Cubs Extend Epstein’s Contract

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

Sep 28, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (49) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What’s not to love about the Chicago Cubs right now? Their President Theo Epstein has just signed a 5 year contract extension, they have their most wins with 101 since 1910 and they finished first in all of baseball. Even the staunchest St. Louis Cardinals fan will be turning their heads and saying,”You know, the birds might not make October, but damn those Cubs are good!” All right, I might have went too far on that one.

Last night, the Cubs fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 and I think what set the tone was a little squabble between Jake Arrieta and the umpire, Chris Guccione. There were a few questionable phrases that went along with those questionable calls that might have rattled the beard of Arrieta.

“He got a little upset in the first inning, and I don’t know if that took him away from throwing a good game,” Miguel Montero said. “I really thought he had good stuff going on. I don’t know what happened. Did it feel like Spring Training? I do believe that, and that’s not a good feeling for a pitcher or a player, knowing you’re going to play four innings, five innings.”

Perhaps Joe Maddon was giving all of his players a rest last night but yeah, it felt like a different ballgame, not the usual fire that the Cubs bring to the park. The fire was burning for Arrieta after the game. He was mad and I could tell just by the way he stared down Guccione after the altercation in the first inning.

“I don’t think you know how hard this game is unless you play it,” Arrieta said. “I feel I can have another season like that. People have done it before. Why can’t I do it? I can do it again. So, yeah, I appreciate it. But at the same time, that’s what you strive for. That’s why you work hard. You go out and you try to perform that way.”

There was some good stuff that came out of the loss. Anthony Rizzo knocked his 32nd home run into the stands and there was an odd switch of positions between Rizzo and Ben Zobrist but last night felt odd for this normally dominant Chicago Cubs team.

I like the stability that the organization is bringing to the Cubs. Signing Theo Epstein to an extension sends a clear message that they want this roller coaster ride to continue. The Cubs have become the class of the major leagues and to think that before Epstein was there, baseball was still reticent to look at stats and numbers when drafting and signing players. Embrace the change, that’s what Epstein brings to the table.

“This has been a wonderful environment in which to work, in which to build, in which to make great new friends and stand shoulder to shoulder with some amazing people from the top to the bottom of the organization, as we try to accomplish something that has a lot of meaning to all of us in the organization. I’m thrilled with the decision, I’m thrilled with how things have gone.” Epstein said.

Believe it.

 

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 Ahead By A Century

Javier Baez

“First thing we’d climb a tree
And maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently
And listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday
Cast in a golden light
No dress rehearsal,
This is our life”

Ahead By A Century- Tragically Hip

There are two ways to look at the Chicago Cubs 12-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates last night. One being that the Cubs are so dominant and this is hopefully a sign of things to come in the post season, or the Pirates are so bad that this game was merely just a tune up for the post season. Either way, the Cubs showed the sparse crowd at the awesome PNC Park just how good they are.

The Cubs collected their 100th win as well. To reach the century mark for the first time since 1935 is an omen. It was a year that they made the World Series and hopefully if all superstitions are kept in check could mean a great sign for the October ahead.

Javier Baez hit a grand slam and drove in six runs to showcase why he’s exactly what the Cubs need and Kyle Hendricks pitched six scoreless innings in the rout.

“It’s not too often you get this much talent in one room on one team,” said Kris Bryant, who celebrated the 100th win by driving in his 100th and 101st RBIs on a two-run homer. “We need to realize what we have here and be grateful for it. I couldn’t have pictured a better first two years in the big leagues.”

If there were any doubters of the greatness of Hendricks, they’re quickly rewriting their ballots on the Cy Young voting card. He only struck out five last night but he made batters hit into grounders with ease and that’s all any manager can ask from a pitcher.

That and what’s the mascot’s name at Dartmouth.

“He says, ‘So, if I was to go to the bookstore at Dartmouth, what would I see as the nickname of the school?'” Hendricks said. “I said, ‘Big Green,’ and he walked away.”

We all know that history isn’t exactly on the Cubs side. A 100 win season doesn’t exactly carry over to a sure World Series thing but one thing is for sure, the Cubs have won 100 games before. Those years were 1906, 1907, 1909 and 1910. Kris Bryant has more home runs then those teams did in each of their seasons.

Huh?

“The guys wanted that 100th win. I kind of like that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “A 100 is very significant for us. I’ve been on teams that have lost 100 games, so it’s kind of nice to be on the other end of the stick. It means we’ve been pretty consistent all year.”

So as the Cubs are checking off their milestone bucket list, I can guarantee that there’s only one more thing for them to check off and if that doesn’t happen this season, it wouldn’t exactly be a failure but disappointment would be the right word. No manager, GM or team president signs players thinking that this is it. What I’m looking for in the Cubs at the end of October is that 7th game, bases loaded, two out and David Ross at the plate kind of season. You can write the ending.

