Cubs Take Over First Place In Central

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There’s no denying the Cubs are on a roll. After last night’s 8-3 victory over the White Sox, the Cubs took over first place in the National league Central, and may I say that is where they belong. Six games over .500 and 10-2 since the break, it seems like everything is going according to plan.

“When we traded for [Jose Quintana], that’s a huge addition to our ballclub as we’ve seen in his past couple starts,” Arrieta said. “Just seeing how he carries himself in between starts is a really good sign.

“That trade right there is one that is going to pay huge dividends for this ballclub, and not only for this year but the next couple years,” Jake Arrieta said. “We’re a great team right now.”

Whether the trade bolstered their rotation or not, the difference in the halves of the season is astonishing. Although, they have a long way to go before catching the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs are feeling more confident as the season wears on.

“We’re feeling it,” Arrieta said about being in first place again. “We expect to remain in first place throughout the rest of the way. We know it will be a tough task, but that’s what you deal with at the highest level of sports. You expect to have really good competition from teams that are either equal with you or close behind.

“We feel we’ve got the group that can separate ourselves at this point in time and remain in first place for the rest of the way,” he said.

With the captain Anthony Rizzo leading the way with a 4 RBI night, the Cubs certainly looked like the Cubs of last year, I was going to say old, but we know what that was like. In a weird way, I’d like a do over of the All Star game and invite a few more Cubs to the party but let’s face it, there weren’t many Cubs All Stars in the lineup.

“It’s always a good feeling to wake up that way. I’ll get to the coffee shop in the morning [on Thursday], I’ll have the headset on, write the lineup, read the New York newspapers and get ready for my day.” Maddon said.

Their next series against the Brewers should prove whether they stay in first place for the rest of the season or not.

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Cubs End First Half The Right Way

Chicago Cubs

There’s always something unfair in sports. There are winners and losers. It’s definitive and decisive in the results and yesterday, the Chicago Cubs had their definitive ending to the first half of the 2017 season in a 14-3 loss to their division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a poignant score at the end of the first inning, a 10-0 inning chasing exit for Jon Lester.

“I think people just want to get away, get away from this, get away from the grind. [The Cubs’ record] is not for a lack of effort, it’s not for a lack of preparation. It is what it is. Take four days to regroup, refresh and show up Friday ready. I think the big thing for us is to play good baseball, play solid baseball. Forget the record, forget the batting averages, our ERA, and just get back to playing good sound baseball. The talent on this team will speak for itself.” Lester said following the game.

This is true. of course their record doesn’t fully represent what this team can do. Just like any other sports cliche but that one applies to the 2017 Cubs. They’re good, we know it and they know it. So what happened to them in the first half? Well, lets’ see:

These are just a few of the low lights that have occurred so far this season with the Cubs. If this were any other season or any other Chicago team, fans would be staying away from Wrigley’s sacred ground. The truth is that people still believe in them.

“I’m still very confident,” Maddon said. “I believe in our guys and I’m eager to see us coming out of the break.”

If this were any other year, big changes would be happening. Maddon would be out of a job, trades would happen but this is the Chicago Cubs. They’re World Series Champions and possibly poised to be World Series Chumps if they continue playing the way they’re doing.

The fitting end to the first half couldn’t be better. Last year, the Cubs faced the Pirates in the series before the break, and it signalled a turnaround to their mini slump. They went on a tear after the All Star break and never looked back. Could this be the same?

Of course it’ll be one of the greatest turnarounds in professional sports history. I can read the headlines now:

“The Chicago Cubs Win The World Series After Posting Sub .500 first half” It certainly can happen with someone like Joe Maddon in the dugout. They have an easy schedule. Perhaps Cubs fans were so used to losing that we forgot how to get used to winning?

“If I had a reason, I would’ve fixed it out there,” Lester said. “Unfortunately, it’s never a good time to have a bad start. I really don’t know — I don’t know what to say to make it better, to give you a reason. It kind of speaks for itself. It’s embarrassing.”

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Is There Trouble In The Cubs Locker Room?

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Is there trouble in the ranks of the Chicago Cubs clubhouse? After a horrible 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, the team needs to regroup badly. Jake Arrieta allowing 6 walks is unacceptable. However, I’m starting to believe that there might be a rift forming within the Cubs team.

