Cubs Show That Everybody’s In

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Those folks in the Cubs front office sure know what they’re talking about when they thought up  #EverybodyIn and the Cubs go out and deliver a 16-5 beatdown on the Rockies last night. Kyle Hendricks got off to a shaky start but settled into a groove nicely.

“It was still a battle the whole way,” Hendricks said. “Deep counts, a lot of pitches, able to get through it, I guess. You saw a lot from our lineup today, really. That’s what won the game. They gave me two right away, I give three right back. For them to stay on those at-bats, come back and get that many runs for me, that was the ballgame.”

Yeah, it was. I’ve always said that Hendricks will never be that “Perfect Game” pitcher but his craftiness and techniques win him those ball games. Yesterday he proved that after giving up those runs, he stays calm and keeps his poise to get back into the game.

As for “El Mago”, give him the MVP all ready, why don’t you?

“I’m seeing the ball right when [the pitcher] releases it,” Javier Baez said of his recent tear that finds him hitting .400 (14-for-35) with three doubles, a triple, six homers, and 16 RBIs over his last eight games. “I’m not trying to go [opposite field], but a lot of hits are being hit that way. I’m just trying to stay to the middle, keep the same approach and keep doing my routine.”

His slide into second kept managers pumping more sunflower seeds into their mouths but sometimes, you just have to go for it. I don’t believe any manager is going to try and change Baez’s game.

“When the whole group adopts a method, and they feed off one another, and they’re capable …” manager Joe Maddon said, interrupting himself as he analyzed the offensive outburst over the last two games. “… These guys have been to the World Series, they’ve won one, they’ve been in the NLCS every year, they know what’s going on. But I’ve often talked about, the one area — we have not had mature at-bats. We can’t say we’re inexperienced anymore. We have experience, but we’re still young. We have to get rid of that youth involvement in the at-bat and we’ll play some really nice baseball.”

That’ll come. We’re all ready seeing guys like Kyle Schwarber settle down at the plate a bit. On the other side, Baez has got such a pure swing that patience won’t help him too much. He’s got to play the game he’s meant to play.

So, it’s finally so good to see Everybody In after their disastrous start to the season. Hopefully, this is a sign of the baseball to come.

“You are going to see everyone play,” Maddon said. “I hate to disappoint people, but everyone is going to play. And they’re all going to play well. I promise.”

Believe It

Cubs Bring El Mago

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A lot of good things happened yesterday as the Cubs defeated the St Louis Cardinals 8-5 in front of a dry crowd under sunny skies. Yup, that was a good ol’ fireball the Cubs played under.

“Good approach, good at-bats,” Joe Maddon said of the Cubs’ 14-hit attack, which involved using the entire field. “It is so fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Those were really good at-bats. Staying inside the ball, using the whole field — I promise you if they stay on that path, balls will still go out of the ballpark at the pace they’re capable of. With that, you’ll see better situational hitting, you’ll see higher batting averages, on-base percentages. I loved our approach today.”

Or the Cubs just really suck at playing in the rain. Plus, the Cubs got back to the basics and played small ball. Get on base and move the runners. Sounds pretty simple but for some reason, when players reach the big leagues, they see the back of the yard and there’s a big target where they try to hit the ball deep. That’s good and all but getting runners home and loading the bases is the fundamentals they need. The Cubs finally did that yesterday.

“It is [an art form],” Maddon said. “It’s just good hitting. We worked really good at-bats. I’d love to stay with that if we can. Use the whole field.”

The other advantage of April baseball is that teams have a long road ahead of them and they can experiment. Mix up the order and move the players around. Javier Baez is swinging a hot bat so far so why shouldn’t he do it? He batted second and looked good there.

“That’s good to know,” Baez said when told about Maddon’s motives. “I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn’t get excited, but that’s one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I’m still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats.”

