Everything Else

I think the craziest thing about the borderline-traumatic deadline selloff this year is that despite fielding what is essentially a glorified AAA team with maybe a future piece or two, the Cubs still find ways to completely drop the ball offensively against other AAA-level teams around the league like the Minnesota Twins. The baseball that went on this week was bad, considering we did lose both contests, but nothing matters anymore and we’re just counting down the days until the season ends. Let’s break things down.

September 21, 2021
Cubs 5, Twins 9
WP: Barraclough (2-0) LP: Mills (6-7)
Box Score

Pitching? Defense? None of that existed today for seemingly either team, with eight runs scored in the first four innings of the game. Alec Mills gave up six hits and six runs. He also fell victim to hitting the deck in the 4th inning instead of catching a ball that was hit right at him, which has genuinely never made any sense to me. Is it really going that fast? Is it really hit that hard? A hit that barely made it to the outfield? You really can’t catch it? Am I in the wrong here?

At least Scott F-Ross made an attempt at catching a ball hit right over his head in the 5th inning. It was just a bit too high and ended up scoring yet another Twin, making the score 6-3. And a quick hit after that one made it 7-3. And by this time the game was all but over.

The Cubs tried their best offensively, with the team getting 11 hits (four more than they had in their win against the Brewers) and Trayce Thompson tying the game in the 2nd inning with a two-run dinger. A Willson Contreras dinger in the 3rd put the Cubs ahead briefly, but the Twins got a two-run lead just a half-inning later. The Cubs’ defense just couldn’t stop tripping over themselves despite some good hits in the bottom of the 6th by Rafael Ortega, Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom to make the score 7-5. That would be the last run the Cubs would score of the ballgame.

Every time a few runs were scored by the Cubs, the Twins just scored a few more, and by the 7th inning they had a four-run lead they wouldn’t give up. Every Cubs pitcher gave up at least one hit, with the five bullpen guys pitching an inning each. Trevor Megill had an especially terrible outing with four hits and two runs scored. I will enjoy wiping this game from my long-term memory.

September 22, 2021
Cubs 4, Twins 5
WP: Ryan (2-1) LP: Hendricks (14-7)
Box Score

This game started out with Frank Schwindel making a big play at first base early, catching a line drive and immediately flashing the finger guns in true Schwindel fashion. Other than that, the story early was that our dear friend Kyle Hendricks was credited with the loss because he allowed two homers for Max Kepler in the 1st and 4th innings.

Nico Hoerner had a two-run single in the bottom of the 2nd to match Kepler’s RBI number for the game thus far, which was good because for a while there I forgot Hoerner was on this baseball team. Glad to see he’s still doing something. He scored Happ and Matt Duffy, who walked and doubled earlier.

The offense on both sides stagnated a bit outside of Kepler’s second homer that put the Twins ahead. But it was mostly the Cubs, who had issues figuring out Joe Ryan with Two First Names, the Twins’ starter, who was throwing some nasty pitches. Just as the Phillies did to the Cubs not too long ago, the Cubs allowed Ryan to strike out seven batters in a row. Ryan ended up striking out eleven Cubs in only five innings pitched, which brings me great pain to tell you.

Kepler almost hit his third homer of the game in the 6th inning, but it bounced off the wall as our prayers were answered. An error from everyone’s favorite second baseman Matt Duffy allowed Kepler to score and extend their lead to 4-2. The Cubs wouldn’t be able to score any runs until the 9th, where it was Happ who RBI’d Schwidel and Contreras who, with a weird play at 1st, RBI’d Happ to make the score seem a little closer than the game actually was.

With the bases loaded, Trayce Thompson struck out on three pitches, the last one being completely in the dirt, to end the game in true Javy Baez fashion. It’s almost like he never left?

The Cubs have a four-game series this weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals, including a doubleheader tomorrow. The Cardinals are red-hot, having won eleven games in a row, sweeping other teams grasping blindly at playoff spots like the Mets and Padres, and all but cementing themselves as the second Wild Card spot for the NL with the next-closest teams 4.5 games back. This weekend will be painful, because we hate the Cards with everything in us and the Cards will probably destroy us in the end. Another instance where turning on the football may be a more lucrative experience for you. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

I have returned from the boonies of southern Ohio, where I was constantly asking other people for their phones with better data than mine to check the score of each Cubs/Cards game. Two out of three wins ain’t bad for a Cubs team that was sitting at the bottom of the NL Central not too long ago. (Also, shoutout to the White Sox across town for slowing down the Cards enough this week so we could tie them for 1st place. Really couldn’t get a sweep there though?)

The Pirates are still garbage, despite the distant memory of them making us look like fools in the beginning of the season. The Cubs are finally on a roll and made this sweep look pretty easy, although that’s because it was for the most part. Let’s break these games down.

May 25, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 3
WP: Arrieta (5-4) LP: Cody Ponce (0-1)
Box Score

The Cubs started this game off with a spectacular passed ball by P.J. Higgins, filling in for the injured Willson Contreras. This happened after Jake Arrieta allowed a single and a double in the first two at-bats of the game. Another single allowed the Pirates to go up 2-0, and by the 2nd inning Arrieta still didn’t have a handle on things. He allowed a double, hit a batter and then allowed a single to make things 3-0 Pirates.

It was singlehandedly Joc Pederson who came to save the day for the Cubs. He hit two home runs, one a solo shot in the 3rd and one a two-run homer to tie the game. Then the old guard came up to bat to take back the lead, as Javier Baez doubled and Anthony Rizzo batted him in with a single.

Then, Nico Hoerner got hurt. It is yet another nasty hamstring injury for the Cubs, as the injury beast continues to ravage this team. Eric Sogard was his replacement, of course. Additionally, Matt Duffy also sat for this game for injury-related reasons, so you know that can only mean seeing even more fresh faces for this fielding group.

Shortly after this injury delay, Keegan Thompson went in to replace Arrieta after 5 innings pitched, 3 runs, a walk, and 7 strikeouts. Thompson threw 1.2 innings and looked pretty nice, allowing no hits and only two walks. Andrew Chafin immediately allowed a double but was able to get out of the two-out jam with a strikeout. Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel pitched the 8th and 9th innings, respectively, allowing only 1 hit between the two of them and allowing the Cubs to squeak past this one with a win, pulling one game behind the 1st-place Cardinals.

May 26, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 1
WP: Williams (3-2) LP: Crowe (0-3)
Box Score

This game was a duel of pitchers playing against their old teams, as both Trevor Williams and Duane Underwood Jr. saw significant time today. Pirates starter Wil Crowe only lasted 1.1 innings, where he allowed 5 hits and three of four Cubs runs on the day. He only had one strikeout to his name before Underwood Jr. was called in to take his place, playing the next 3.2 innings and only giving up one hit throughout that span.

