Baez Continues His El Mago Ways

Image result for cubs chicago

It’s amazing to watch players blossoming into the greatness they’ve become. Remember, a few years ago Javier Baez was swinging at anything and everything that was pitched in front of him and in more cases than not, everything that was around him as well. Yesterday, the Cubs beat the Padres 5-4 and Baez continued to dazzle his way to a possible NL MVP award.

“He’s right at the top,” Anthony Rizzo said of Baez as far as MVP consideration. “His numbers are very, very good and he’s been very consistent. Offensively, defensively, the bases, he’s a complete player. I’m sure other guys around the league are having tremendous years as well, but on a first-place team with a lot of expectations, he’s carrying the load.”

As the Cubs have struggled at times this season, Baez has, like Rizzo says, been consistent all the way through. This is his breakout year. Yesterday, he connected with his 23rd home run of the season. While not exactly a home run hitter, Baez does have power but the most exciting thing about Baez’s style of play is exactly that, the excitement.

“It makes me nervous, to be honest,” Baez said about his MVP consideration. “I don’t want to play with numbers. We’ll see at the end. We’ll see in September. When we get to September, it’ll be about the playoffs. We’ll see when the numbers come up. We’ll see in the offseason what I get for this season.”

It’s always at the back of player’s minds when it comes to awards but he’s right. They should be concentrating on the season and worry about what’s to come later. El Mago’s game is all about defence and he’s the best.

“Javy’s game today was so complete,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the infielder, who is batting .407 with 10 RBIs in his past seven games. “Bote’s game has been so complete. That’s the thing — too many times in our industry, we get hung up on offensive numbers, but we won the game on defense.”

Believe it

 

Baez and Schwarber Tune Up For Home Run Derby

Image result for javier baez

In what appears to be quite likely a tune up for the Home Run Derby, both Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez propelled the Cubs to a 11-6 victory over the San Diego Padres with a home run each as they padded their lead in the National League.

“We’re running out of [superlatives],” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez. “I like the way he’s going about his business. He’s playing the game right, playing the game hard, playing the game smartly. He’s just playing the game of baseball. I don’t think he has an analytical bone in his body. … He’s absolutely fun to watch.”

As if April never happened, the Cubs find themselves in sole possession of first place with one game to go before the mid summer classic.

“This year I’ve been consistent with my work, with my routine, being here early,” he said. “I’m the type of guy that I like to take my time during my routine, so I like to get here early and there are already a few people here. Working is the thing that is getting me here and doing some good this first half.” Baez said.

Kyle Hendricks enjoyed a win as well even though it was at times, a shaky performance by The Professor. While he’s got to figure out why he gives up first inning home runs, Hendricks is looking forward to the second half.

“It’s good to be at the top,” Hendricks said. “The Brewers are a great team behind us. There’s no days off in the second half. We have to play the same baseball we’ve been playing.”

The Cubs are in a great spot. With the return of Yu Darvish expected very soon, the Cubs will have their rotation bolstered.

“I think we’re surprised,” Cubs General manager Jed Hoyer said of Darvish’s injury. “Other than the Tommy John [surgery he had], he’s been a guy who takes the ball and has been really durable. I think this is a blip. I think it’s a moment in time and he’ll get back to that place where he’ll give us six, seven innings of quality baseball.”

Believe it

Baez Pulls Out The Magic in Extra Innings

 

Is there anything that Javier Baez can’t do? In the tenth inning, Baez stole second base and then took advantage of a couple of errors to run home and score. The Cubs went on to beat the San Diego Padres 5-4 and take first place in the National League Central.

“At this point, it’s really not even surprising to us, and it’s crazy to say that,” Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo said of Baez’s daredevil baserunning. “It’s fun. His instincts, his baseball instincts, are taking over the whole game and people are noticing it more than ever. That’s who he is, and he continues to keep getting better.”

I’m a huge fan of his style of playing. It’s the way the game should be played and proves that the small ball is the most exciting.

If the Cubs go on to not win the big trophy with all those awesome shiny flags, then 2018 will be best remembered as the year Javier Baez became “El Mago” and brought magic to Wrigley Field. He’s an all star this year and who knows? perhaps an MVP.

So the trade deadline is coming up and the Cubs need to add a player, who are they going to add? They need pitching. Unless Yu Darvish comes back and does something outstanding and crazy good, the Cubs are going to look for better pitching. I’m suspecting that we could see Tyler Chatwood involved in a deal.

If anything the Cubs are finding their rhythm heading into the break. Today’s game with Kyle Hendricks will be a sign of things to come. He was lights out in his last game and hopefully he’ll be able to carry the momentum going forward after the break.

