Cubs Deal With Controversy, Rain Delays and Victory

Jason Heyward

It’s funny that the Chicago Cubs most intriguing news happens when I go on vacation. On Monday, the Cubs signed the most controversial pitcher in the game today in Aroldis Chapman. It’s still hard to fathom that he’s on the North Side. My views and thoughts are best exemplified in  Bleed Cubbie Blue’s fantastic piece on this issue. If the Cubs should go all the way, I’ll be cheering on the team and not Chapman.

Yesterday’s monstrous win over the Seattle Mariners  12-1 saw the Cubs now legendary bats swing again after a dormant month. Jon Lester is beginning to resemble the player the Cubs signed those many moons ago. Right now he’s 11-4. That equals his total from last year. He pitched shutout baseball in 6 innings. That’s what the Cubs need from him going forward.

Then there’s David Ross, the “Old Man” of the team on his farewell tour, went 2 for 4 and took the cover off the ball for his seventh home run of the season.

What about Jason Heyward? His struggles this season have been well documented so it was a welcome relief that he cracked his first home run since June 11.

“This year has been tough, I’m sure, for him,” Lester said. “I’m sure people check the boxscore and they don’t watch the game. He’s squared a lot of balls up for us this year and hasn’t had much to show for it. That’s hard, because this game is built around results. He’s been grinding, and that [homer] was big for him to have that big swing for us and kind of get us going a little bit. Everybody’s in there rooting for each other and especially for him. That ball he ran down in the gap by [Robinson] Cano was a big turning point not only for me, but for us as a team. He brings so much other than what he does at the plate to this team. I think it gets overlooked at times. I’m sure it’s huge for him. He probably won’t admit it, but it’s big for him.”

When people talk about the controversy surrounding Chapman, they’re talking about the character of the team. Guys like Ross and Lester who show up everyday and push the team with no baggage and then there’s Heyward who’s been struggling all season and there were no complaints. Just support.

In a statement by Tom Ricketts, he addresses the situation with Chapman:

“Obviously, we are aware of the circumstances surrounding Aroldis Chapman’s suspension earlier this season. We are also aware that he cooperated fully with the league investigation and takes responsibility for his actions.

“Today, prior to completing the trade, Theo, Jed and I spoke with Aroldis. I shared with him the high expectations we set for our players and staff both on and off the field. Aroldis indicated he is comfortable with meeting those expectations.

“Finally, my family, this team and Major League Baseball take the issue of domestic violence very seriously and support efforts to reduce domestic violence through education, awareness and intervention.”

Domestic Violence does not wear a World Series ring, sign high priced contracts or has an option for extension.

Believe it.

Cubs Have a Stinging Loss

Jason Heyward

Yesterday’s game was a workout in the home run department. The Cubs lost 12-9 to the Seattle Mariners, but it was the bat duties of Jason Heyward, Addison Russell,  Matt Szczur and Dexter Fowler all took one deep for the Cubs who now have 30 homers in 20 games.

Is this a sign of things to come?

For Addison Russell, I feel that this is the season where he breaks out onto his own and becomes the player we knew he’d be.

“It’s been great working with him,”Ben Zobrist said. “It’s really tough to point out some weakness because he has so many strengths. The biggest thing he needs is time and experience, and he’ll get smoother and smoother and more and more polished as time goes on, and everyone will see what he’s really capable of. He’s got this special ability to make extended plays that other guys can’t get to because of his range and athleticsm. It’s going to be fun to watch.”

His defence is second to none. Last year, he made so many highlight reel catches it was just a matter of time before he makes it to the AllStar game.

“Conversationally, he’s much more confident,” Joe Maddon said. “He’s easier to joke around with. He’s just much more comfortable in his Major League skin. I love it. He knows he belongs here; he knows he’s good here. He’s in great shape. He was in fine shape last year, and I think he’s in even better shape now. There’s a lot going on in his personal life and his family, which is all good. He’s grown up a bit.”

There was a swarm of bees during yesterday’s game that made for some intense moments which stung Jason Heyward 10 times.

“They came over from right field,” Heyward said. “I saw them moving around a little bit, but right fielder Mark Zagunis was doing what I was doing, which is wearing it because we knew the game was going on. I wasn’t thinking to get out of there until it got crazy. I was like, ‘OK, I’m not going to stand here,’ so I tried to get away.”

Play was stopped for five minutes and  don’t worry Cubs fans, perhaps Jason should have some honey before games this season because it helped him with his home run output.

