Heyward Getting In The Swing Of Things

Cactus League

When the Cubs play the White Sox, it always makes for interesting games. No matter how good one team is or how bad the other is, when the two duke it out, they play each other hard. Yesterday’s game ended in a 4-4 draw.

Both Addison Russell and Wilson Contreras connected with their first home run of the season, even if it doesn’t count for much it means something for players trying to find their groove before the official season begins.

“It was good to get back in a game and face some competition that’s not your own guys,” Brett Anderson said after making his first start in over a year. “Hopefully, now I can get used to being in a routine every five days and multiple outings.”

One of the best parts about spring training is seeing these fresh faces like Anderson vying for their spot in the rotation. For Anderson’s case, he was off for a year with a back injury.

“He’s not trying to re-invent the wheel,” Anderson said of Pitching coach Chris Bosio. “It’s more trying to limit the pressure on my back and a mild mechanical adjustment so I don’t land on my heel as much and land on the ball of my foot or my toes so it’s not such a whiplash affect. It’s small things. He’s said he likes what my pitches do.”

This is probably going to be the most interesting season for the Cubs and their fans. It’s the first time in over a century that the pressure is on. The Cubs will receive their championship rings on the April 12th game. Call Joe Maddon superstitious but he has no plans on wearing the shiny reminder.

“I don’t wear that,” Maddon said Monday. “I gave [my] 2002 [ring] to my mom [Beanie]. She has it. [Wife] Jaye has 2008. So, 2016, I don’t know — my inclination, I’ll talk to Jaye about it [to see] if she wants to hold onto it or if she wants to give it to my mom.”

So as the Cubs do their best to prepare for the crucial season to define their legacy, another player looking to rebound from a not so spectacular season behind the plate is Jason Heyward. He’s changed his approach at the plate with a new swing.

“His hands are working so much better,” Maddon said. “Our game, as a hitter, is played between your fingertips and your elbows. Guys who get a little bit long, a little arm-y — we call it the ‘military swing’, they get a little bit arm-y. Get it? So, if you can engage from your elbows to your fingertips and use your hands and wrists — they used to talk about Hank Aaron — that’s where it happens. That’s what I’m seeing. A lot of it has to do where you start. He’s starting in a manner that promotes, for me, better hand usage.”

I think it’s going to work for him but maybe not so much Joe’s Dad jokes.

Believe it.

 

Hey Adam, Every Dad Has Your Back

 

Adam Laroche

Chicago White Sox’s Adam LaRoche, left, and his son Drake walk into the White Sox clubhouse during a photo day before a baseball spring training workout, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/John Locher)

I don’t enjoy talking about the Southsiders, in fact it feels down right dirty mentioning them but this situation is bigger than the game.

Why?

Because it is the game.

Baseball is a child’s game. It’s a family game and the simple fact that children not being allowed in clubhouses or times limited should be outlawed. If I could take my son to work, I would everyday.

Baseball players have a unique opportunity to do that so when team Vice President Ken Williams told Laroche to limit his time with his son, well folks, that just ain’t right.

“Tell me where in America you can bring your child to work every day,” White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams told USA TODAY Sports. “And how can you manage it? How can you manage the next guy. And the next guy. That’s not fair.”

Nobody should be told to limit their time with their children. However, Williams is sort of right and a little wrong. The game of baseball takes on mythical proportions and through that dream is that chance to spend as much time with their children as possible.

“We’re all for kids on the infield,” Joe Maddon said with a smile, referring to his corps of talented young infielders. “We were pretty good with that. They have their own lockers. We get them whatever toys that they like. We put their names on their toys. It’s something that we kind of advocate.”

I do believe players should bring their children into the clubhouse at their own risk. Questionable language and other things to consider are there but like anything, it’s the parents responsibility to decide. It’s a father’s responsibility to his children to teach them the right way to do things and there’s probably no greater education than spending time doing the things we love the most.

“Adam and Drake are probably the most respected people in baseball I ever played with. Drake would clean cleats, he would help out in drills, pick up baseballs when we needed, he didn’t say boo to anybody and was never a trouble in the clubhouse,” White Sox Outfielder Adam Eaton said.

The other thing is perhaps another player complained about LaRoche’s son Drake in the clubhouse? We don’t know.

My two cents from one father to another is that it’s always all right to bring children into the clubhouse. In fact, last night my own son Darcy was upset because it was too dark to play baseball in the backyard.

“Hey Dad, wanna have a catch?”

-Ray Kinsella Field of Dreams

 

Cubs Win one and Lose One But it Was Awesome

Jason Hammel

There are many things I love in this world. My wife, my son, having a beer on the back deck listening to @LenKasper and Jim Deshaies telling me “It’s a beautiful day for Cub’s baseball” but the one thing I really, really, really love is the sound of “Cubs win, Cubs win!” after they crush their crosstown rivals, the White Sox.

