Cubs Need To Pour A New Cup of Coffee

Anthony Rizzo

We all get into habits and ruts. This daily routines that we feel quite comfortable in  doing, and sometimes are very good at doing. Take for example my coffee making abilities. My culinary skills are reduced to canned baked beans, grilled cheese, Kraft Dinner and having Gabriel’s on speed dial. That’s it, that’s all. What I’m very good at is making coffee. I am locally renowned in having the unique ability to take a generic Costco brand 2lb bag of organic java and turning it into roaster’s paradise.

For years, I’ve been using those throw-a-way paper filters. The coffee’s been great with those filters with the exception of the hit and miss batch of brew. One morning, I ran out of filters and scrambled around looking for something to use in the interim. I was panicking! As I frantically tossed around those useless items in the cupboards, I found the mesh cone filter that came with the Cuisinart machine. When the beeping sounded on the machine, what I poured into my Chicago Cubs mug the one my son made me that is so awesome, was the best coffee I ever had. It was rich and flavourful and filled with all the goodness java has to offer.

Mug

The point is that yesterday’s 11-6 loss to the Bronx Bombers was ugly. There’s no denying it or putting a positive twist on it. It was bad. How did the World Series champions go from last season’s dominance to this year’s borderline mediocrity?

“We need to get in a groove,” Miguel Montero said. “I think the whole team needs to get in a groove. For the hitters, for the most part, we’ve been coming from behind. First inning, they score some runs and it’s hard to come back all the time.”

What the Cubs need to do is have Jason Heyward pull them aside in their new Wrigley digs and give them a pep talk. Change it up a bit. If they can put Miguel Montero in to pitch, there’s room for that special kind of creativity that Maddon is so inclined to pull out of his New Era.

“Whenever the backup catcher gets more outs than you, it’s not positive,” Brett Anderson said. “You need to figure some things out and get healthy and get some more people out going forward. It’s as simple as that.”

Yeah, that’s how awful a situation the Cubs were in yesterday. The Cubs rotation has to go deep into the games. That’s all there is to it. If it’s a cliche to say that they have to start playing Chicago Cubs baseball, then that’s what they’ll have to do. Deep into games, move the runners and change up the order. Then again, if that was the simple recipe, then every team would be playing well.

It’s a lot like the simple routine of brewing coffee. I changed filters and discovered a whole new richness to my morning cup of coffee.

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Cubs Never Quit

#ThatsCub

With their tenth come from behind victory of the season in a 5-4 13th inning thriller at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs may not win over a hundred games this season, but their resiliency is charging a path through the league. Albert Almora Jr. whacked a double in the extra innings and then ran home when Phillies Freddy Galvis committed an error.

“When Szczur hit the ground ball, you have in the back of your head, like, what if something happens?” Almora said. “He could beat it out and if the first baseman’s not paying attention, I could score. It was in the back of my head.”

It wasn’t just Almora but Miguel Montero hit a clutch home run in the eighth inning to tie the game.

“I hit the ball good, but the wind was really weird,” Montero said. “I didn’t know what to expect and next thing I know, the ball is in the basket. Basket — amazing basket when I hit, but when I’m catching, I hate it. As soon as the ball hit the basket, I slowed down. I never thought I had a chance to hit it out. I got lucky.”

The Cubs got lucky the whole game. How long can they maintain these come from behind victories? It seems to be working for them now but in the dog days of summer, it’s going to be a different story altogether. Injuries will happen and teams will adjust.

This weekend marks the New York Yankees return to Wrigley Field. It is therefore fitting that the “Love them or hate them” duo of Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro will make their return to the Friendly Confines. It’s also fitting that the duo play for the much maligned Yankees.

Listen, I like Starlin Castro. He was my son’s favourite player for the longest time. I remember watching the game and when my son was playing something around the house and Castro would hit one of his memorable home runs, I would yell and my son would come running from wherever he was playing. Castro just didn’t fit into the Cubs plans and that happens. I’m glad he hitched onto the Yankees. By The Way, my son likes the Yankees now.

“I can’t wait to go over there and hear from the fans the first time they announce me,” said Castro.