“You could see them from left field all the way to center, they were everywhere,” Jason Hammel said. “The fact that Heyward isn’t swollen beyond belief right now, I don’t know how he made it out of that.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Get Sunk By Mariners

Jon Lester

 

Jon Lester made his debut for the spring as the Seattle Mariners held on to beat the Chicago Cubs 10-8. He gave up three doubles in his shaky start.

“I felt pretty good out of the stretch,” Lester said. “I worked on some different timings and different holds and slide steps and stuff like that, which is good to do, get some timing on that. It is what it is. … I probably made a bad decision on running Ed Lucas to second base [in the second]. He’d committed early on going back to second. I didn’t help myself too much. We got through two innings. My delivery felt good when I was in it, and the ball was coming out pretty good. Obviously, the results weren’t there.”

Folks, that’s all right. Even as the Chicago Cubs sit dead last in the standings, I’ve got a funny feeling that the team has a few tricks up those pinstriped sleeves.

Although, I don’t entirely agree with his philosophy on base stealers,

“Regardless of who’s back there, it’s my job to be better,” Lester said. “I’ve always believed that guys like Billy Hamilton, you might as well throw the pitch and let him go. Just get it over with and say, ‘Hey, man, just go and do your thing.’

I’m not sure it’s the right thing to take your eyes off the guys on base entirely. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer might apply here. Sure, it’s the catcher’s job to control the game but the pitcher should know exactly what’s going on everywhere.

This is coming from a pitcher who has trouble throwing to first.

Maybe I’m being a little too rough on Lester, it’s his first game of the spring, but he might like to work on that.

The Cubs released Rex Brothers who struggled last Sunday.

“We didn’t see him fitting in right now, and we thought it would be most fair to him to get him out there earlier, which would permit him to work out the best deal for him and his family moving forward,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re just being proactive with that. He struggled with command.

That’s what spring training is for. Although I feel bad for the guy, it’s really good that they let him go early.

So, I think it’s difficult to gage a team in spring training. Baseball’s a team game and spring training is very much an individual assessment. If the Cubs finishing last in Cactus League play means that a transformation in the regular season to World Series contenders, then I’ll take that. I mean the guys are getting the home runs and once the machine is oiled and ready to go for Opening Day, then it’s going to be an interesting thing to watch.

With about two and a half weeks left until the big day, there’s a lot more shirt ironing to do and assessing. The player I’m most exited to see this season is Addison Russell. To me, he’s the complete ballplayer and will bring a lot of the excitement to the Cubs during the season.

Is anyone worried about the Cubs?

Believe it.

Cubs In No Hurry To Promote Bryant.

In a world that can seem ordinary, along comes Kris Bryant destroying two homers to add to his Spring Training lead of eight. The Cubs cruised(well sort of) to a 12-10 victory over the Mariners.

Now, it’s going to be difficult at third base. Maybe all that hoopla from Scott Boras has a certain ring to it. Here’s the Bleacher Report.

Kris Bryant, Spring Training, Chicago Cubs

Kris Bryant hits  another Home Run in the Chicago Cubs 12-10 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Ok, so I agree with Scott Boras on wanting Kris Bryant to start Opening Day. There’s a lot of frustration if the kid doesn’t start, but in the crazy world of ethics and business in baseball, here’s the real question that should be asked,

“Is it in Scott Boras’s best interest if Kris Bryant should start on Opening Day or Kris Bryant’s?”

There’s no questioning that the kid is going to be a superstar hell, he’s one all ready. However, he’s still a kid and no matter how much money Bryant makes in his career, it’s going to amount to diddly squat if he doesn’t establish the basic fundamentals of the game.

It’s funny how there’s no patience when it comes to the financial aspects of professional sports. As long as Scott Boras gets paid, he doesn’t really care about the welfare of Bryant.

Sure, he can be ready. Sure, he’s got the pop in his bat but agents, no matter how powerful they are have no right or say or determine when a player is ready to play.

In the end, it’s more likely publicity on Boras’s part because he’ll have to sit on the sidelines as Joe Maddon takes out his trusty pencil on Opening Day.

The Cubs want to win, they’re going to win someday and in a perfect world, it’s the players, the fans and the ball clubs that are hoisting the trophy and getting showered with champagne, but sometimes, in the dark corners of the dressing rooms away from the reporters it’s the agents who are smiling.

