The Rundown: Cubs End 13-Game Home Losing Streak, Happ on Late Season Heater, Story Nudges Hoyer, Padres Fire Rothschild
“There you stood, everybody watched you play. I just turned and walked away. I had nothing left to say.” – Bob Seger, Still the Same
Somebody forgot to send Jed Hoyer’s memo to the new core of Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, and Rafael Ortega. All three were instrumental in defeating the Rockies while also waylaying Chicago’s dastardly plot to dive for five. The nerve of Ortega, hitting a walk-off home run, just when it looked like the Cubs were going to run the table on losing games at the Friendly Confines.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 24, 2021
I’ll tell you one thing, the centerfielder sure knows how to strut that jack. He looks like a real major leaguer! At least he gave what fans remained their money’s worth in ending the Cubs’ 13-game Wrigley Field losing streak. At an average ticket cost of slightly more than $60, the team’s fans deserve moments like that every now and then, even if it is to the chagrin of Hoyer and Tom Ricketts.
Yesterday’s 6-4 walk-off win lifted the Cubs into a tie with the Nationals for the sixth-worst record in baseball. If Ricketts is looking for a silver lining, the difference in bonus payouts from the 6th to 7th pick is about $350,000 — almost enough money to sign Eric Sogard this winter. If you’d rather think outside the box, it might be enough money to cover the arbitration raise Ian Happ should expect.
Happ was 3-for-3 last night and is on a bit of a late-season heater. He’s raised his batting average 20 points since August 11 by going 13-for-35 and is now batting a cool, if not respectable, .195 on the year. Happer is no stranger to end-of-year excellence, which is bound to befuddle Cubs fans and executive management while convincing this winter’s selected MLB arbiter he’s worth every penny of the $4.1 million he is earning this year and the $4.5 million he’ll likely get next year. During my late-night quiet time reflection, I often think Hoyer would have DFA’d Happ had Nico Hoerner remained healthy this season.
If you’re still one of Happ’s fanboys, let me remind you that he has little projection left. I know he is only 27, but he’ll finish this season with 1,500 or more MLB at-bats and a career batting average that sits somewhere between .230 and .235. With average-to-below average defense, his replacement-level player is a free agent on a minor league contract or a waiver wire pickup. Let’s not get carried away if he hits .350 in September with six big flies. We’ve all seen that movie a couple of times now.
Pessimism aside, you have to enjoy watching guys like Schwindel, Wisdom, Ortega, and Michael Hermosillo. They’re fighting for their big league lives, getting an opportunity that only Hoyer could provide because he sold off more than one-third of his Opening Day roster. If anything, it’s fun to see players with hunger and something to prove again. No offense to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but we’ve not seen that at the corner of Clark and Addison for quite some time.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ortega delivered the Cubs’ first home victory in almost a full month.
- Kyle Hendricks said that none of the team’s rookie pitchers “is the next me” because they’ve all got better stuff than he does.
- The Cubs are being extra cautious with Hoerner’s rehab. The middle infielder has been sidelined with an oblique strain.
- Hoerner is scheduled to resume baseball activities later this week.
- Speaking forthrightly, only this magnificent blast by David Bote has kept me from railing on him the way I do on Happ. Bote was 0-for-4 last night and is now batting a putrid .196/.265/.323.
- Signing Rockies shortstop Trevor Story this winter could help make the Cubs rebuild a little easier on the eyes. Story sounded like he was pitching Hoyer on the idea, though it would mean moving Hoerner to center field and probably the end of the line for Happ. Your move, Jed.
- If Nick Castellanos opts out of his contract this winter, it might behoove Hoyer to make a run at him, too.
- Allow me to reiterate that I am no fan of FanSided, but, I stumbled across this article about convincing Bryant to return to the Cubs. Caveat emptor: I highly doubt the third baseman returns, but I suppose anything is possible.
- Marquee Sports Network is covering a lot more minor league baseball this year, and if you are unable to watch, CI’s Greg Huss has the up-to-date breakdown in the latest edition of the Weekly Farm Report. Keep your eye on Anderson Espinoza. If he can stay healthy, he could be special.
Odds & Sods
Do we love this? Yes, yes we do.
Rafael Ortega @Cubs walk-off homer & bat-flip. pic.twitter.com/FxJ1HOV0o3
— Batting Stance Guy (@BattingStanceG) August 24, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“Just one more morning, I have to wake up with the blues. Pull myself outta bed, yeah, put on my walkin’ shoes.” – Molly Hatchet, Dreams I’ll Never See
- Games Played: 127
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,654
- Total Strikeouts: 1,243
- Strikeout Rate: 26.7%
- Team Batting Average: .229
It’s odd to say this, but enjoy your Replacement Cubs these final seven weeks because some of them may not be back next year, no matter how well they play.
How About That!
The Yankees and Braves carried matching nine-game winning streaks into their clash in Atlanta last night, and New York emerged with their streak intact.
The slumping Padres have fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild. San Diego entered the season with the game’s greatest starting rotation depth and things have gone so bad they had to sign Jake Arrieta last week, and even he left his start with an injury.
The Blue Jays handed the White Sox their third straight loss yesterday evening.
The Dodgers have used a franchise record of 37 pitchers this season.
The Orioles have lost 18 straight and still may have not hit rock bottom.
Since making his debut with the Yankees on July 30th, Rizzo has posted a 127 OPS+ and shown his glove is as good as the reputation that preceded it. The Red Sox probably regret not making a better attempt to acquire the first baseman.
There are at least a dozen MLB players who may have at least an outside chance of reaching 500 career home runs, including Padres superstar Fernando Tatis, Jr.
MLB.TV is now free for college students, but just for the remainder of this season.
This Braves fan forgot how to use his legs at the most inopportune time.
Monday’s Three Stars
There was limited baseball action last night so let’s keep it local this morning.
- Trevor Story – When was the last time you heard a visiting player basically offer his services to the Cubs ahead of free agency? Imagine signing him, Rizzo, and Castellanos? I could get excited about that.
- Rafael Ortega – Best bat flip since Willson Contreras drove White Sox fans to tears late last season. Through 198 plate appearances, Ortega is mashing to a 130 OPS+ which I’d say is worth a longer look net season. He actually reminds me of Castellanos.
- David Ross – You have to admire his willingness to defend all the sub-Cubs and have their backs no matter how well or poorly they play. I actually think he is underrated as a manager and I hope he gets an opportunity to show that through and beyond the rebuild.
I’m convinced that the front offices in the NL West are far and away better than all of the other divisions combined when it comes to making trades and free-agent signings.
I knew Trea Turner was good. I did not know he is probably the best offensive player in the National League. The Dodgers have gone 12-2 in games he has started. He helped LA cruise to their best week yet: https://t.co/uZ5QQgIXbN
— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) August 23, 2021
They Said It
- “Just when you’re here, there’s something different about [Wrigley Field]. It’s a special place. Here and in New York and Boston; I feel like those three stadiums, you just feel a different atmosphere about it. I can tell you I love playing here. The fans are great. It’s a place you look forward to coming [to], for sure.” – Trevor Story
- “[The walk-off home run] was just awesome. Awesome to see, awesome to hear the fans, the home crowd, and give them a win here. And to come in the clubhouse and celebrate that one, it was really fun and really good for the boys.” – Kyle Hendricks
- “I just knew that if I could get up there, stay patient, wait for the right pitch, I thought that I could do it, that I could hit a homer in that situation.” – Rafel Ortega
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Ocean Awash The Gunwale by Gregg Allman – One of the best guitar solos ever and a fitting tune for a hazy, end-of-summer August afternoon with the adult beverage of your choice.