“It really sucked because the stolen base goes on me,” Miguel Montero said. “When you really look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, Miggy can’t throw anybody out.’ Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on. It’s tough. … I don’t get a chance to throw. That’s the reason they were running left and right. They knew he was slow to the plate, simple as that.”

There you have the fatal flaw of Jake Arrieta. He’s slow to the plate. Now, I like Miggy. Yeah, he was a little but whiny during their playoff run, but if you remember, he hit a grand slam. He comes through in the clutch. In many ways, he’s their outspoken leader. He’ll say everything that needs to be said on the team. Yeah, he’s a part time player but even still he comes through.

“I can pitch at his level,” Arrieta said. “I just haven’t done it consistently. He’s been very good throughout his career. I’ve had a couple good ones, a bad one, a couple good ones. I’d like to be more consistent throughout.”

So where do you find that consistency? Is it trading for pitching? We know the Cubs are in the market so that’ll be addressed soon.

Do you blow up a World Series team and start again? We know that’s not the answer but we also know that the team has suffered key losses in the off season that has contributed to this fluctuating season.

“That’s the million-dollar question right there. If I knew the answer, I’d be talking to the guys to figure it out and get it going. It’s tough. It’s one of those days, you get beat and go home. We played sloppy — we all did. You go home and you think about it, and it’s going to be hard to sleep on it. It was just a bad game. I respect Scherzer. I’ve known him for a long time and he’s a great pitcher, but I felt the game could be a little bit closer.” Montero said.

Big changes are coming, that’s for sure. Whether the Cubs need a break and regroup during the All Star game on July 11th, we’ll have to wait and see. What they can’t do is shrug it off saying “We have to go home and think” No, the Cubs have raised the bar this year and now it’s time for change. Truthfully, I’m betting on Montero not being around at the deadline.

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Cubs Go On Fishing Expedition

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It’s no secret that this season when the Cubs have been bad, well, they’ve stunk but when they’ve been good, they’ve been red hot. Last night, the Cubs weren’t just red hot, they were on fire beating the Miami Marlins 11-1.  On the same day that fan favourite, Kyle Schwarber got sent down for a little bit of adjustment, the Cubs young bats became red hot with Addison Russell, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant each chipping in for the Home Run Department.

“A night like tonight where we we pitch well and score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. So it’s a matter of collectively as a group building off of a night like tonight.” Jake Arrieta said.

Which is easier said than done. I’m not a big fan when players say all the “right things” when it comes to the need of winning ballgames. Eleven runs won’t happen every night, we know that but it’s also the kind of thing that won’t always ballgames when teams hit too many home runs. I’m a big fan of small ball. Get a hit, move the runner and steal a bag. Of course, score some runs.

The key player for the Cubs right now is Addison Russell. He’s been having a sloppy year so far but if he connects like he did last night, then I see a Cubs turnaround. What I mean by turnaround is not just squeaking in by a wild card spot; Nope, a bona fide National League leader.

“Addison looks really comfortable. I know you see it up there also,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “And Happ, when he starts making contact, he keeps making contact. And I like it from the right side. That’s very large that he’s starting to do it from the right side.”

Sending Kyle Schwarber down is something I would have done a lot sooner. He’s not a lead off guy (Not really an outfielder either, but not as bad as I imagined) He needs to get adjusted and time to refocus his fundamentals.

“We think this is best for him right now,” Maddon said. “We know he’s gonna be back, and obviously just look forward to it. I really personally love having him here, too. It’s just even when he’s struggling, whenever he walks up to the plate, everyone expects something good to happen. So let’s just get him right for him and for us.”

Look what happened last year after missing all but two games? There’s no question the kid can hit but I really didn’t think that last season’s success was an indication of what Schwarber can do. Hopefully with some time to get adjusted, there might be something waiting when he gets back.

“It’s tough for our team, because he’s such a good guy,” Anthony Rizzo said. “But he’s gonna go down and be able to exhale a little bit as far as being in the limelight all the time and hopefully smooth things out. We’re all confident he will and just do his best down there to get back here and get back to being the Kyle Schwarber we 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 Lose Six In a Row

Kris Bryant

It’s hard to compete with what happened last year. A World Series championship after so many years of what could have beens and never was’ the Cubs have now lost six in a row after yesterday’s 2-1 stunner. Jake Arrieta pitched well striking out seven, which isn’t bad but considering Arrieta’s past achievements is mere mortal.