Aroldis Chapman is another entity unto himself. The hard throwing hurler may not be the nicest individual off of the field and Cubs fans, myself included, took exception to his off field incident which is unacceptable behaviour. That being said, when the Cubs honour him with his championship ring it will be well deserved. He delivered on the field for the team and should be honoured appropriately for it.

On the subject of Chapman, I want to applaud the efforts by the Canadian Football League recently in their handling of Justin Cox. In a statement issued by the CFL,  Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge implemented zero tolerance on domestic violence for Cox. This is a tremendous stance and a first for a professional sports league.

Well done,

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Cubs Bring The Bats, Help Lackey

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are somewhat of an oddity this season. They’re not overly good like last year, but they’re not too bad either. If that makes sense? Yesterday, they evened the series against Boston with a 7-4 victory. Then there’s the connection with the World Series teams with John Lackey, Koji Uehara and Dustin Pedroia. That’s quite a connection between these two franchises.

Out of all the pitchers on the Cubs staff, the one I’m worried about the most is John Lackey. Yesterday, the Cubs bared their teeth at the plate, but in the true John Lackey fashion of unpredictability, it was the pitcher that bit the hardest.

“If it’d been the first time to leave somewhere, it would’ve been a little different,” Lackey said. “I was just trying to win a game.”

The game worn face of the veteran hurler argued a call to the umpire. In a move that would likely have thrown every other pitcher out of the game, there seems to be a certain respect (or is that fear) from the umpires for Lackey.  In the end, it wasn’t a pretty game that Lackey threw, giving up four runs and eight hits but the Cubs earned him the win. That’s the kind of game you’re going to get from Lackey.

On the other end of the plate the Cubs have Miguel Montero. I like Montero and he’s kind of stepped up into the David Ross role on the team. Although, he complained about the way he was used in the playoffs, and I totally disagree with him; he hit a grand slam for Pete’s sake! Montero is a good hitter who comes through in the clutch. Yesterday, he did just that with a game tying home run in the seventh inning.

If Miggy Montero is a great clutch player, the one player who might finally get his due this season is Anthony Rizzo. The unofficial leader of the team hit his sixth home run of the season in a two run shot in the fourth inning. Rizzo is overdue for an MVP season and I believe this year is his year for that to happen.

The tandem of Rizzo and Kris Bryant is a throwback to a bygone era like Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle and Maris. There will always be the debate of who’s better but there’s no denying that with Bryant and Rizzo at the corners for the Cubs, they’re the ones laying the foundation for Chicago’s now historic 2016 team. The image is forever engraved in the minds and imaginations of baseball and Cubs fans everywhere the final out in game seven of the World Series. They are the Tinkers to Evers to Chance of a new millennium. The smiling face of Bryant and the ball tucked in the back pocket of Rizzo. That’s what baseball is all about. The culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, team spirit and camaraderie. Anthony Rizzo should win MVP as sure as God made green apples.

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Cubs Snap Losing Streak But Baseball Is a Long Season

Miguel Montero

The Chicago Cubs won 9-7 yesterday over the Milwaukee Brewers. They snapped their losing streak, Miguel Montero and Kyle Schwarber each knocked out two run homers but  there’s a few problems that are heading the Cubs way.

“We have a pretty good hitting lineup from top to bottom,” Montero said. “Obviously, they have a five-run lead in the game but there was still a long way to go. We knew we’d be able to come back.”

Um, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about right there. The Brewers had a five run lead going into the third inning. The Brewers! They’re not expected to do anything this year and are beating the Cubs at their own game. That’s what I’m talking about.

“I don’t think we’ve played the kind of baseball we played last year,” General Manager Jed Hoyer said. “We’ve been sloppier at times than last year. That’s the only part that, when I watch the games, we didn’t do that last year. We were very clean, we took care of the ball, we didn’t give the other team outs.”

That’s precisely it. There’s no other way to put it when teams like the Brewers are racking up the runs on the Cubs the way they’ve been doing except to blame it on sloppiness.  They can even blame it on their bullpen but as the weather warms up, the bullpen should get looser. If the Cubs win the World Series, and that’s a big if, then it’ll be based solely on the fact of them overcoming these smaller market team wins.