Believe it

Cubs Getting The Swing of It

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at Seattle Mariners

Amidst the snow covered dunes of the Great White North and beyond let’s look a little south, let’s say Arizona. If we go a little deeper down to a place called Peoria Arizona we will see something extraordinary. The Cubs lost to the Seattle Mariners last night 8-7, but boy the Cubs were the winners.

Starting pitcher James McDonald did not play well. Sure, I could flower it up by saying he was roughed up and gave it his all, but folks there’s no other way to put it; James McDonald just plain old sucked. Rick Renteria must have thought so, but was smiling as he went to the plate and yanked the struggling pitcher from the game. No hard feelings Jimmy, go out and get’em next time.

Mike Olt and Javier Baez are quickly staking their place in the lineup by having yet another big game for the Cubs. Baez crushed another ball for his third home run of the preseason and Mike Olt hit not one, but two rocket balls into orbit.

“It’s not out of the ordinary from what I’ve seen,” Olt said of Baez. “I’ve really never seen anything like him. He’s definitely a special player. I’m used to it now. He’s in my bp group everyday, so … He’s definitely fun to watch, and so are the other guys.”

So as the Spring soldiers on, the Cubs packed the bags and said, “See ya later.” to Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, at least until September.

The Cubs get a much deserved rest today before facing the supercharged Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.

–Mark

Cubs Win A Close One

darwin

It wasn’t a pretty win, but the Chicago Cubs managed to hold off the Seattle Mariners yesterday to go to their 7-6 win.

The Cubs had a 7-1 lead but the Mariners came back to be within one run in the eighth inning.
Edwin Jackson got his fourth win of the season but the underrated Kevin Gregg came in to seal the deal.

“We’ve played well as a team in spurts,” Cubs GM Theo Epstein said. “If you wanted to sum up the first half, you could say it went really well for the first seven innings. We’ve really had a hard time closing out games.”

Which makes Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein’s job that much more difficult going into the All Star Break in a couple of weeks. The Cubs need help everywhere except Starlin Castro( though that’s debatable) Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney.

The problem with the Cubs too is that they’ve never been in sync during the games. Either it’s the pitching that’s outstand or it’s been the offense that’s played well during the games.

Alfonso Soriano continued his hot streak and notched his 21 double of the season and Darwin Barney is now 68 games and counting for his error free streak.

“Maybe we’re lucky,” Barney said. “I think we would trade some of those doubles for more hits with runners in scoring position. Doubles are good, runs are better.”

I think it’s to be expected this time of the year when players start “auditioning” in hopes that their market value will increase while other players are in the home stretch to get that vote for the all star break and pad their resume with All Star tacked in the front of their name. Kind of like winning an Oscar.

So, the Cubs have a day off today before heading along the West Coast for their first ever visit with the Oakland Athletics tomorrow.

INJURY NOTE: Outfielder Ryan Sweeney will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken rib he sustained while crashing into the wall during Saturday’s game.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day and be proud of our longest unprotected border in the world.
—Mark

Cubs Have Flashbacks

Cubs Mariners Baseball

Not only was it “Throwback” Saturday, but it was also a throwback to a time when the Chicago Cubs can pull out last minute heroics as they went on to beat the Seattle Turks, I mean Mariners in the 11th inning 5-3.

Alfonso Soriano provided his ninth home run of the season and Starlin Castro notched his fourth home run but it was the throwback play of Alfonso Soriano that gave the Cubs the win.

Cubs “new” closer, Blake Parker garnered his first career save yesterday and might have sealed the deal as to who will be the next Cubs closer after the Cubs gave Carlos Marmol his walking papers earlier this week.

“It’s a position I’m comfortable in, for sure,” Parker said. “Going out there in tight situations is where any competitor wants to be. When it’s a close game and for all the marbles and everything’s on the line, usually that’s when most people are at their best. Gregg’s done a great job all year, and I’ll go out and compete no matter what role I’m in.”

As July waits in the wings, the Cubs continue to have more questions than answers. Who will be dealt come the trade deadline on July 31 and who will remain as the Cubs closer? Even though Kevin Gregg’s name has been whispered among the people in the know, could he stay with the Cubs? I would like to see him hang around for at least another season, but I doubt that will happen. Dale Sveum was pretty excited about Blake Parker’s play yesterday.

“He showed me a lot today,” Sveum said of the right-hander. “That’s a nice asset, to know it wasn’t a deer in the headlights in that situation in the big leagues.”

