to move in some bigger deals that didn’t come to pass and may be resurrected in the future.” Epstein said.

Right now, the Cubs are looking at an easy schedule when they face the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox back to back. if they want to make up any ground and lay the foundation for October, this is the time to do it. Dexter Fowler should be back sometime this series.

“It’s important that they send a strong message to the team,” veteran catcher David Ross said. “You have to (with) a team that is in first place and was four wins away from going to the World Series last year. You’re looking at the big prize at the end of the season.”

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Cubs Prove The Kids Are All Right

Albert Almora

As much as baseball is a team sport, it’s also an individual effort. Last night, Albert Almora Jr. had his moment to shine and go down in Cubs lore with an RBI double. The Cubs rookie broke a 3-3 tie in the ninth and the Cubs went on to edge the Washington Nationals 4-3.

It’s the stuff of of films.

“You try to stay calm for that,” Almora said after the game. “That’s the biggest thing. Knowing I belong and wanting to come through for the guys right there. Just trying to stay calm and do my job.”

In what is probably the biggest series so far against the Nationals, Almora is humble enough to know that it’s not all about him. Even as the other Cubs “new guys” like Kyle Schwarber, who in last year’s playoffs kept his cool under pressure along with Addison Russell and 2015 Rookie of The Year Kris Bryant have all carried themselves well which doesn’t always occur on young teams.

“The guy has been up here for five minutes, and he’s not passive,” Joe Maddon said. “A really interesting game of baseball. The Giants were a team we had to earn our stripes against. The Nationals are the same kind of team.”

He’s not kidding either. Last night was a huge game for the Cubs and like I said yesterday, it could be a potential playoff preview. The other thing that impressed me so much were the Cubs ability to stay focused in the ninth. Of course, a team doesn’t have a record of 44-19 without remaining cool. Another thing to look at is it’s the middle of June and the team has remained strong even through a mild road slump last month and injuries to Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber.

“I did it for [John] Lackey,” Almora said. “I did it for [Pedro] Strop, I did it for [Hector] Rondon, for [Travis] Wood, for all those guys. I did it for Ross as well. I could go on and on. I’m trying to be a team guy.”

As the trade deadline approaches, the rumours are heating up about Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller becoming Cubs but as I’ve written here, I remain steadfast in my opposition against Chapman becoming a Cub. It’s not going to be right for the Cub’s Way in the clubhouse no matter how good he is.

The Cub’s bullpen did a fine job last night with Hector Rondon recording 5 outs. They’re still fresh and although they don’t have that 104MPH fastball that Chapman has, they know the team’s chemistry and that’s all that matters.

“I told them, if they want to put me in for three innings, I’m sure I can go,” Rondon said. “I don’t care what inning he puts me in.”

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Cubs Lose Close One

Darwin Barney

Let me get this out of the way; Aroldis Chapmen is awesome. Respect. Last night, the Cubs lost to the Reds 2-0. The Cubs struggles at home continues. Travis Wood played a great game earning his twentieth quality start of the year, but the Cubs couldn’t pull it together against the Big Red Machine part 2

“It’s funny, because we’re scoring in bigger parks and stuff on the road and we can’t seem to muster anything at home,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

There’s nothing funny about that. The Cubs have had trouble scoring all year long so it’s not surprising that when they’re facing a potential Wild Card team, they end up in some kind of trouble.

A highlight from last night’s game was the great play of rising superstar, Junior Lake. Even though he got thrown out at third, it’s that aggressive play that the Cubs need from him.

“You can’t make a throw any better than that,” Sveum said. “I got no problem with that aggressiveness.

So, it really wasn’t what the Cubs did wrong but what the Cincinnati Reds did right. Does that sound like a cliché or what? The hits were close with the Cubs getting six and the Reds four, but in the end it came down to some good ol’ fashioned bad ass pitching from Travis Wood and Matt Latos.

“He out-pitched me tonight,” Wood said of Latos. “I made a mistake to Phillips and he hit it out of the park, and that was all they needed.”

Tonight, the Cubs will try to take their revenge when Jeff Samardzija gets the start against Homer Baily. Game time is 8:05pm