“I went through the Angels and Dodgers, which I thought was a legitimate rivalry,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “For years, they were trying to make the Rays versus the Marlins a rivalry, which I thought was contrived and wasn’t necessarily true. Obviously the Cubs and White Sox are real. When you talk to the fans in the city, people approach me — I love when I get approached by the White Sox fans. He will give me a hard time about what happened recently but at the end of it he’s very respectful, ‘nice going, we’re gonna get you,’ all this stuff. I really think that’s pretty cool. It’s legit, and I’m glad that it’s there.”

Ok, my wife just walked into the room, forget what I said. She’s still the tops.

Anthony Rizzo got a two run single to power the Cubs to victory 9-2. Our fearless leader brought his game to Sloan Park.

“You saw today, from top to bottom, and even the young guys we had in there today — if we can get three or four runs with our pitching staff, we’ll be pretty darn good,” Jason Hammel said. Who pitched four innings and getting those arms stretched a little farther.

The bats were in fine form as Dexter Fowler put one out there for a fan adding to his spring total of two home runs. Slowly, the Cubs are feeling their potential and gaining practice for the regular season.

In the late game, the Cubs came close but ultimately the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Cubs 6-5. As the “Unofficial blogger of the Chicago Cubs in Canada” I have to say that I cringe during the regular season at west coast games. Sometimes they go into the wee hours of the morning and folks, I just can’t do those games.

But—

along comes this kid Austin Barnes , who connected on his third homer of the season. This kid is going to be awesome. I really enjoy watching him and might just stay up a few nights to marvel  in his geniuses.

“You can’t overlook Austin Barnes. You have to like the bat and the athleticism, the versatility that he creates. As we move through spring training, we’ll talk a little more. There is no one set way to construct a roster, and we’re exploring options.” Manager Dave Roberts said.

That’s what makes spring training so cool. Seeing these young players do their stuff and every once in awhile a potential Hall of Famer shines through on their way to Cooperstown.

Believe it.

 

 

Cubs and Wrigley Field Will Never Be The Same After Tonight

Chicago Cubs

There are many ways to look at this season. First and foremost, baseball is entertainment, that’s why they call it a pastime. What the 2015 Chicago Cubs have done for the city of Chicago is give sports fan there a reason to believe. I’ve mentioned it before but the moment to rally behind a team whether you’re a White Sox fan or not is contagious. I’m talking to you President Obama.

Tonight, Jake Arrieta takes to the mound. He’s become a household name not only in Chicago but the nation and across the border. October baseball is all about these moments.

“I’ve been through a lot in my career, and the failure that I’ve gone through makes me really appreciate the moments of success much more,” said Arrieta.

The key to baseball, the Chicago Cubs and perhaps life, is that we love stories. Suddenly, Jake Arrieta has been propelled into mythical status whether he likes it or not. He’s our Atticus Finch, Rocky Balboa and perhaps Andy Dufresne.

What?

Think for a moment that all heroes are the same. It doesn’t matter the type of story but one thing every hero endures are obstacles. The St. Louis Cardinals, The infamous World Series drought, and of course the curses.

We need Jake Arrieta. Sure, the team is unbelievable but should the Cubs win the World Series (Come on, we need to seriously consider them as having a shot) the story we’ll hear and read is Jake Arrieta’s. If Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are the faces of the franchise, then Arrieta is the face of the fans’ dreams.

Now, I have to be a little selfish. I have thought about someday when some of the 2015 Chicago Cubs eventually make it into Cooperstown and we go to the marble hall and read the plaques of the players. When I sit on the bench and think back to this year and this season and all the history they’ve created, I’m going to smile.

The magic of Cooperstown takes us back to that moment in time when we remembered the magic of not knowing the outcome. We hung on to every game and the final outs. So far, we have Arrieta’s Wild Card shutout and Jorge Soler’s home run. The series is tied right now, but we’ll tune in tonight at 6pm eastern at Wrigley Field to see what’ll come next.

“These fans have been waiting for this for a long time, so, you know, it’s just going to be nice — it’s going to be a boost, if anything,” Arrieta said. “Pitching in front of the city of Chicago here at Wrigley. I think it’s only going to benefit us.”

Believe it

Cubs Were On Sale Against White Sox

Chicago Cubs

As the saying goes, “All Good Things Must End” it was a fun ride but as the Cubs were defeated by Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox 3-1, I couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe this might have been the best thing to happen to the Cubs.

Here’s what’s going to happen should the Cubs make the post season.

They are going to face some amazing pitching. So, it’s a good thing that they faced Chris Sale’s 15 strikeout tour de force.

“You’re not going to win them all, man,” Joe Maddon said. “That doesn’t happen. We’ve been playing really well. We continue to play really well. Today we just ran into a good pitcher and that was the difference in the game.”

Considering the Cubs had the bases loaded in the sixth inning and somehow, Sale got out of that, well, that’s good pitching and the Cubs needed to face that.

Another player who needed to see that is Kyle Hendricks. He’s been struggling lately and I know he was watching carefully at how Sale was doing.

