It sounds funny now when you say the Cubs along with the Astros are something of the “model” teams are using to justify total tear-downs and rebuilds of their teams. But that’s still the case, though for how much longer one wonders. And the Cubs might not be the model anymore. The other thing is that it’s not going to work out as well even as it did for the Cubs. Look at the Phillies, who tried it and seem stuck in the middle forever. Not everyone gets the parade. And of course, the whole process can be used to cover up what is actually a simple “Producers” like tank to just cash checks.

The Pirates might be the prime example. This is an embarrassing end to the season for a team that just was never good enough because its management never tried to make it anything else. The cover story for them is that they’re still rebuilding from the ’14-’17 run, such as it was.

But did that really have to be? The Pirates watched the Cubs zoom past them, pinpointed by the wildcard game that Jake Arrieta and Kyle Schwarber essentially took from them. But over 162 games, those teams were exactly the same. Did they have to just watch instead of run with? They let Charlie Morton and AJ Burnett go their way, but they still had Jameson Taillon waiting and Tyler Glasnow not too far behind. But they added nothing to the lineup, and were caught standing still when everyone else was ready to move forward. It wasn’t attendance’s fault, as they drew three million fans the previous season.

No, what happened was ownership saw that it would take more money to keep up with the Cubs (and eventually Brewers and now Cardinals), and decided that it wasn’t worth it to them. Thanks to BAMTECH and other factors, they still get their money. So the Pirates of the middle of the decade were allowed to yellow, and that became a justification for trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen for essentially role players but no future stars.

The Pirates will claim that they’re remaking for a run in the next year or two, but what they’re really doing is just treading water and raking in the cash every MLB team gets before they even have to worry about gates and local television and the like. It’s a cover of a rebuild, but it’s hardly that.

There isn’t a team in MLB now that can’t afford to build a winner. The only team that might have that claim is Tampa, and they seem to come up with a contender every year anyway. But thanks to some teams that have found success going to the bottom to rise again, any team can use that as a life preserver when all they’re really doing is cutting costs. You’ve seen it in free agency the past two winters.

Until there’s a reason not to, this is the cycle the Bucs will stay in. Sure, maybe their system can produce a couple more players and Taillon comes back healthy one day and Musgrove really pops. And maybe they spasm a 92-win season or two. But as soon as that needs to be built upon and the foundations need to be paid, they’ll sink back into this, claiming a rebuild was necessary. It won’t be, but it’ll be profitable. Every team now can reach for “Springtime for Hitler.” The Pirates are just the best example.



RECORDS: Cubs 64-54   Phillies 60-58

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 6:05

TV: NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday, WGN Thursday

AND HIS HOUSE TOO: The Good Phight


Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Phillies Spotlight

After escaping Cincinnati with a split that you’re more glad to get against a sub-.500 team than would normally make sense, the Cubs will attempt to actually surge forward on the road in the Keystone State, including one game in the middle part of the state lovingly referred to as “Pennsyl-tucky.” It starts with a three-game set against the Phillies, who are doing a damn fine impression of the Mets these days.

It all started so well for the Phils, as they were 33-24 on June 1st and atop the East. They then watched the Braves go nuclear, the Nationals not far behind, and of late the Mets have become something of a farce, all the while piling up a 23-27 record in June and July. August hasn’t started much better at 4-7. losing series to the White Sox, Diamondbacks, and Giants. Yuck.

It’s not hard to figure out why. This team doesn’t really hit all that well, nor do they pitch all that well either out of the rotation or the pen. That’s a rough combination. The offense should be better, at least that’s what you’d think when you hear the names Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto. The latter has been everything they wanted defensively, perhaps the best actual receiver in the league. But his offense has been exactly average, as additional Ks to what he did in Florida have kneecapped him. Harper has merely been ok-to-good, but not the star he has fooled a lot of people into thinking he is every year. He pops that for seasons here and there, but not every year. Hoskins has been everything they want.

But there were too many dead spots. Left field was one after Andrew McCutchen had knee-death, which they’re trying to fill with Corey Dickerson now after getting him from Pittsburgh. They still get nothing out of center. Second base is another black hole. Jean Segura has been ok at short but he’s never going to provide much more than average offense. You know you’re in trouble when you’re trying Jay Bruce at all.

We went over the rotation’s problems, and they’e throwing out Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly in this series, both midseason acquisitions. Arrieta is sounding like he’s not going to be able to put off the surgery on his elbow bone spurs until after the season as he’d hoped to do. So they’ll have to fill that spot, and internally now thanks to the passing of the one deadline to rule them all.