The Cubs were able to get up big in the 2nd inning thanks to the aforementioned ugly pitching by the Pirates. Thanks to having Jake Marisnick, Jason Heyward and now Hoerner on the 10-day IL, the Cubs called up Rafael Ortega to play center field today, where he was walked by Crowe and then was sent home thanks to a two-run homer by David Bote. The Pirates then allowed two Cubs singles, got a flyout, and allowed a Kris Bryant single to score Sogard to make it 3-0 Cubs.

After this starter’s meltdown by the Pirates, the pitchers on both teams were able to limit runs. The Cubs didn’t only get one hit until the 6th inning, where a double and two singles scored Eric Sogard again, giving the Cubs another insurance run. Trevor Williams finally got a win against his former team, pitching 6.0 innings against his former team, allowing only three hits and one run, striking out 7 batters. His only run came in the 8th inning after he allowed a double and a single to start things off. However, a double play and a strikeout kept things from going sideways for the Cubs.

Tommy Nance pitched an inning today, doing pretty well with no hits, a walk, and a strikeout. The last three Cubs pitchers were able to all but completely shut down the Pirates, allowing only two hits total and striking out four batters. Craig Kimbrel was up to his old tricks, closing things up for the team easily.

May 27, 2021
Cubs 5, Pirates 3
WP: Hendricks (3-4) LP: Anderson (3-5)
Box Score

The Pirates tried their best to recover after their hilariously unacceptable fielding blunder in the 3rd inning, after we all watched decision making skills on the field that were so poor I hadn’t seen anything similar since playing tee ball. And that play alone certainly cost the Pirates the game — if they had just…stepped on first base, the Pirates’ three home runs later on in the game would’ve been enough to at least send this to extra innings. Ian Happ’s single, which was another fielding atrocity in and of itself, ended up scoring Javy Baez after he made MLB headlines with that baserunning, giving the Cubs a lead they would never give back.

In other news, Kyle Hendricks was at least able to play seven innings. He probably wouldn’t have played as long against any other team, but the Pirates are still on another level of horrific in our division and because of it Hendricks was able to comfortably give up six hits and three solo home runs without giving up the lead. Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera were the bullpen appearances, striking out two, walking two, and only allowing one hit between them.

From a hitting standpoint for the Cubs, Kris Bryant is still playing at MVP levels, homering as the second batter in the 1st inning to start the game off on the right foot and grounding into a double play that ended up scoring Eric Sogard. In addition, Anthony Rizzo sat out his second straight game due to more muscular strain. One of the many new faces who have appeared recently to fill in the growing number of fielding gaps was Patrick Wisdom, whose full count solo homer in the 4th was overshadowed by the fielding debacle the inning before but was a pretty nifty one.

The Cubs play the Reds this weekend, who are at the bottom of the NL standings if you pretend the AAA-level Pirates don’t exist. The Cubs will need to rack up points against the Reds because they play the Padres next week who are 32-19 and atop the NL West. The Reds are similarly banged up with players going on IL and having knee surgeries and all kinds of tough stuff. In addition, the Reds will be giving a pitcher his big league debut tomorrow, so we’ll see him and hopefully not any more of Amir Garrett, because I’ve had about enough of him since the last series.

See you then, and go Cubs go!

Baseball

The Cubs took two out of three against a Tigers team that is really bad at fielding and similarly bad at hitting, besides yesterday’s game, which they won in extras. The Cubs also saw the return of most of their important players from the 10-day IL, including Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ and Jake Arrieta.

However, Alec Mills was placed on the 10-day IL today with a strained lower back. Mills is the go-to inning-eater in the bullpen when the starter collapses and needs to be pulled after three innings, which happens more often than any of us want. So pitching could be a bumpy ride over the next week and a half. Luckily, the Cubs are about to play four against a bad Nationals team before they face the first-place Cardinals, so hopefully we can rack up some more wins there.

May 14, 2021
Cubs 4, Tigers 2
WP: Arrieta (4-3) LP: Skubal (0-6)
Box Score

The Cubs came into this game much healthier than either series that came before this. Jake Arrieta pitched his first game in two weeks and looked pretty solid doing it. Hoerner was finally back in the lineup, despite not getting a hit or walk this game. Luckily, the Tigers are atrocious on the field, committing multiple errors that allowed some other Cubs to get on base and score runs.

First it was Kris Bryant making the Ricketts’ trade bait dreams come true to open up the game with a two-run homer in the 3rd inning. Then Rizzo doubled to score Jason Heyward, who had hit a double earlier to get on base. Finally, a Baez popup that for all intents and purposes should’ve been an out ended up getting dropped by the Tigers fielder, allowing Bryant to score that same inning after taking a walk.

Arrieta pitched pretty well up until the 6th inning; he had allowed 2 hits, 1 strikeout, and 1 walk up until then. The Cubs defense was good behind him as always, making double plays every time a Tiger made it on base. That is, until the 6th inning when Arrieta allowed back-to-back solo homers, the first one to Jake Rogers whose mustache rivals anyone’s in the league, and Robbie Grossman, who hit his third homer of the year.

That was the end of Arrieta, who all in all had a good first game back. The Cubs bullpen was able to keep the lead, as we saw Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Craig Kimbrel for one inning each. They all recorded 0 hits, 0 walks, and 4 strikeouts between them to get the W. Kimbrel had 3 of those 4 strikeouts to shut down the Tigers entirely at the bottom of the 9th.

May 15, 2021
Cubs 8, Tigers 9 (F/10)
WP: Fulmer (3-2) LP: Kimbrel (0-2)
Box Score

This game was much more of a back-and-forth affair offensively for both teams, especially since both teams’ starting pitchers got pulled in only the 3rd inning. The endless parade of bullpen pitchers immediately giving Tigers players runs, hits and walks made this game a tough one to watch.

The Cubs began the game strong, as leadoff hitter Joc Pederson was able to triple to start things off on the right foot. Kris Bryant was able to draw a walk immediately after and Anthony Rizzo was able to bat them both in with a double: 2-0 Cubs. But Trevor Williams did not have a good start to this day, giving up two doubles, a walk, a single, and a force-out that allowed the Tigers to score three runs. After allowing another hit and a walk in the 2nd inning, he was yanked for Alec Mills.

The Cubs were luckily able to make offense happen in the 3rd inning, as a single, double and RBI groundout helped the Cubs tie the game. Then Matt Duffy doubled to put the Cubs ahead, but it wouldn’t prove to be enough.

Mills wasn’t much better than Williams on the mound, as he allowed two singles, a walk and a wild pitch that ended up scoring a runner in a bases-loaded situation. The Tigers tied the game again with a ground-out RBI that put the Tigers ahead, making Rossy yank Mills. The replacement, Justin Steele, was also bad — shocker.

