Alcantara Hero For Cubs As they Battle Back

Chicago Cubs Win

There’s something you don’t see everyday, the Chicago Cubs in first place in the National League Central. Yeah, it’s only April. Yes, they’re still tied with Cincinnati Reds, but there’s an upswing; Kris Bryant still isn’t here, Javier Baez could be back and Jon Lester is just getting warmed up. Cubs beat the Reds 7-6 in ten innings.

Another reason for this being great news is the Cubs are doing it without the usual suspects.  Arismendy Alcantaragetting a walk off RBI in the tenth last night proved for the second straight day that the Cubs can dig down deep and find a way to win.

“When you start doing things like this, you believe you can win late, and that’s really important,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s also really important to feel you can come from behind, which we’ve done two days in a row late. Those are two of the best things you can possibly get across to a young team. Yes, I’ve enjoyed it.”

Most importantly, the Cubs are feeling a different vibe this season. You can start to see it last season, but with the addition of Maddon, the Cubs have become a believing bunch.

My favourite moment during last night’s festivities came when Jorge Soler sent a rocket to third base after Jon Lester threw over Anthony Rizzo’s head. With a cannon like Solar’s, no runner is safe.

“This guy is really good out there and he’s going to keep getting better,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Obviously, he comes to play every day. He really sets high standards for himself. He’s quiet, but his standards are high.”

Yup, Jorge Soler is going to be an anchor out there for the Cubs and an offensive juggernaught after nothing two home runs yesterday

“His power is just ridiculous,” Jon Lester said of the young outfielder.

Speaking of Lester, he’s still struggling to find his rhythm but as the game went on, he got better. Cubs fans were worried after he gave up three runs in the first.

“Obviously, I haven’t hit my stride yet,” Lester said, “but I don’t want to use anything as a crutch by any means. Things have to be better. When you have four [relievers] going out there doing their jobs, and you’re the loose end of the chain, it’s never good.”

Did you hear the boos when he didn’t throw to first? He’ll be changing that in a hurry.

Believe it.

Opening Day is About Family

Baseball, Opening Day, Easter

Opening Day is almost upon us. As my son would say, “In two more sleeps, Daddy” Usually, we take the day off work, fire up the barbecue, throw something succulent on the grill and open all the windows. Yup, Opening Day is the unofficial start to spring.

This year, it falls on Easter Sunday so it’s going to be extra special. Family and friends will gather around for ham and potatoes and other untraditional ballpark eats. I’m only disappointed because I was looking forward to savouring nachos and cheese and something drenched with a lot of barbecue sauce.

So now that Spring Training is winding down with the Cubs set to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight, what did you think of the new look Cubs? Do you think the predictions will come true or are they over hyped?

Then there’s the predicament of the Kris Bryant situation. Yeah, it’s not the ideal situation that he won’t be there Opening Day but he’ll get there soon. I think fans will get over it. Besides, it shows the amount of depth the club has if they kept him down.

“I don’t want to say I’m mad or anything,” Bryant said Thursday of his reaction to the news. “I’m extremely disappointed. I wanted to go out there and my performance mattered, and to me, it felt like it didn’t matter as much as I thought it would. I went out there and played as hard as I can and did everything I could. I’m just disappointed.”

Jon Lester was brought in to lead the Cubs to a place they haven’t been in a very long time. I’ve liked what I’ve seen this spring with him and he’s a very grounded pitcher. He comes in, does his job with no questions asked.

“At the field, he’s business,” Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel said of Lester. “When he’s not working, it’s pretty much all about fun. Obviously, you aren’t in the dugout with us, but during games, he’s hilarious. He’s watching the game, but he knows how to keep it light. He’s been around long enough to know you have to have some kind of quirkiness to get through the season. You get a bunch of different characters on a team.”

I believe this year will have a completely different vibe than the others. Of course, Wrigley Field has undergone some changes along with the team, but for once since 2008, the team are competitors. They’re not rebuilding, they’re building on the future.

Did everyone get their fantasy teams picked and ready for the season? I picked up Kyle Hendricks, Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Montero, Arismendy Alcantara and Neil Ramirez. I know, I know that’s way too many Cubs players, but I’m predicting a Wild Card entry and perhaps, cross your fingers, an extended playoff run.

Cliches of “every team is in first place” will surely be written throughout the nation but there’s something more magical about Opening Day.

It transcends the game. It goes beyond baseball contracts, television deals and sports agents. Opening Day is about togetherness, unity and the spirit of fairness.

For the players, it could be their first Opening Day. All the years of practice and hard work for this moment to stare into an afternoon sunshine knowing that this is their moment. The Coach is putting them in. This is the one day of the year that even if the team loses, they’re winners.

