Admit it, The Cubs Are In A Slump

Jake Arrieta

It’s been quite awhile since the Cubs were a sub .500 ball club. Well, really since 2014 but for a Cubs fan it feels like an eternity since they’ve hit this kind of rough patch. Despite a great performance by Jake Arrieta, the Cubs dropped the series with a loss yesterday to their arch rivals Cardinals 5-0.

“We would obviously like to be playing better than we are right now. I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. The talent we have here will correct itself and start to turn itself around. We’d like to win a few more games than we are and tighten things up a little bit, but guys are showing up ready to play and going about things the right way. We’re just not getting the results we’d like.” Arrieta said.

Now, that’s either due to other teams catching on to the Cubs’ tiny quirks and quarks or that could just be the post World Series blues. The fact is the Cubs aren’t looking so mighty right now. They called up Ian Happ, the highly touted 2015 draft pick and he didn’t disappoint with a two run homer on the weekend. In an effort to try and turn things around, the Cubs are willing to move up prospects but is it wise to call them up too soon?

“We needed him and he’s here. How long is he going to stay? I have no idea,” Joe Maddon said. “It could be short, it could be longer than that. I don’t know.”

The problem with the Cubs misfortunes is simple; they need to move the runners. If a team can’t score with runners in scoring position, then they’re not going to win too many ballgames. That’s the simple fact.

“That part of the game, the runs in scoring position, need to come from the middle, opposite field more. It can’t just be a pull, ground ball to third, ground ball to short, popup, try to do too much. Let’s utilize the whole field. We’re working on getting that back into their mindsets now. I do believe RBIs tend to be in the middle of the field more than the pull side. Overall, we’re not doing a good job with runners in scoring position,” Maddon said.

Whether it’s not using the fundamentals or something else entirely but the Cubs need to do something. I’d love to see a back to back championship season. In times where parity is emphasized over dynasties, it would feel great to have the Cubs win it again. Baseball needs it right now. In fact, if the Cubs win this year, it would feel like payback for over a century’s worth of misfortunes and heartbreak. Imagine, the Cubs being the team to beat?

Believe it.

Cubs Blame Yankees For April Woes

Chicago Cubs

I guess the Chicago Cubs are learning first hand the problems associated with winning a championship. Every team wants it. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cubs 6-1 and took the series. It was their first series win since 2014 at Wrigley Field.

Despite the Cubs taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning or Jon Lester getting a goose egg for seven innings(On Easter Sunday, no less!). So, the Cubs are 6-6 this April. Whether it’s a World Series hangover, or other teams have caught on to the Cubs’ weaknesses, but the team has started 2017 in a mediocre way.

“We had some good games, we’ve played a lot of close games. We taxed our bullpen quite a bit, which we really don’t want to do. Our starters pitched really well but late in the game, we didn’t score enough runs to give our bullpen any breathing room. I think that falls on the offence.” Ben Zobrist said.

On the other hand, it could be the absence of their grandfatherly figure in David Ross. He caught all of Lester’s games while providing a spark and spark in the clubhouse. Then again, it could be the problem of holding leads and wearing down their bullpen.

“That’s been more of our problem than anything, not getting a clutch hit and holding a lead at the end of the game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

There isn’t really any cause for concern this early in the season. This is roughly the same team that won the hardware last fall. However, missing Dexter Fowler has had a bigger impact than they thought. I mean Fowler’s struggling with the Cardinals right now. Now that’s an interesting theory on a curse placed on the Cardinals when they do business with the Redbirds.

‘‘Last year was kind of a fairy-tale year for us. It’s not always going to be like that, so it’s important to kind of realize that early on, so that we’re not hitting that panic button like we did around the All-Star break last year.’’ NL MVP Kris Bryant.

True, it’s not always going to be like that and I fault us Cubs fans for the pressure of the expectation for greatness. I mean, C’mon, after a 108 years would you expect anything less? Cubs fans have a lot of catching up to do. After the Cubs won, a friend of mine congratulated me on their win but continued to say that they need 23 more championships to catch up to his beloved New York Yankees.

There’s the real reason behind the Cubs early futility. Blame the Yankees. After all, it wouldn’t be the Cubs way to just blame it on the bullpen, blown leads and missed opportunities. It’s almost as if a new curse has been placed on the North Siders. A curse by a Yankees fan.

‘‘We won the World Series last year, so there will be questions, but that’s just natural,’’ Jake Arrieta said. ‘‘That comes with the territory. It’s a business of results, and we still expect really good results from the group we have this year.’’

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Send Out The Sultan of Schwarb

Chicago Cubs

In the Cubs opening series win yesterday with a score of 6-4, the Cubs proved something; Everybody talks about the “Good ol’days” when legends like, Williams, Koufax and Ruth played but I guarantee in years to come there’ll be guys on this Cubs squad that people will sit in front of their plaques in Cooperstown, deep in thought taking in those “Good ol’ Days” or some dad telling his son about the man who wore those infamous spectacles.

Why?