Matt Duffy came to save the day with a huge THREE-run homer in the 5th inning that put the Cubs back on top 7-6, and then we sat back and watched in horror as the 6th inning saw Dan Winkler unable to get 3 outs and get replaced by Rex Brothers, the fifth pitcher of the day. Then Brothers loaded the bases in the 7th and got yanked. Ryan Tepera played too, getting a strikeout and allowing a single for the Tigers to tie the game. Keegan Thompson pitched the 8th, getting three strikeouts to keep them alive to the 9th, and two more strikeouts to get them to the 10th inning.

It was Matt Duffy’s time to shine today, honestly, which I’m certainly not mad at thanks to his flat play lately. His hit in the 10th to put the Cubs up again was his 5th RBI of the game, leading all players on the field. Then, Craig Kimbrel came in to pitch, but he was unable to come in clutch for us like he has so many games before, letting the Tigers score two and walk off the game 9-8.

Throughout all of this, Ian Happ had no hits today and struck out twice on his first game back from being on the IL. He made plays he needed to make in the outfield, however, and would improve offensively in the following game.

March 16, 2021
Cubs 5, Tigers 1
WP: Hendricks (3-4) LP: Boyd (2-4)
Box Score

The Cubs’ pitching did not completely collapse like last game, despite Kyle Hendricks and his ugly track record of starts so far this year. After making it past the elusive 7th inning, he was able to pitch almost 9 innings and finish with 8 hits, 8 strikeouts and 0 walks. He was, as always, helped out by the defense behind him, who were pretty solid against the Tigers’ bats. The good defensive plays of the game included a double play and a Hendricks pick off in the 3rd, which you rarely see these days.

As for the offense, the Cubs were able to get ahead in the top of that 3rd inning, after Happ singled and Contreras walked. With some stellar baserunning, Happ was able to score from 2nd after Kris Bryant RBIed him in and grounded into a force out simultaneously. Javier Baez struck out swinging characteristically, however, to end that inning.

Happ doubled again in the next inning, scoring Duffy to make it 2-0 Cubs. In the 6th, Duffy hit yet another single, and a David Bote double scored him to increase the lead. Hoerner was able to sac fly Bote to make it 4-0, and then Happ hit a solo home run to make it 5-0 Cubs. Happ went 3-for-4 today, looking much better today since getting off the IL.

By the 9th inning, it was time to pull Hendricks, and Dan Winkler relieved him with no outs and runners on first and second. With the help of the defense and the hinderance of a replay review that said the third out was not an out at all, the Cubs were able to secure the win and hop the Reds for third in the NL Central standings.

Like I said above, the Cubs turn right around and play a four-game series against the Nationals through Thursday, as both Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber return to Wrigley for the first time in different uniforms — prepare yourselves for yet another montage video, as the Cubs marketing department is so skilled and experienced at making those.

Lester has started three games with the Nationals this season, going 5 or 6 innings each, striking out ten batters and sporting an impressive 2.25 ERA. In his last two starts, the Nationals have lost both games. Schwarber has a .213 batting average so far this year on a team that has trouble scoring runs. In Lester’s first start with the Nationals, Schwarber hit the 2-run walk-off homer to win the game for the team.

Thanks to the lack of offense on the Nationals’ part, they sit at the bottom of the NL East with a 15-20 record, four games back of the first-place Mets. Their last series, a wild one against the Diamondbacks, saw the Nationals win 17-2 and then turn around to lose 11-4.

Although emotions may be running high for players in both dugouts this week, the newly-mostly-healthy Cubs will need to continue hitting well and making zero defensive mistakes to continue their climb back to .500. And maybe I shouldn’t even mention the fact that the Cubs need to see their starters play well while the team is without Mills. See you Thursday to wrap those games, and go Cubs go.

Baseball

Tired of boring Cubs baseball? Well you were in luck, because this series had everything you could ever want and a bunch of crap you didn’t: benches-clearing brawls, pitchers collapsing, a 10-homer game, two injured players and no lack of offense.

Things were certainly less bleak this series compared to the last. Despite the Cubs losing two games, at least the bats weren’t dead and everyone was scoring. Our rotation, however, is genuinely atrocious, and the bullpen we have built up can only do so much when the starters dig a huge hole for them to climb out of. Additionally, this all came at the expense of Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, so you have to take the good with the bad.

Here are my observations from the games this weekend.

April 30, 2021
Cubs 6, Reds 8
WP: Miley (3-2) LP: Arrieta (3-3)
Box Score

The Cubs came out in front early in this one, but because Jake Arrieta (unironically the Cubs’ Best Starter) only lasted until the 4th inning, the Cubs ended up down 6-2. He gave up a homer, a single, another two-run homer and a walk in the 4th inning before getting pulled, and he had been unraveling the inning before as well. The Cubs wouldn’t be able to make it back on top, which became the story of two-thirds of this series: this team could always make it back to tie it but never get ahead.

At least Kyle Ryan With Two First Names could stop the bleeding! After yanking Arrieta, David Ross put him in and got the second out with a strikeout. Then Ryan gave up a single and a double to dig the hole deeper, 7-2. Justin Steele was next on the bullpen list who actually looked pretty good, putting up 5 (????) strikeouts through two innings to keep the Cubs in the game, despite the offense trying their best not to stay in this game. Dillon Maples also looked good, striking out three straight batters and getting another strikeout in the 8th to keep the Cubs in it.

Additionally, Willson Contreras exited the game in the 5th inning because of hamstring tightness. The Cubs can never have good things. Contreras avoided a stint on the 10-day IL, instead electing to take the rest of this series off (until the Sunday disaster, of course).

The Cubs finally started rallying back in the 7th thanks to the likes of Eric Sogard walking, Kris Bryant doubling to make it 8-3 and Baez RBI-ing to make it 8-4. The curse of RISP, however, came back to haunt the Cubs in the 9th inning when they blew a bases-loaded situation. David Bote walked up to the plate and it was his time to shine; remember that one time three years ago when he walk-off grand-slammed to win the game? That certainly didn’t happen here. He grounded out unimpressively to lose this game.

May 1, 2021
Cubs 3, Reds 2
WP: Brothers (1-0) LP: Castillo (1-3)
Box Score

If anyone is tired of watching Zach Davies give up runs, you’re certainly not alone. It’s what the baseball gods have decided we deserve to watch for doing something as stupid as trading Yu Darvish for nothing in return. Luckily, the baseball gods took pity on us and limited our suffering this game, as the Reds wouldn’t score past their two runs in the 1st inning.

After Davies’s double, single and sacrifice fly he gave up, the Cubs’ bats started heating up. Tony Wolters, the new new backup catcher when Contreras is out, was able to single. Then Davies tried to endear us Cubs fans by sacrifice bunting to score Nico Hoerner, and then went back to not endearing us when he loaded up the bases in the next inning.