Love him or hate him, Baez has become the exciting player the Cubs hoped he’d be. In a world of high salaried performers, Baez shows up at the plate looking like that kid in the sandlot hitting a home run for the very first time. He looks like that all the time.

“The guy’s an exciting ballplayer,” Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. “I feel we’re always talking about Javy Baez. I’m not going to get tired of it. He’s a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he’s a leader and he’s fun to watch.”

Believe it

 

Cubs Left Out In The Cold

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Why are there always good things to happen to the Chicago Cubs even when they lose? Coming hot on the heels after a couple of “Inclement weather” warnings, the Cubs fell back into the baseball groove last night with a 5-3 loss to their arch nemesis (If they were stuck in the Marvel Universe) the St. Louis Cardinals.

Nick Fury: What’s your super powers?

Chicago Cub: Bad luck, curses and inclement weather

Fury: Damn, you’re pairing with Hawkeye

When I say good things that happen, I’m talking El Mago Javier Baez. A triple short of the cycle and yet, they couldn’t find a way to win.

“It’s going to happen,” Joe Maddon said. “I’m fully confident it’s going to happen. The bullpen has done a wonderful job, and the starters are really good. There’s a lot to look forward to with the starters because they’re really good, and as things settle in, they’ll really start piling up the innings. I mean that, I’m not just saying it.”

I’m glad that Anthony Rizzo has returned to the lineup. His much needed help is a welcome sign to the struggling 7-8 North Side Blue Bears. As much as what’s happening on the field is to blame for their uncharacteristic record, the weather, postponement of games and the frigid temperatures around the league are probably the main cause of their poor play. I mean look at all those snowbirds returning from Florida to Canada only to be welcomed by a mountain of snow, “What do you mean I can’t break out my 7 iron?” I guess it happens in baseball as well.

“You know those sunny days are coming, both on the field and as a group, so we’ll just keep playing through it,” said Rizzo.

Playing through it is about all they can do. Sunny days are coming but when I see players on the field with toques, that’s a sign that either global warming is a serious threat to America’s National Pastime or we may be doomed to have domes throughout MLB.

I’m kidding about the toques.

So, perhaps Rizzo is right by suggesting playing fewer games?

“I think we play too much baseball,” Rizzo said Tuesday during his weekly appearance on ESPN 1000. “Yes, guys are going to take pay cuts. But are we playing this game for the money or do we love this game? I know it’s both, but in the long run it will make everything better.”

What do you mean, play fewer games? Cut baseball? Blasphemy!

“I think playing in the cold sucks,” continued Rizzo, who was activated from the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday. “I was thinking about this the other day. When you think of Cubs and Cardinals, you think of a beautiful Saturday at Wrigley Field. You don’t think about playing in 20 degrees.”

He has a point. Cut the season by 10 games, it’s a lot of venue cutting, but the mighty minds of accounting and finance can work something out because empty seats look bad. Wait a minute, what about playing more doubleheaders?

Believe it

 

Cubs/Braves Deliver a Baseball Classic

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Admitting this is the hard part; I was wrong. A crazy, unusual and a downright filthy game. When the score reached an abysmal 10-2, I believed that it was over. C’mon now, so did the rest of you. It was brutal and it didn’t look like there was much hope for the Cubs. I thought, “Great, it’s just another game of missed opportunities and this season is shot.”

Man, was I wrong.

The Cubs fought back, I wouldn’t say fought back, but were lucky. There were some really bad walks happening that the Cubs took advantage of and loaded the bases. Then, Javier “El Mago” Baez performed his tricks and the Cubs staged a monumental comeback win 14-10

“It was one of the craziest wins I have been a part of,” Kris Bryant said. “It was just a crazy turn of events. Windy, wet, cold, sideways rain, and we were able to overcome that. It says a lot about us and who we are. We don’t let the scoreboard dictate how we’re going to go out there and play, and that [game] was a prime example of that.”

