Cubs Blame Yankees For April Woes

Chicago Cubs

I guess the Chicago Cubs are learning first hand the problems associated with winning a championship. Every team wants it. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cubs 6-1 and took the series. It was their first series win since 2014 at Wrigley Field.

Despite the Cubs taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning or Jon Lester getting a goose egg for seven innings(On Easter Sunday, no less!). So, the Cubs are 6-6 this April. Whether it’s a World Series hangover, or other teams have caught on to the Cubs’ weaknesses, but the team has started 2017 in a mediocre way.

“We had some good games, we’ve played a lot of close games. We taxed our bullpen quite a bit, which we really don’t want to do. Our starters pitched really well but late in the game, we didn’t score enough runs to give our bullpen any breathing room. I think that falls on the offence.” Ben Zobrist said.

On the other hand, it could be the absence of their grandfatherly figure in David Ross. He caught all of Lester’s games while providing a spark and spark in the clubhouse. Then again, it could be the problem of holding leads and wearing down their bullpen.

“That’s been more of our problem than anything, not getting a clutch hit and holding a lead at the end of the game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

There isn’t really any cause for concern this early in the season. This is roughly the same team that won the hardware last fall. However, missing Dexter Fowler has had a bigger impact than they thought. I mean Fowler’s struggling with the Cardinals right now. Now that’s an interesting theory on a curse placed on the Cardinals when they do business with the Redbirds.

‘‘Last year was kind of a fairy-tale year for us. It’s not always going to be like that, so it’s important to kind of realize that early on, so that we’re not hitting that panic button like we did around the All-Star break last year.’’ NL MVP Kris Bryant.

True, it’s not always going to be like that and I fault us Cubs fans for the pressure of the expectation for greatness. I mean, C’mon, after a 108 years would you expect anything less? Cubs fans have a lot of catching up to do. After the Cubs won, a friend of mine congratulated me on their win but continued to say that they need 23 more championships to catch up to his beloved New York Yankees.

There’s the real reason behind the Cubs early futility. Blame the Yankees. After all, it wouldn’t be the Cubs way to just blame it on the bullpen, blown leads and missed opportunities. It’s almost as if a new curse has been placed on the North Siders. A curse by a Yankees fan.

‘‘We won the World Series last year, so there will be questions, but that’s just natural,’’ Jake Arrieta said. ‘‘That comes with the territory. It’s a business of results, and we still expect really good results from the group we have this year.’’

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Rally But Drop Opener

No one ever said that the road to repeating would be an easy one, especially the St. Louis Cardinals. Last night in front of a nationally televised audience, the Chicago Cubs rallied in the ninth inning after a game tying home run by Willson Contreras but the World Series champion Chicago Cubs fell to their rivals St. Louis Cardinals 4-3.

“I struck out the first two at-bats, but I never lost my confidence,” Contreras said. “After I struck out the second time, I came up to watch video and I was overswinging a little bit. I told myself to be short to the ball because [Carlos Martinez] was throwing 94, 98, 99, 100 [mph] and he had movement. That’s why I had a little bit of success.”

Joe Maddon honoured the 2016 champions by starting the lineup that was on the field when the Cubs changed history and demolished curses last November.

“It’s a tribute to the World Series,” Maddon said. “Those are the guys who were on the field during the seventh game of the World Series, so I wanted as a tribute to them, what they did for us, put them on the field tonight. It’s no more complicated than that.”

It was a fitting tribute and all though Dexter Fowler is now a Cardinal, he faced Jon Lester at the first At Bat. It looked like Lester tried pitching around Fowler or it could have been Opening Night jitters but Fowler hit it to the outfield.

The Cubs might not get the 103 wins they did last season but then again, they might. After all, Kyle Schwarber is expected to play a full season and even though the champs dropped the Opening Night, they proved that they can still keep it close when it counts.

“We didn’t give up,” Schwarber said. “We grinded. Willie hits the big homer — that’s kind of the definition of our team. We won’t give up until it’s over. We didn’t, and things didn’t go our way tonight.”