Bote doubled in the 4th, getting the hit that he couldn’t get last game, and Jason Heyward was able to bat him in to tie up the game. In the bottom of that inning Davies once again gave up two singles and a walk, but the defense behind him was able to get things done, fielding any contact and keeping the Reds from scoring any more runs. The big news out of this game was the benches-clearing brawl started by low IQ individual Amir Garrett and Javy Baez, who was not too happy to watch Garrett get overly celebratory after striking out Anthony Rizzo. Lots of shouting and fighting ensued, including Javy flipping off Garrett live on national Marquee television.

The Reds had a myriad of highlight-reel defensive plays this game, from getting players out at the plate to making diving catches in the outfield that nobody has any business catching. The fact that the Cubs came out of this game with a win at all will hopefully be the start of some better baseball for this team.

Better baseball, you say?…

May 2, 2021
Cubs 12, Reds 13 (F/10)
WP: Hendrix (2-0) LP: Kimbrel (0-1)
Box Score

BUCKLE UP. This game was a tire fire the whole way through. And it was offensively explosive early and wouldn’t let up for 10 innings. In the first two pitches of the game, the Cubs set the tone by hitting two doubles to go up 1-0, but the Reds answered right back in the bottom of the inning to go up 2-1. Please also remember that Tony Wolters stole home in the 2nd inning and were it not from the Baseball Gods from On High in New York with their Secret Camera Angles that they will not release to anybody, this game would have been over in the 9th inning and we could have minimized the catastrophe that was the final few innings of this game.

Hometown Boy Trevor Williams was the starting pitcher, but by the time I’m writing this I had seen seven Cubs pitchers after him and his innings felt like they were worlds away. He was bad, though; really bad. But what pitcher wasn’t this game? The poor kid got pulled in the 3rd when he gave up three home runs in one inning, allowing the Reds to go up 6-4.

There was then a never-ending stream of bullpen pitchers being trotted out for the Cubs for the next seven innings. One of them was Keegan Thompson, making his Cubs and MLB debut. This is obviously a tough game to make your debut when the offense in both dugouts can’t stop hitting. Thompson threw a lot of balls and gave up a walk and a single but the defense behind him helped him get out of his first MLB inning without giving up any runs.

Alec Mills came in for a while, but he didn’t look as strong as he usually does, especially after hitting a guy, allowing a single, loading the bases, hitting Mike Moustakas and putting the Reds back in front. And then allowing a two-run single to make it 9-6 Reds. I think it’s probably okay to wipe the slate clean for every Cubs pitcher we saw, however, because of how weird this game was.

Who’s ready for injury? Thought the injuries would be over with this series? Think again. Hoerner and Ian Happ collided in the outfield in the 8th inning trying to catch a fly ball. Hoerner made the catch, the throw and the out while Happ was writhing on the ground in pain. After a ten-minute game delay, watching the poor guy stand up and immediately sit back down on the field and eventually get carted off the field, I knew nothing good could happen for the rest of the game. (Postgame, Ross said that Happ felt “fine, pretty good,” which I doubt, but there’s no word from team doctors yet about what’s up with him.)

By this point, Rossy had literally played everyone off the bench except for Contreras, who said he could play if absolutely necessary. And that’s exactly what happened. A defensive shuffle like no other ensued as Contreras put on his catcher’s gear, Tony Wolters went to second, Hoerner went to left field and Bryant went to center field.

Then it was time to watch Amir Garrett be the incredibly annoying man he is after striking out two Cubs and intentionally walking Hoerner, continuing to yell at people about how that’s what’s up. Hilarity ensued, however, when the Reds decided to pull him in exchange for Ryan Hendrix because the Cubs decided Jake Arrieta was next up to bat since 38 other people have pinch hit in this game. Arrieta struck out swinging, and in the bottom of the 10th Kimbrel’s passed ball and a Nick Castellanos single put us all out of our misery, with the Reds winning 13-12.

The Cubs are injured, now more injured than they were before. They are also exhausted, especially our bullpen. Things have been bad enough this season with none of our starters being able to get past the 7th inning, let alone to even still be pitching by the 7th inning. Now that seven (7) bullpen pitchers have played today, they will all be exhausted too.

And the best part about it all is that the schedule does not let up, oh no, that would be silly. The Cubs start a three-game series against the god damned Dodgers of all teams starting tomorrow. The Dodgers are 17-12 and no longer top of the NL West because the Giants are there, although the Giants have played two less games than the Dodgers so everything will right itself the way this league intended eventually. We will probably get crushed. See you then.

Baseball

Well, it’s official: the Cubs are at the bottom of the division standings. Of course, the NL Central is so bad that that doesn’t really mean much, still putting them “only” 4 games back of the leading Brewers, but it’s still not good nevertheless. Our offense is still inconsistent, our pitching still sucks, and because of that we keep losing blowout games. Let’s go over what happened this week.

April 26, 2021
Cubs 7, Braves 8
WP: Morton (2-1) LP: Workman (0-2)
Box Score

Well, I predicted this game was gonna be a bit dicey, and that’s exactly what happened. The Cubs, though getting close offensively, never led this game, and the Braves were able to hold through for the win.

Speaking of dicey, Zach Davies (9.47 ERA) had yet another bad start, and Cubs fans’ patience with him is really starting to wear thin, especially considering we traded away Yu Darvish (2.27 ERA) to get this joker. It takes a special kind of pitcher to allow the other team to go up 4-0 on nothing but walks, doubles and singles, but here we are. The Cubs are a team who has convinced absolutely nobody about their offensive abilities, and they would never come out ahead after this 1st inning.

Speaking of offensive abilities, Javier Baez sat out this game because of hamstring soreness, meaning Nico Hoerner started at short and a FUN mixture of David Bote and Eric Sogard started at 2nd. These two guys have .189 and .231 batting averages, respectively, and combined for 0 hits on the day.

The Cubs were actually able to tie things up in the 3rd inning, as Kris Bryant is officially Not Injured and therefore Back as the best player on this team. He hit a grand slam to tie it up, after two singles from Davies and Hoerner and a walk from Anthony Rizzo. However, in the bottom of the 3rd the Braves got a home run of their own off Davies to retake the lead, and they’d never give it back.

By the 4th inning it was time to bring out the bullpen, which means nothing but pain and suffering defensively for the Cubs. After Davies walked two batters, Dillon Maples came out and got out of that inning with minimal issues. Replacing him in the 5th, however, was Brandon Workman, who was not working at all. After a double, a Willson Contreras passed ball, a walk and a home run, it suddenly became 8-5 Braves.

The Cubs staged a mini-comeback in the 7th after a walk and a Contreras home run to make it 8-7, but the Braves ended up closing out the inning leaving two Cubs on base. The game was pretty much shut down after that.