“We’re gonna be fine out there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s all about confidence. We just have to keep getting them out there. As they get more successful innings — which they shall — their confidence will come on because they’re really good.”

See, now I’m starting to sound frustrated with the Cubs and April isn’t even over with. All right, so I’m going to put something out there that a lot of you folks might not like but I feel that Kyle Schwarber should be moved at the trade deadline. Yup, they need to move him and it’s going to hurt. Hitting lead off isn’t where he should be. They need to resolve that by going out and finding a premium lead off hitter if they want to make it through the Fall.

“So right now, you look at left-right-left-switch-right, I kind of like that, the way we have it set up,” Maddon said. “So to move (Schwarber in the order), it’d have to be either an acquisition of either a really legitimate lead-off hitter or somebody getting so hot down below that you felt comfortable about putting him in front of that guy.”

Is that Maddon confessing that Schwarber as a lead off hitter isn’t working as well as he thought it would? Don’t get me wrong, Schwarber is good but he isn’t a lead off hitter. If the Cubs can solve that problem, then they’ll be fine.

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Cubs Prepare For Greatest Comeback In World Series History

World Series

The Chicago Cubs are in deep. last night, the Cubs fell to the Cleveland Indians 7-2 and have a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. It seemed that for everything the Cubs did, the Indians answered back . That’s October baseball. The real question is, Can the Cubs come back?

“We know we have to win out,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said. “If we want to get to the last game, we have to win the first one, then the next one. It’s one game at a time, don’t change anything, have fun, smile, just be ourselves.”

He’s partially right. If you’re going to play that cliche, then yeah, it is one game at a time. The good news is that next up is Jon Lester tonight, then Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. Now is not the time for the Cubs to panic. Within a 24hr period, they’ll have to reconnect with the team that won 103 games and reach down deep and play ball. They can come back in this series. They’ve had 16 three game winning streaks this year. Of course, none of them were against this Cleveland Indians team. Only five teams in World Series history have come back from a 3-1 hole.

1985 Kansas City Royals

1979 Pittsburgh Pirates

1968 Detroit Tigers

1958 New York Yankees

1925 Pittsburgh Pirates

So you see, it’s not impossible. If there is any team in baseball capable of staging the greatest comeback in post season history, it’s these 2016 Chicago Cubs.

Why?

They’ve gotten to know this Cleveland team. Joe Maddon is going to keep things loose in the locker room by not allowing players to report until 90 minutes before the game. Hey, they know what’s at stake and I feel that if they try to do too much at this point, it might throw the equilibrium way off balance.

“They’re all trying to hit a grand slam with nobody on,” Miguel Montero said of the Cubs’ young hitters. “It’s not going to happen. We need to take our walks. We need to be a little bit more patient at the plate. We need to play small ball. … We’re all trying to launch the ball 110 miles per hour off the bat, launch angle, whatever. No, we need to get a freaking ground ball through a hole. As simple as that.”

There you have it. Small ball. Forget Bryant’s home run capabilities, get Dexter Fowler on base, move the runners and perhaps lay down a bunt.  They key is exactly what Montero said. Guys like Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras have to keep the ball on the ground because if the Cubs win tonight, it goes back to Cleveland where the DH rule applies and you know what that means?

Kyle Schwarber is back in the game.

“We have to have a one-game winning streak tomorrow,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And if we do that, I really would be feeling pretty good about going back to Cleveland.”

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Cubs Take Game 1 on Montero’s Grand Slam

Chicago Cubs

Hollywood can’t write this stuff better than what happened in the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Game 1 of the NLCS. Miguel Montero hits a grand slam with two out to put the Cubs up 7-3 before Dexter Fowler scripted it with a back to back home run to make it 8-3. The Cubs finished with an 8-4 win.

“Obviously, after the first pitch, I’m looking something middle, middle in, and he threw me that slider,” Montero said. “It was a really good pitch to hit, and I missed it. And in my mind, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I missed that.’ That was a perfect pitch to hit. But you have to step out of the box and just pull yourself together and try — all I was trying to do was get a base hit. Don’t strike out right here. Get a good pitch and try to put the ball in play and make something happen.