Believe it.

 

Cubs David Ross Homers in Wrigley Field Curtain Call

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ David Ross (3) waves to the crowd after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

As the baseball world mourns the loss of Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez who died tragically yesterday morning, the Chicago Cubs paid tribute to the fallen pitcher with a jersey hanging in the dugout with his name and number. Baseball players build a tight community and come through tragedy as well as triumph together. Cubs fans showed that to veteran David Ross last night in the Cubs 99th victory of the season, 3-1 over the Cardinals and David Ross’s last night playing at Wrigley Field; he hit a home run.

“I was overcome with emotion,” Ross said. “I’m so appreciative to the fans in Chicago for the way they treated me and the way they embraced me and treated me and this team and the way they give me so much credit that I don’t deserve.”

In the seventh inning, Joe Maddon came to the mound and Ross was livid. He thought he was going take Jon Lester out of a game where he was pitching extremely well but Maddon had other plans. The team celebrated Ross’s career. It was a classy move by a classy manager and a classy ball club.

“Honestly, I’m like, ‘Why is he taking Jon out?'” Ross said. “[Maddon] says, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I’m taking you out of the game.’ And then I pulled my mask down because everyone started telling me they loved me, and the emotions started, so I’m trying to get myself together before I walked off the field and then the fans started cheering again.”

It’s not only the on field success of the Chicago Cubs that can be attributed to their amazing season but it’s their friendship on and off the field like their respect for David Ross, a back up catcher playing in the final home game of the regular season and in him hitting a home run and receiving a curtain call, that’s what it’s all about.

“It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn’t it?” Maddon said. “I mean it had to have happened tonight.”

But every celebration should end and the Cubs are back to work tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Kyle Hendricks will try to secure the Cubs 100th win of the season and just like last night where it was fitting that Ross homered at Wrigley Field, it would be fitting that the next generation of pitchers seal the deal tonight. The pitcher with the lowest ERA in baseball leading his team to a possible 100th victory, well Hollywood couldn’t tell a story like that. Unless Hendricks was wearing a cape. If there was a sequel to this film, it would happen at the end of October but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Believe it

 

Cubs Get Attacked By Cardinals 10-4

Jason Hammel

The one thing that is certain about the Chicago Cubs 10-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals is that Jason Hammel has solidified the Cubs #5 spot in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta , Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Not that it was any surprise, but his game has been out of whack lately.

“Honestly, I’d love to be a part of it, as the rest of the guys on the team would love to,” Hammel said of the postseason. “I know there’s only a certain amount of spots. If I’m handed the ball, I’m ready. Obviously, you want to be part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has been part of something special to get to this point. We’re all very proud. We still have eight regular-season ballgames left to build some momentum. Postseason, whether I’m on the roster or not, I’m still going to enjoy it.”

There was a bit of excitement when Dexter Fowler almost hit for the cycle. He was just a home run shy of doing the great achievement. In fact, there have only been 14 natural cycles in MLB history.

“Dexter is looking like he did in the first half,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s nice to see.”

Before the Cubs head out to the playoffs, the Cubs  will have another chance to be 100 winners at Wrigley Field tonight when Jon Lester will get the opportunity to be the hero in front of a nationally televised audience to strut his stuff  and if the Cubs win, they’ll set a franchise record at home for wins with 57 and the Cubs will win the season series against the Cardinals. Should the Cubs face the Cardinals in the post season?

“They would be very tough,” Maddon said of a potential playoff matchup. “They’re very good offensively. They can match up out of the bullpen. They do a lot of things.”

The Cardinals and the Cubs meeting in the playoffs again would be that fitting conclusion to a dream season for the North Siders.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Secure Home Field For NLDS and NLCS

David Ross

It was a pretty exciting day for Chicago Cubs, their fans and David Ross. Yesterday, the Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 with Jake Arrieta earning his 18th victory of the season. Before the shellacking, Cubs catcher and clubhouse grandfather David Ross, was honoured for his years in baseball.

“The things they said about me is kind of overwhelming, and the way they treat me, and how much respect they have for me,” Ross said. “I’m a guy who tries to work hard and ends up with some years in the big leagues and has done some fun things, and with this group, trying to win a ring this year, the emotion comes from looking back when you reflect on your career. I don’t try to do that, because it gets really emotional.”

On top of the win, the Cubs clinched home field advantage through the NLDS and the NLCS after the Pittsburgh Pirates downed the Washington Nationals 6-5.

Arrieta now has 18 wins on the season and is in a three way tie topping the national league with Max Scherzer and teammate Jon Lester.

“That was more reminiscent of what we saw last year,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. “He’s not 100 percent there, but that was pretty darn good. [The Cardinals are] a good hitting lineup. That lineup they threw out today was a great test to see where he’s at.”