April 27, 2021
Cubs 0, Braves 5
WP: Anderson (2-0) LP: Williams (2-2)
Box Score

Baez sits for the second straight game, and even more concerning is that Kris Bryant is sitting, too. Apparently his arm’s been bothering him since he played in 30-degree weather. Who could’ve guessed that without him the Cubs offense would suffer this season?

Hometown Boy Trevor Williams started this game, and honestly did pretty well on the mound. He tied his career-high by striking out 8 batters this game and kept the game scoreless for 4 innings. It’s just too bad the Cubs offense couldn’t help him out; he ended up getting the loss after allowing a solo home run, a walk and a double to score Freddie Freeman.

The Cubs offense was atrocious, getting only 2 hits all game (from Hoerner and Jake Marisnick, of course) and striking out 13 times, putting them one shy of their season-high. The Cubs also only had one walk and left 6 runners on base all game. We watched a slew of bullpen pitchers throw some innings, yet only Workman gave up runs, again — three in 0.3 innings to lose the game. He now has a 6.75 ERA and I’d much rather enjoy never seeing him pitch again.

April 28, 2021
Cubs 0, Braves 10
WP: Ynoa (2-1) LP: Hendricks (1-3)
Box Score

If you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they certainly can. Kyle Hendricks, supposedly our #1 ace out of the bullpen, still sucks out loud. He only played 3.2 innings, and yet during that time he gave up 11 hits and 7 runs (3 of them home runs) for an atrocious 7.54 ERA. Alec Mills came in to relieve him and he was similarly bad, allowing 5 hits for 3 runs (two of them homers), and only being able to strike out two batters in 2.1 innings.

After being down 10-0 in the 6th, clown world ensued as David Ross decided his bullpen is so bad that he’d might as well allow position players to pitch for no god damn reason. Rizzo and Duffy split an inning pitching, whereas Sogard got an inning all his own. What used to be an amusing time to watch Rizzo on the mound very quickly just became annoying and seemingly so ridiculous. Even more ridiculous were the quotes at the end of the game, saying it helped lighten the mood. But the mood shouldn’t be lightened because the team sucks, and somebody needs to do something about it and act like everyone’s jobs are on the line as a fire sale is imminent at the trade deadline.

But at least he struck out Freddie Freeman!!!

Meanwhile, only 5 hits were made all game for the Cubs, and a staggering 13 runners were left on base. 11 strikeouts happened, led by David Bote who struck out three of his four at-bats. Matt Duffy, who played in four different infield positions today, was one of only five Cubs batters to NOT strike out this game, adding onto that a hit and two walks. Bryant also had a better game, leading the team with two hits and being left on base three times. God save us.

April 29, 2021
Cubs 9, Braves 3
WP: Alzolay (1-2) LP: Wilson (1-2)
Box Score

The fact of the matter was the Cubs had to win sometime. This time it happened to be against a pitcher at the bottom of the Braves’ rotation with a 5.00 ERA, but a win is a win, especially for this team.

Javier Baez is finally back, just in time to snag a hit, a run, an RBI and NO strikeouts! He was able to RBI in Duffy and get Bryant to third base in the 3rd inning to put the Cubs up 3-0. With Jason Heyward singling to score Bryant after, the Braves didn’t stand a chance of coming back.

The Cubs did all this mostly with contact hitting on the ground. There were singles and doubles galore for the Cubs this game, and Marisnick got the only home run for the Cubs, scoring only himself. Don’t look now, but Marisnick’s batting average and OPS are third best on the team, behind only Hoerner and Bryant. His sample size is a little smaller, but I’d still like to see more, please.

Finally Adbert Alzolay has a good outing. He was able to pitch 6 innings, his highest of his four starts this season, and only allowed 4 hits and 2 runs. He only walked one guy and struck out six batters for a 4.71 ERA. (This is good for the Cubs rotation nowadays.) The bullpen stood behind him pretty well, as Tepera, Chafin, Megill and Kimbrel combined to only allow three hits and one run as the defense was able to stand tall behind them.

At least this series was ended on a positive note, but there’s still not a lot to like here. The offense is maddeningly inconsistent, and when it’s off, it’s awful to watch. Legitimately horrendous baseball. I’m not sure how it gets fixed. You shouldn’t be relying so heavily on a utility guy for hits, but that’s where we are right now with Marisnick.

Anyway, the Cubs are playing the Reds this weekend, the second-to-last team in the conference. The Reds just came off a series against the Dodgers in which they actually won, impressively. However, on Wednesday the Dodgers did beat them 8-0. The Cardinals and Diamondbacks have also walloped on them too in past series. It’s the battle of the bad teams; let’s see who comes out on top.

Baseball

It’s drought or deluge offensively with this team, and it seems like we can’t keep the offense going for many games in a row before it completely dries out. The 15-2 win was fun, especially after the 16-run game last series, but once again even somewhat-competent pitching and fielding held the Cubs off the scoreboard and the win sheet for the most part. Here come the game recaps.

April 23, 2021
Cubs 15, Brewers 2
WP: Hendricks (1-2) LP: Anderson (2-2)
Box Score

Phew, this game was blown wide open real quick. The bottom of the 1st inning saw a Kris Bryant double, an Anthony Rizzo double to score Bryant, a Javier Baez single, a pitching change, a David Bote single to score Rizzo, a Jason Heyward walk, a Jake Marisnick double to score Baez, Bote, and Heyward, a Nico Hoerner double to score Marisnick, and then two strikeouts. It was a wild one, putting the Cubs up 6-0 faster than I could’ve written in more detail.

Brewers starter Brett Anderson left the game officially in the 2nd inning after tweaking his knee. His replacement, Josh Lindblom, just couldn’t stop allowing hits. The bottom of the 2nd was just as head-spinning as the 1st, with back-to-back solo homers from Rizzo and Baez, a Bote walk, a Heyward triple to score Bote, a Marisnick RBI, a Hoerner walk…and then Kyle Hendricks struck out for the second inning in a row, ending the fun.

Jake Marisnick had himself a day, with 2 hits (one a solo homer in the 4th inning), 2 runs, and 5 RBIs. The Cubs utility players continue to shine, which is impressive because offensively they seem to almost regularly be better than the starters they occasionally replace. Something to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile, on the defensive end of things, Kyle Hendricks had a solid outing, especially compared to his less-than-stellar last outing. He had 6 strikeouts, 6 hits, 2 runs, and 1 walk. He allowed two back-to-back solo Brewers homers in the 6th, but the Cubs had already run away with the game. The Cubs also assisted by giving Hendricks four insurance runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to two walks, a double, and a three-run Contreras homer.