“Everybody has different mechanics,” Hendricks said. “Some guys are rotational. For me, being rotational is not good at all. I have to be on line, my shoulders square, then I can get to the bottom of the zone.”

The Cubs have a much needed day off today so Joe Maddon can wash his socks before taking on the Detroit Tigers tomorrow at Wrigley Field.

“The team’s been doing great and swinging the bats great,” said Cubs starter Dan Haren. “Today wasn’t the best day, but the bats have been there for the two weeks I’ve been here. I don’t think anyone is really going to hang their heads — just come out Tuesday and get back home and start winning again.”

Apparently, Joe has only washed his socks once since June 29th. Now, either he’s been sleeping in Cousin Eddie (In reference to his RV) or his wife is a pretty understanding person because I know win streak or not, my wife would not tolerate a pair of stinky old socks.

Believe it.

Cubs Not Feeling Any Pressure

Jake Arrieta

The Cubs are continuing to claw their way to the top. Last night, they defeated the White Sox 6-3 to boost their winning streak to 9 games. Again, Kyle Schwarber came through showing that he fits right in with the majors. In the fifth inning with Dexter Fowler on first, Kyle gets a hit and drives Addison Russell home.

“I was trying to get a good at-bat and control what I could control,” Schwarber said of his at-bat. “I didn’t have two good at-bats before then. Those things, you just have to throw to the side and go on to the next at-bat, the next pitch. I just got to two strikes and was battling and able to put the ball in play.”

If anyone ever thought that Kyle Schwarber wasn’t ready for the big leagues, all though I don’t think anyone ever thought that in the first place.

It’s also nice to see others picking up on my “Sultan of Schwarb” comparison to Babe Ruth. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers nicknames him, “Kyle Ruth”

But while everyone is chatting it up or throwing bottles at Kyle Schwarber(Yes, some fan did that), let’s talk about the outstanding work by Jake Arrieta. He’s won 11 in a row and the first Cubs pitcher to do that in over twenty years.

Are you kidding me?

“We know we’re on a good run,” Arrieta said. “We don’t necessarily know how many in a row it is, we just know we’re winning. We’re not going to win them all but when we keep playing the way we are, we’ll win a lot.”

So, nine in a row. They’re fourth overall and a potential Cy Young candidate in Arrieta and a possible ROY in Kyle Schwarber. I’d say that’s some improvement over last year.

I’m going to throw something out here; Do the Cubs really need Javier Baez? Should they call him up in September or risk messing with the chemistry the Cubs currently have?

“I think when we come to the ballpark, you get to the point that you expect to win, regardless of who you’re playing,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s not to denigrate the other side whatsoever — it could be the ’27 Yankees. When you’re playing with that kind of confidence, you feel like something good is going to happen somehow, someway. You’re going to ride that wave as long as you can.”

Believe it

Cubs Edge White Sox In Series Opener

Chicago Cubs

Wearing jerseys in tribute to Ernie Banks and Minnie Minoso, the Cubs beat their crosstown rivals, 6-5 in yet another one run game.  The Cubs have won 14 of their last 15.

So what’s their secret? A lot of fingers are pointing towards Kyle Schwarber and I tell you man, the kid is going places.  He’s 22 and quietly has become a hitting machine for the North Siders. Can all of the Cubs success be attributed to “The Sultan of Schwarb”? Yeah, we know he bears an uncanny resemblance to the Bambino and somewhere, the Sultan of Swat is smiling down on Kyle, chomping on a cigar and waiting for his turn at the plate.

I have to agree with Chris Coghlan though,

“Not to take anything away from Schwarber, but I don’t think that’s the only reason why our offense is doing better,” Coghlan said. “I do think Schwarber has been a huge factor in our offense. To see what he’s done in such a short time frame, there’s just not many hitters on the planet now that are as good as he is offensively, the way he’s swinging, the way he’s feeling. He’s not missing many pitches. Any time you get a guy doing that kind of damage, you’re going to score more runs.”

He’s not the only reason the Cubs are having the success they’re having. Look at Addison Russell? Anthony Rizzo has been outstanding and since the All Star break, Dexter Fowler has finally found his groove. Of course Kris Bryant has been steady and proven to be wise amongst his years.

The reason the Cubs are playing well is they’re a team. They’re playing like a team and having fun doing it. Stalin Castro at second? Who would have thought?

Baseball is a superstitious game. Cubs fans know that more so than any other fan I suppose. Right now if the season were to end, the Cubs would be in the playoffs. I believe they’re going to make it. However, one of the joys of being a Cubs fan is the “Walking on eggshells” atmosphere surrounding the team. We don’t want to say too much in case we’re wrong. Some folks might call it getting our hopes up. Whatever the case, this fall should be interesting.

“Right now, we feel like we’re going to win every game,” Chris Coghlan said. “I think that’s the reason we’re winning a lot of them.”

Believe it.