For parents it’s an opportunity to take pride watching their sons thinking back to those T Ball days and Little Leagues. On Opening Day, their children are grown up and instead of tote bag giveaways and promotions, maybe teams should give out tissues.

Opening Day is about believing

Welcome Back Chicago Cubs, We Missed You!

Chicago Cubs, Spring Training, baseball

This is it folks, the Chicago Cubs begin their quest for the World Series today in Split Squad action against the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. We’ll see (or hear) all the usual suspects like Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Mike Olt. I bummed it’s only available in audio but you know, I’ll be listening.

So sit back, relax and welcome Cubs baseball back for another season. This is also the Unofficial launch of The Canuck Cubbie blog 2015 style.

Oh what to do, what to do? More than likely, I’ll be switching back and forth between streams but that Oakland/Cubs lineup looks pretty interesting. Of course everyone would like to see Kris Bryant in action and that’s intriguing to the ears.

“I’m ready,” Castro said. “I’m excited because I didn’t finish the season playing and I’ve had a long time that I didn’t play a game. I feel real excited for the first game.”

Ok, I’ve decided this year to learn more about SaberMetrics. Seeing how both Maddon and Epstein are gurus and students of the science, I thought I’d try to educate myself a little more. So that’s my baseball goal for the season. Might even take a Moog course in the craft.

I’ve always been a traditionalist and purist, relying more on Avg. RBI, Hits and HR but the times are a changing and it’s always great to learn new things.

With all these different lineups today, it presents some very cool scenarios as to how the season is going to play out.

“Honestly, I just want to try guys in different slots, especially in a split-squad situation, it’s really different,” Joe Maddon said. “You’ll see them in different spots the whole camp.”

My only complaint about Spring Training is I wish they would try and incorporate it into the regular season. Perhaps the Grapefruit League plays the Cactus League for a trophy at the end and proceeds go to charity. I don’t know, I’ve always felt baseball has the coolest spring training set up in sports and they have the opportunity to do something great with it.

Believe it.

Cubs Win World Series? What Are The Odds?

Chicago Cubs

With Vegas odds now greatly reduced to 6-1, we all now know that the Cubs are potential favourites to win the Series. Is it warranted? yes. However, there is a great caveat on this prediction. Pitchers and catchers have yet to report and the snow is still fresh on the ground.

There’s a new catcher in town. Miguel Montero and early enthusiasm towards this game breaking guard of home plate, is astounding. We don’t know yet what is to become of Welington Castillo.

That’s okay.

The Cubs are solidified behind the plate. They’re strong on the infield and pitching is respectable although not quite where they want it to be. The outfield could use a few tweaks, but Fowler should carry the load.

With prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell leading the pack in the farm system, we know the Cubs are going to be highly competitive and should win between 85-90 games this season.

That’s a fact.

Of course, the excitement that Joe Maddon is bringing to the dugout is unparalleled.

Pitchers and catchers report in less than twenty days. As I write this, I’m listening to The Trio from Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Is this foreshadowing of the National League Central division? Will it be a duel to the end between the Reds, Cardinals and Pirates?

The Cubs won’t be pushed around this season. They’ll compete for the top spot with Ernie’s number patched to their shoulders. The sun will shine bright over Wrigley Field.

Predictions could be dangerous. The Cubs could win and the Cubs could very well lose.

No matter the outcome, what players, managers and fans should take away from the passing of Chicago’s mightiest hero, is to go out there this spring and compete hard, be fair, be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Remember, players should not play for the name on the back of the jersey, but play for the name on the front.

Believe it.

Has Instant Replay Run Its Course In Baseball?

Every year I attempt to understand the game baseball and every year I discover new things about the game that I didn’t know before.

Last season was the introduction of replay. For better or for worse, it was needed.

It was an experiment that failed.

You see, baseball has no time limits. There’s a reason for that and it goes beyond the game itself.

When we were children, the last day of school meant something more than an end of structure, lessons learned and getting up in the morning. It meant, sleeping in, lazing around on hot summer afternoons, getting together with friends to take part in irrelevancy and revelling in it. To other’s; it meant baseball.

Imagine something that has no time limits? A game where there is the possibility of having no end. It’s almost heavenly, isn’t it?

Before last season, I welcomed the opportunity of instant replay. It was the true definitive decision. There’d be no more,”Would have, could have, should have beens”

At last, there was an answer.

Going into this season, I’m changing my tune.

There’s a reason for this change in attitude. Part of the magic in the game is the, “Would have, could have, should have beens.”