Even after Hendricks was pulled in the 7th inning, the bullpen did a good job of limiting runs. Together, Kyle Ryan and Dillon Maples combined for 0 runs, only 1 hit, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts. Other bullpen outings later on in this series would not have numbers this pretty.

April 24, 2021
Cubs 3, Brewers 4
WP: Suter (2-1) LP: Chafin (0-1)
Box Score

Baez got the day off today as Nico Hoerner makes his season debut at shortstop and Eric Sogard starts at second base. Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain were out for the Brewers, and with Adbert Alzolay starting for the Cubs, it was written on the wall this would be a dicey game on both sides.

The Brewers led off the game with a double and a walk, and the base runners were able to advance to second and third after a lineout in the outfield. However, the Cubs were able to get out of that one-out jam and started producing offensively in the 3rd inning. After a few Cubs singles, Nico Hoerner was able to double to score both Jason Heyward at third base and Eric Sogard at second base, starting to cement himself as one of the few Cubs players that can consistently bat in runners at the moment. Although this series constituted his first three MLB appearances of the year, he has stellar numbers so far: .700 OBP, 1.000 SLG, 1.700 OPS.

The pitchers essentially dueled through the 4th inning. By the 5th inning, Alzolay allowed a double and then a walk on two outs. He got switched out for Rex Brothers, and then it was time for the Cubs bullpen to blow the game. Brothers allowed three straight walks to have the Brewers tie it up 2-2 with two unearned runs.

Brothers was yanked immediately following that inning, which is good because two walks and a hit by pitch on two outs to allow the other team to tie the game should be an unacceptable situation. He was replaced by Brandon Workman, who got out of the inning with no runs added. Andrew Chafin, who up until this game had a respectable 3.24 ERA, pitched the 7th and allowed a two-run homer to give the Brewers the lead. After a fielding error, he was replaced by Tepera who gave up a single but then struck out Jackie Bradley Jr.

Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn’t generate any offense or bat any runners in from scoring position. Jason Heyward was able to solo homer in the 8th inning to put the Cubs within one, and it all came down to the bottom of the 9th inning, where Brewers closer Josh Hader was able to end the game quickly and easily. He walked Hoerner, getting him to first base, and after an egregious strike call by the umpire, David Ross got ejected. Marisnick was obviously elsewhere from a mental standpoint for the rest of the at-bat, as he whiffed on the next two pitches and got struck out. Happ was then struck out, and Willson Conteras, the usual big hitter on the team who went 0 for 4 today, flied out to end the game.

April 25, 2021
Cubs 0, Brewers 6
WP: Woodruff (2-0) LP: Arrieta (3-2)
Box Score

Arrieta got into a 1st-inning jam that the Cubs couldn’t recover from. He only allowed one run and was able to get out of a dangerous bases-loaded situation, but with Woodruff pitching for the Brewers, the Cubs couldn’t muster up enough offense to even make it an interesting game.

Even after Arrieta’s 1st-inning, 27-pitch blunder, he was pretty good for the rest of the game, getting out of one other jam in the 6th but overall getting 8 strikeouts and allowing no other runs. The bullpen, however, continues to be a weak spot for this Cubs team, as Alec Mills couldn’t find the zone for the life of him, not being able to strike anyone out. He allowed 2 hits and no walks, however, which was enough to keep the Cubs in it, even if their offense didn’t follow through.

Things unraveled quickly in the 9th inning when Adam replaced Mills and gave up a double, two walks, a single and a double back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Maples replaced him in a no-out, bases loaded situation and got two strikeouts, but also walked a guy and hit a guy which forced two more runners to score, giving us the final score of the game, 6-0 Brewers.

Additionally, Hoerner looked pretty good this game, being a part of a big double play in the 8th inning and generally playing good defense. He had no hits today, but that is how it went for most of this team. People justified Ross sending him down because he was still young and perhaps not yet ready for the MLB, but he seems plenty ready to me, and injecting a new young player into this team might just be what these guys need to feel more invigorated and maybe try to string together a few more wins in a row.

Next team up in the never-ending barrage of baseball games come the Atlanta Braves and the start of a 7-game road trip for our Cubbies. The Braves continue to not live up to their preseason expectations, as they are still a sub-.500 team who just got trounced today by the Arizona Diamondbacks, allowing the Diamondbacks’ pitcher to get an unofficial 7-inning no-hitter against them. The Diamondbacks blanked them yesterday, too, to the tune of 5-0.

That’s right everyone: the Braves have one (1) singular hit over the past two games. Despite this, the Braves still technically have a better team slash line than the Cubs: .228/.323/.424 vs. .213/.308/.395. This upcoming series will likely be the Battle of Bad Offense, as we will watch to see whose bats will break through first. See you then, unless you’d rather be tuned into late-season hockey, in which case I wouldn’t blame you.

Baseball

Ah yes, spring is in the air and the days are getting longer. That means baseball is just around the corner — tomorrow, in fact. The Cubs are opening their season against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the 162-game march to October commences.

Everyone knows the rule that you can’t put too much stock on how players are doing during spring training, but that’s exactly what we’re gonna do here. The Cubs have been busy playing a month’s worth of spring training games to prepare for this season. Some players have looked good, some have looked bad. Some have looked healthy, some have been injured. Let’s break down the starter’s roster so you know what’s going on when the Cubs take the field, assuming you’re watching.

Starting Pitchers
Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, Adbert Alzolay

Ready to watch fastballs that aren’t really fast at all this season? Of course you are, you’re a Cubs fan.

Old faithful Kyle Hendricks will get the Opening Day start now that Jon Lester has moved on. While Yu Darvish was getting all the glory last season, Hendricks was another pitcher that the Cubs could rely on. Last season he had a 2.88 ERA, a shutout, and allowed 26 runs, all of them earned. His spring training numbers are a bit uglier; he had a 6.39 ERA but had two wins. He will be our best starter this season.

Jake Arrieta hopes to rekindle what he once was in his glory years with the Cubs, and Ross seems to trust that he will be better this year. He had a pretty average spring training, with a 4.08 ERA over 5 starts, allowing 19 hits and 8 runs during that span. Baseball Reference projects him to have a 4.67 ERA this season; though not stellar, that would likely be an improvement on his 2020 season and look similarly to his 2019 season with the Phillies.

Adbert Alzolay has also been a part of Rossy’s fan club. He has the fastest fastball of anyone at this team, clocking in at an average of 95 mph, which he throws about half the time. He also enjoys his slider, which he throws 40% of the time. This is a big season for Alzolay, as he is going from 4 starts last year (and 2 the year before that) to being one of the more regular starters. Can he hold up having 10, 15, 20, maybe eventually 30 starts a year? We are all about to find out together.