Kyle “The Sultan of Schwarb” Schwarber crushed a two run homer yet again adding to his Babe Ruth comparison. First it was the ball that landed on the scoreboard and then it was the Comeback where he went 7-17 after spending a year off with an injury that would have derailed any other mere mortal’s career perhaps. Yet yesterday, Schwarber continued to build his legend.

“It was a good team win right there,” Schwarber said. “[John] Lackey battled his butt off. He gave us six quality innings. For things to kind of go our way there with Yadi and the ball sticking on the the chest protector, [then] a good at-bat by Jon Jay. I was able to get a good pitch and drive it.”

There’s something about the sound a bat makes when it connects on a home run hit ball. In many ways, someone could compare it to perfection. That right moment where everything in the universe is aligned and it connects to make that CRACK! I’ll tell you folks, if you’ve never been to a ballgame and heard that sound, you know the moment the ball leaves the stick and the direction of the batter’s eyes it’s gone.

“I was just more looking for a good pitch,” Schwarber said. “If it was a slider or fastball, whatever it was, I just wanted to jump on it. He’s a good pitcher. To get behind on guys like that, sometimes you just don’t want to do it. My approach is I’m going to be selective-aggressive. I got my pitch from pitch one, and was able to put a good swing on it.”

With the retirement of David Ross, John Lackey takes over the “Grampa” role. Yesterday, he proved he was their workhorse pitcher and leader on the mound. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, giving up six and allowing four earned runs but as they say, a win is a win.

Tonight, the Cubs will square off against divisional foe, Milwaukee Brewers. Brett Anderson gets the start in a series which will showcase the season debut of Kyle Hendricks.

Then Monday, the banners come up.

Believe it

 

Cubs’ Find a Way To Win

One thing’s for certain when these two teams butt heads during the regular season and that is it usually develops like it’s the playoffs. The dramatics are abundant. Don’t believe me? What about Albert Almora‘s stunning grab to the away what was likely to be a home run in the seventh inning.

“The moment of the night was when I came in and Jake gave me a big hug. That was awesome,” Almora said. “The hug was fine.”

The Cubs went on to a 2-1 victory.

It’s obvious too that every team is still excited to be back playing baseball and if you look closely, you’ll see rust dust in the infield with sprinkles in the dugouts and outfield.

Except for Jake Arrieta.

The man must either need something on his mantle piece or he’s been doing more pilates and yoga because he looked like his award season self of a couple years ago by striking out 5 of 6 batters he faced.

“Jake really looked good from the side,” Maddon said. “The ball was moving a lot, it was very reminiscent of a couple years ago. His strike throwing and the way the hitters reacted to the pitch, I thought, was really nice to watch from the dugout.”

If this were a couple of years ago, fans would just be getting the parade started if the Cubs played like this but in light of the events that transpired last November, the Cubs looked good. A little shaky at times but they’re slowly looking like that well oiled machine from last fall.

Speaking of championships, the Cubs will have the ceremony on April 12 when they’ll receive their rings. David Ross will throw out the first pitch and the banner will be raised. It gives me the warm and fuzzies thinking about it.

Today, the Cubs get John Lackey up on the mound to face his old team. I think Lackey will be a liability for the rotation this season. Sure, he’s fiery and stubborn but his numbers are declining and he just doesn’t garner that stability like he used to. He makes me nervous. He shouldn’t be the third in the rotation, which I’m expecting Joe to juggle him around throughout the season. So what are his plans for 2017?

“You don’t have to top 2016. We just have to be better than everyone else in 2017. [Kyle] Schwarber is back. We got rid of Rossy [David Ross]. He stinks. He can’t hit. We should be better. I was just inside talking to Ross and he said that. … Willson Contreras is better than he is. Let’s be honest.”

All kidding aside, the Cubs have the potential to be better this year. Certainly, they’ll be a different team. I don’t believe they’ll put up the numbers like they did last year but they’ll find ways to win.

“It was all about defense tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said postgame. “That’s why we won the game.”

That is how they’ll win the season.

Believe it.

 

Cubs Rally But Drop Opener

No one ever said that the road to repeating would be an easy one, especially the St. Louis Cardinals. Last night in front of a nationally televised audience, the Chicago Cubs rallied in the ninth inning after a game tying home run by Willson Contreras but the World Series champion Chicago Cubs fell to their rivals St. Louis Cardinals 4-3.

“I struck out the first two at-bats, but I never lost my confidence,” Contreras said. “After I struck out the second time, I came up to watch video and I was overswinging a little bit. I told myself to be short to the ball because [Carlos Martinez] was throwing 94, 98, 99, 100 [mph] and he had movement. That’s why I had a little bit of success.”

Joe Maddon honoured the 2016 champions by starting the lineup that was on the field when the Cubs changed history and demolished curses last November.

“It’s a tribute to the World Series,” Maddon said. “Those are the guys who were on the field during the seventh game of the World Series, so I wanted as a tribute to them, what they did for us, put them on the field tonight. It’s no more complicated than that.”

It was a fitting tribute and all though Dexter Fowler is now a Cardinal, he faced Jon Lester at the first At Bat. It looked like Lester tried pitching around Fowler or it could have been Opening Night jitters but Fowler hit it to the outfield.

