The Rundown: Cubs Lose Ground in Postseason Race, Championing Brant Brown, Yankees Clinch
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespeare
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Well, I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.” – Jim Morrison
I understand that we are not to question the machinations that go into selecting which pitchers will work in certain situations. After all, Joe Maddon is on record as stating that fans have a “really ridiculous concept of bullpen and bullpen management.” So I suppose I am not to wonder why Craig Kimbrel was brought in to pitch the 10th inning of a tied game with playoff implications on the line, even though the most work he had had since being injured was a sim game he pitched to Robel García.
Kimbrel, a righty, gave up a game-winning home run to Matt Carpenter, a lefty, while I, and likely tens of thousands of fellow Cubs fans, stared in disbelief. The Cubs lost the first game of the pivotal series 5-4 to the Cardinals with that knock. Kimbrel is the closer and he is paid a lot of money to succeed in those moments, but he was really thrust into a situation that seemed forced and awkward, particularly since the rest of the bullpen has pitched so well in his absence.
The frustration after last night’s loss was beyond evident.
Patrick Mooney wrote a decent piece for The Athletic ($) about the expectations of the Cubs’ entire organization, stating that Maddon’s future is tied to those suppositions.
“Ever since Epstein declined to begin extension talks with Maddon’s agent after last year’s 95-win campaign, the Cubs understood there would be questions, speculation and potential distractions in the final year of Maddon’s contract.”
Papa Joe’s act is tired and devoid of the enchantment attached to his personality when he arrived in Chicago five years ago. That said, there is no disputing what he has meant to the organization during his tenure, and for that we should be grateful and offer the respect he genuinely deserves. But it’s time for a change.
If and when the Cubs make that decision, I’ll throw my support at former Cubs outfielder Brant Brown to fill the open position. Yes, this guy:
Doesn’t he look like a manager trying to play left field? Rod Beck was angry, an emotion I wish I have seen from any Cubs player this season.
Brown is currently serving as a hitting strategist for the Dodgers, who are 98-55 and have been on cruise control since Opening Day. Here are some talking points regarding my wish that he receive at least some consideration if an opening presents itself.
- Brown is an analytically-forward coach who goes to great lengths to ensure that his players fully understand any changes he recommends. One of the biggest complaints about Cubs hitters is that they carry a boom/bust mentality to the plate. Brown can help change that.
- The Cubs have an awful two-strike approach, and Brown seems to have a good grasp on how to improve that.
- Fewer strikeouts. Period.
- The former Cubs outfielder understands the pressures of playing at Wrigley Field. As the video above shows, Brown was nearly a scapegoat for the 1998 season that could have gone off the rails with that error. He also was the center fielder during the epic 20K performance by Kerry Wood.
- Brown has been coaching since 2007, starting as a minor league hitting coach in the Rangers’ organization. The 48-year-old California native worked for the Mariners starting in 2012 before moving to the Dodgers organization in 2017. He has paid his dues and has plenty of experience.
- In his three seasons there, Los Angeles has seen an increase in BA from .249 to .257, an increase in runs scored from 725 to 832, an increase in OBP from .319 to .345, and an increase in OBP+ from 102 to 118.
- The 2019 Cubs are batting .252, have scored 766 runs, have an OBP of .332 and a league average OPS+ of 100 (pitchers hitting stats not included in any of these examples).
- He’s young, open to input from his players and upper management, intelligent, and won’t cost the Cubs an arm and a leg to hire. He’ll likely relate better to the younger players as they mature, and help in that maturation process. Look what he’s done for Cody Bellinger and the rest of his teammates this season. Dodgers’ players have embraced Brown since Opening Day.
I still believe the North Siders have a decent shot at reaching the postseason and the team remains somewhat in control of its destiny. It’s up to the players and coaches to get them there. In fact, the Cubs could win the next three games against the Cardinals and flip the current narrative upside down. It just feels more and more like that’s not going to happen.
“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” – John Steinbeck
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs were full of surprises yesterday, none bigger than Anthony Rizzo being announced as the starting first baseman and leadoff hitter 20 minutes before game time.
- Rizzo treated us all to a home run in his second at-bat, tying the game at one.
King of the Confines. #TeamRizzo pic.twitter.com/37utahC5uH
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 20, 2019
- Javier Báez was cleared for light baseball activity before yesterday’s game as well, but he is only available to pinch run.
- For the second straight night, Kyle Schwarber made an egregious error on the bases, and last night’s gaffe really cost them a chance for a big inning and possible win.
- Because the Cubs lost and the Brewers beat the Padres, Chicago now trails Milwaukee by a full game for the second Wild Card spot.
- Nick Castellanos has been the most impactful acquisition for any team at this year’s trade deadline. One wonders where the Cubs would be without his contributions.
- Alec Mills gets a spot start today, facing Michael Wacha. The right-handed swingman made a pair of starts earlier this season with mixed results. Game time is 1:20 PM and it is definitely a must-win game for Chicago.
How About That!
Just like last September, the Brewers are surging at a most opportune time.
The Yankees clinched the AL East division for the first time since 2012.
New York also received some troubling news regarding starter and Cy Young award dark horse candidate Domingo Germán.
The Indians finished their season series going 18-1 against the hapless Tigers, including 17 straight wins.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is just the third player in history to hit 40 or more home runs before turning 21 years old.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Nelson Cruz – An unprecedented eighth time for the Boomstick in this section. The 38-year-old Twins’ DH had a two-tater, five RBI game in last night’s 8-5 win over the Royals. Cruz is hitting .299 wuth 39 home runs and 102 RBI on the season.
- Mike Clevinger – The Indians de facto ace cruised to his 12th victory of the season with a 7-0 win over the Tigers.
- Anthony Rizzo – A welcome sight for sore eyes and a home run to boot. Welcome back, Big Tony.
From the sandlot to the show, just like Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez…
From @daynperry: Sandlot baseball in Chicago is light on rules and adults, and that's what makes it great https://t.co/51IgcXwCNS
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) September 19, 2019
They Said It
- “I’m really disappointed in myself to go out there and give up a home run like that. Season’s not over. We still have a lot of games left.” – Craig Kimbrel
Thursday Walk Up Song
Hurt by Johnny Cash. Last night was a big-ass punch to the gut.