Solving The Mystery of Chicago Cubs

Canuck Cubbie

Trying to find the reasons behind the Cubs fluctuating results this year is a perplexing issue. The Cubs lost yesterday 4-2 to the Miami Marlins. Could it be nagging injuries? Yesterday, Addison Russell left the game after the fourth inning due to “discomfort” in his shoulder. I’m not disputing anything but the Cubs have been racking up the injuries this season at a frantic pace. Trying to solve the “Mystery of the Cubs” should be a title in the next Sherlock episode but it probably couldn’t be one even the great detective couldn’t solve.

“More than anything, it’s trying to do too much, as opposed to just score one,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I think a lot of times a hitter gets in that situation and the bases are loaded or two guys are on, you want to score three or four. Score one. Score the guy that’s on third base. If you could reduce it to scoring one, mentally, you can have a much better chance of being consistent with it.”

And there you have it. Maddon sums it up, “Trying to do too much” sometimes the toughest questions have the easiest answers. On the other end of the spectrum, the leaders, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant need to take control of the team and be the guys the other Cubs need. On a team where where nobody can blame it on rookies anymore, the Cubs came into their own last season and now this year is the time where they have to cement the legendary 2016 season.

“Not every year is going to be perfect,” Kris Bryant said. “It’s not going to be an MVP year every year, so that’s how I look at it. … Stick with the same approach. There’s no need to make any situation bigger than it is. No matter if it’s the first or ninth inning of a game.”

He’s got a point. Not every year is going to be perfect. Last season was an anomaly. Yet, the expectations this year are higher for a club that hasn’t won a championship in over a 105 seasons and then ended the drought. This season’s been a reset button like campaign.

Should we have expected more out of this season, the Cubs and a back to back World Series? It’s a difficult championship to win, there’s no question about that. The fact is that the Cubs have been progressively the most watched team in the game. From the way that they draft, their management, and their players. Baseball is a game of statistics and there’s no question that other teams have spent more time studying the “Cubs Way” more then their own team trying to answer the question of, “Why are they so good?” last year, nobody quite knew how to play against the Cubs. This year is different. Every team has one team to study, the Cubs have 29.

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Cubs Go On Fishing Expedition

Canuck Cubbie

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 Make it An Extra Special Father’s Day

Canuck Cubbie

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Sunday, June 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Chicago Cubs were out in their finest Father’s Day blue uniforms and they didn’t disappoint in their 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs haven’t won a road series since April and the season so far, has had their share of ups, downs and set backs. Yesterday, with Anthony Rizzo in the leadoff yet again, the Cubs sent Father’s everywhere home smiling.

“It’s crazy, it’s weird, it’s funny but it’s great,” Rizzo said. “The game can’t start until I get in the batter’s box. The objective is, the pitcher is going to throw strike one, they want to get in a groove, and I have to be ready to hit.”

It is crazy to think about Rizzo in the leadoff, but in the midst of a 12 game winning streak, yesterday, Rizzo crushed a two run homer and collected three hits. The Cubs haven’t been doing their best this year, it’s no secret about that and everybody has a different theory on it. It’s exciting when a guy like Rizzo does this well in a position that he’s unfamiliar with and gives us reasons to cheer.

“You look at him, he’s a middle-of-the-order first baseman,” MVP Kris Bryant said. “He’s the last guy you would expect to hit leadoff. He’s on base all the time now. It’s nice to get to the pitcher with that first at-bat of the game. Hopefully he can keep that up.”

There’s no question about him keeping that up. Yeah, he’ll have his good days and bad ones too but I can guarantee that with Rizzo in the leadoff, it’ll be, “You go, we go!” situation and Dexter Fowler is smiling in St. Louis.

Someone else who’s smiling is John Lackey. The Cubs’ veteran pitcher has had his struggles this season and although I’m a fan of his style, he’s a difficult pitcher to gauge because you never know who’s going to show up on the mound until that first pitch. Will it be the lights out, wily grizzled hurler? Or the frustrated, mad at every guy in the game, tired, past his prime, Everyone has that one last pitch kind of warrior? Yesterday, it was the wily veteran doing nothing fancy but allowing few runs and getting the job done.

“I’m just going to try to do my job,” Lackey said. “It was really cool to pitch on Father’s Day as a dad.”

The Cubs may be onto something now. Last year, it was in Pittsburgh just before the All Star Break when the tides turned and the Cubs fell out of their slump. Could this be the great Father’s Day slump buster?

“Gosh, the way Rizzo started the game again and got the momentum rolling,” Maddon said. “I think he likes doing it. He likes the idea of getting that extra at-bat.”

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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 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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Cubs Get Swept Out Of LA

Jon Lester

It wasn’t what you thought would happen when two outstanding pitchers faced each other. One a multiple Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw and the other a multiple World Series champion in Jon Lester. I thought it would be low scoring, how about yourself? Nope. It turned out to be a 9-4 series sweep by the hometown Dodgers.

“It sounds like fiction to me, but it happened,” Joe Maddon said. “I have not seen [Kershaw] like that. We were on him. It’s just one of those days. Both of them are very good, they’re outstanding and neither one had a good day and [the Dodgers] got us.”

Something out of an old Twilight Zone episode, where Kershaw gave up three home runs and the Dodgers, with their stingiest bullpen in the National League, squeaked by the defending champions.

“We just have to play for today. You can’t worry about [going on] a run, you can’t worry about showing up and trying to go nine [innings] before you throw the first pitch, you can’t worry about trying to go 3-for-4 before your first at-bat. You can’t worry about [going on] a run, you can’t make runs happen. You can’t make anything happen in this game. We have a good team. It’s just a matter of showing up day in and day out and putting our work in. It’ll come, it’ll click. We’ve had little spurts, and that’s been great. We just have to worry about tomorrow and go from there.” Jon Lester said.

The Cubs will have to take the sting they felt in the series loss off to San Diego and try to boost their league low of .217 batting with Runners In Scoring Position.  Which is a surprising stat from the champs. Add to the fact that they’re 25-24, the Cubs are in a rough spot. They’re almost at the halfway mark and in a sport where having under 95 wins is considered a sub par performance, the Cubs had better find a way to dig deep and fix what’s ailing them.

“I don’t see any reason to worry, especially given what we did last year,” reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant said. “There is no need to worry. You’re going to have your good years, you’re going to have your bad years. Your good starts, your bad starts. This is an average start; it’s not a terrible start. Sometimes it happens. We’ve spoiled ourselves with last year and that start. I guess it’s a good thing to have those expectations because we do, too.”

What Bryant isn’t taking into consideration that yesterday, the Cubs walloped three home runs in the losing effort. Nope, it’s the old cliche about the Cubs having to move the runners. Small ball.

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