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’ Hendricks is a Rock Star

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks is damn good. In many ways, he’s like that rock star that doesn’t go all Eddie Van Halen over the mound, instead, he’s more like Keith Richards getting it done during the game. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular but always satisfying.

Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 in a comeback win that played the foundation for a truly great finish to September. There’s only three weeks left until the post season and the way Kyle Hendricks pitched yesterday and like his BA in Economics from Dartmouth, he was efficient.

“I don’t think there’s any doubts,”Miguel  Montero said. “Is anybody having a better year than him? Probably he doesn’t have as many innings as other guys, but that’s not his fault. He goes out there and gives you his best. The way he’s been pitching, I don’t see anyone pitching as good as he’s been.”

He only garnered six strikeouts but he befuddled those six batters and laid the groundwork for the Cubs glorious comeback thanks to Montero and Chris Coghlan. Those every other day players that came through when it matters. Each collecting two hits but providing that late rally to seal the win for Hendricks.

“It’s a little bit harder when you don’t play every day and your timing is a little bit off,” Montero said. “What am I going to do? I can’t put pressure on myself trying to get four hits in one at-bat, because it ain’t going to happen. I go out there and have fun, and if I get hits, good, and if I don’t, I still have to go catch and call a good game.”

It’s awesome to think that Kyle Hendricks has the lowest ERA in the game at 2.07 and that he could wind up with that Cy Young award. It’ll be good for the game if he does. Quietly unassuming but showing up to work when it’s his turn in the rotation, Hendricks is getting a lot of attention from other teams about his performance.

“He’s pitching at a very high level,” Brewers Manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s become great at what he’s been good at. He’s a challenge. He’s able to manipulate the baseball, command the baseball.”

He’s bringing the science of the game back. I’ve been telling my wife about this guy since he started a couple of years ago, reminding her of how good he is every time he wins(Sometimes I wake her up just to let her know). The Bleed Cubbie Blue has been gushing about him all along as well and every now and then we tip our cap each other’s way,”We knew it all along” If the Cubs do go on to have a storybook finish, it would be fitting if Hendricks won the MVP. That unsung hero quietly getting it done.

Believe it.

 

Chicago Cubs Ready To Make History

Jake Arrieta

This year has proven to be a lot of firsts for the Chicago Cubs. They’re the first team to reach 80 wins with their 5-3 defeat of the San Diego Padres and Kris Bryant is tied for the lead in Home runs in the National League after crushing the leather and raising his total to  33.

Last night, Jake Arrieta pitched well but he also took to the plate doing his best Kris Bryant impression by connecting for a triple and hitting a single. Oh, by the way, he also received his 16th win of the season. So, when skipper Maddon yanked Arrieta from the game with only 99 pitches, it Arrieta’s feelings

“I was mad at Joe for taking me out,” Arrieta said. “At the same time, he said, ‘Hey, remember last year? Let’s conserve some things for October and the end of September.’ That’s our gameplan. We want to be as strong and as dominant as we can be.”

C’mon, the guy hit a triple! He needed a rest.

This has been a strange season. We all thought that the Back To The Future 2 bogeyman would loom large last year but 2015 has nothing on this season. This season has so much more.

The last time the Cubs made it to 80 wins this fast, they made it to the World Series in 1929. They’re also poised to return to the post season again. This would be the second time  in their colourful history that they’ve made back to back appearances, the other being 2007-2008. Yes, expectations are running high but they’re also being realistic.

“When you struggle is when you really get to grow the most, and you try to learn instead of just pouting,” Chris Coghlan said. “The best thing has been that we have such a great group of guys. We’re the best team in baseball right now, and our expectation is to win the World Series. So, that’s taken a lot off of just thinking about myself.”

Folks, this year feels different. Sure, nothing is a given but the baseball has been fun. There has been no egos on the team and if there’s a manager that needs this team it’s Maddon. He’s the perfect guy for this squad. He’s fun, intelligent and always complimenting his players on a job well done. That’s the way it should be. When Addison Russell had that great game the other day, it was Maddon that presented him with a bottle of wine. One that he picked up in a wine store. It wasn’t a team presentation, he felt Addison Russell deserved it. He wrote on 6-3, after the score of the game. So if anyone questions his deserving of a Gold Glove well, they need not be.