There’s still plenty of baseball left. CSN Chicago thinks the team could be even better than last year. The way I look at it is this is the first title defence by a Cubs team in over a hundred years, if their Opening Night suffered with the weight of all those years’ expectations, then they’ll look no further than tomorrow night when they continue their opening series against the Cardinals. Jake Arrieta will get the start against Adam Wainwright.

It’s funny though, a few years ago no one would have been disappointed with last night’s loss but now that the Cubs have won the “Big one” suddenly they’re catapulted into that place where great teams reside. This is the first season in a long time where the Cubs aren’t “Lovable Losers” or cursed but they’re expected to win. There is no next year. In many ways, the Chicago Cubs have become the New Yankees.

“I’m proud of the way we went about it,” Maddon said. “Honestly, if you walked into our clubhouse during camp, I don’t think you could have recognized that we just came off winning the World Series. To me, that really blew my mind. The work was spectacular. The leadership was there. The young guys are still striving to get better.”

Then again, maybe they’re not the Yankees.

Believe it.

Chicago Cubs Are Defending World Series Champions

All right, so Opening Day is upon us and the Chicago Cubs will face their divisional nemesis the St. Louis Cardinals tonight. Oh, and of course me, The Canuck Cubbie is back for a sixth year in what is still a groundbreaking and historical season.

I have to admit though that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the Cubs in the offseason, still basking in the afterglow of an amazing World Series run, though after a few spring season viewings, the excitement is slowly creeping back into the bloodstream.

Tonight adds to the excitement of the defending World Series champions hopes and dreams of repeating as the best in baseball with facing Dexter,”You go, we go” Fowler’s new diggs.

“It’ll be really cool to see him again,” said Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “He’s still part of the family, and we miss him and we’re happy for him. Obviously, we have to play against him, and we like him until it’s time to go out on the field to compete.”

Ah yes, the thrill of competition. It’s also #CapsOn today. Everybody wear your support for all things baseball. The Cubs are going into the season as 7-2 favourites to win the big trophy.

“You could see it — everyone was high levels in the breakfast room,” Kyle Hendricks said. “There was a lot of yelling and screaming, guys were pumped up. We’re finally to that day. You feel it building up, you feel it coming, you see a light at the end of the tunnel, but now, being the last day, flying to St. Louis, you feel it coming.”

Baseball is a majestic sport. There is no time limit. Like the summer sun pleading with the moon for one more minute. Baseball is our youth coming back every summer reminding us, well Terrence Mann says it best;

“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Believe it

School’s In For The Professor

Chicago Cubs

National League MVP Kris Bryant signing a jersey. 

Perhaps it’s the vision of seeing grass at these spring training games that is exciting at this time of year or it could be reminiscing about last November’s World Series but as we get closer to the regular season, hearing the “Pop” of the bat is music to this baseball starved fan.

The Cubs lost to the Reds 8-4 yesterday but in a league where the focus is more on getting the kinks out of the machine than going for victories, the Cubs will take what they can get. In the case of prospect Eloy Jimenez, he hit his first home run and the 15, 000+ fans took it all in. Chances of him making the squad are slim to nil but it’s the opportunity to strut their stuff.

The pressing questions that I have for this year’s team are:

“He is a left fielder slash catcher right now,” Maddon said of Schwarber. “Maybe as the years progress and the knee gets better, we’ll look at him differently, but for right now, him understanding all of that is very important to his success and ours.”

One of the locks for this season is the Opening Day starter. Jon Lester gets the call and that’s the wisest choice. He was a bulldog in the playoffs and garnered my total respect for him.

“Not many groups have that luxury — we do,” Maddon said. “Jake, two years in a row, has done an outstanding job, so has Jon Lester. Of course, there’s the ascension of Kyle. It has to go to Jon Lester based on the body of work. We feel good about that. However we want to set up three, four, five will follow.”

