Kyle Hendricks Will Win Cy Young

Kyle Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks is leading the National League in ERA with 2.19. The last time a Cubs pitcher did that, they played in a World Series. That was 1935 and the dude’s name was Ray Prim. I tell you folks, the star’s are aligning this season for the Chicago Cubs and after their 6-3 victory over the San Diego Padres, the Cubs are 36 games over .500 the last time they compiled that record was 1945. Um, they went to the World Series that season too.

Halley’s Comet has come and gone twice since the last time the North Siders won the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Sure, it’s easy to talk about a team when they’re doing things right in the win column but when guys like Hendricks and Willson Contreras have emerged into the budding superstars they’ve become and hardly anyone saw it coming this quickly, it adds to the excitement of the upcoming post season.

“You don’t see the velocity and don’t think there’s a strikeout in there, but it’s the movement and the changeup that provide the strikeout and his know-how,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Hendricks. “It may not be his best effort, but I still thought he was pretty good today.”

That’s the key to Hendricks’ pitching. It’s not pretty and certainly not fast but he manages to get things done by confusing batters with the changeup. I’m not going to be surprised when batters catch on to his style but in the meantime, he’s ironically enough, become baseball’s most thrilling and exciting pitcher to watch.

“Where I’m at, I’m just trying to stay where I’m at,” Hendricks said. “Keep the consistency, keep my pitches feeling good. I’m staying in my routine, not doing too much and just riding it out until I feel something change.”

Then there’s Willson Contreras, the young backstop for the Blue Bears that contributes on both sides of the plate. He’s emerged out of the catcher’s crowded place on the Cubs team to become that bona fide starter the North Siders need going forth. Yesterday, he banged a a home run for his eighth of the season and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that he hasn’t been a part of the Cubs pitching success either.

“Everyone in this clubhouse is like family,” Contreras said. “Once you get here, you start feeling comfortable from the first day. Even if you’re a rookie, and you just come up, you’re spending time with your family.”

For the Cubs, it’s that youth movement that’s paying dividends for the team this season. They’re not as connected to the history of the organization as a lot of the rest of the fans so it’s making it so much fun to be a fan this season.

Let’s just hope that Halley’s Comet doesn’t pass a third time.

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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.

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Cubs Welcome Back Heyward

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs sure are glad they’re out of Colorado and that Miller Lite went down smooth for  Joe Maddon after the Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 5-1 . There were many reasons for the Cubs to cheer about and it just wasn’t the victory. Jason Heyward put one into the stands and so did Kris Bryant, oh and wait, Addison Russell continued doing his Addison Russell thing by connecting on a home run to add to his total of 13 for the season.

“Just watch me over the course of the year,” Russell said. “The numbers may not be great, but I contribute to my team every single day. We all have each others’ backs and we’re pushing forward.”

His numbers aren’t as colourful as Bryant or Rizzo’s but he’s been a threat on both sides of the ball and I’m confident that he’s in the top 5 shortstops of the National League. If he gets overlooked by folks, it’s only because he didn’t win a rookie of the year or he’s young. He was an All Star and rightfully deserved it. His defensive skills are unparalleled.

“It’s just instinct,” Russell said. “Try to get in the best position, try to track the ball, anticipate where it’s going to be hit. It’s just instinct.”

Much criticism has been piled onto the shoulders of Jason Heyward after signing that huge contract in the offseason. While nobody questions his defensive abilities, the tough Cubs crowd at Wrigley (and in Canada) have not been too kind about his plate work.  When the rest of the team is doing well, it’s no wonder that folks call out their prized stud. Baseball is a finicky game that way, I guess. When you’re playing well, everyone is your friend but when things go south they turn on you. So it was great to see that home run last night. Get that elephant out of the ballpark and hopefully, an end to his slump.

“Everybody’s cheering their butts off for him,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said of Heyward. “We know how important he is to this team, not only offensively but in other areas. We know how hard he’s working and how he’s grinding and how he’s going about his business. There’s not a more professional guy who I’ve been around than him. … That dugout was more than ecstatic for him to make that good swing.”

There’s six weeks to go to the playoffs. The big moment that all Cubs fans have been waiting for and nervously growing their fingernails. This year the Cubs have created something extraordinarily special. The division is pretty much a lock, playoff rosters are still up in the air. I can tell you this much that it’s been a great year and as the nights feel crisper, the sadness of another summer passing and the thrill of autumn baseball looms.

