Baseball

Yesterday was likely one of the hardest days in Cubs history. The trade deadline we’d had circled on the calendar finally happened, and despite knowing for months exactly what was gonna happen, it didn’t make saying goodbye any more painful.

Jed Hoyer sent away not one, not two, but ALL THREE of the core players from the 2016 World Series team that had expiring contracts after this year, over the last 48ish hours. He also sent away the three key pieces that made the Cubs bullpen so nails during the start of the season, and also Jake Marisnick and Trevor Williams, if you got attached to those guys. (I didn’t.)

Despite knowing it was coming, it’s still extremely difficult to say goodbye, especially because fans aren’t sure if there will ever be another Cubs team like the 2015-2017 teams. There may not be, and the future is now filled with question marks and unknowns for Cubs fans. Hatred toward the Ricketts family for not adequately building around for the core post-2016 is now the norm for any North Sider, and distrust that he will be able to build a core that strong again is certainly rampant throughout the fanbase.

There are many players to say goodbye to, so let’s get going.

Joc Pederson – Though he was sent away a while before the trade deadline, he deserves a space in this eulogy just like anyone else, I guess. He was our starting left fielder for the first half of the season, and though he was overly hyped to begin the season thanks to a crazy spring training, his offensive numbers were just about always in the top five of Cubs players: runs, hits, doubles, triples, and RBIs — he’s there for all of them. (Granted, the team’s offense overall this season has for all but one month been in the bottom of the league standings, but at least he was trying.)

Pederson now plays for the Atlanta Braves, where he has 17 hits, 2 homers, and a .288/.333/.441 slash line in 14 games, because of course he does. Pederson was always going to be short-term, signed on a one-year prove-it deal, so Cubs fans can say goodbye and good luck to the outfielder as he continues his MLB career elsewhere.

Andrew Chafin – Though shaky early on, allowing eight hits in April, Chafin quickly turned into a bullpen staple and was continually relied upon to get outs, arguably a little too much. He ended his Cubs career with a 2.03 ERA out of the bullpen, pitching almost 40 innings and allowing only 21 hits and 9 runs. As a native of my home state who played baseball at my college, Chafin was a favorite player of mine the last few seasons. I wish him all the best as he…attempts to make the playoffs with the A’s, I guess?

Ryan Tepera – Another bullpen staple was moved mid-game Friday across town to the White Sox, to the behest of many angry people on Twitter. (There were a lot of them yesterday.) Although Tepera didn’t do too well in his White Sox debut yesterday, not being able to get any outs and allowing a run, Sox fans will soon come to like him as he had a 2.91 ERA for the Cubs over 43 innings pitched. If you need an inning from him he can usually provide one without giving up any runs in the process. In fact, prior to yesterday’s game, he hadn’t given up a run since June 28, right before he was put on the IL.

Anthony Rizzo – Despite being out of Friday’s lineup for a “scheduled rest day,” the announcement that he had been traded — to the damn Yankees, of all teams — still felt like your guts were getting ripped out when you heard the news.

Like many sportswriters have pointed out before me, Rizzo will never have to pay for dinner in this city for as long as he lives. For nine years, he was the face of the greatest Cubs run in history. He caught the final out, hit 242 home runs (6th all-time for the club), drove in 784 batters, got MVP votes in five straight seasons, is a four-time Gold Glover, and appeared in three straight All-Star Games. This doesn’t even get into his charitable foundation, all the money he raised and all the smiles he put on children in hospitals all across Chicago.

Although his WAR suggests he’s on the decline, and his back will likely continue to keep him out of the lineup for short stretches, Rizzo is a veteran presence and a shakeup the Yankees infield probably needs. He also slashed .248/.346/.446 this season, better numbers than the rest of the Yankees’ first basemen this season combined. Take care of him, Yanks. We’ll miss him.

