There is still so much baseball left before a champion is crowned in late October, but for the Cubs, today marks their final game of 2019. At least the Cubs are going down with a little fire.
Yadi vs Hamels.
"Saturday night's alright for fighting.
Get a little action in." -Elton John. pic.twitter.com/tmZIKQYhm6
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 29, 2019
Cole Hamels pitched a heck of a game, probably his last with the Cubs. If I had to place a bet on his future I’d put my money on the Phillies signing the veteran righty. It sounds like Hamels also understands his time in Chicago has likely ended, when asked why he would start a meaningless game (for him) while battling shoulder fatigue.
“I feel like this will kind of put me in a better position to I guess show everybody that I’m healthy,” Hamels said after the game. “And that I can get guys out and get good results.”
But Hamels is just one of several members of the current roster that is unlikely to return next season. Manager Joe Maddon had a late-night meeting with Theo Epstein after yesterday’s game to discuss his future, at which point it was determined that Maddon’s time with the Cubs had come to an end.
“We spent probably 30-40 minutes together really celebrating an unbelievable five-year run,” Epstein told the media assembled at Busch Stadium. “We both agreed that this type of change is…that it’s time, and that this type of change is a win-win. It’s gonna be great for Joe, [who’s] at a wonderful point in his life.
“He won’t talk about this right now, but I will: There’s gonna be a bidding war for his services and there should be. He’s in a great position and I so look forward to his next chapter in baseball and in life, and it’s gonna be good for the Cubs too.”
We should also take a moment to laud closer Craig Kimbrel. The battered pitcher had a tough time keeping the ball in the park after signing in June, giving up a career-worst nine taters in just 20.2 innings while finishing the season with a 6.53 ERA and an unsightly 8.01 FIP. Ouch. But he did teach Yu Darvish the knuckle curve and Darvish has been a monster since.
It’s also possible that Cubs fans have seen the last of Nicholas Castellanos in the blue pinstripes. He’s a free agent and unless Nicky Two Bags expressly indicates that he wants to remain with the North Siders for a few years, I expect he will be one of the last free agents to sign this offseason. That seems to be the new MO of super-agent Scott Boras, but by that time I’m sure the Cubs will have made significant enough changes to the roster that Castellanos will no longer be a consideration.
As far as actual baseball goes, the Cubs are doing everything in their power to give the Brewers the NL Central title, but Milwaukee just won’t cooperate. Brewers fans were on Maddon for resting his injured and tired regulars with the division on the line. Maddon said he didn’t give a shit, and then the Cubs won the first two games of the series, while the Brewers have lost two straight to the Rockies. There’s not a lot of chatter north of the Cheddar Curtain today. Hey, there’s a new name for the Brewers’ post-game show next season…”Cheddar Chatter.”
The last month of this season really reminds me of the 1979 Cubs. The Cubs entered September that year 11 games over .500 sitting in third place 6.5 games behind the Pirates and 3.5 behind the Expos with six games remaining against each opponent. The Cubs went 9-22 that month, and ended up in fifth place with an 80-82 record. This year’s squad also started the month 11 games above .500, only to go 11-15 and fall out of the postseason for the first time in five years.
Big changes are coming, as soon as today, in fact. The temperature dropped to 49 degrees here in Milwaukee last night. Let’s get this hot stove lit.
Cub News & Notes
- Cardinals fans are thankful that Maddon has reinvigorated their rivalry with the Cubs.
- Chicago has lost a unique voice and a manager who has guided them to 470 wins in five seasons.
- Darvish indicated Friday he’s likely to remain with the team rather than exercise his opt-out.
- Big Yu credited Maddon, Epstein, Jed Hoyer and several other staffers for their patience and help in transforming his fortunes this season. He is on record as indicating he wants to win 20 games next season.
- Alec Mills is making a strong push to be part of the Cubs 2020 rotation. Sir Alec was lights out Friday night, holding the Cardinals to one run with nine punch outs in five innings. The right-handed Mills pitched to a 1.15 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 15.2 September innings.
- Add Paul Sullivan to the growing list of writers who thinks it’s a good time to trade Kris Bryant.
- Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald disagrees with Sullivan, as do I. The Cubs’ competitive window is still wide open and Bryant is their best player. Unless the Cubs are planning a team-wide overhaul, trading Bryant right now makes little sense.
- Asked if he wanted to return to the Cubs next season, Castellanos simply replied: “What do you think?”