For the most part, baseball is a game of honour. Life isn’t fair.

We’ve been taught that at very early ages and what kind of lessons are we learning if a manager can run out to the diamond and argue a call and be right?

Umpires are paid big bucks to make the decisions and the right calls. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

That’s life. When we go to work, sometimes we have to understand decisions that we may not agree with.

Again, that’s life.

How fair is it for a manager to charge after an umpire to dispute a call? A manager’s role is to work the bench and build the team strategy. An umpire’s role is to call the actions of the game.

The simplicity and magic of the game is for us bleacher creatures to dispute the calls next day or online. “Did you see that play? He was safe! There’s no way that ball was fair!”

We’re only human. We make mistakes. Baseball should be that kind of game where nothing is perfect. Baseball is a game of life.

Believe it.

Remembering The Montreal Expos A Perfect Storm Indeed

It’s been twenty years since the unthinkable happened, a work stoppage. The Montreal Expos had the best team in baseball and poised to make a run for the World Series.

With stars like Moises Alou, Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Pedro Martinez at the helm, the Expos had the best record at 74-40 before the work stoppage on August 12.

Canadians across the country were caught up in the excitement of a possible Expos/Blue Jays matchup, but it was never to be and two decades later fans still are left wondering what could have been to their beloved “Les Expos De Montreal”

There’s a Kickstarter Campaign to get a film off the ground called,” The Perfect Storm.

Those were exciting times up in the Great White North and with recent comments by the soon to be retiring, Bud Selig, “They have much work to be done,” he said. “There’s certainly in my case no hard or angry feeling toward Montreal. We tried to keep a team there. It’s a long story now. But I thought that was marvellous.”I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future. No question about it.”

Former player Warren Cromartie is spearheading a plan to bring the team back and looking for investors. They need a new stadium and that is the main hurdle in bringing the team back. of course, they probably won’t be called the Expos but who cares? A team in Montreal would be great for the city and baseball.

“We have a lot of work to do still. But we’re cracking the egg here a little bit. It’s a journey. We’re taking good strides.” Cromartie said.

Now, what about an expansion into Vancouver to keep Seattle on their toes. Here’s the link to the Kickstarter campaign. Directed by Sean Menard.

Believe it!

—Mark

Cubs in Pirate’s Davy Jone’s Locker

CT ct-spt-0623-cubs-pirates-10.jpg

So, my campaign to bring Stephen King to a ball game is off to a sluggish start. I still haven’t heard any news back from the horror master, but then again, I didn’t expect to anyways. Aw c’mon, like you didn’t think it was a good idea?

Speaking of horror stories, see what I did there? The Cubs lost a heartbreaker against their divisionary foes, The Pirates 2-1. it was an important series for the Cubs to win but now they plunged deeper into Pittsburgh’s Davy Jone’s locker also known as The Wild Card Race, where the Cubs sit at 8.5 back. Impossible? No. Welington Castillo is back and that should boost the team morale. Plus, those nifty throwbacks. Man, they look good.

“I’m proud of these guys, because they’re trying to — this is a very tough division and these are the games that you’re starting to fight, you’re starting to feel yourself, and we didn’t just come out and lay down,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “We kept playing, and we just fell short.”

That pretty much sums up yesterday’s loss. Plus, the fact that the Cubs went 0-6 in RISP kinda contributed to the defeat.

The good news is that Jason Hammel pitched very well and continues to get better.

“It’s just another 2-1 loss; there’s a lot of close ball games, but we’re playing well,” Hammel said. “We just can’t scratch and claw those runs that we need. It’s just a matter of learning how to do that, and that’s what’s going to make this team a winner.”

Although I don’t believe that’s entirely true. Like a lot of transitional teams(Rebuilding is such a cliché), the Cubs will have games where their pitching is great and defence is off or hitting is on the mark. of course, championship calibre teams have all working on just about every game. That’s a no brainer and in the Cub’s case, that’s all right.

I could say that it’s just awesome when the Cubs win a game or I could say it’s amazing when the Castro and Rizzo hit it long but I would be fooling myself. I want the Cubs to win. I want Nate Schierholtz to stare down the pitcher. I want to marvel in the youthful enthusiasm of Junior Lake. What about Luis Valbuena giving that familiar sideways peace sign to the eye? I want to see Jeff Samardzija smile once in a while and Pedro Strop to be lights out awesome. The reality of course, is that the pitching staff has been good, sometimes incredible.

just like I dream about hanging out with Stephen King at a Red Sox game, I dream more of the Cubs winning the whole damn thing.

Believe It.

—Mark