The pen has been extremely beat up, as all of Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan, Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, and supposed closer this year David Robertson are on the shelf. And all save Robertson were key contributors last year. That’s part of the reason Eflin and Pivetta are in the pen now, but when you’re closing games with Hector Neris, you’ve broken the glass.

For the Cubs, they’ll hope to get both Brandon Kinztler and Craig Kimbrel back from the DL this series, though likely the former much more than the latter. They somehow have survived their reliever-ocalypse this past week, at least so far. Kyle Ryan is coming off the Bereavement List today as well, so that will help.

Other than that, the Cubs merely have to keep the momentum of Sunday’s win, which did feel important, rolling. This Phillies team is looking for a reason to roll over, and the Pirates are a roll over right now. A first successful road trip since the beginning of time, or so it feels, is just beckoning. Yes, weird things can happen at Citizen’s Bank considering it’s a launchpad, but this is a team that just gave up 25 runs to the Giants over four games, and the Giants have a couple of sock puppets and broom handles in the lineup right now.





RECORDS: Phillies 27-19   Cubs 27-17

GAMETIMES: Monday and Wednesday 7:05, Tuesday 6:05, Thursday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Monday and Wednesday, WGN and ESPN Tuesday, ABC Thursday

BLEW UP THE CHICKEN MAN’S HOUSE: The Good Phight (sky point Crashburn Alley)


Jake Arrieta vs. Yu Darvish

Zach Efflin vs. Jose Quintana

Cole Irvin vs. Cole Hamels

Aaron Nola vs Jon Lester


Andrew McCutchen – LF

Jean Segura – SS

Bryce Harper – RF

Rhys Hoskins – 1B

J.T. Realmuto – C

Cesar Hernandez – 2B

Odubel Herrera – CF

Maikel Franco – 3B


Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Victor Caratini – C

Jason Heyward – RF

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Addison Russell – SS


It’s a bit silly to talk about playoff previews, but given the way the Mets and Nationals are intent on sucking their own toes right now, it’s not hard to envision the Phillies being around in October. And with the Cubs at the top of their division as well, this is certainly a series that will draw interest from outside their locales.

Ah, but the headline isn’t so much a series between two of the NL’s four best teams, which it is, but the actual return of Jake Arrieta and his date with Yu Darvish tonight. Arrieta didn’t pitch against the Cubs last year, so this feels like the actual homecoming. Sadly, there will be fans and writers who will use this as some sort of barometer or definitive statement on the Cubs decision to move on from Arrieta to Darvish, which will probably ignore that Arrieta has basically been mediocre since leaving and is still heading the wrong way. Jake doesn’t strike out as many hitters as he used to, he’s walking more, and feels like a #3 starter these days. Lucky for the Phils, that’s all he has to be.

Aaron Nola is around to carry the ace-responsibility, though he’s had issues this year with control and being eaten alive by the BABIP Dragon. He is giving up harder contact than he did last year, but he shouldn’t be surrendering a .364 BABIP. Zach Efflin has been the breakout star this year–perhaps the one Nick Pivetta was supposed to be before imploding. He’s cut his walks in half and gives up a startlingly low amount of hard contact. Cole Irvin was a top prospect who is now up, so it’s a pretty effective rotation that can live with an ok-to-good Arrieta instead of a dominant one.

The other narrative that will be barfed up repeatedly until esophaguses are worn away is Bryce Harper coming to where he “should” have been, and whether or not that’s worked out for either. As the Cubs have one of the best offenses in baseball, it seems to have been fine for them. Harps hasn’t set the world on fire which has him on every Philly fan’s enemies list already, and he has struck out a ton, but he’s also gotten on base a ton. He’s hitting for more than decent power, and his defense has actually been good considering that right field in Citizens’ Bank Park is like 15 square feet. His presence on on-base tendencies have certainly helped Hoskins behind him, who has MVP numbers. Jean Segura is having a luck-infused renaissance, and Cesar Hernandez is also having a boom start. J.T. Realmuto hasn’t really got going yet, and third base continues to be a black hole for the Phillies, but it’s a decent lineup

The pen has been an issue. Only Adam Morgan and Hector Neris have been accountable, with everyone else either having control or homer problems or both. David Robertson being hurt hasn’t helped, and same goes for Victor Arano. This is where you get the Fightins most easily.

God help us if Darvish doesn’t have a good start tonight and Arrieta does. There’s a Cole Derby on Wednesday, and that Nola-Lester matchup on getaway day is actually the best one of the series. The Cubs don’t need a litmus test, we know their good, but it’s always fun to see how they do against their fellow glitterati. They took two of three from the Dodgers and have split with the Brewers. This is the cream of the crop of the East, so should be enjoyable.