Craig Kimbrel – Moved on trade deadline day to the White Sox to join Ryan Tepera, Kimbrel was another pitcher acquired by the Cubs who started things off quite rocky but ended up straightening the ship, being incredibly reliable when called onto the mound and continuing his hall of fame career with the Cubs.

When coming over from Boston in 2019, Kimbrel was shaky, posting a 6.53 ERA. Everyone shuddered when Maddon would put him on the mound that year; I know I was. However, Rossy had confidence in him that the fanbase didn’t have, and he was eventually right on that one for once. He posted a 5.28 ERA in 2020, allowing nine runs in eighteen appearances, but has returned this season to a form that he’s never really been before. His 0.49 ERA is astounding considering the team behind him, and his best ERA since his MLB debut for the Braves in 2010, despite having only half the number of appearances for Atlanta that year.

He’s also only allowed six runs total in 39 games he’s appeared in. The Sox are getting an amazing, hall of fame closer, making their pitching even more dangerous, as Kimbrel continues to climb up the all-time career saves list. (371, for those counting at home.) Best of luck.

Javier Baez (and Trevor Williams) – Baez is on the back of my jersey, and it’s because he made the game so excited to watch. He kept you sitting in front of the TV during the 3-hour slog that baseball games can sometimes be; his defensive plays often had you doing double takes, asking how on earth did he do that? His baserunning was magical, and the 140 homers he hit for the Cubs, his .262/.303./.474 career slash line for the club, and the ridiculously high 900 strikeouts were just another unique dimension to his on-field play.

Javy is going to be sliding over to second to play with Francisco Lindor on the Mets after Lindor returns from injury soon, and they will probably make some crazy highlight-reel plays together that will make you remember the good old days. He’s going to love playing with him, the Mets will likely offer him a bigger contract than the Cubs, and life will move on. I truly wish him all the best and hope he thrives there, as it’s certainly what he deserves.

As for Trevor Williams, his quality starts were few and far between for the Cubs, only three out of thirteen total. It probably wasn’t helped by his bout of appendicitis a quarter of the way through the season that shut him down for all of June. I’m sure his father is bummed Williams is leaving Chicago, but hey, New York’s…kinda fun too, I guess?

Kris Bryant – The prized trade chip — one who never wanted to leave the Cubs. When KB was drafted, he zoomed right through the minors and spent no time immediately becoming one of the best players in the league, winning NL Rookie of the Year and NL MVP in his time with the Cubs, a feat no other Cub has done.

Though he has dealt with injury issues throughout his career, his statistics over his seven years in the MLB are still really impressive: his .279/.378/.508 slash line, 160 homers and 465 RBIs were a huge part of what made the Cubs elite, especially in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. His career WAR is, boy howdy, 27.6. He was on a tear this season as well, hitting 18 homers and 51 RBIs despite some nagging injuries; his RBI numbers this year especially are on track to be better than he’s had throughout his entire career. For a lot of this season, Bryant was carrying the Cubs offense on his back.

Now he heads to the San Francisco Giants to chase another ring and hopefully beat down the Dodgers in the process. He wanted to stay in Chicago, and it was quite sad to see videos of him sitting in the dugout Thursday and getting the phone call Friday before the game. Bryant should’ve been a Cub for life because he was such a special one — for God’s sake, you could ask him to fill in at pretty much any spot on the field and he wouldn’t break a sweat. Hopefully he gets the money (and another ring?) that he deserves during his time with the Giants.

Jake Marisnick – Hoyer threw this one in at the end just to mess with us after all the other franchise-altering damage had been done. Marisnick played fine for us over his 65 games this year, never truly horrific in the outfield and putting up middling offensive numbers compared to the rest of his career. He’ll likely be remembered with a passing shrug by Cubs fans; now he’ll be with the Padres trying to chase a playoff spot. Say hello to Darvish for me.