I mean the temperature was 38 Fahrenheit( 4 degrees Celsius) not exactly baseball weather and to add insult to injury, it was 85 in Washington!

The Cubs literally, and for those of you who are just casual fans, you have to understand that the Cubs scored 9 runs on three hits! A 10-5 deficit at the bottom of the eighth?

Holy Cow!!!

“Baseball is not necessarily designed for this,” Joe Maddon said. “I don’t know to what extent in the future, maybe, they can talk about when even if it’s not actually physically snowing or raining, there might be elements that are not conducive to playing a legitimate game of baseball.”

Yeah, it really wasn’t baseball weather, but then again the weather wasn’t all that Aprilish anywhere. So, if yesterday’s game was any indication of things to come for the Cubs, then yeah, it was a real character building game that shouldn’t of been played in the first place. The Cubs are back to playing .500 ball and their comeback win was the most since 2008 when they came from behind to beat the Colorado Rockies 13-12, a deficit of eight runs.

“[It would have been] easy to pack that game in,” Maddon said. “[The win] obviously can be impactful, but you have to wait until tomorrow or the next day to find that out. I do know the guys are definitely going to go home feeling better about themselves. But I don’t get carried away yet by things like this — I really don’t.”

Maybe these Cubs are for real or maybe it was just a fluky game that according to Fangraphs, the Cubs had a 1.3% chance of winning. Hey Anthony Rizzo returns Monday. The best is yet to come!

Believe It

 

Cubs’ Darvish Struggles Continue

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There’s something really going wrong with the 2018 edition of the Chicago Cubs. Yesterday’s 4-0 shutout loss to the Atlanta Braves proved that without a doubt. The blame can no longer be put on cold conditions or April. Now, I’m not going to say that nothing can’t be fixed but the pessimism is starting to creep in a little bit.

The balk.

Was it a balk in the fifth inning or not? It didn’t look like a balk to me or perhaps a borderline balk at best.

“Obviously, everything went south after the balk, which was not a balk. It was not a balk, but it was called a balk,” Joe Maddon said. “It seemed to create a little bit of awkwardness. [Darvish] was doing well up to that point … then it came apart really quickly.”

It all came apart after that and the Cubs sure aren’t looking like they’re going to roar in the face of the competition this year. They’re below .500 and most importantly, they’ve lost 3 of 4 at Wrigley Field. Even the most casual of baseball fan knows those aren’t good numbers. What’s more, the most casualist(I think I made that word up but it works)  of casual fans realize that at $126 million big ones, Yu Darvish must perform at the top of the food chain in order for him to succeed at Chicago’s hallowed grounds. Cubs fans can easily forgive Jason Heyward‘s base blunders because his defence is aces. Darvish won’t be that lucky.

“[I was] frustrated,” Darvish said. “Again, because it had never occurred before. It was in a critical situation, and then it happened. So that’s frustrating.”

Of course it’s frustrating but it’s frustrating to us, the fans that we’re watching a Chicago Cubs team that isn’t playing up to their potential, has been shut out three times this season and their star first baseman is out with a back injury.

“It never helps to not have Rizzo. We have to win games like that. We’re not getting anything going. A couple good at-bats, couple well-struck balls but nothing with real consistency. Their pitcher had us off balance the entire game. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to but he really knows how to pitch. He pitched well but we have to do a better job offensively.” Maddon said.

If Darvish was honest in his own assessment of his performance, then Maddon is quietly, in his own Maddon way, losing his patience with how the team is performing.

Today, Jose Quintana gets the ball and arguably, is the Cubs most effective thrower. He got a shutout on April 8th so perhaps he’s the guy who will turn the Cub’s performance around?

Believe it

 

Cubs Get Stymied By Pirates

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I’m going to blame it on the cold weather. but in the Chicago Cubs’ 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the obscenely mighty Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs just couldn’t get it done. Well, at least I’m sticking to my cold weather theory. I think it must be hard for a guy like Kyle Hendricks to deliver the control that he’s so accustomed to in the cold weather. Then again, the Cubs do miss Anthony Rizzo.

