Cubs Stop Making Excuses

Canuck Cubbie

It’s obvious that there’s something amiss with the Chicago Cubs. Last night, they lost 6-1 to the New York Mets in a game which saw John Lackey get walloped by home runs. There’s no excuse for the way the Cubs year is shaping up, when they win, there are flashes of the great team of 2016 but when they lose, all that’s left are question marks and little room for excuses.

“I’ve given up a bunch of homers. I need to do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard, for sure,” Lackey said.

To be fair to Lackey, he normally gives up a lot of home runs. The fact though that he’s almost reached his home run total of last year (23) is a little alarming. The Cubs are at a point where they have to decide what they’re going to do with him.

“We can’t keep using that as an excuse that the other team’s pitcher is good. We’ve got to start beating some better pitchers, period. You don’t get to the promised land winning games like that — 3-2, 4-3. Obviously, the double play hurt us. [deGrom] was good, but at some point we have to start figuring out how to put some things together to beat those guys.” Joe Maddon said.

So for the Cubs , they’ve reached their breaking point. With the All Star break one month away, the Cubs have to make changes. I’m sensing that little frustration in the normally glass half full Maddon. He’s probably feeling the heat from the brass.

“The believability that we can do something like that was earned that year (2016), and I think that bled into the following season obviously,” he said. “Now, even though we’re not playing like we’d like to on a daily basis, there’s still a strong believability among us that we can do that again based on what we have done in the past. I think more than anything, the lesson learned is you can do this and then you know what it takes to do this. You finally learn how to win, what does that mean? On a daily basis, regardless of who you’re playing or where, if you play the game properly and you play nine innings hard, you’ve got a shot. That’s all that was learned in that year.” Maddon said.

There’s no denying they earned it last year and in flashes you can still see that team poking its head through the ivy but the Champs are just on the other side of .500 where they’ve been floating all season. In any other year they’d be considered good but given their recent accolades, I’m talking about that spiffy thing flapping over by that old scoreboard, the Cubs have fallen to mediocre.

The Toronto Blue Jays have the same record as the North Siders and are last in the American League East. That pretty much tells you how bad the Cubs have become, or how so-so the NL Central division is, however you look at it.

“Of course I’d like to be 10 games over .500, but we’re not. We’ve earned it. We’ve earned the right to not be 10 games over .500 right now, but we’re capable of doing it.” Maddon said.

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Cubs On Slippery Slope After Loss To Rockies

Canuck Cubbie

Despite their fourth loss in a row, the Cubs are sitting in second place in the National League Central division. You know what that means? It’s not a very good division, is it? Yesterday, the Cubs fell to the Rockies in a 9-1 disaster.

“We can’t panic. If we’re panicking, we’re not going to be playing the way we can. You’re going to start gripping the bat tighter, gripping the ball tighter, and then that’s when you really mess up. It’s OK for the fans to worry and all that. I mean, it’s just natural. Some people don’t have control over what we do. But we have the control, and it’s just up to us to kind of work harder.” Kris Bryant said.

It’s a case of two teams going in the opposite direction. I mean, the Rockies are becoming the team to beat this year with a seven game win streak and are second in baseball.

What?

So, I have an idea. Why not insert Jason Heyward into the lead off spot. Arguably, he’s the Cubs most improved player and through 48 games has an OBP of .314 and SLG of .394 The Cubs had five hits yesterday.

Five hits!

Does anyone have an answer for the Cubs woes?

“It happens to everybody. I’m sure if you ask every other team, they’re going to tell you the same thing,” Joe Maddon said. “Of course it happens. To the extent that it’s happening with some guys is a little more difficult. … It’s just collectively a bad moment for us.”

We could use the excuse of the Cubs being banged up but Addison Russell‘s head isn’t there this season and Kyle Hendricks is on the DL for a bit but for a team that we know can do great things, something is amiss in the locker room.

Scoring is essential to winning. We know that and here’s where the difference is with the Cubs this season. The Rockies are first overall with 325 RBI’s while the Cubs are a paltry 259. Not overly terrible numbers for the North Siders but then again, yeah, they’re bad. The Cubs need to hit more. They’re in second last place overall with 477 hits. The Cubs aren’t seeing the ball. That has to change. Wether it’s trying more to do little things like laying down the bunt or being more patient at the plate, they must find a way to change it up.

“You go through things like this. You go through spells where you don’t feel good, and this is probably — I guess as a team — probably the lowest point that I’ve been here,” Bryant said. “But it’s really not that bad when you look at it in context in terms of the division. Nobody’s really taken advantage of it, like some of the other divisions out there or like we did last year. So you’ve just got to keep your head up. Good times are ahead.”

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Cubs’ Addison Russell Accused of Domestic Violence

Canuck Cubbie

The Colorado Rockies are a dangerous team. After defeating the Chicago Cubs 4-1, they’ve got five wins in a row. This is an important series for the Cubs, the Rockies are really good and the Cubs must get by them if we want a glimpse of a possible NLCS matchup.