“He’s definitely got to be in the conversation, legitimate conversation,” Maddon said of Russell. “This guy on defense, it’s getting to the point where there’s no one else like that right now.”

Getting excited about the post season? Yeah, so am I Here’s the schedule.

Believe it.

Cubs Pecked By RedBirds

Chicago Cubs

The best part about rivalries is that they can go either way. Take for example last night’s 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s two straight losses for the Cubs. Let’s face it, the Cardinals aren’t having a great season. So far they’re 10.5 back of the Cubs but nobody would have known that judging from these last two games.

“It’s going to happen again,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I have no complaints about the last two nights. Zero. We played well, we played good baseball. If you’re a baseball fan, you saw good baseball. They scored one more run than we did — give them credit.”

He’s right. The Cubs played well but I’m thinking because these two teams seem to beat each other up when they get together that it almost has a playoff type vibe to it. Everything gets ramped up a notch. As such though, even the bad teams can make good pitchers look bad.

“For whatever reason, I was getting behind hitters, and I had to go back to what I do best, which is sinker, slider,” Jason Hammel said. “Once I did that, we were able to keep it close. I just have to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard. Mistakes up in the zone cost us.”

However, guys like Chris Coghlan who was filling in for Dexter Fowler, If you ask me was kind of strange seeing how the Cubs traded Coghlan to the Athletics in order to make room for Fowler.

What?

Coghlan had a great game and proved everyone right by bringing him back. The former Rookie of The Year 2009 reached the bag three times. It goes to show you that there’s no place like home.

All right, so despite the loss, the Cubs are still 47-22 and lead the league with a run differential of +169. Not too shabby. They’re frustrating Vegas.

But despite their dominance, the Cubs are getting down to crunch time in the season where injuries start to take over like Fowler’s injury. The Cubs have sent Adam Warren to Iowa in order to get a little R & R but plan to call him back up soon.

“This is when it gets a little bit sticky at this time of the year,” Maddon said. “You want to make sure they’re healthy and well … I love it. I’ve been part of this before, primarily after the break.”

Speaking of healthy, Cubs’ ace Jake Arrieta will get his start in the series finale today at 2:20. If anything, it’ll be solace should the Cubs pick up the win.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Stunned By Braves

Dexter Fowler

There are days when a 41-18 team look mighty invincible, and then there are days when they’re mere mortals. Yesterday was a day that the Chicago Cubs looked “Normal” after a sting defeat to the Atlanta Braves 5-1.

Even though Jason Heyward  is an incredible defender, there’s a reason why he’s not up there with his pal, Dexter Fowler in the All Star voting, and that is because you have to be good on both sides of the plate. Heyward went 0-4 with three strikeouts. Now to be fair, the Atlanta Braves, with whom I have such great disdain for which could go back to my days when I was a kid and reruns of Family Matters were pre-empted to bring you Braves baseball on TBS.

I don’t like the Braves.

Cubs’ starter Jason Hammel was out pitched by Braves starter Bud Norris, who pitched a really good game.

“That’s baseball — baseball’s a crazy game,” Hammel said. “On any given night, any team can win. A lot of people say you’re only as good as the starting pitcher on the mound that night, and he was better.”

Or it could be a case of David stunning Goliath which heaped some high praise from Cub’s Manager, Joe Maddon.

“I mean, the guy just pitches really well whenever I’ve seen him,” Maddon said. “I’ve not seen him pitch poorly, ever, I don’t think. He should actually paste my picture underneath the bill of his hat.”

It’s these kind of losses that worry me this season. Yeah, the Cubs are still 9 games in front of their arch nemesis St. Louis Cardinals and well ahead of the pack in the Major Leagues but to lose to a team that has less than half of the wins is not so much embarrassing like Hammel said it’s a crazy game, but they should dominate those games.

Hey, it’s great to see Chris Coghlan back with the team. He made his debut Friday and is a welcome addition to the club. He’s an amazing player who can fill various roles with the Cubs. I remember he was pretty bummed when the Cubs dealt him in the winter.