“We’re in a much better position than we were last year at the same time. We’ve done better overall, in regard to our hitting approach. Our starting pitching has to ascend. There’s still things we have to work through. Of course, I’d like to be — you always want to be in first place. … [The Brewers] have been playing well and they’re tough. I like the way we’re trending. There aren’t a whole lot of tired guys out there.” Maddon said.

Believe it

Rizzo Does It Again

Canuck Cubbie

Anthony Rizzo is on a 14 game hitting streak. He’s hit three Leadoff home runs since his movement to that position, the Cubs just beat the San Diego Padres 4-0 and they’re a half game back of the Central Division lead.

Yeah, the season isn’t going the way that Cubs fans would like but the excitement of Rizzo in the leadoff spot doing this well is giving the fans something to cheer for. Is he the greatest Leadoff hitter in the game? Numbers don’t lie. He’s batting  1.000 in the leadoff spot.

“It’s funny,” said Rizzo. “I’m sure my teammates are starting to get a little tired of it because I’m constantly in their ears, nonstop, telling them to make sure you don’t miss it or ‘Watch this.’ It’s all in good fun and I’m having fun with it.”

We know his luck will eventually run out but while it lasts it’s fun watching him carry the team on his back during their rough patch. So, let’s talk about the Cubs being a half game back of Milwaukee and just shy of a wild card position. With the All Star game in a few weeks, it’s still early to pick playoff positions, we know there’s plenty of baseball left to go but last season the Cubs were not doing well heading into the All Star break. They were in the middle of a losing streak and it was that game at PNC just before the break that served as the turning point in their season. Will Rizzo’s success be the key to a turnaround?

“As long as we keep winning, I have no problem with it,” Rizzo said. “I have no problem going back to third or fourth or wherever Joe feels is best for the club. The main thing is we keep winning.”

That’s the kicker. They keep on winning, whatever it takes. You see, the magic of the game is these individual efforts and I think it extends back, way, way back when we got our news from the papers and read about individual accomplishments in sports. Now, I’m starting to show my age mentioning newspapers, but it’s true. Reading about sports and these milestones was a lot more intriguing because there was all day to talk about them. The games were blacked out. The game is still as exciting but in a different way.

Nah, I’m just getting older.

“On a nightly basis, he’s ready, he’s chirpy, he’s ready to go, and he’s loving this,” Maddon said. “He’s helping us out incredibly.”

Believe it

Cubs Slide By Padres

Canuck Cubbie

When the going gets tough…Anthony Rizzo surprises again with a lead off bunt on route to a 3-2 win over the Fighting’ Friars. The Cubs looked good in last night’s victory. Not last year scary good but a more controlled and balanced good with Willson Contreras kicking in with a home run on the anniversary of his first big league hit.

“His growth from getting thrown into the fire last year of the best team in baseball to now being the starting catcher for us, for the defending [World Series] champions, that’s a lot of responsibility,” Jon Lester said.

It is a lot of responsibility, but the young catcher always brings a positive work ethic and a smile to every game. Especially when he’s catching Jon Lester, Contreras has shown a certain maturity.

“The sky’s the limit for this kid,” Cubs starter Jon Lester said. “He’s stuck with me and I’m stuck with him for the next three or four years, so hopefully he keeps getting better.”

The Cubs struggles are real with even Lester giving up a couple of home runs early and throwing 111 pitches before leaving the game in the 6th inning. So what can return the Cubs to their dominance?

Anthony Rizzo

It is often said that when a team is struggling, their leader is the one who’ll carry them on their backs. Anthony Rizzo has been that guy this year, always digging deep and finding ways to score runs and continue to push the Cubs despite their record. Even last night when he was running home with Matt Szczur throwing a rocket home, Rizzo crashed into Padres’ catcher Austin Hedge in a questionable play depending on which team you’re cheering for.

“I went pretty much straight in,” Rizzo said. “He caught the ball and went toward the plate. It was a hard slide. I play this game hard for 162 games-plus, every day. I pride myself on it, running the bases hard, doing everything hard. I can’t see that being dirty.”

I don’t think there was any intention to hit Hedges at all. It was a collision with no room to maneuveur around him. Everyone is thankful that Hedges wasn’t hurt.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s part of the game. If the catcher’s in the way, you hit him.”

Which makes a valid point because if Rizzo avoided Hedges, he might have been safe but in the end, he was thrown out and nobody was seriously hurt.

“It’s a fairly egregious violation of the rule,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “The rule exists to protect that catcher. … I think it’s a cheap shot. I’m not saying [Rizzo] is a dirty player at all. No one is saying that. But he clearly deviated from his path to hit our catcher and took our catcher out. The rule exists to protect him.”

Believe it

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?

Believe it

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.

Believe it