Of course this is the best time for Arrieta to get going, he struck out 10 batters in the rout of the Cardinals.

“The big thing for me is controlling my effort,” Arrieta said. “When I’m able to do that, my stuff speaks for itself. … Sometimes the competitiveness, the stubbornness gets in the way. Once I push that to the side, the stuff works pretty well.”

October 7th the Cubs begin the journey for the history books. Their 98th win of the season was the most by a Cubs team since 1945, which was the last time they played in a World Series game. Another interesting fact is if the Cubs can win two more games for their 100th win, it’ll mark the first time they have reached that milestone since 1935 which was another year they made it to the World Series. The bad news in winning 100 games in a season is the unfortunate statistic of during the last 30 seasons, a major league team finishing the season with 100+ victories, have only won the big prize twice. That was the Yankees in 1998 and 2009.

Yup, those aren’t incredibly satisfying odds, but then again, this 2016 Chicago Cubs isn’t no ordinary team. They’re different. They’re relaxed, confident and they’ve got destiny on their side.

Believe it

Cubs Give Us Strength and Give Us Hope

So what makes the 2016  edition of the Chicago Cubs look and feel different? They’ve had really good teams in the past in particular,2007-2008 with grizzled manager Lou Pineilla and Stars like Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Geovanny Soto. You have to admit, that was a good team. But as we know too well, great teams don’t necessarily guarantee a successful post season.

Going into the series against the St. Louis Cardinals marks the final regular season home series for the North Siders. It’s a fitting end to an extraordinary season. Two bitter rivals going head to head at Wrigley Field and an opportunity to put the brakes on the Cardinal’s Wild Card dreams.

As the season rounds third and heads home before going into the gruelling post season march to destiny, there’s a lot riding on the Cubs. However, I think there’s a lot more riding on the fans then on the players.

“We understand that Wrigley Field is a special place, but I don’t think anybody is worried about history or what happened before,” catcher David Ross says. “If you go out and work as hard as you possibly can and play as hard as you possibly can, the only thing left is winning and losing. You don’t have a lot of control over that. It’s either your night or it’s not.”

Look at it this way, there’s no fan or player alive today that remembers the feeling of seeing the Cubs or playing on a team that won the World Series. There’s a lot of other players you can catch at Cooperstown who will share stories of glory days gone by but not the Cubs. Billy Williams can never tell you about the time he and Ernie Banks made that amazing run in the 1960’s. It never happened. We wish it did.

All those close years dashed by mathematics or happenstance. So let’s blame a curse or some poor fan who happened to be in the wrong place, but of course that wrong place was Wrigley Field and that place is the same place where we as fans gather and feel that we’re at the right place, this year, this team. Where history and myth collide like maple to leather and for one simple reason;

We believe it.

Cubs Magic Number Is Two!

Kris Bryant

The Cubs are after the prize. Only three more victories and they’ll have 100 wins. It’s monumental, it’ll be their first 100 win season since 1935. Now, I’m not one for hexes or curses, Superstitions, yeah. The Cubs made the World Series in 1935. So, after last night’s 9-2 series sweep over the Cincinnati Reds, they’re one step closer to destiny.

“That’s a number I’ve never achieved on the win side,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the goal to reach 100. “I’ve achieved it on the loss side. Achieving that doesn’t feel good. That was my first year as a manager with the Devil Rays. We exceeded 100 that year.”

Well, if it makes you feel better Joe, the Cubs have reached that total too and it doesn’t feel good for the fans either. The Cubs’ magic number is 2 after last night.  The thing that was really impressive about last night’s win was the plays of Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. Zobrist who had three hits and an RBI. Montero contributed with his hot bat getting three hits and three RBI’s, these two players are peaking at the right time.

“This is where you talk about September provides its own energy,” Maddon said. “These guys are not fatigued. They’re actually very excited and they’re really doing a lot of good things.”

The win was good for John Lackey. The veteran hurler is slowly finding his groove and the Cubs will need his presence in October to back up the big three in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta.

“Lackey’s pitched in a lot of big games,”Maddon said. “John’s definitely not afraid of it. John kind of likes it. I’ve been there and seen it, both sides. He’s the kind of guy that, if you’re around him, he’s going to promote courage or fearlessness among the people he’s around.”

The big guy will intimidate and hunker down this fall. There’s been many warnings about the Cubs playoff chances, one being the Toronto Star but this year feels different. Most of the players don’t know about the curses. They’re here for one job and one job only.

“For me, this year is a completely different attitude from last year,” Kris Bryant said. “To clinch so early and have this time to work on stuff and just kind of tune up for what we hope to be a long playoff run, we’re very fortunate for that. Me, I’m just trying to stick with a good approach and not let the numbers on the scoreboard get to me.”