The Cubs might not get the 103 wins they did last season but then again, they might. After all, Kyle Schwarber is expected to play a full season and even though the champs dropped the Opening Night, they proved that they can still keep it close when it counts.

“We didn’t give up,” Schwarber said. “We grinded. Willie hits the big homer — that’s kind of the definition of our team. We won’t give up until it’s over. We didn’t, and things didn’t go our way tonight.”

There’s still plenty of baseball left. CSN Chicago thinks the team could be even better than last year. The way I look at it is this is the first title defence by a Cubs team in over a hundred years, if their Opening Night suffered with the weight of all those years’ expectations, then they’ll look no further than tomorrow night when they continue their opening series against the Cardinals. Jake Arrieta will get the start against Adam Wainwright.

It’s funny though, a few years ago no one would have been disappointed with last night’s loss but now that the Cubs have won the “Big one” suddenly they’re catapulted into that place where great teams reside. This is the first season in a long time where the Cubs aren’t “Lovable Losers” or cursed but they’re expected to win. There is no next year. In many ways, the Chicago Cubs have become the New Yankees.

“I’m proud of the way we went about it,” Maddon said. “Honestly, if you walked into our clubhouse during camp, I don’t think you could have recognized that we just came off winning the World Series. To me, that really blew my mind. The work was spectacular. The leadership was there. The young guys are still striving to get better.”

Then again, maybe they’re not the Yankees.

Believe it.

Chicago Cubs Are Defending World Series Champions

All right, so Opening Day is upon us and the Chicago Cubs will face their divisional nemesis the St. Louis Cardinals tonight. Oh, and of course me, The Canuck Cubbie is back for a sixth year in what is still a groundbreaking and historical season.

I have to admit though that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the Cubs in the offseason, still basking in the afterglow of an amazing World Series run, though after a few spring season viewings, the excitement is slowly creeping back into the bloodstream.

Tonight adds to the excitement of the defending World Series champions hopes and dreams of repeating as the best in baseball with facing Dexter,”You go, we go” Fowler’s new diggs.

“It’ll be really cool to see him again,” said Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “He’s still part of the family, and we miss him and we’re happy for him. Obviously, we have to play against him, and we like him until it’s time to go out on the field to compete.”

Ah yes, the thrill of competition. It’s also #CapsOn today. Everybody wear your support for all things baseball. The Cubs are going into the season as 7-2 favourites to win the big trophy.

“You could see it — everyone was high levels in the breakfast room,” Kyle Hendricks said. “There was a lot of yelling and screaming, guys were pumped up. We’re finally to that day. You feel it building up, you feel it coming, you see a light at the end of the tunnel, but now, being the last day, flying to St. Louis, you feel it coming.”

Baseball is a majestic sport. There is no time limit. Like the summer sun pleading with the moon for one more minute. Baseball is our youth coming back every summer reminding us, well Terrence Mann says it best;

“Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Believe it

Cubs David Ross Homers in Wrigley Field Curtain Call

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs’ David Ross (3) waves to the crowd after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

As the baseball world mourns the loss of Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez who died tragically yesterday morning, the Chicago Cubs paid tribute to the fallen pitcher with a jersey hanging in the dugout with his name and number. Baseball players build a tight community and come through tragedy as well as triumph together. Cubs fans showed that to veteran David Ross last night in the Cubs 99th victory of the season, 3-1 over the Cardinals and David Ross’s last night playing at Wrigley Field; he hit a home run.

“I was overcome with emotion,” Ross said. “I’m so appreciative to the fans in Chicago for the way they treated me and the way they embraced me and treated me and this team and the way they give me so much credit that I don’t deserve.”

In the seventh inning, Joe Maddon came to the mound and Ross was livid. He thought he was going take Jon Lester out of a game where he was pitching extremely well but Maddon had other plans. The team celebrated Ross’s career. It was a classy move by a classy manager and a classy ball club.

“Honestly, I’m like, ‘Why is he taking Jon out?'” Ross said. “[Maddon] says, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I’m taking you out of the game.’ And then I pulled my mask down because everyone started telling me they loved me, and the emotions started, so I’m trying to get myself together before I walked off the field and then the fans started cheering again.”

It’s not only the on field success of the Chicago Cubs that can be attributed to their amazing season but it’s their friendship on and off the field like their respect for David Ross, a back up catcher playing in the final home game of the regular season and in him hitting a home run and receiving a curtain call, that’s what it’s all about.

“It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn’t it?” Maddon said. “I mean it had to have happened tonight.”

But every celebration should end and the Cubs are back to work tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Kyle Hendricks will try to secure the Cubs 100th win of the season and just like last night where it was fitting that Ross homered at Wrigley Field, it would be fitting that the next generation of pitchers seal the deal tonight. The pitcher with the lowest ERA in baseball leading his team to a possible 100th victory, well Hollywood couldn’t tell a story like that. Unless Hendricks was wearing a cape. If there was a sequel to this film, it would happen at the end of October but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Believe it