We have some horrific baseball in front of us for the next few months, Cubs fans. I’d be lying if I said I even turned on yesterday’s game, though tonight’s showed a bit more promise. The good news is that former Cubs will likely be seen dotted throughout the playoff race, although you’ll have to decide which of the Yankees, Giants, White Sox, or Mets are the lesser evil when the playoffs do roll around. (I guess I’ll be cheering on the Sox for my colleagues’ sake. Let’s not spread the bad vibes across town, shall we?)

We now enter the great unknown; who knows what’s coming up next for the Cubs. I may as well stick around to see what happens. I hope some of you will too. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

Though the series started on a positive note, things sort of ended with a flop as the Cubs continue to struggle offensively, along with rolling out shaky starters who you can never completely trust to hold it together for a quality 5-6 innings. I’m not sure what exactly I expected out of this series, but I was certainly hoping for at least a split — obviously that didn’t happen as the Dodgers starters were able to shut down the Cubs offense for the most part. Let’s break these games down.

June 24, 2021
Cubs 4, Dodgers 0
WP: Davies (5-4) LP: Buehler (7-1)
Box Score

I must say, I was not confident in Zach Davies’ abilities at the posting of the last wrap, but he was finally able to put up a good game today — a combined no-hit game, in fact — against the Dodgers, and against Walker Buehler, whose ERA was over 1.00 points higher than Davies. However, he gave us a quality start of 6 innings, being a big part of the no-hitter tonight and striking out four batters. He also walked five people, something he definitely needs to work on, but it was all in all a solid outing for him.

Meanwhile, on the offensive front, our home-run-happy Cubs continued to hit some home runs, if you can believe that. Javier Baez started things off on the right foot in the 1st with a solo dinger, and then in the 6th Willson Contreras hit a home run of his own, scoring Bryant, who walked to start the inning off.

An offensive rally began in the 7th inning when Jason Heyward was able to hit a single, dashing to second base after an ugly Dodgers throwing error. He had two hits this game after being quite invisible offensively for most of the season.

Eric Sogard, the king of singles, was able to send Heyward to third base. And once again, the pinch hitters put up a hit, as Jake Marisnick hit for Davies and was able to poke one to the outfield, scoring Heyward. Pederson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but after that a Bryant strikeout and a double play against Baez ended the inning.

Teamwork makes the dream work, as Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin both threw an inning each to keep the team no-hitter intact. Once again we were all blessed to watch a Craig Kimbrel save unfold before our very eyes, and there was a celebration abound as the Cubs threw the first combined no-hitter in MLB since 2019. Congrats to all.

June 25, 2021
Cubs 2, Dodgers 6
WP: Treinen (2-3) LP: Tepera (0-1)
Box Score

This game didn’t go nearly as well, as Jake Arrieta starts are wont to go these days. However, it wasn’t Arrieta on the hook with the loss this game, and he was able to stay in the game for 5.0 innings, which is…progress? He allowed five hits, three walks and two runs in his time on the mound, however, which can definitely be improved upon. He allowed a single in the second inning, and a steal and two groundouts that advanced a baserunner made it 1-1 at the bottom of the 2nd. (Kris Bryant hit a solo dinger during the second at-bat of the game.) Then Arrieta allowed a homer to start the 3rd inning to make it 2-1 Dodgers. A walk and a double put runners in scoring position, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs, but he was able to lineout to end the inning.

Arrieta allowed no more runs in his time on the mound, but tonight the bullpen was not as sharp as it usually is. Keegan Thompson and Andrew Chafin combined to allow no hits in the 6th and 7th innings of the game, but it was Ryan Tepera and Tommy Nance who collapsed in the 8th inning, allowing two homers and four runs total between the two of them. Definitely a forgetful ending to this game, for sure.

June 26, 2021
Cubs 2, Dodgers 3
WP: Price (3-0) LP: Thompson (3-2)
Box Score

It was Alec Mills’ time to start in the rotation, and he only threw four innings, giving up hits almost immediately and wracking up eight total on the night. Two doubles in the bottom of the 1st put the Dodgers ahead immediately, and a wild pitch by Mills advanced Max Muncy to third base. It just took another single for the Dodgers to make it 2-0.