“But to be honest, in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit,” Montero said. “And I guess he heard me because he threw it back, and luckily I hit the ball pretty good.”

After the two strikes, the FS1 commentators were saying how Montero “Could be a hero tonight in game 1” Two strikes, two out and Boom!

Wow, the Cubs have a way of answering the call and providing the fireworks. It almost didn’t happen that way.

Jon Lester who pitched a great game, was yanked in the 6th inning and he looked upset.

“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t get paid to make decisions; I get paid to pitch. So that’s his decision to make. … Would I have liked to have gone out for the seventh? Absolutely. But you got to understand the situation and put yourself kind of [into] what the manager’s trying to do.”

Did anyone catch Javier Baez’s steal home that erupted Wrigley Field? It was the first time a Cubs player achieved this feat since 1907, when Jimmy Slagle stole home. If the Cubs do go on and win the World Series, Javier Baez has got to be Playoff MVP.

“I went a little bit too early,” Baez said. “But I saw him ready to throw the ball, and I didn’t want to get in a rundown, so I just kept going home.”

But if it got the ire of Joe Maddon, he didn’t let it show.

“Give Javy credit for what he did,” Maddon said. “One percent or less of all Major League players would have done what he did. Honestly. He’s just that good on the bases. Sometimes he’s going to look bad because he’s going to make what appears to be a mental mistake. But he had that all plotted out. That’s purely good baseball instinct by a kid that’s a baseball player.”

That’s what makes baseball the great.

Tonight will be the most important game for the Cubs this post season. Clayton Kershaw vs Kyle Hendricks. If the Cubs can get by Kershaw and go up 2-0 in the series, the momentum will be on their side. Kershaw has pitched 4 times in the last 10 days but he’s the league’s best. Hendricks though, is the Professor.

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Cubs Celebrate Division Title

Miguel Montero

The man who struggled all season long and was in danger of missing out in October came through yesterday. Miguel Montero clobbered the ball in the 10th inning with a home run and give the Cubs a 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Then the party started.

“This is what we work for,” Montero said after spraying champagne in the clubhouse and dancing with his teammates. “A lot of people play for many years in the big leagues and never get that chance to experience something like that. It’s a great experience and great feeling. I’m proud of every single guy on the team.”

The Cubs officially clinched the National League Central Division yesterday in style. Everybody was talking about it being inevitable but for the Cubs to clinch this early is still a remarkable achievement. For the players, the Chicago Cubs hardworking staff who tirelessly work their butts off every game day to ensure that all of us fans have the ultimate experience at one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds, and us fans, it was pure bliss seeing the Flying W wrapped around the players in their celebratory photo shoot. Hell, Theo Epstein watched from the stands.

“Normally we’re in a suite and it’s very standard type of deal, where we’re watching the game and keeping an eye on things. To enjoy the real Wrigley Field and sit out there, feel the breeze, be among the fans, have a beer, it was wonderful. Even better than I thought it was going to be.” Epstein said.

Anyone who’s had the privilege of going to Wrigley Field agree with what he said. There’s a rumour going around that David Ross walked the neighbourhood after Thursday’s loss in search of the Giants/Cardinals game. When he found a spot to cool his jets with a beer, the bartender recognized him and proclaimed, “Shots all around!”

That’s what the Chicago Cubs have meant to the fans in Chicago and abroad. It’s been such a cool season and they can very well coast the rest of the way, but why should they? The next step is first overall.

In fact, it was extremely fitting that the Cubs won in that way. To come from behind and a walk off home run. That’s the Cubs’ way.

“The camaraderie, the chemistry, even hanging out outside the field, it’s really a close bunch of guys,” pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “It’s a special group of guys. We have veteran leaders, and a lot of great young players who just put the work in. Humble guys, all they want to do is come to the ballpark and win.”

Come to the ballpark and win. That’s a great attitude and one that was very different a few years ago. It was a few years ago when the Cubs just wanted to compete with the best, but now it’s to win.

“This is unique,” Maddon said. “I’d heard it before — [a player told me] everybody should be a Cub at some point in their Major League existence if they had the opportunity. There’s nothing like it. … To play here under these circumstances, in this ballpark, with these fans is different in all the best ways.”

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