Cubs Say Goodbye To Legendary Vin Scully…At Least Till October

Jon Lester

So here’s the deal. The Chicago Cubs could face the Los Angeles Dodgers in October and man, if the 1-0 loss didn’t get that much more important. Sure, the Cubs are still first place overall and the offensive juggernaut in the MLB, but that doesn’t mean a thing come October and quite frankly, I’m worried.

The game pretty much ended on a miscommunication play from Javier Baez to Ben Zobrist.  It happens, but those kind of miscues aren’t going to fly in the playoffs. It could be the difference between a series victory or, well yeah, you know.

“It’s a tough play and it’s a reaction play and it’s a feel play,” Zobrist said, “but if we communicate ahead of time, he knows right away when he catches the ball, to go to first base with it. He can’t field the blame on himself, it’s everybody out there. It’s myself. I really feel it’s more my responsibility being the older guy out there. He’s still very young and playing all over the place and sometimes we can all get a little lackadaisical with our communication when we’re in those various positions. We have to stay on that and try to do better next time.”

The Dodgers make me nervous. They’ve always done that. We remember the last time these two teams faced each other in the post season and the outcome, right?

I think baseball is so much about communication. From yelling, “Lefty!” and doing the shift to knowing where any of the players traditionally hit to, it’s all about the communication.

“He has as much instinct for the game as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Maddon said of Baez. “He just misread the moment right there. I’d like to believe they’ll communicate in the future so when Zo’s way over, that ball’s hit right there, I know I’ve got to go to first base.”

In fact, I’d go out on a limb to say that you can have the worst ball team in the world but if you communicate, you’ll win games. Of course having the worst ball team means that they’re not communicating in the first place.

On the other hand, the Cubs did play good ball. Jon Lester pitched well and despite the blunder, the game was a showcase for what could be October.

“There’s worse spots to be in — 14 games up in almost September is not a bad spot to be. I thought we played good baseball today. We pitched really well, extremely well. Just a couple mistakes that we’ll learn from, which is good. That’s all you can ask for. I thought we played really, really good baseball. We have to get a guy in from third the last two days — that may have cost us a ‘W’ here or there but that’s baseball.” David Ross said.

Vin Scully

A neat part of the series was being able to hear the immortal Vin Scully broadcast the game. He’s retiring at the end of the season in case you weren’t aware and he’s been doing it for 67 years.

 

“He’s just a different human being,” Joe Maddon said. “I really feel fortunate that I have been able to exchange a handshake and have a photograph. That’s like the window to the world up there when you sit up in his booth and he talks about the purple mountains majesty and how it reminds him of that. You think if you’re watching at home, that’s his perspective and that’s his view that he’s describing for so many years.”

Believe it.

Hammel Exits Early in Loss. Trying To Make The Chapman Situation a Positive

Jason Hammel

Even though baseball is a past time and a sport, the frustration can get to players, just ask Jason Hammel after he was pulled with just 39 pitches in yesterday’s close loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2.

“I didn’t even pitch today in my mind,” Hammel said. “I barely threw 40 pitches. This is a side day for me, pretty much.”

It’s gotta be hard for baseball players when they get yanked from games. I mean every player thinks they’re good and they can contribute to the team. I’m not saying Hammel’s a bad player, not that at all, but yesterday just wasn’t his day and I’m sure he and Joe Maddon had some choice words for each other.

“Of course, he didn’t like what I told him, but I had to tell him, and that’s cool,” Maddon said. “I’m not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence or any other issues.”

It’s also a sign of a great team when the players fight for staying in the game. I believe that  with this kind of attitude, the Cubs are going to go places in the playoffs.

The flip side is that Hammel will be rested for his next outing.

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times about Caitlin Swieca( @CaitlinSwieca), a Cubs fan who has found a way to put the Aroldis Chapman situation into a positive. She’s pledging $10 for every save that Chapman earns to fight domestic violence.

“It’s a moral dilemma,” Swieca said. “There’s definitely two conflicted feelings: the feeling of wanting to just watch a game and not let the domestic violence thing bother you, and the feeling of not wanting to let the domestic violence issue just fade into the background.”

There’s a lot of conflicting attitudes towards the signing of Chapman. There’s no disputing his pedigree on the field, but there’s no excuse for what he did off of it. I think what Caitlin is doing is fantastic and a good way to cheer for Chapman because I’m finding it very difficult to do that.

Believe it.

 

Cubs’ Bryant Launches Two in Comeback Win

Chicago Cubs

West Coast trips give me a headache. They make me nervous because they’re always tough. First, they’re the equivalent of a southpaw in boxing that can throw any team’s balance off.A team can have a great win streak until they face a west coast juggernaught like the Dodgers. Another reason I don’t like west coast series is the time. I’m getting older man, and staying up later is proving to be quite difficult, so last night’s 6-4 victory over the Dodgers proved to be one of epic proportions.

Kris Bryant has got to be the frontrunner for MVP this season. He’s got be that leading candidate. The guy is the total package in baseball. He hit two home runs last night but these weren’t two home runs in any game, the Cubs came back and won the game in the ninth because of them. See? A clutch in epic proportions.