Bullpen
Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Workman, Andrew Chafin, Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera, Jason Adam, Dan Winkler, Dillon Maples, Alec Mills

We’ve got some injuries in this area, as Rowan Wick and Jonathan Holder will not be ready to start the season. Wick was one of the best relievers on the Cubs last season with a 3.12 ERA across 19 appearances, so hopefully he will feel better soon. He has been working out with the team and “slowly returning to baseball activities.” Holder took some time off for a chest issue during spring training but is also getting back to throwing. He will likely start on the 10-day injured list this season.

If you’ve been kept awake at night this offseason wondering whether or not Craig Kimbrel will be a good closer in 2021, I am truly not sure what to tell you. He was injured/awful for most of last season until he got hot for the last month of it all. Now he’s back to letting 40% of the batters he faces get on base. And he has a 12.15 ERA in 7 games this spring training. But remember, spring training tells you nothing. Let’s try not to put too much stock into it. …Right?

Rex Brothers, a non-roster invitee, has found the good side of Rossy, even with his 8.10 ERA over three games played last season. He has been good during spring training, however. He played in 9 different games and has a 0.00 ERA over spring training. Let’s be cautiously optimistic?

Dillon Maples kind of sucked during spring training, but what else is new? He pitched 10.1 innings and allowed 8 hits and 9 runs, 6 of them earned. He has issues with control and seems to easily go from an 0-2 count at bat to walking the batter thanks to a HBP. In two appearances last season he gave up 1 hit and 3 runs for an 18.00 ERA. Ross says he’s throwing more strikes and will continue to improve.

Fielders
Anthony Rizzo, David Bote, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Joc Pederson, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward

This team needs to be nails defensively thanks to this wacky bullpen we are throwing in front of them. Luckily, defense is what the Cubs do well, most of the time.

I’m honestly not hating this outfield lineup at all. So far, Joc Pederson has been ripping it up offensively in camp, leading the entire team in hits with 17 and home runs with 8. If he continues go off like this during the season, he will be a great Schwarber replacement. Ian Happ also had a nice spring training, with 44 at bats, 14 hits, 15 runs, 2 homers, and a 1.002 OPS. Jason Heyward, not the player of yore, had 10 hits, 8 runs, and a .729 OPS, but hey, maybe those numbers will improve during the season.

Thought you’d be seeing Nico Hoerner at 2nd this season? You are incorrect. IT IS DAVID BOTE’S TIME, so he will be starting the season with the club. Expect Hoerner to come back up from minors regularly if anyone gets injured or things go sideways. The good news is that Hoerner crushed it during spring training, and Bote wasn’t too shabby himself. Hoerner had 16 hits over spring training and 2 homers for a 1.055 OPS. Bote had 14 hits, 3 homers, 7 runs and a .990 OPS. Neither of these numbers are bad. I think we have two great second basemen this season.

For some reason, the Ricketts family is not negotiating with face of the entire damned team, Anthony Rizzo, for a contract extension. Because reasons. Because money. Because the literal billionaire Ricketts family does not have money to sign an extension. Remind me why I watch this team again?

We’re all breathing a sigh of relief that Willson Contreras is still on this team. He is a rare catcher who is productive on offense and defense. He was also one of the better players at the plate for the Cubs last season, leading the team in runs scored and second only to Happ in hits.

Javier Baez is supposed to improve on this season now that he has the all-important video review at his disposal, but so far his spring training results are a little…meh. He did hit 2 homers, but he only had 9 hits in 52 plate appearances, making for a .184 batting average. Hopefully he figures it out and fast, because it’s a contract year, my friend.

I’d talk to you about Kris Bryant but he’ll be dealt by the end of this season anyway.

Bench
Eric Sogard, Jake Marisnick, Matt Duffy, and NEW SIGNING Tony Wolters

With Victor Caratini going the way of the western wind with our beloved Yu Darvish, the backup catcher role became whoever’s for the taking. Austin Romine, the veteran catcher, is currently sidelined with a knee injury (a recurring knee injury, so buckle up, everyone). We all assumed it would be PJ Higgins as the backup catcher while we wait for Romine to get better, but then just hours ago the Cubs announced the signing of catcher Tony Wolters, recently of Rockies fame.

Wolters’ numbers from last season kind of suck, but it seems like most teams are throwing those stats away and chalking them up to a weird year. He only had 10 hits all year with the Rockies for a .230 batting average. However, the rumor is Wolters is pretty good defensively, which is probably why the Cubs snatched him up. We love defense here, don’tcha know. His caught stealing rate is 32.8% lifetime, which is above the 27% league average. We’ll see how he fares as our backup.

Additionally, Jake Marisnick is an outfielder who, though missed some of spring training with an injury, came back and hit four home runs in only eight Cactus League games. Eric Sogard is a utility player who had 12 hits during spring training, along with a homer, for a .375 batting average. Maybe he can continue his hitting so his batting average improves on his abysmal .209 number with the Brewers last season season. Finally, Matt Duffy is another utility player who didn’t even play in the 2020 season. In fact, the 2018 season was his last season with major playing time, where he had a .294 batting average. He also has a track record of reliable defensive prowess, so hopefully that continues with the Cubs.

The season starts tomorrow. Check back to this glorious website after every Cubs series to get my thoughts on what’s going on. And if the Cubs bore you and you want to enjoy some exciting baseball, you can always turn on the Padres and root for Yu Darvish. Go Cubs go!

Baseball

Nico Hoerner wouldn’t be the first kid to be tossed into an emergency situation and end up a team fixture for a long while. It’s just that I can’t really think of another one. K-Rod? Willson Contreras wasn’t thrown into an emergency, he just played his way into a three-catcher rotation in ’16. It does happen on occasion, and considering what the other options are at second base, the Cubs might have to hope it does again.

Nico Hoerner 2019

20 games, 82 PA

.282/.305/.436

.305 wOBA  86 wRC+

3.7 BB%  13.4 K%

0.7 Defensive Runs

0.2 WAR

The excitement over Hoerner basically had to do with the Cubs having a prospect worth a shit for the first time in a couple seasons, the unique circumstances, and some initial success. It also had to do with Hoerner making a lot of contact when the Cubs whiff paranoia was at its highest. That doesn’t mean that Hoerner had any business being in MLB at that point, and was only there due to a lack of depth thanks to the front office, Addison Russell’s inability to do anything right on and off the field, and Joe Maddon’s aversion to even trying Bote there in an emergency.

Overall, Hoerner was a touch overmatched, which isn’t much of a surprise for a player how barely had half of a season at Double-A. He showed a little more pop than you might expect, but that doesn’t mean he had a lot of it, and with his no-walks policy it meant he just didn’t get on base enough. You can do that if you’re Javy Baez. If you’re not…well, you’re going to have to hit an awful lot of doubles for anyone to care.

