Cubs’ Valbuena Off To Houston For Dexter Fowler

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It was inevitable that Luis Valbuena would be traded. Hey, not because he wasn’t pulling his weight around the clubhouse, but c’mon, he played third base and we all know who’s been waiting in the wings just chomping at the bit to get a piece of the third bag on the diamond.

Kris Bryant.

During the Cubs Convention, a young fan asked Joe Maddon who he would pick at third base, Mike Olt, Luis Valbuena or Kris Bryant. We all know who the kid wants, but Joe still asked him anyway, “Who would you play at third?”

Kris Bryant

Of course the kid picked Kris Bryant. Of course Joe Maddon wouldn’t commit to an answer!

The reality is that the Cubs have been in such a great position lately stockpiling players to make room for these young kids coming up. Having too many guys at third was a great problem to have.

A fantastic problem.

Yesterday, the Cubs sent Luis Valbuena and David Straily to the Houston Astros for Dexter Fowler. On paper it doesn’t have any ink drying blockbuster deal but look closer and it’s a really good deal.

Luis Valbuena is a great guy and the kind of player teams need. He was consistent last year and at the odd time showed some pop. I’m a little sad seeing him go, but with too many elephants standing at third, there wasn’t a choice.

In comes Dexter Fowler. A switch hitting possible leadoff hitter(a position the Cubs are still pretty soft at) and hitting an awesome .366 On Base Percentage, he’ll anchor the outfield between Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara.

“It’s tough leaving my teammates and relationships I’ve built,” Fowler said, “but going to a young team like that is awesome.”

So, in my mind the team is set for Spring Training. It’s going to be a battle in just about every position. No kid is a sure thing and no veteran is a lock.

Let me put this in perspective:

You’re a batter. One corner has Kris Bryant/Mike Olt. Then Starlin Castro separates Javier Baez from third. Who’s on first? Anthony Rizzo.

Jon Lester? Yeah, he’s that monster on the hill staring you down.

Believe it,

Mark

Cubs Chalk It Up To Youthanism

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There’s an old saying that, “You can’t win em’ all” and nothing is more truer than yesterday’s loss to the Cincinnati Reds 7-2. Now, even though we’re all excited and I’m assuming every Cubs fan is as excited as I am in the direction the Cubs are taking, we have to  remember that most of these guys are just kids. Javier Baez’s miscue from Luis Valbuena was an example of this kind of youthanism.

It’s a bold statement to wish anything more than what these kids can do during the rest of the season. They’re learning the game and games like that one will be plenty.

“It wasn’t a clean game — I’m sure everybody is thinking the sky is falling, the wheels are coming off the wagon,” Renteria said. “I just want to make sure the players understand we’re still there for them and they have to keep playing the game.”

Let’s play Armchair Manager right now. If I were Renteria, I’d be telling the kids that there’s one month left in the season. Forget about the standings. Forget about the post season and playing spoiler to those contending teams, concentrate on each series and focus on the fundamentals. Learn the game all over again. pretend it’s sand lot ball.

Ok, that was a little much. Binge watching Friday Night Lights. Sorry about that.

Jake Arrieta had an off game throwing only 96 pitches. That’s all right as well. He’s been impressive to watch all season , so I can forgive him, but let’s look at it this way, the Reds are a dangerous team and although they’ve been struggling too, somehow they’ve got the Cubs number.

“The thing we’re going to try to concentrate on is give the pitcher some support by defending well, and making sure the little things we have to do in terms of the game are taken care of,” Renteria said. “The at-bats and the offense could come and go, and there could be hiccups. That’s to be expected.”

The Cubs are looking forward to tonight’s series against arch nemesis, St. Louis Cardinals. Kyle Hendricks gets the ball.

Believe it.

—Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cubs Take First Game Against Soaring Orioles

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If Javier Baez decided that baseball wasn’t his thing and he switched careers to take up boxing, we all know he’d go down swinging, but man, he’d have a killer knockout punch. Yesterday, the Cubs clobbered the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 with Baez and Luis Valbuena hitting the ball hard and long. The Orioles are playoff bound so the win was all that more sweet. I was kind of hoping the Cubs would do the Toronto Blue Jays a favour but the Jays lost 8-0, and that’s a whole different train wreck all together.

Maybe the Cubs win was a result of Jake Arrieta out to prove his old Orioles something, or the Cubs are starting to be that good.

“There was a little more to it, being your former team,” Arrieta said. “After the first inning, it was just business as usual. It was nice to face those guys. It’s good to see a lot of them again — it’s been a while.”

Forget golf being a Gentlemen’s game, baseball is all class. If that was Arrieta’s way of being nice to former teammates, I’d hate to see him mean.

Then there was Baez’s out of the park rocket. if he can cool his swinging, there’d be more of those launching over the heads.

“You want to see every one of that kid’s at-bats,” Arrieta said of Baez. “It’s starting to get to the point, even though it’s so early in his career, that nothing surprises me with what he does at the plate. Everyone knows when he connects with that swing, he’ll hit it a long way. I don’t know if many of his home runs will touch the seats here, honestly.”

This is an important series for the Cubs. They have nothing to gain in the standings, but beating a first place club like the Orioles isn’t just a confidence booster, but more of an accomplishment and like that Gentlemen’s game, they’re playing against themselves. The season’s still got plenty of games left and let me tell you, I’m excited for the post season, but I’m all ready dreaming of next year.

My wife Mary Beth asked me recently, “Are the Cubs all you think about?”

“They day we were married, I won the World Series.”

Believe it,

—Mark

Could This Be Jackson’s Last Stand For The Cubs?

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It’s hard to put a positive spin on the Cubs 8-3 loss to the Giants last night, especially when Edwin Jackson is on the mound. However someone can spin it, Edwin Jackson lost. They had the hits 11 to the Giants 14 but leaving those runners on base killed the Cubs chances. It wasn’t all Jackson’s fault, but if management doesn’t do something now with the struggling pitcher, their integrity will be in question going forward. Remember Jose Veras? The Cubs cut ties with him early and somewhere down the line, they’ll have to do the same with Jackson.

“No one wants to be moved, but if it happens, it happens,” Jackson said about a potential shift to the bullpen. “The only thing you can do if you don’t like it is go out and pitch your way out of jams. Like I said, you just have to relax and have fun and get back to having fun. And tonight was an example of absolutely not doing that.

Yes, but Edwin are you going to pitch your way out of a 52 million dollar jam? Those things stick to the rye bread in the breakfast of franchises and leave a mess long after the jam’s been consumed.

On a happier note, Chris Valaika crushed the leather from the rubber in his first dinger of the season and Luis Valbuena added one in the eighth.

I think it’s time Edwin goes to the bullpen. They can bring up Dan Straily and give him the practice he needs. Hey listen, I was a fan of Edwin Jackson, but it’s a business they’re running and the Cubs are on the verge of something special and don’t need a distraction like Jackson. He’s not a starter.

Believe it

—Mark

 

Cubs Get Out Of Dodge

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It could have been the LA sunshine or somebody reminded Edwin Jackson about his whopper of a contract because he pitched a great game. Oh, and then there’s Luis Valbuena. This guy’s on fire sending yet another Home Run into orbit! The Cubs get out of Dodge with a 7-3 victory.

So, I’m not a stats type of guy, but it’d be an interesting study to determine if Edwin Jackson is really bad or in the losses he took how much run support did he get? It might not be entirely Jackson’s fault. Anyone want to do a quick search on how many runs he gave up?

“It’s good for the team,” Jackson said. “We came in against a tough team coming off a six game win streak. It’s a high-style environment playing at Dodger Stadium. It’s pretty loud and the fans are really into the game. It’s good for us to come out and take victories like this and win series like this.”