It’s just one game, but it could very well have signalled a vote in Blake Parker’s direction. now, instead of trading Kevin Gregg for another prospect, the Cubs could get a young arm. We’ll have to wait and see once the list of available players is out.

One thing is for certain, Alfonso Soriano played in the DH spot yesterday and it’s looking very likely that he’ll be heading to the American League very soon.

The Cubs look to close out the series today before heading to Oakland to square off against the Athletics on Tuesday.

Game time today is 4:10 eastern time and Edwin Jackson is looking for his fourth win of the season.

—Mark

Cubs Come Up Short Against The Mariners

chicago-cubs-v-seattle-mariners-20130629-025804-895

It was close but the Chicago Cubs couldn’t hang on for the win and watched the Seattle Mariners beat them 5-4 after 10 innings.

Travis Wood had a great game almost completing seven innings and striking out six but it was his support staff that couldn’t come through.

James Russell had his fifth blown save this year.

“The outcome is the outcome,” Travis Wood said. “I wish I would’ve had it, but it is what it is. They played a good game, and so did we. Things are going to turn around at some point and we’re going to start winning these games.”

Darwin Barney continued his errorless streak and now sits at 64.

So the story continues with the Cubs this season. It’s learning curves and close ones. Great pitching and some good plays, but it’s the end of the games and the ability to shut things down that have plagued the Cubs throughout the 2013 season. The Cubs are second in the National League with extra base hits, but they’re not able to capitalize on those opportunities.

Are they a young team with bursts of genius in them? Nobody can use that card all the time and pretty soon the Cubs will have to drop the, “Rebuilding” moniker from their media releases, newspaper and other sources.

There will come a time when the team is competitive and a force to be reckoned with. I’m happy that the Cubs don’t do the manager shuffle like some teams do when things don’t go their way. It’s stability and continuity that win championships.

“We’re out there, giving everything we’ve got,” Wood said. “Things are going to turn around at some point. We’ll start winning these games and not falling short.”

I love this club a lot and take great joy in watching those occasional bursts of brilliance in their play, but for the rest of the season, the Cubs shouldn’t panic and I don’t feel that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum are the types to do that. Make a couple of trades at the deadline. perhaps it’s Garza that has to go, but do they trade for draft picks? No. Their farm system is excellent and the prospects will be there. Now is the time to grab that quality player who can help the team finish those games. Someone who’ll score on those extra base hits or someone who can drive home those RISP’s-Geez, that sounds like an investment strategy.

The Cubs and Mariners retro jerseys circa 1909

The Cubs and Mariners retro jerseys circa 1909

The “Shark” Jeff Samardzija takes to the mound as the Cubs and the Mariners turn back the clock all the way back to 1909 with their throwback Saturday. They’re sharp looking jerseys! Game time is 7:15 eastern.

–Mark

Cubs Give Milwaukee Taste of Their Own Brew

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers

As trade winds are blowing for Matt Garza and possibly others, the Cubs gave Milwaukee a taste of homebrew when they handed them a 7-2 beating at Miller Park.

“It’s a blast when they spot you with seven (runs) before the fifth inning,” Garza said. “My job was just to put up a zero every time we scored and not let them get any momentum.”

Garza was exceptional in the win gaining 10 strikeouts in the game. With the win, the Cubs take their first series win at Miller park since 2010.

There are many questions as the trade talks loom over certain player’s heads. Even though Matt Garza is great trade bait, I don’t want to see him dealt because he can provide much needed leadership in the rotation. He’s gotten back from his injury and has played extremely well so it would be a shame to see him go. on the other hand, I think if I had to pick between Nate Schierholtz or Garza being traded I’d go with Garza and only because I think the Cubs would get a good market value in the trade depending on what is available.

“Obviously there are a lot of calls this time of year. We have a number of guys performing really well, including some guys who are under contract or under control for years to come. So it’s not like we’re rushing out to trade those guys. We owe it to the organization to see if there is something that makes us a lot better.” said Theo Epstein.

Ok, so I’ve touched on this before but the Cubs are second in the National League with Extra Base Hits at 247 going into the game, so why aren’t they higher in the standings? You’d think that extra base hits would equal more runs. Discuss.

on the plus side, Dioner Navarro walloped a three run home run which was his 7th of the season in the third inning to give the Cubs a 6-0 lead. He played a heck of a game.

The Cubs try to continue their winning ways today when they meet the Mariners. Game Time is 7:10 Pacific.

–Mark