“If you panic, if you worry, we still have to show up and play a game every day,” Arrieta said. “There’s no time to panic. If that happens, especially at this point in the season, when we’re two, 2 1/2 games out of first place, it’s going to work against us. We have to just maintain a positive vibe in here the best we can and continue to move forward, even if we lose several games in a row. I know it’s a cliche thing to say, but sometimes that just happens in this game.”

He’s right about two things. Now’s not the time to panic and baseball’s a difficult game. Losing streaks happen and all the Cubs can do is stay focused on what’s ahead. The ability to stay positive as well is an important thing to do too.

“I feel we have to have more fun, like last year,” Willson Contreras said after hitting a double then waving to the bench. “Last year, we were out there and had fun. It was more about hitting the ball over the fence. We went out there and had good at-bats. That’s how I feel — that’s why I did what I did today.”

It’s hard to feel optimistic when the statistics for May are bad:

  • At 25-27, the Cubs are under .500 for the first time under Maddon
  • Losing 6 in a row is the most consecutive with Maddon as Manager
  • Both the Padres and Dodgers kept the Cubs RISP to a low 3-40

That’s bad.

“With what we accomplished last year, obviously the expectations are really high, and they should be,” Arrieta said. “We’ll take it. We’ll deal with the criticism and continue to move forward and do everything we can.”

Of course they can still win their division but it’s not the point. It’s going to be a struggle getting into the post season but I can’t help feel terrible for some of the players and heck, even Maddon. Is their jobs on the line? It’s inevitable that this was going to happen to the team but maybe we’re still on a World Series high or maybe just not ready to accept that the Cubs aren’t as good as we thought they were.

“There’s no magic potion,” Joe Maddon said. “We just have to keep going out there and playing, believe in our guys — which I do, 100 percent. These are good young players. They’ve shown it in the past. They’ll show it to you again.”

What do you think?

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Cubs Not Ready To Throw In The Towel

Kris Bryant

Sure, Kyle Schwarber hit a home run but the Cubs are below .500 Let’s put that into perspective, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and less than a year later, they’re a sub .500 team. Last night, the Cubs fell 6-2 to the San Diego Padres.

“We got the lead and gave it right back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We gave up the lead, and that was very large because they did pitch well again, and we’re not hitting like we can, so it’s a bad combination.”

So, what’s the problem? I mean, they’ve got tons of All Stars and the reigning NL MVP on their squad and they’ve fallen below .500 twice this season?

Uh oh.

“We feel we have a talented offense that will be productive over the long haul that has fallen into some bad patterns,” Theo Epstein said. “We’re a little too easy to pitch to these days, which means we have to adjust. I think that’s going to come.”

When the President of Baseball Operations uses the word “adjust” he’s not talking about batting stances or infield positioning, he’s talking about something more desperate and that could mean some big time player movement. Bleed Cubbie Blue has an interesting proposal in regards to what can happen with Schwarber.

It’s not just one area of their game that’s suffering. It’s pitching and batting that’s taken a beating lately that’s only been accentuated by their latest west coast debacle.

So, if changes are coming, and you’d better believe that they will despite what the Prez says, the Cubs are in a pickle. Last night’s loss was their fifth straight and going into last night’s fiasco, the Cubs were a .500 team nine times this year all ready. Folks, check your calendar because we’re only into May.

“Not right now,” Epstein said. “You keep an open mind for everything. You have belief in certain guys’ talent. You want to find a way to manifest it. It’s valuable for guys to work through things up here.

“Not right now” Three words that can have an impact on a few players. Yeah, there’s going to be some major changes, if not subtly. Ian Happ has gone cold, we know of Schwarber’s situation.

“We don’t need everyone to get hot, we don’t need everyone to hit their projections,” Epstein said. “We just need a few guys to get going to make our offense really viable. We need time. I think over time our guys will continue to progress. When that gap exists, it’s a better position than not having the talent.”

Epstein is saying the right things now, but one or some unlucky players will not hear those words.

Today should be an interesting matchup with Jake Arrieta going toe to toe against the Padres. Whether that will transpire into a slugfest or not remains to be seen.

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