The ascension of Kyle Hendricks has been awesome. Whether he continues that ascension is up to him but “The Professor” is my favourite Cub and although it was incredible to see the Cubs win the World Series, for me it was that NLCS game 6 that was pure poetry. Hendricks carved up the Dodgers and if that is the defining game that turns this Dartmouth grad into Hall of Fame material, well for me, it was the most thrilling ballgame I’ve ever seen.

The Professor gets the start today against the Dodgers. Consider it a rematch of sorts. I’m not expecting much today but baseball is officially begun when your favourite player takes to the mound.

Believe it

 

Cubs Get Ready For Game One of World Series

Chicago Cubs

Today is the start of a journey that’s been 108 years in the making. The Chicago Cubs are four wins away from ending sport history’s longest drought. Suddenly, everyone is a Cubs fan. There’s also word that injured Babe Ruth lookalike Kyle Schwarber will make his return to the Cubs after missing out the 2016 season due to an injury in April.

“To have another young guy here who has a track record of hitting home runs, who is a threat, who, when you see his name in the lineup, there’s some scariness to that — we can’t wait to have him back,” Chicago’s Addison Russell said. “I’m a big Kyle Schwarber fan. I love what he does; I can’t wait until he gets here.”

He’ll more than likely fill the Designated Hitter role.

Yes, things have gotten a lot more exciting in recent days. The World Series schedule will be jammed and I’ll be lucky enough to get some sleep in the next couple of weeks. With the Cubs in the World Series, it’s easy to overlook some of the odd statistics about the Cubs for example when Dexter Fowler steps up to the plate he’ll become the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series. That’s unbelievable.

“That’s crazy,” Fowler said Monday. “It’s crazy to even think about that, because you look back and you look at your parents, my parents weren’t even alive then. It’s a lifetime. It’s awesome to be the pioneer, the first one.”

Even Schwarber is the Cubs post season home run leader with five. He only played one season!

So, as nerves get steadied, Jon Lester gets the ball tonight 8pm. This is what fans and players have waited their lifetime to be a part of. For the casual baseball fan or observer who is tuning in for the first time wanting to witness history in the making, “Where were you when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series?” This is it. The hardest trophy to win in sports (Yes, even harder than the Stanley Cup my fellow Canucks), two deserving teams locked in a pitcher’s showdown or a batter’s paradise. No World Series has ever been won on Wrigley Field soil, that fabled and mythical place where everything and everyone is friendly.

If you don’t know what’s going through fan’s minds right now, here’s Bill Murray

“I think I cried a little bit.

“There was a feeling … where I just felt the whole building, the whole room, just the relief and the sense of wonder that it was really happening.

“And I just felt for everyone, for every Cub fan and everyone in Chicago that’s been waiting, and all over the world, who have been waiting for this moment.

“I just thought some sort of prayer was being answered.

“It’s exciting. If you don’t know what it’s like to wait your whole life for the team you root for to win, you can’t explain it.

“To root for a team that never won, it’s character building.”

That’s Chicago Cubs baseball.

Believe it

 

Cubs Take Game 1 on Montero’s Grand Slam

Chicago Cubs

Hollywood can’t write this stuff better than what happened in the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Game 1 of the NLCS. Miguel Montero hits a grand slam with two out to put the Cubs up 7-3 before Dexter Fowler scripted it with a back to back home run to make it 8-3. The Cubs finished with an 8-4 win.

“Obviously, after the first pitch, I’m looking something middle, middle in, and he threw me that slider,” Montero said. “It was a really good pitch to hit, and I missed it. And in my mind, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I missed that.’ That was a perfect pitch to hit. But you have to step out of the box and just pull yourself together and try — all I was trying to do was get a base hit. Don’t strike out right here. Get a good pitch and try to put the ball in play and make something happen.

“But to be honest, in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit,” Montero said. “And I guess he heard me because he threw it back, and luckily I hit the ball pretty good.”

After the two strikes, the FS1 commentators were saying how Montero “Could be a hero tonight in game 1” Two strikes, two out and Boom!