However, Mills gave up no more runs for the next three innings, thanks in part to Willson Contreras making one of a few highlight-reel plays for him this game. In the 2nd inning, he was able to catch Chris Taylor stealing third, getting the ball to Patrick Wisdom to throw him out. This inevitably saved the Cubs a run that would’ve put them in a 3-0 hole, as a groundout right after this ended the inning.

The rest of his start, Mills walked two pitchers and allowed three singles. It was once again Contreras keeping the Cubs in the game, picking off Chris Taylor yet again at third base in the 4th inning. Anthony Rizzo hit a solo homer the half-inning before, and it was Contreras’s defensive ability to allow the Cubs to tie the game just a half-inning later on two doubles from two players who’ve been a mess offensively all year: Jason Heyward and Ian Happ.

Heyward continued to produce, even hitting a solo homer in the top of the 7th to give the Cubs the lead…or did he? Not according to the officials, who decided to overturn the call on the field with no evidence that the ball went foul, and when the video review was similarly inconclusive, the overturned call stayed. Umps explaining calls to fans when?

That didn’t keep Heyward from being productive that at-bat, though, although the single he hit was much less than productive than the go-ahead homer would’ve been. The Cubs weren’t able to score in this situation, though, and it ended up being a game-deciding call, as the Dodgers walked it off in the 9th inning with a solo home run. This was definitely a game stolen in part by umping, and those are always tough ones to swallow.

June 27, 2021
Cubs 1, Dodgers 7
WP: Kershaw (9-7) LP: Alzolay (4-7)
Box Score

This game wasn’t stolen by umping by any means. Unfortunately, Adbert Alzolay had a tough night, as the game went off the rails in only the 2nd inning, when he loaded the bases through only walks and hit-by-pitches and then let Zach McKinstry hit a grand slam to make it 4-0. Javy Baez made a fielding error to allow Mookie Betts to reach after his at-bat and then Cody Bellinger hit another two-run homer in the same inning to make it 6-0 Dodgers. Alzolay was pulled after just three innings.

Baez tried to make up for his fielding gaffe by hitting a solo home run in the 4th inning, but by that time it didn’t seem feasible that the Cubs could come back from this. It would be the Cubs’ only run during the game, and one of only four hits—the other three came from Joc Pederson, Eric Sogard and Patrick Wisdom.

Tommy Nance and Rex Brothers came out of the bullpen to give guys like Tepera and Chafin some time off. Nance pitched three innings, allowing only three hits and striking out five batters. He gave up a run in the 6th inning to make it 7-1 Dodgers after allowing a Mookie Betts triple, but other than that he had a pretty good outing all things considered. Brothers pitched the other two innings and allowed no hits for the Dodgers.

The Cubs’ next couple of games couldn’t be more important as far as late-June baseball is concerned; they’re heading to Milwaukee to start the week with three games against the Brewers. Since the Cubs have been sliding, the Brewers are now 2.5 games ahead in the standings with a 43-33 record, first in the Central. If this team has a prayer of winning the division, they need to win AT LEAST two out of three to stay in the mix. Otherwise, the Brewers could easily pull way ahead of the entire division. (The third-place Reds are already 6 games back.)

From what I’ve seen, unfortunately, I just don’t think the Cubs can do it — not with this rotation and the offense in the freezer, falling back down to 28th in the league with a .224 team batting average. The Brewers have won five in a row (granted, against garbage teams like Arizona and Colorado), and they have solid pitching to go with it. Not only do they boast starters like Brandon Woodruff with a 1.89 ERA for the year, but they also have two other pitchers, Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes, who have a better ERA than Kyle Hendricks, who leads Cubs starters with a 3.84 ERA. Plus, the Brewers have Josh Hader, another incredibly talented closer like Kimbrel. It will be a tough test for the Cubs — let’s see if they survive. Go Cubs go!