Damn straight it’s good for the team. The Cubs aren’t playing for pride, the Cubs are “auditioning” for next year. Hey, that’s a new term to use when a team isn’t having a great year. This win over the Dodgers will impact the club immensely. Guys like Chris Coghlin and Luis Valbuena are really the spine of the team. Providing Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro the depth they require.

“He’s come in really challenging himself,” Renteria said. “He’s a guy who wants to prove every day that’s he’s capable of being out there and he’s got a good work ethic and has a good approach. He really plays the game with a lot of heart.”

Believe it.

—Mark

Home Sweet Home For Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks

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You can always come home and for Kyle Hendricks it couldn’t have been sweeter, and more awkward. It would have been nice if he wore a Dodgers uniform and the score was 8-2 for Los Angeles, heck, that’s how legends are made and Hall of Famers born.

Fortunately, Hendricks wears the Blue and the Cubs beating the Dodgers is a huge win for the club, be it, a morale booster, but these victories at this stage of the season over the,”Big” clubs will put confidence and some swagger, especially a shellacking like they did against the Dodgers.

“It was awesome tonight — that’s a heck of a lineup over there,” Hendricks said. “Every guy up and down can hit, they’re one of the best teams in the league. I was lucky to go out there and throw some strikes and get them out. It was really fun to have my family and friends here to watch.”

It was probably the only time when forty fans cheering on the Cubs in LA will ever get any kind of approval.

Now that Jeff Samardzija has migrated to Oakland, there’s a renewed excitement on the pitcher’s mound with Kyle Hendricks. What I like especially is how he went deep into the game. Going seven innings. This is the type of game the Cubs have to get because defense wins games. When a pitcher goes past five innings, that team usually wins.

“You always have lofty dreams but I was more concerned with the day-to-day work to get me here, and I think that’s what I attribute to finally getting me here,” said Hendricks. “I thought about playing up here but didn’t think about this moment necessarily.”

Not to be outdone by the rookie pitcher, Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena both had excellent games with three hits by Castro and a solo shot from Valbuena.

The Post Season may be a daydream away, but one thing is for sure with these Cubs. They’re having fun again.

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Send Into Extra Innings But Come Up Short

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Did anyone expect the Cubs to pull out the heroics two nights in a row? A show of hands? Just what I thought, oh wait, there’s someone in the back with their hands half mast. There’s one in every crowd.

Last night the Cubs fell to the Rockies 6-4 in ten innings. It seems Luis Valbuena has picked up steam crushing his eighth home run of the season and sending the game into extra innings.

“We just fell a little short,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said.

Ok, I’ve noticed a pattern in Renteria. At the start of the season he was talkative and hopeful. Check out this quote:

“I’ve been involved in a youth movement my whole life,” Renteria said. “Players, in essence, keep us young. I try to use everything I’ve ever had as a parent — for example, dealing with whatever moments of frustration or issues that might have occurred in the family — to my advantage. I’ve used that in my thought process through the game and teaching.”

That was a quote after he was hired as manager. Remember the start of the season? Now we get, “We fell short.” So has the speeches.

You know, there’s a part of me that wants the Cubs to go all the way this season, you know, win it all. Then, there’s another part of me that says, “Wait, hold on. There’s help coming. Be patient.”

The start of that help came yesterday with Felix, no not that Felix, but Mr. Doubront from Boston for an as yet to be named later player. There’s not much to get excited about with that deal an ERA of 6.07 makes me want to go, “Oh hey, that’s awesome, he should fit in well with the club.” but I’m feeling more like, Meh? The Cubs have also acquired Jonathan Martinez in the Barney deal.

It’ll be an interesting day today. Rumour has it Emilio Bonifacio is headed to Kansas City. Will this happen? Will Javier Baez see action?

I can’t stand the suspense.

Believe it.
—Mark