Bryant collected his 38th home run of the season and his race for Home Run King against Nolan Arenado.

“I don’t really watch the home runs, where they go or anything, but certainly this is one of the best parks to hit a home run in, just because you can hit it onto the street there,” Bryant said. “It’s been a really fun year, so to say that any home run onto Waveland, you get used to it, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. It’s a lot of fun.”

If the Cubs finish first, there’ll be a lot more fun on Waveland.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Secure Home Field For NLDS!

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs seem to be turning back time in more ways than one. First, there’s the amazing season where the Cubs are looking more like they did in 1908 and now, David Ross chugging home off a hit by Jon Lester, a symbolic victory lap for the retiring catcher. Last night, the Cubs downed the Cincinnati Reds 6-1 in front of a packed Wrigley Field and Jon Lester was, well Jon Lester.

“This is the guy you were going to get when you signed him to the deal he signed,” said Cubs catcher David Ross, who scored on Lester’s double. “This was a guy that I know and I expected him to pitch like this. I think he expects to pitch like this. He’s pitching really well and it’s nice. It’s just one of many guys who are throwing good on the staff.”

If the Cubs win it all this season, Cubs President Theo Epstein is going to come off looking like a genius. Jon Lester will win the Cy Young award over Kyle Hendricks even though he trails the crafty “Professor” in ERA. Sure, Hendricks would be the sentimental favourite and I feel he deserves it more than Lester because everybody knows what Lester can do, he’s just good. However, what Hendricks has done this season is incredible and he has matured into a bona fide ace on the staff.

“Obviously Kyle has had an unbelievable year,” Lester said. “If I had a vote, he’d be my vote. Just because I get to see him every day. I get to see how he goes about it, how he prepares and executes. He’s my guy. That’s who I would vote for right now, tomorrow, the next day or whenever.”

Awe man, I just liked Lester that much more. He’s saying all the right things but for a guy to go out and be that good and still acknowledge what his teammate is doing, well that just says everything about who the Chicago Cubs are.

With the win, the Cubs have officially secured home field advantage for the NLDS after the Los Angeles Dodgers lost last night to the San Francisco Giants 2-0. I’m sure people are getting a little frustrated with me when I rattle off the stats on why this year is a special one. My friends and family sometimes roll their eyes at my excitement but all you guys know that this is a special season unlike any other. This is an historic one. Here’s a question that might be on the wrong side of hypothetical.

What if the Cubs won in 1945?

Would the magnitude be on the level that it is?

No matter how good the Cubs are, there’s still one more thing…

“If you ask anybody in that clubhouse, the MVPs, the Cy Youngs, the Rookie of the Years, all that stuff, it’s all great and dandy,” Lester said. “At the end of the day, we want to win a World Series. I think guys are kind of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel right now.”

Believe it.

Cubs Snap Losing Streak In Style

Willson Contreras

The longest drought in professional sports history and the oldest serving Major League baseball team squared off against each other last night and to say that the Chicago Cubs needed that victory is an understatement. In their 5-2 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds, three important things happened; Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras all hit home runs to secure the victory but the big fourth important thing was Jason Hammel. He broke out of his funk and received his 15th win of the season.

“Overall, it was a good sign for me,” Hammel said of his outing. “Fastball command got better as the game went along. And the team continues to prove that if you hang around for a little while, they’ll make it exciting.”

Does that include sticking around for 108 years? After the win, the Cubs became the first team this season to have four pitchers with 15 or more wins. That’s impressive and what’s more impressive is Jason Hammel’s resiliency. With his 15th victory, Hammel has kinda been struggling this season so it’s great to see him with the win. It really hasn’t been the best second half for the hurler. If people believe that it’s an audition for the playoffs, it could just be a warm up.

“[My] individual numbers would be a lot better minus those runs, but overall, it’s the whole body of work and continuing to trust the process and the things that I’ve been working on,” Hammel said. “Everybody’s going to have a bad one, and unfortunately for me, they were really bad. But we continue to move on. Obviously, tonight was a step in the right direction. I felt good about it.”

It’s always better to look at the overall team accomplishment than the individual performance. Sorry if I pulled out that horrendous sports cliche but there’s no other way to put it.

If the season were to end today, the St. Louis Cardinals would have that final Wild Card position and man, wouldn’t that be great for the Cubs to face the Cardinals in the division series? Of course the Cardinals would have to get by the New York Mets but it would be worth the wait.

“Right now, it’s only about winning,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s it. We want to get this whole thing functioning properly, so when we get to the postseason, we’re able to do the things that we want to do.”

If the Cubs make it to the World Series, I hope Cubby Bear will save two seats for a couple of Canuck Cubbies.

Believe it

 

 

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