Believe it.

 

Cubs lose Double Header and Ryan Braun a Cub?

Jorge Soler

 

Yesterday was a perfect day, the Cubs played a doubleheader, but sometimes all perfect intentions don’t exactly work out that way.

It was a case of,”All good things must end” Kyle Hendricks pitched a great game, but the the San Diego Padres Brett Wallace’s three run homer sealed the deal for Game 1 as the Padres went on to defeat the Cubs 7-4.

This is the first time this season that the Cubs have lost back to back games.

“Listen, we’ve done pretty good,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon after the first game. “We made a couple mistakes today. Our pitcher was outstanding. He hit a lot of balls really well. They beat us. I give them credit. You’ve got to give the other side credit.”

You could say it was David vs Goliath, Rocky vs Apollo Creed or whatever spin you want to put on it, but the Cubs got beat good.

The good news is that yesterday’s afternoon game bode’s well for Hendricks, who recorded a great quality start. He got off to a rocky start but as the game went on, he found his groove.

In the second game, John Lackey almost had a perfect game, if there were only five innings. There were many questions surrounding Maddon’s decision to put Jorge Soler up in the with inning when the game is on the line. It’s no secret that Soler is struggling this season, so why didn’t he pinch hit for him?

“Of course not,” Maddon responded after the 1-0 loss. “You don’t do that. This is a guy that’s a big part of our future. He could just as easily put the ball over the wall and get a knock. … There is really no thought of that.”

Whatever think about his decision, I’m on the side that’s still early in the season and the best way to find production out of a struggling player is to either play him when the game is on the line or send him to the minors for rehab. Soler’s got a great arm but his At The Plate production isn’t up to the rest of the team.

“He’s fine,” Maddon said. “There’s not a thing wrong. You can’t read into one game like that and denigrate a really good young prospect like that. He had a tough night, but he’ll be fine.”

Ok, I’m just going to put this out here right now. There’s a rumour that the Cubs are considering trading for Ryan Braun. If this happens, I’ll be so upset that you’ll hear me screaming from Canada. I can’t say I don’t like the guy because I’ve never met him, but when a guy gets suspended for PEDS  after winning an MVP award and doesn’t do right by giving it back, that doesn’t sit right with me at all. He can apologize all he wants but he still doesn’t deserve that MVP.

Ryan Braun doesn’t deserve to wear a Cubs uniform.

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Cubs Flair For The Dramatic Make Shakespeare Proud

Ben Zobrist

Eight wins in a row. The Chicago Cubs are continuing their magnificent run with an 8-7 win over the San Diego Padres. The Cubs are tied with the 1907 Cubs for best start to their season going, 25-6.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s fantastic.

“Jon didn’t have his best thing going on today, but he fought through six, which we needed,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But we played well offensively. … When you’re able to give up seven and win, that’s a pretty good thing.”

But hold on just a minute. They have to come down from that cloud soon, right? I mean, streaks don’t last forever and as every Cubs fan knows, it’s just a matter of time before things get back to normal.

“We want to stay as locked in as we are right now. The game is very humbling. We’re aware that time is coming when there are going to be great challenges, and we almost look forward to it. That’s when you find out what you’re made of, more so than the good stretches like the one we’re on now.” Team President, Theo Epstein.

And that’s the difference between this year’s historic franchise, they believe in themselves, but most importantly, they’re grounded in reality. The players take every game one at a time knowing that it’s a long season.

“You can’t stay this hot all year long,” Ben Zobrist said. “It’s such a long season, and we know we’re going to have down points. It’s the ability to pick each other up, and this team, so far, you’ve got contributions from everybody, all around the clubhouse, up and down the lineup, every pitcher, every reliever, everybody’s contributing in some way. I think the confidence as a team is just super high because of that.”

In fact, the Cubs are so steeped in reality that they’re oblivious to the Sports Illustrated cover jinx which is the equivalent of theatre’s hush hush of a certain scottish play before a performance. Not to say I’m without my own superstitions. I have a faded Cubs coffee mug that I’m almost tempted to not wash until that coveted trophy is dripping in champagne.

“We’re excited, but it’s still early May, and we have to keep that in our minds and recognize that every game is going to be tough and we have to battle every game,” Zobrist said.

Aye, there’s the rub.

Sure it’s a battle with a 162 game schedule, but the Cubs have proven that they’re strong and learned from last season’s heartbreak.