“He doesn’t quit,” Jason Heyward said of Bryant. “He doesn’t want to stop, and that’s special in the makeup of somebody young, and special in the makeup in a player in general. … You can talk about why he’s hitting the ball well, and he has a good approach. It’s that simple. He works his tail off every day to try and go out there and help us win. When you have that gift and that work ethic, a lot of good things can happen if you stay positive.”

That’s the mark of a great leader. He helps his team win everyday. The Cubs are filled with that kind of persona. Every player gives 110% but there’s that extra push from Kris Bryant. Anthony Rizzo has that too.

“We have many guys who are having good years,” Maddon said. “[Bryant], the biggest difference is his swing has gotten shorter. It’s more contact oriented and he’s not chasing as much. He’s able to put the ball in play with two strikes. For me, that’s the biggest difference between this year and last year.”

I think Bryant is that special player who can elevate his game to the next level with ease. Mature beyond his years, he garners the respect from his teammates and when Jason Heyward, who is having some struggles this season, had a great game as well received some heaping praise from Bryant.

“It inspires me,” he said. “It makes me want to be like him. Always keeping his head up, always being positive. I can’t say enough about him.”

Baseball is probably the most “head gamish” sport of them all. A streak can quickly turn into a slump, and a high priced free agent can quietly become a bum. The Cubs are doing great things this season. There is just over four weeks left in the regular season, the Cubs are positioned to go deep into the playoffs and “MVP!” was chanted at Dodger Stadium.

“It’s pretty cool,” Bryant said. “Growing up, you hear that on TV and to hear it now, it’s humbling and keeps me going, and keeps me determined to do more. It’s pretty cool to hear.”

Life doesn’t get better than that.

Believe it.

 

 

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.

Believe it

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.

Believe it.

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 Stumble Against Rockies

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell follows through with his swing after connecting for a solo home run off Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa in the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A baseball season is filled with its fair share of peaks and valleys. Yesterday, the Cubs fell to the Rockies 11-4. Hey, it happens to the best of us. There was a bright spot in the loss; Addison Russell. He notched two home runs in the loss and at the ripe old age of 22, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game, has been the secret weapon of the Cubs all season long.

“If Addison played here right now, he’d probably have at least 25 homers, quite frankly, and be approaching 100 RBIs,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “From what I’ve seen all summer in Wrigley Field, there’s such an amazing advantage offensively here. What you saw today, he’s done that a lot with the wind bringing the ball back in. In his brief Major League career, he’s playing at the top of his game right now.”

The thing I’ve always noticed about the Colorado Rockies which I’m sure some of you will dispute, is that they are one of the toughest teams to play against. When they’re bad, they have a tendency to find ways to spoil the party for other teams. Those rare occasions when they’re awesome, they discover new ways to suck. If I were a betting man, I’d stay far away from the Colorado Rockies.

Do you agree?

This was the first series that the Cubs lost since the All Star Break, I don’t think it’s too much cause for concern especially heading into San Diego and facing baseball’s most travelled pitcher and five inning specialist Edwin Jackson where hopefully the Cubs can get back on track but it’s those west coast trips that can mess everything up just ask the Griswolds.

“That’s the kind of game I don’t dwell on for very long,” manager Joe Maddon said afterward from his office. “Once you guys leave here, I promise you I’m going to crack open a Miller Lite, grab something to eat and look on Trip Advisor to find somewhere for us to eat tonight in San Diego.”

Jason Hammel who has been the darling pitcher of the Cubs in the second half did not enjoy the same day that Addison Russell did. He got lit up really badly which raised his ERA from 0.95 to 2.17 which proves that baseball can’t always be the marathon long season. Things can change with one game.

“We gave them too many opportunities,” Maddon said. “They had to get six outs, Jason did, in the first inning, and that’ll wear you down a bit. Had we just caught the ball today, he could’ve had a different view about it early in the game. We came out first and third, popout, homer, but then we started making too many mistakes. That really put Jason behind the proverbial eight ball.”

Tonight’s a new series in a new town and a fresh start. Ah, baseball is a forgiving game.

Really Joe,  Miller Lite?

Believe it.

Cubs Peaking Over Rockies

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery delivers to Colorado Rockies’ David Dahl in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Chicago Cubs dominated the Rockies in a 9-2 victory while trying to make a case for the accolades to continue in Kris Bryant‘s career after he took the cover off of the ball for his league leading 31st home run of the season.

“There’s still a lot of season left, but for me, I just kind of went into this year working on making a little more contact, and I think having that approach has allowed me to tap into more power,” Bryant said. “I’ve always been the type to hit the ball in the air and hit home runs, so if I’m going to be able to make more contact, I just think more home runs are going to result from that.”

But like every win, it starts with pitching. Mike Montgomery, who was placed in the rotation after John Lackey went to the DL, did 4 1/3 innings of work with 5 strikeouts. The Cubs need this kind of pitching when their regulars go down to injury. Although he did’t get the win, Joe Maddon is confident Montgomery can step in again.