“It’s definitely early,” Kyle Schwarber said. “I think we’d like to piece some wins together. We’re not going out there and pressing for that. We know if we go out there and do what we need to do, things will happen. It’s just been an unfortunate series of events with everything that’s going on. We’ll keep going out there and playing our ballgame.”

The problem is that in baseball, unlike other sports, a team can’t win one, then lose one and keep up the pace. In football, a team still has a chance to make the post season if they keep that pace or in hockey, they can rely on points but baseball, man, that’s a different breed altogether. It’s almost like pinpointed accuracy in the standings. Teams have to win April and August if they want an outside chance of competing.

“In the snap of the fingers, it went from balmy to embalming, I guess,” Joe Maddon said. “It got cold very quickly. You could see the wind came on. It did impact. The ball still carried, it seemed. It was two different ballparks completely. That’s the beauty of the place.”

So there you have it. It’s got to be the cold. Then again, Hendricks style of pitching has to be bang on, if he’s off just a little bit, it’s harder for him to get his game back. We’ll have to wait and see when Rizzo gets back. Pittsburgh is good and I’m a little scared in the standings on how they’ll be this season. The weather’s been funky and so has the Cubs’ game.

“We were making good pitches, putting together good [at-bats], but so are they,” Hendricks said of the Pirates. “They’re really good right now and putting together good quality at-bats. They’re a tough team.”

Up next is the Atlanta Braves and man, do I hate that team. Their records are similar and I hope the Cubs stick it to them. Yu Darvish gets the ball in his Wrigley debut. This is the series, the Cubs get it back.

Believe it

 

Cubs Destroy Pirates, Baez Hits Two Home Runs

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Um, so what’s up with Javier Baez? It seems like he’s a one man show. He continued his amazing April last night, rocketing a couple of home runs in the Cubs 13-5 toppling over the Pirates but that wasn’t all, Baez stole home on a gutsy play that worked out well.

“I went a little late on that,” Baez said of his dash home. “I was going on contact. I saw the ball. I was paying attention for the ball in the dirt. It kind of caught me in-between, but I scored.”

Yeah, I don’t think Maddon minded too much on that. In fact, if you guys are keeping tabs on Baez(and I know you are) that’s four home runs in two days. Can he keep up that pace? Will he set a franchise record? Tune in for the next Adventures of Javy.

“I’ve been working on focusing on just me and the pitcher out there,” Baez said. “Forget about the whole field, everything really. Launch angle. The miles off the bat, all this stuff, I was hitting with all this stuff. I clear my mind and it’s all about compete. So that’s how I’ve been taking it.”

All right, people criticize Jason Heyward on his plate appearances but there’s no denying that he’s a master and a beast in the outfield. Before the game, the Cubs had a special ceremony that presented Heyward with his fifth Golden Glove award. It’s well deserved and I know that the Cubs brass didn’t sign Heyward on his offensive prowess.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve told him, ‘I feel so much better when you’re on the field,'” Maddon said. “I think the receiving of the Gold Glove Award is one of the top awards in all baseball. I love having guys win that award. Normally, if you have a couple of those, you have a pretty good year as a group.”

I think it’s money well spent.

So yeah, yesterday’s victory is signalling to everyone that the Cubs are looking better and slowly getting into that groove for the season. I like it, I like it a lot. Really though, I didn’t expect Baez to turn on the jets like this.

“You’re going to go scout, watch guys run the bases and they’ll tell you what they’re instincts are like in the game of baseball,” Maddon said. “[Good players] see things. It’s like a good running back. … He’s among the best I’ve ever seen or ever had.”

Which, if the Cubs are hoping to return to that glory season of 2016 and win one on Wrigley Field soil this year, it’ll be from guys like Baez.

Believe it.