“When you have relationships with friends and you haven’t seen them for a while, then you see them and you smile and hug and it feels like you haven’t skipped a beat,” Coghlan said.

He was a huge part of last year’s 97 win campaign and now with injuries to Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella, the Cubs could use the familiar face.

“It’s amazing how things work out,” Coghlan said. “It was crushing for me and my family. The best thing about the whole thing is I get to come back here. It’s the best team in baseball.”

It’s almost like they’re getting the band back together

Believe it

 

The Rocky Road Back To Chicago

NLCS

This was not how it was supposed to happen. In a fairy tale way, the Chicago Cubs were supposed to sweep the New York Mets and power their way to the World Series. Instead, the mighty North Siders are down 2-0 going back to Chicago.

The Cubs had Bill Murray in their corner, but couldn’t thwart the mighty hammer of Thor,  Noah Syndergaard. Our great hero, Jake Arrieta was powerless to stop the barrage of bats that swung his way. Yet, it wasn’t exactly the way the Cubs played(yes, there were a few miscues, Javier Baez) but these New York Mets aren’t the New York Mets of earlier this year. No, they’re something much different.

“They got us here,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “A five-game series is a little bit more daunting, but for right now, it’s seven. It’s been done before, we can do it ourselves. And from our players’ perspective, I want us to focus on the next game, not the fact that you’re down two or try to win all three at home. Just try to win the next game.” As the theme from Rocky blasted through his office.

The team were stymied by Curtis Grandson who has had a resurgence in New York. That hit by Chris Coghlan should have cleared the wall but as October’s go, it was caught. Coghlan raised his hands to his head and the look on his face said it all. The officiating was wobbly as well but tomorrow is a new day.

They have a day off today as they travel to Chicago where long waiting fans are salivating like, well, hungry Cubs to take a piece of the Mets.

“We’ve got work to do,” Jake Arrieta said. “The good thing is we get to go home and play three games at Wrigley Field and come out ready to go. Two tough games here, but the series is not over. We feel good about where we’re at.”

It was an ocean of orange and blue in New York, but tomorrow it’ll be different. The New York Mets will face not only the young Chicago Cubs, but they will face Ernie Banks,  Harry Caray, Ron Santo and all the rest of the North Side Legends. There’ll be Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance Yes New York be ready, tomorrow you’ll be facing ghosts. Tomorrow, you’ll be at Wrigley Field, baseball’s hallowed ground.

It’s a whole new ballgame.

“We’re going to stick with our game plan. We’re confident in ourselves. We’re not going to lose confidence in ourselves, and we’re not going to panic. We haven’t given up these last two nights. It’s been a grind down to the last inning, to the last out. It’s playoff baseball. This is what you’re in for, and we’re still going to be confident in ourselves.” Kyle Schwarber said.

Believe it.

Chris Coghlan And The Cubs Hit a Snag But Gear Up For Pirates

Chicago Cubs

Remember when I said baseball’s a funny game? Well, the least likely team to play spoiler to the Cubs dulled the claws of the ferocious bears of baseball. Yesterday, the Philedelphia Phillies walked away with a 7-4 win resulting in the Cubs falling a bit back of the Pirates.

Despite the loss, Chris Coghlan played a game for the ages. He recorded two triples, one which should have been a home run and he notched a home run to answer the one that should have been a home run.

Make sense?

“Every game matters, so that’s why when you split here, it feels terrible,” Coghlan said. “As good as we’ve been playing, it’s a disappointment. … We just have to take one game at a time. I think everybody in here is excited about facing the Pirates, myself included, because these are big games. Any time you play somebody ahead of you it’s two games for one you win.”

The Cubs have the day off today before facing the Pirates in Pittsburgh. It’s an unlikely scenario of a must win situation for the Cubs. In order to catch up to the Cardinals, the Cubs must sweep the Pirates( providing the Cardinals get swept in their own series against the Brewers)

No pressure, right?

“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of fun for everybody,” Joe Maddon said. “This is why you work, this is why you do this thing to be in that position to play those games. It’s exciting for everybody — us, the fan base, baseball fans.”

