“I can hear you coming
I know what you’re after
We’re wise to you this time
We won’t let you kill the laughter.” – Red Rider, Lunatic Fringe
Chants of “MVP” erupted for a member of the Wrigley Field grounds crew during the 7th inning of last night’s game between the Cubs and Nationals, thanks to his swift response to replace the first base bag (why do we still call them bags?) after Washington manager Davey Martinez went full Lou Piniella while arguing a call.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 20, 2021
Martinez flew off the handle as a response to shortstop Trea Turner being called out for running inside the baseline after a strikeout on a wild pitch. The Nats’ skipper was ejected, upstaged by a field maintenance guy, and in the end none of that mattered as the Cubs lost 4-3, falling back to .500 for the ninth time this season.
I have concerns about this great game of baseball. A combination of soft tossers and a dead baseball makes the no-hitter watch a daily occurrence and about as exciting as a no-pitch intentional walk; two-thirds of the teams in both leagues, including the Cubs, are mastering inconsistency; and we are into the middle of May and the following players are still hitting below .200:
- Eugenio Suarez
- Josh Bell
- Ian Happ
- Jackie Bradley, Jr.
- Paul DeJong
- Jason Heyward
- Francisco Lindor
- Elvis Andrus
- Dylan Moore
- Jorge Soler
- Brandon Lowe
- David Bote
- Willy Adames
- Maikel Franco
There’s also the current unwritten rules kerfuffle. The manager of Chicago’s South Side baseballers is seeing some dissension among his ranks due to his insistence they play old-timey baseball and lay down their sticks while nursing a comfortable lead.
What’s so fascinating about the leaguewide lack of offense is that batters seem impervious to prolonged slumps when they face Chicago’s starting pitchers. Going into last night’s game, opposing batters were hitting .266 against Cubs starters with 36 home runs and 112 runs scored (only three unearned) through 190.1 innings. That the North Siders are 21-21 with a starting staff whose collective ERA is 5.15 in the new deadball era is nothing short of a miracle.
Though Jed Hoyer is probably not going to have a Martinez-level meltdown thinking about it, he has to feel a little unsettled about what to do as this year’s trade deadline approaches. Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Craig Kimbrel have established enough value to be worthy trade pieces, but Anthony Rizzo, Zach Davies, Jake Arrieta, and singles machine Joc Pederson are struggling or still trying to get untracked. Of those four, only Rizzo is likely to get a qualifying offer, and he could theoretically accept. If the Cubs want to keep the band together for one last run they’re going to have to stop trading wins for losses.
- The Good: Pederson had an extra base hit yesterday, his third of the month and fifth of the season.
- The Bad: Arrieta was off his game for the second time in three starts. He’s allowed 11 earned runs and four long balls over 8.1 innings in those two starts, with a solid outing between them.
- The Ugly: Pederson hasn’t hit a home run since April 7 and is slugging just .354, nearly 100 points below his career average.
The Cubs will send Trevor Williams to the mound this afternoon in an attempt to once again climb above .500 before heading to St. Louis for a weekend showdown with the first place Cardinals.
Cubs News & Notes
- Martinez believes baseball is enforcing the outside-the-baselines rule incorrectly. “It‘s a brutal call and I’m done hiding it. I don’t know what they’re going to do about it, but it’s awful.”
- The Cubs cut veteran catcher Tony Wolters and recalled P.J. Higgins before yesterday’s game. Higgins will serve as the team’s backup catcher but has the versatility to play first or second base, if needed.
- Higgins got his first taste of the big leagues last night, facing Max Scherzer and playing first base after Heyward was removed from yesterday’s game. Bryant, who had been playing first, moved to right field.
- Tommy Nance tossed 1.1 scoreless innings last night in his second career appearance and struck out three. The Nationals have looked helpless against the journeyman rookie.
- The success of the team’s young pitchers will likely change the way Hoyer looks to the future. The young arms could help keep the window of convention open, or shorten whatever type of rebuild the president of baseball operations has in mind.
- Nationals starter Erick Fedde, who had been previously vaccinated, tested positive for the coronavirus before yesterday’s game. The Nationals placed Fedde and fellow pitcher Tanner Rainey, who had faced the Cubs twice ths series, on the COVID-related injured list.
Climbing the Ladder
Said “Doctor, ain’t there nothin’ I can take?”
I said “Doctor, to relieve this belly ache.” – Nilsson, Coconut
- Games Played: 42
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,575
- Total Strikeouts: 413
- Strikeout Rate: 26.2%
- Team Batting Average: .238
The Cubs are averaging 9.8 strikeouts and 7.8 hits per game. League averages are 9.11 and 7.65, respectively. The good news is that their batting average has climbed nearly 50 points this month.
Odds & Sods
Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth turned his home run trot into a full on sprint, but the result was the same.
A rare inside-the-park homer for Jake Cronenworth 🤯
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) May 19, 2021
How About That!
Michael Jordan was once guilty of a similar but nonsensical infraction. In a 1994 game against the Chattanooga Lookouts, MJ ripped a double and then promptly stole third base, trying to get into better scoring position for his team. The Birmingham Barons were up 11-0 in the bottom of the 8th inning at the time.
“Guardians” is becoming the trendy pick for the new nickname of Cleveland’s baseballers. “Spiders” is still the favorite, however.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Corey Kluber – Another night, another no-hitter. Kluber blanked the Rangers 2-0 with nine strikeouts in earning his first career no-no, the first by a Yankees starter since David Cone threw a perfect game in 1999.
- Fernando Tatís, Jr. – The Padres shortstop returned from the COVID IL and went 4-for-4 with a home run, double, and two RBI.
- Randy Arozarena – The World Series hero belted two home runs for the Rays last night in Tampa Bay’s 9-7 win over the Orioles. Arozarena finished 3-for-5 with four RBI.
Clayton Kershaw is not a fan of the dead ball.
Clayton Kershaw, on the recent spate of no-hitters: “Well it’s not good, I’ll tell you that.”
Said whatever MLB has done with the ball isn’t working and has “missed the mark so far.”
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) May 20, 2021
Just a Bit Outside
They Said It
- “What do you do? He didn’t even run hard, and he made it to first base, and he’s going to come out and call him out? I’m over it. Really, I’m over it. I’m tired of it. I’m going to argue 1,000 times when that happens, I really am.” – Dave Martinez
- “It was a tough night. Not what I wanted, especially going up against Max. I need to be better than that.” – Jake Arrieta
- “[Arrieta] got ahead of a lot of guys. I thought he just didn’t finish, didn’t have that finishing pitch tonight. He did grind. Sometimes you’re holding out hope he’s going to find it. Just couldn’t quite lock it in tonight.” – David Ross
- “Lance [Lynn] has a locker. I have an office. … I don’t agree.” – Tony La Russa
Thursday Walk Up Song
Crazy Train by
Dave Martinez Ozzy Osbourne – That Martinez meltdown was kookoo crusty with a side of ranch. You ‘da man, man.