“He has great command of his off-speed pitches, and the fastball has been located really well. A very good curveball, and a nice changeup off that and with that a two-seam fastball that runs and gets the ball on the ground and a four-seam fastball that he can strike you out with. He’s got really good command of everything right now, but the thing that’s impressive is the ability to throw a breaking ball for a strike.” Maddon said.

If the Cubs are peaking, then they’ve certainly have it going at a good time. The MVP race is picking up steam and there’s no shortage of Cubs in the mix. The Cubs have a lot of depth and they could wind up with their first 100+ wins since 1935 but in the end the only thing that matters is the World Series.

Today, Jason Hammel takes to the mound with hopes that the Cubs will win this series against the always tough Colorado Rockies. Game time is 4:10 EST

Believe it.

 

Cubs’ Bryant Homers His Way To History

Kris Bryant

It was the Kris Bryant show yesterday at Wrigley Field as the Cubs put another victory into the win column and a big sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers 9-6. It was easy to see that this future hall of famer is only going to get better. Yesterday, Bryant notched 2 HR and 5 RBI’s on route to becoming Chicago Cubs’ fifth player to reach 30 home runs in a season while still being 24 or younger.

“He’s a great player,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said of Bryant. “He’s been able to play a lot of different roles, especially defensively, for us, and he’s one of our biggest role players. To see what he’s continued to do and do what he did today is not a big surprise. [Anthony] Rizzo is a tremendous player and pretty much our MVP every year, but Kris is a special guy.”

He’s not too far off base there. Every team needs a dynamic duo. Mantle and Maris, Canseco and McGwire, Rizzo and Bryant. The MVP race heated up with “Bryant’s Game” and fans will forever debate which one was better but don’t tell Bryant any of that,

“You really take it at-bat by at-bat,” Bryant said. “It’s good to start the day off with a hit — it gets you going a little bit, gets your confidence going. You look at the scoreboard and see 3-for-3 and 4-for-4, that’s one of those days that you don’t have too often. For me, I don’t feel like this too often, but today was one of those days when I was really locked in.”

The normally humble player usually shrugs off those type of accolades but it’s all right to bask in that huge accomplishment. As for the pick of who should win the MVP between the two?

“I think they’ll be fine,” Maddon said. “I’ve watched them interact. KB, if he has an ego, I haven’t seen it. This guy comes to play every day, and he doesn’t react any differently. Rizz is probably a little more animated. I want to think they’d root for each other in that particular moment. I honestly do.”

There’s only one piece of hardware that Anthony Rizzo and Bryant want and that’s waited elusively for more than a hundred years.

Believe it.

Cubs Give Fans Reason To Believe

David Ross

Sometimes the Chicago Cubs make it look too easy. Yesterday’s 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers was one of those kind of games. Jon Lester led the Cubs with his 13th win of the season and now owns a 7-2 home record. This is the guy, who in the winter of 2014, the Cubs held a big press conference announcing that,

“I want to win…I believe in the plan that they have in place right now for the future of the Cubs.”

A year and a bit later, the Cubs are 6-0 in the last six Lester starts. I’ve never been a huge fan of his style but I have to call it what it is, the guy’s been outstanding this season.

After throwing for 6.2 innings, Lester’s night was done and he walked off the mound to an elated Wrigley crowd.

“You don’t want to be the loose link in the chain,” Lester said. “You want to keep pressing along where you’re not the guy and they go, ‘He stinks,’ and you’re letting the other guys down. I just try to stay in my bubble and go out and pitch well and give my team a chance to win. I don’t know if you look at that as being competitive, or not wanting to stink.”

But the fun didn’t just stop with Lester, Jorge Soler collected a three run home run that almost past the crowd and onto the streets behind. It’s fantastic to see Soler getting back in the swing of things since his return. He now has 7 home runs in his last 25 games.

Then there’s David “Grampa” Ross, who connected for a home run and got the crowd cheering on his swan song season.

“We’re just playing good baseball,” Ross said. “It’s nice to be healthy. [Soler] being back is a big piece. We don’t look at it as a long stretch of wins. We come in every day to compete that day against who we’re facing.”

There’s no doubt that this has been one of the most exciting seasons in Chicago Cubs history. It’s been the first season in a long time that fans weren’t just happy that the team is winning, it’s becoming dangerously close to expecting the team to be dominant which is not always the best way to go about things. My family is busy clearing off space in the house for talismans and other lucky charms for the October run. Yes, it’ll be heartbreaking should the Cubs fail to win the World Series but consider this; It doesn’t matter that the last time they won the big one, Ford was rolling off the Model T. What matters is that sports fans will have a chance to gather at the pub, the ballpark or at houses to witness history. A lot of fans cringe when playoffs come around because of the band wagon folks who display colours of the “Cool” team of the moment but these are the fans that will share in what could be the sporting world’s most celebrated victory. I’ll tell you right now that this October will be one to remember. It’s not about whether the Cubs win it all, but the unity they’ll bring in an October that fans will talk about for a long time to come.

Believe it.

 

 

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