“I was just informed that’s his second homer in four years off a left-handed fastball,” Jon Lester said. “At the end of the day, I’ll take me throwing my fastball down and away and a guy hitting an ‘oppo’ homer. It sucks. We got the loss. We got beat. Tip your hat.”

Despite a home run by Kris Bryant, here’s how Joe Maddon sums up the game.

“Good game, well played on both sides. They hit a three-run homer and we didn’t.” Maddon said.

It’s that type of attitude about moving on that the Cubs will need to employ more as star shortstop, Addison Russell is facing domestic violence allegations.

“Last night, we were made aware of a serious claim posted on social media about Addison Russell. We reached out to Major League Baseball, and following the protocol established by MLB, will fully cooperate with the Commissioner’s Office as it gathers pertinent facts. Addison will not be in uniform tonight to allow him to work through this matter,” the Cubs wrote in a statement.

Wether these accusations are true or not, isn’t the issue. Domestic violence is wrong and should not be considered lightly in any regards. If these accusations are untrue, then I hope everyone can move past it and continue to play ball but if they’re true, then I hope that Addison will get the counselling he needs to be a better husband, father and role model for the next generation. My son’s an Addison Russell fan, if only because Addy is a big Pokemon fan and for these athletes, the ramifications of their actions can be felt to the kids. Of course they don’t quite understand, as we don’t either but it’s a huge responsibility to be in the public eye and athletes should conduct themselves in a responsible manner. Children look up to sports figures because they can do awesome things. It’s not always an awesome world.

“Any allegation I have abused my wife is false and hurtful. For the well-being of my family, I’ll have no further comment,” Russell said in his own statement.

 

 

Cubs Can’t Reel In Marlins

Canuck Cubbie

All right, despite the 6-5 loss to the Marlins, the Cubs managed to show a lot of positives. I mean, there was Kyle Schwarber‘s three hits and of course, there were some let downs.

“You see how much shorter [his swing is],” manager Joe Maddon said of Schwarber. “His feet are on the ground, he’s not lifting his leg up a lot. He’s keeping his body out of it, and his hands have been much more active. It’s reminiscent of what we’ve seen in the past. He has great balance in his finish. You’ve seen every time he’s hit the ball, he’s able to stand there because his balance is so good. When a hitter can do that, it means he’s permitting the ball to travel, he’s using his hands, he’s keeping his head still, all the good things you’re trying to get done. A nice night for him, absolutely it was.”

Then there was John Lackey. Five runs on seven hits? Yikes. I like the guy, he’s one of the fiercest competitors in the game but I think they should start grooming him for another role in the organization. His ERA is up this year 5.12 and I think he’s just about done.

“Lackey is not afraid to challenge hitters, and sometimes it works for him and sometimes it works against him,” Maddon said.

“If I managed the game a little bit better, (the home runs) shouldn’t have killed us,” Lackey said. “The hit to the shortstop (Riddle) is probably the one that got me the most for sure.”

So there are some gaffes that he makes. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still got a little arm left in him, but I think the Cubs should look else where in the rotation.

The series that opens tonight against the Colorado Rockies is going to be difficult. This is the true test of the Cubs endurance. The Rockies have come alive. Even though it’s a home series, the Cubs should try and treat it like an away series. Does that make sense?  Next week they’ll be on the road against the Mets and then it’s off to Pittsburgh. If I were Maddon in his creative ways, I’d try and get the Cubs out of their usually home routine for this one. Have a theme day, maybe it’s Pirates of The Caribbean? There’s nothing wrong with the way they play at home so they have to focus on the their road routines and get out of their comfort zones. If that includes changing up their living quarters or something, I don’t know?

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Cubs Grab Marlins By The Jaws

Anthony Rizzo

It’s frustrating to be a Cubs fan these days. One one hand I want to be critical of their performance this season but on the other hand, winning five in a row and having the best win streak in the majors just feels right. The Cubs destroyed the Miami Marlins last night 10-2 and there wasn’t much the fish could do to stay out of the Cubs jaws.

“The feeling is a little different in the dugout,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Since we’ve been back home, the guys are starting to feel it more and it’s more reminiscent of the last two years and it’s a good thing.”

There was that emotional speech in San Diego that might have turned things around but the way the Cubs have played during this home stand, who knows maybe Jason Heyward should start giving Ted Talks? Last night, the Cubs put out the welcome mat for the Marlins from Jake Arrieta‘s outstanding performance to Anthony Rizzo‘s staggering three run home run in the fifth inning, that’s the way the Cubs should play.

Arrieta, possibly being reminded that his contract is due soon, decided to remind us all that he won a Cy Young a couple years back and went win to pitch just under seven innings.

“Any time we go through a period like we did on our last road trip, it kind of increases the sense of urgency a little bit,” Arrieta said. “We’re not necessarily pressing or trying to do more than we’re capable of, but trying to get locked in more as far as our mental approach and focusing exclusively on that. We’ve been doing that the past five or six games, and it’s starting to pay off”

Recording five strikeouts, the fearsome hurler settled in and delivered a performance that only the second time in the last 11 where a starter recorded a win, that’s how poor the Cubs have been of late.