So, it’s been quite some time when games in September mattered at all for Cubs fans. This time every year, my attention shifts solely to the CFL. The Canadian Football League.  Usually, baseball doesn’t mean that much to me in September. Sure, I dabble in the fall classic, but most of the time it’s, “Meh?” I’m a one sport kind of guy, even I don’t watch hockey until December really, after baseball and then the Grey Cup.

This fall is going to be different. The Cubs are doing well, the Blue Jays are on fire and the second year Ottawa REDBLACKS (It’s annoying their name is in all caps) are doing amazing. Hey, you’d do great in a nine team league too.

Believe it.

Cubs Miss Sweep. Bullpen Needs Housework

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs were this close to victory.  Use your imagination on this one, folks. In the series finale, the Cubs fell 4-3 in a five out away heartbreaker. The good news is that they won the series and of course, it was against the St. Louis Cardinals. The bad news is they should have swept the series and if they’re going to make the World Series, they have to steam roll through the Cardinals in order to get there.

“We can’t permit that to happen,” Joe Maddon said. “We played a great game. We had the right guys on their part of the batting order. We have to finish that game off.”

He’s right, too. The Cubs played a terrific game! The bullpen faltered with five outs remaining. I know it happens but c’mon, the Cubs haven’t been this close to the playoffs in seven years. It’s frustrating. The Cubs found a hole that needs repairing so maybe, just maybe that the loss was a good thing. It can teach humility after a five game winning streak going into yesterday’s matchup.

“When they don’t succeed in high leverage situations, it’s easy to point fingers. That’s just a tough one today. We have to take the positives from this three-game series. We came in here and made a little bit of a statement.” Jon Lester said.

Chris Coghlan made the highlight reel yesterday when he dove into the stands for an outstanding grab. Both him and Anthony Rizzo were vying for bragging rights over “Bleacher Feature” catches. In the dugout they were comparing notes.

“Hey Chris, did you like hot dogs with ketchup or mustard?” Rizzo probably asked.

“I thought I was going to catch it all the way,” Coghlan said. “You just don’t want to get hurt and hit your face on one of those seats.”

The Cubs get a break when they face the Phillies today in a four game series before the big ones next week against the Pirates and the Cardinals in back to back series. This is a great opportunity for the Cubs to gain precious ground on their Central Division rivals. The terrible part is that both the Pirates and the Cardinals are facing the Brewers and Reds. Could use a miracle on this one.

Believe it

Cubs Have Moxy In Win Over Braves

Chicago Cubs

If this were any other year, fans of the Chicago Cubs would say that the team has Moxy. Why? Because they’re young, not as experienced as the other clubs and well, we’re all just glad that they’re doing well.

Yesterday, the Cubs walloped the Atlanta Braves by a score of 5-3. A lot of people talk about that, Don’t quit” mentality that the Cubs have, but is it that they don’t quit or is it that suddenly this season, the Cubs are just too damn good?

“It exemplifies, typifies that we do not quit,” said manager Joe Maddon. “You had to fight through a lot of little adverse baseball moments there, and we did.”

Get over it Joe, the team has been doing it all season long. Finally, the club is a well balanced machine capable of beating opponents at any part of the game.

Except pitching. Yes, the Cubs are struggling a little bit there. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks need to get back the form they’ve misplaced recently or I’m afraid along with the many Cubs fans out there that it could be October 2016 when the post season arrives.

Yesterday Kyle Hendricks last 5 innings giving up 3 runs. I feel bad for the kid. Something’s gotten into his head this year and believe me, if there’s any pitcher out there that is working hard to right his own ship, it’s the “Professor” Maybe they have to stick Travis Wood in there until things go right, I don’t know.

“I felt a big improvement, that’s why it’s still a little frustrating giving up three runs there, but in the end, I am happy,” Hendricks said. “It felt 100 times better. My arm felt more free, more on line and I made a lot more good pitches. I wasn’t expecting it to be 100 percent in the first start after what we’ve been working on, but hopefully we can turn it around quick.”

Two key players that the Cubs have is Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan.

Coghlan homered to lift his totals to a career high of 15 while Miguel Montero continues to put up decent numbers while providing leadership to the younger guys.

“We know that if we’re down in the score we’re going to come back at some point, and that’s part of the confidence, part of the winning attitude,” said Miguel Montero.”It feels great.”

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.