Apropos of Nothing
If you need a consolation pillow on which to rest your tired head after a season that has completely gone off the rails, the Cubs actually have a better Pythagorean record than the Cardinals right now. Chicago has been worth 91 wins up to this point, one game better than St.Louis.
From the Christopher Kamka Files
Ian Happ is the 11th #Cubs player with 10+ HR this season. Franchise record, of course #2019
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 29, 2019
Updates On Nine
- Mets slugger Pete Alonso set a new MLB record for rookies when he clubbed home run number 53 yesterday. Six months ago, Alonso was not even certain he would make the Opening Day roster, as impossible as that may seem now.
- Like the Cubs, the Mets will approach this offseason as a winter of reckoning, of sorts. Also like their Chicago counterparts, New York boasts a number of great individual seasons that somehow failed to translate to more wins. It’s likely the two teams could match up well in any trade scenarios over the next few months. The best story of the year for the Mets has to be Seth Lugo. The 29-year-old right-hander established himself as a go-to high leverage reliever, striking out 104 batters in 80 innings heading into today’s play. He may close for New York next season, though Lugo is on record as saying he’d like to start.
- Astros ace Justin Verlander recorded his 300th strikeout of the season and 3,000th of his career in last night’s 6-3 win over the Angels. Verlander finishes the season with 21 victories, including a no-hitter on September 1. He becomes the 18th pitcher in history to punch 3,000 tickets and is the only pitcher besides Randy Johnson to earn both milestones in the same game.
- This may be the craziest stat of the 2019 season: Last Sunday, Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger finally homered off of one pitcher for a second time. He took Rockies reliever Jake McGee yard twice in a span of three weeks, the second a game-winning grand slam. Prior to that, Bellinger had hit 45 homers off 45 different pitchers, which would have been a record.
- Going in to today’s game, Cleveland catcher Roberto Pérez has still yet to surrender a passed ball in his six-year career. He is just the fourth backstop with at least 900 innings caught and zero passed balls, joining Johnny Bench (1975 Reds), Milt May (’77 Tigers) and John Flaherty (’95 Tigers).
- Kansas City outfielder Jorge Soler hit his 46th and 47th home runs yesterday, giving him the AL lead and league home run title over the injured Mike Trout. No Royals player has ever led the AL in home runs.
- Today could be the last game for first baseman and DH José Abreu with the White Sox. He plans to stay, he believes he can sustain his performance, and his teammates say it doesn’t make sense for him to not remain with the team beyond this season ($).
- Ian Happ may be baseball’s most improved player over the last week. In Friday’s win, the versatile switch-hitter delivered a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning off St. Louis righty Giovanny Gallegos and added two doubles on the night. Last night he hit two home runs in leading the Cubs to an 8-6 win. Happ is 12-for-23 (.522) with five home runs and 12 RBI since September 21. Even if he is not part of the organization’s plans for next season and beyond, Happ has certainly helped his trade value.
- Yadier Molina is the Cardinals player who is most universally despised by Cubs fans. He didn’t earn any love or respect after charging the mound last night when Hamels grazed him with a pitch. The two veterans started jawing and walking toward each other after the pitch, prompting a benches-clearing incident. “I dunno, I thought [Molina] was stupid,” said Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler. Here’s hoping the Cubs can win this afternoon and force St. Louis into a one-game playoff with the Brewers for the Central Division title. The Brewers will have to find a way to beat the Rockies, though.
— WGNTV (@WGNTV) September 28, 2019
They Said It
- “I told [Maddon] that I’m bummed how this has all played out for him. I appreciate all our talks. He knew what made me tick. I’m not easy. I’m tough on myself and he understood that. Whoever gets him is going to be lucky.” – Kris Bryant
- “I’m going into [free agency] not really expecting anything. What I’ve learned is, when I go in expecting something or really wanting something, then there’s room for disappointment or a letdown or whatever. So I’m just going in with an open mind and seeing what comes my way.” – Nick Castellanos
- “I enjoyed my time here and would love to continue it. I do understand what they have to go through, construct, identify. I would love to be a Cub, and if it’s not the case, I know I left it out here. I wish I would have been able to do it a little better. I wish I was healthy. I do feel like I let them down.” – Cole Hamels
Sunday Walk Up Song
Hello, Goodbye by the Beatles. My this season flew by. Can’t wait to see who stays and who goes.