Though what’s been the most impressive as of late is the play of Jason Heyward. The much maligned highly priced pick up of the Cubs enjoyed one of his best games last night, recording three hits, two of which were doubles. Yup, nobody ever accused Heyward of having a rotten glove but his play at the plate has garnered a lot of attention lately.

“I’m really digging where he’s at in the five-hole,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Right- or left-handed pitcher,  he don’t care. He’s giving you good at-bats against both sides of the plate. He’s giving good at-bats against velocity, and he’s giving you good at-bats against breaking pitches. He continues to trend in the right direction.”

Going into last night’s contest, the Cubs were last in the National League with Runners In Scoring Position but they’ve been 4 for 7 before the game. Last night, they went 6 for 16, a paltry number by any means but one that’s heading into the right direction.

“It starts in the clubhouse, it starts in the dugout, it starts with us being together,” Heyward said. “It starts with your hitters feeling like the dugout and the team is with you every at-bat. That’s what we want to feel. We want to make sure our guys know that regardless of the outcome of the at-bat, just know the guys are with you, and we’ve done a great job of that.”

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Cubs Win Fourth In a Row

Albert Almora JR

Just like that, the Chicago Cubs are among baseball’s hottest teams after a 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins. With the win, the Cubs are back on top of the NL Central. With home runs delivered by Kris Bryant and Albert Almora JR.

Alma Jr’s home run in particular, was a special thing considering he’d like to play everyday but with the arrival of Ian Happ, playing time has diminished.

“If I say no, I’m a liar,” Almora said. “I’m a competitor and I want to play, but it’s not about me. It’s about the Chicago Cubs and winning another World Series. I’m happy to be here and happy to help in whatever way I can. Tonight, they gave me an opportunity and I’m glad I helped out.”

If that’s what it takes to put the wins on the board, then perhaps juggling Almora for Happ on a regular basis might be the thing to do or getting the RISP up and getting them home is the key. Last night, the Cubs delivered on that. If the wind was blowing out, then the Cubs might have had more runs scored.

“The lake did injure us a bit, but it also got them on the fly ball by [Christian] Yelich to left [in the first],” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We did hit the ball better than the 3-1 [score], but that’s how the ballpark plays some days.”

Which is one of the treasured jewels of Wrigley Field, and the most frustrating. In fact, it takes away the home field advantage when the wind is blowing in.

“In [batting practice], we were crushing balls,” Almora said. “You try not to do too much in these situations. You know if you hit the ball hard, it’s going to go.”

Then it changes.

The feel good story of the game was Almora hitting his home run. A Miami boy, his friends and family were watching back home. For a guy who doesn’t have regular playing time, the home run took on a special meaning.

“I’m just happy I’m able to represent my family back home,” Almora said. “I just do it for them. When I give them the chance to see their son or their friend go out there and have success, I’m just happy it happened.”

With their fourth straight win, the winds have changed in the Cubs favour and as Jake Arrieta gets the call today for his fourth start at Wrigley Field this season, the Cubs will try to improve on those numbers and once again become baseball’s best team.

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The Cubs Sweep Cardinals

Ian Happ

There are moments in this lifetime that are truly peaceful. Last night’s Cubs/ Cardinals series finale was one of those moments where Norman Rockwell couldn’t have done a better job at portraying America’s national pastime. Sunday evening-check. Sun setting over Wrigley Field-check. David Ross in the stands playing catch with Jason Hayward-Check and of course, the Cubs beating rival Cardinals 7-6– awesome!

The rookie Ian Happ had two home runs last night and Kyle Hendricks wasn’t his usually stoic self but the Cubs still managed to pull together a gem of a ball game.

“He’s going to continue to do a better job of knowing what to not swing at,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Happ. “He doesn’t have to do mechanical adjustments, he doesn’t have to spend 1,000 hours in the batting cage. It’s a focus thing. He has a good idea of the strike zone. When he really refines it here, heads up.”

Perhaps it was the game’s relaxed atmosphere that contributed to the victory. Maybe that’s all the Cubs need to do to get back on track is relax a bit, I don’t know. The weekend series sweep over the Cardinals was a huge confidence booster for the North Siders. It wasn’t easy at the start of the game when Kyle Hendricks was pulled from the mound after Hendricks gave up four hits. The thing I think, is going to be key for this year’s success is not the dominance in the win column, but that helps, for the Cubs to stay in the thick of things, they’re going to have to slug out those ugly victories and although I’m hesitant to say adversity, they’ll have to go through enough of that to get through to the post season even if it requires more team meetings.

“We all want each other to do well,”Jason Heyward said. “We want to make something happen for each other. Just checking in, hearing how we’re doing, hearing what we think about this, what we think about that.”

It’s tougher than ever to win back to back championships with so much parity in the league. Communication on and off of the field will help contribute in the win columns.

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