Today, the Cubs will play a double header. In honour of the Cubs crazy good season, I’m brewing up a batch of Fear The Beard English Pale Ale. Today, is my own kind of day like Ernie Banks said, “Let’s Play Two” A double header and making home-brew. Game time is 1:05 EST. One of my faves gets the start Kyle Hendricks.

Can’t get much better than that.

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Cubs Make Padres Pay For Sins

ct-cubs-padres-photos-20160315-003

 

It’s hard to imagine how good this team is going to be after an 11-1 shellacking of the San Diego Padres. I mean that sincerely because Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and even Miguel Montero wasn’t playing. That’s pretty impressive. It turned out to be the Dexter Fowler/ Jason Heyward show at Peoria.

Heyward led the Cubs attack with two doubles and three RBI’s while Fowler chipped in by adding two more runs.

”We have a lot of different ways we can put up runs and from Dexter and I’s standpoint, we can do a little bit of everything,” Heyward said. ”But yeah, it’s just nice to get on base and put pressure on the other team and try and set the table for the guys behind us.”

Which is exactly what they’re hire to do.  I mean, they got five runs in the first inning alone!

So now that we’ve determined that the Chicago Cubs’ offence is pretty darn good, there’s just one lingering question;

Will Jorge Soler pick it up?

He dropped a couple of balls on Monday in the loss to the Padres and that’s just spring. There’s no denying he’s pretty decent at the plate, but if the Cubs are going to go all the way, it’s gotta be defence.

“A lot of it has to do with information and drill work. Those are the two things I think he needs, and he’s getting that right now. He throws well. He’s shown he’s capable of making good plays. It’s like his hitting — his pitch selection went away from him, and then he got it back.” Joe Maddon said.

It’s funny because I thought I’d be worried about the bottom of the rotation but it’s kind of like now I’m a little too cautious about Soler and maybe Kyle Schwarber.

“I don’t have any preconceived notions,” Maddon said. “If it’s a tough lefty in a DH game, you still might not see (Schwarber). If we have enough right-handed coverage, you might see the righties in that game. But I would not say I’m advocating Schwarber over Soler defensively. It would just depend on the particular moment, what I’m seeing.”

For the first time since Joe Maddon began with the Cubs, I’m starting to see a little worry behind those glasses.

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Arrieta is Cool and Rizzo Proves His Leadership

Jake Arrieta

A 10-2 loss shouldn’t be any reason to jump and shout for joy, but then again, spring training is unusual that way. Despite the beating at the hands of the San Diego Padres, there were some high points.

Jake Arrieta struck out five batters and continues to make that Cy Young count.

“I wanted to pitch with guys on base,” Arrieta said. “I wanted to work on pitching from the stretch with good timing, good rhythm, good tempo. It was nice to have a guy like Jemile Weeks on base, a guy who’s fast, a guy who I had to vary some times and who I had to pick over.”

That’s what it’s all about. Those little things working to improve on the bigger picture. So, even though spring training is a more loose season working on different scenarios by the pitchers like a situation with players on base gives them a chance to sharpen their skills.

“The juices start flowing once the season gets here,” Arrieta said. “Arm strength is going to jump up a tick once the bright lights are on, which is the case for everybody. That’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what we’re all looking for these next couple of weeks — getting through it healthy, getting our pitchers built up as far as arm strength is concerned, getting our hitters some at-bats, then we’ll be ready. Everybody is going about it the right way.”

And going about it the right way is Anthony Rizzo. It’s hard to imagine that there are leaders on a baseball team especially on a team with players that are mostly under thirty and twenty -five, Rizzo has been the stand up guy who rallies the troops and sends good vibes throughout the clubhouse.

“He is a great teammate,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy gives his time to everybody. This guy is positive to everybody he comes in contact with. He’s absolutely about team. He’s willing to carry the message of the organization and the group.

“He’s a great teammate. Obviously, he’s a very good player. I like the way he is.”

That’s what you have to do. Whether it’s on a baseball diamond or in other lines of work. You carry the message of the organization wherever you go. Anthony does it with his charity, The Rizzo Foundation which raises support for families of children with cancer.T

Rizzo is a game changer on the field or off of it. It’s that kind of impact that will lead the Cubs this year.

“He’s a winner, and he’s all about winning,” Maddon said. “I believe that’s his agenda on a daily basis. He’s going to grow into a leadership role. I think in the past, before we got here, there was too much expected of him in that regard.”

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