Wow, the Cubs have a way of answering the call and providing the fireworks. It almost didn’t happen that way.

Jon Lester who pitched a great game, was yanked in the 6th inning and he looked upset.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t get paid to make decisions; I get paid to pitch. So that’s his decision to make. … Would I have liked to have gone out for the seventh? Absolutely. But you got to understand the situation and put yourself kind of [into] what the manager’s trying to do.”

Did anyone catch Javier Baez’s steal home that erupted Wrigley Field? It was the first time a Cubs player achieved this feat since 1907, when Jimmy Slagle stole home. If the Cubs do go on and win the World Series, Javier Baez has got to be Playoff MVP.

“I went a little bit too early,” Baez said. “But I saw him ready to throw the ball, and I didn’t want to get in a rundown, so I just kept going home.”

But if it got the ire of Joe Maddon, he didn’t let it show.

“Give Javy credit for what he did,” Maddon said. “One percent or less of all Major League players would have done what he did. Honestly. He’s just that good on the bases. Sometimes he’s going to look bad because he’s going to make what appears to be a mental mistake. But he had that all plotted out. That’s purely good baseball instinct by a kid that’s a baseball player.”

That’s what makes baseball the great.

Tonight will be the most important game for the Cubs this post season. Clayton Kershaw vs Kyle Hendricks. If the Cubs can get by Kershaw and go up 2-0 in the series, the momentum will be on their side. Kershaw has pitched 4 times in the last 10 days but he’s the league’s best. Hendricks though, is the Professor.

Believe it

Cubs Bullpen Stumbles and Dexter Fowler For MVP

Baseball

Even the the mightiest teams can lose. Last night’s 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals was an especially tough one to take. What started out as a classic pitcher’s duel, ended with John Lackey being yanked in the 7th inning with tightness. I could feel Joe Maddon’s stomach churning during that walk to the mound to tell Lackey he wasn’t going to play anymore.

“His shoulder stiffened up and that was it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “He tried to talk me out of it, and I was not going to be talked out of it. I’m sure he’ll tell you he’s going to pitch his next start. That’s possible. I just don’t know anything yet.”

He’s worn the red cap and knows what these series are like. That was tough on him to come out of the game, but he did.

This is where the problems occurred. Justin Grimm took over and struck the batter out but when usually hard throwing and reliable Hector Rondon took over, the time off due to injury wasn’t kind to him.

“Today, I came in with the ball up and I didn’t have my best command and I didn’t mix in my breaking balls,” Rondon said. “Today, they got me.”

If there was the weakness in the tough Cub exterior, then it has to be the bullpen. It’s great that the Cubs have that cushion to fall back on. Their lead is 12 games ahead of St. Louis and they’ve still got some breathing room over the Nationals but nobody said this would be easy. It would be better if the Cubs duked it out right until the end and went to the Big Series clawing their way to the top.

Of course loading the bases with nobody out and not capitalizing like they did in the seventh is not a good situation. I’m sure those Mercedes and Ferraris parked outside had their Key Fobs pressing auto start with a big tanned Econoline following them in the rearview after the game.

“Offensively, we do need to do better in those particular moments and get those add-on runs on later in the game,” Maddon said. “That was a big moment, bases loaded nobody out, and they got out of it.”

The Cubs wanted to sweep the Cardinals. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Cubs only won 38 games and the Cardinals 75 or vice versa. The Cubs let these two games slip from their paws and perhaps the Cardinals showed them up but one thing is certain; the Nationals will put the pin in the Cubs fairy tale year balloon come October.

“You always take that split, but when you get in position to grab more than that, that’s the part you don’t necessarily like,” Maddon said. “But we played well. Every time we play well, even if we lose, I’m OK.”

They did play well. Kris Bryant‘s triple, Anthony Rizzo‘s home run and Willson Contreras‘ hustle were all out on display, but the irony is that this season the Cubs pitching is what’s keeping them in the games and it’s exactly the pitching that could end it for them.

Does anyone else think Dexter Fowler should be considered for MVP?

Believe it.