YES! YES! YES!: The Cubs seem pretty determined to start Hoerner off in Iowa, which makes sense as he’s never been there. They might rotate a couple of burnt steaks in Kipnis and Descalso along with whatever it is David Bote is in the meantime, it’s just figuring out how long that meantime is going to be.

If Hoerner can put up numbers in Des Moines that he did in Tennessee (7.1 BB%, .344 OBP) you wouldn’t think it’s going to take more than six weeks or two months for him to be installed as the everyday second baseman at 1060 West. From there he could be the one hitter other than Rizzo who doesn’t strike out much, and give the Cubs some contact-driven on-base habits at the bottom of the lineup. He’d be another candidate to bat 9th with Bryant leading off to maximize what Bryant is doing in the #1 spot.

Hoerner even boosts all of that by driving up his hard-contact rate (26.5%) from last year, and some of those singles turn into doubles and triples while he sprays line-drives all over the field. That was the big thing for Hoerner’s approach last year. He was happy to use right field in AA but that went away with the Cubs, with just 17% of his contact going that way. Hoerner isn’t a weakling when aiming for right field, and that’s probably Priority #1 the Cubs have told him to work on amongst the corn. If he gets that down, the Cubs might end up with the Marco Scutaro-plus they’re envisioning.

You’re A B+ Player: Hoerner never hits the ball harder, nor uses the opposite field, which means he’s just grounding out to short and third a lot because he almost certainly won’t strike out much. His high-contact ways don’t really matter if all that contact sucks. Hoerner was easily busted up an in last year in his brief cameo, and that’s almost certainly where AAA pitchers are going first when the season starts. If he can’t prove he can turn on those, then his future looks more “Theriot” than “Scutaro.” And that’s a word that should have every Cubs fan’s indigestion level on the rise.

Dragon Or Fickle?: Some of what Hoerner’s future this year is hinging on what the rest of the lineup does. Say the Cubs do hit 1-7, which involves Ian Happ finally blossoming full-time and Jason Heyward hitting righties at merely a decent clip…well then the Cubs can afford to basically go glove-first at second base. And Hoerner is still the best defensive option amongst the four who could line up there (though Kipnis is still pretty good there). And Hoerner has just as much offensive upside as Bote. The Cubs could do what they did with Russell (sadly) in ’15, which is tell him you’re up here to catch the ball and we’ll worry about the offense later.

But there are a lot of ways this could go wrong. The three-headed monster of confusion currently slated for second could all fall flat on their face offensively. Happ could do Happ things and be all over the map. And then the Cubs might need Hoerner to hit straight from Iowa, and quickly.

None of that has anything to do with him though. Hoerner’s contact rate kind of institute a floor, but it also makes him a little BABIP dependents. And he doesn’t have a lot of speed to help with that. Like, he can’t be Tim Anderson (and man, do I wish he could be Tim Anderson). He’s only 22, so there’s plenty of time to add muscle and bat speed with it. Most likely, Hoerner is called up in June after a good to pretty good, but probably not dominant, stretch in Iowa. But I also think the Cubs will hit outside of him, and he won’t be required to carry anything.

Baseball

Cubs fans, and perhaps only Cubs fans, could be caught in the middle of their analytic leanings, fan passions, an unwillingness to hold ownership responsible for being pricks (who just sold their main company for $26 billion I might add) and a desire to win now. But that’s where we’re at. So you can have a section of fans thinking it’s ok to trade Kris Bryant to restock the prospect pipeline even though you’re in the middle of your championship window, and those who would toss overboard up to three prospects for Whit Merrifield.

To quote a great philosopher of our time, Bubbles, “No offense, son, but that’s some weak-ass thinkin’. You equivocatin’ like a motherfucker.’

Here’s the thing. Whit Merrifield isn’t that good. He’s good, but he’s not a top tier player, like some think and the Royals are definitely charging prices equal to that. Perhaps greater Cubdom is still scarred from Jim Hendry dry-humping Brian Roberts for so long that everyone ended with up with a rash and blisters that everyone thinks the Cubs need to have that type of player.

Perhaps most think Merrifield is the player from 2o18, when he was worth nearly 6.0-WAR, stole 45 bases, made a ton of contact, yada yada yada. But he’s only been that player once, and that season looks to be the outlier. His other two seasons have seen him be a solid 2.5-3.0 WAR player, which is certainly worth having but not at the price of three pieces in return, the Royals reported asking price.

Within that, Merrifield gets on base at a decent but hardly eye-shattering rate, though he does hit enough line-drives to make you think it could improve. Additionally, his speed seemed to slip last year as he only piled up 20 stolen bases after his 45 the previous year.

To keep going, Merrifield’s defense took a sharp turn toward the Earth last year, especially in center, and he’s only been a nominally ok second baseman.

So let me ask you, what chance do any of these have of improving now that he’s over 30?

The discussion of a trade always centers around Nico Hoerner, probably because Hoerner is supposed to be at least the diet, younger version of Merrifield at worst. I guess you could see turning in the possibility for the real thing, but at some point the Cubs have to produce their own and Hoerner looked as sure a bet as any in his cameo last year.

The appeal of Merrifield is that he has a very team-friendly deal, with three years left at barely above what David Bote makes. You know who’s even cheaper? Nico Hoerner. And he’s eight years younger, I feel like I have to stress again.

Oh, and he doesn’t pitch.

I suppose you could accuse me of shouting at the rain that we’re not holding the Ricketts family feet to the fire enough, because they’ve made it clear what the Cubs will spend and we should just accept the world we’re in and what the Cubs can do in it. I won’t accept that, while allowing that’s how the Cubs will operate. Still, this doesn’t add up, unless the Cubs know of some flaw that Hoerner has that will keep him from even being anything resembling Merrifield.

I still maintain that the Cubs could roll with Happ in center to start, leaving him alone to play there every day, and Bote filling in at second until Hoerner is ready, while rotating Bryant (if he’s still here and I haven’t defenestrated myself over it) to the outfield occasionally and Heyward into center for other options in the infield. Do that to concentrate resources to the one starter and bullpen arm or two the Cubs need, and I can almost guarantee they would be approaching 95 wins again.

Merrifield would be a fine addition for a certain price, and maybe Hoerner for him straight up is something I could probably convince myself of, given the Cubs clock. But to add two more to that when you might need deadline additions as well? That’s a bridge too far.

Think harder, Homer.

Baseball

 

 

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 17, Bucs 8

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 14, Bucs 1

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 16, Bucs 6

 

Morph

You thought you were only getting one LFO joke? HA! Morph is still a genious.

The Cubs arrived back in Chicago for their final home stand of the 2019 regular season with the stench of desparation and a shiny new shortstop who had hearts all over the City of Broad Shoulders aflutter. Fortunately, their dance card had the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first three numbers. Meanwhile, they knew down in Dogpatch the Cardinals and Brewers would be beating each other’s brains out.

Let’s…