The Rundown: Orioles Provide Rebuild Model, Hawkins Talks PCA and Davis, Hyde Likens ’22 O’s to ’14 Cubs, Shift Limitations Coming

“Two-thousand zero-zero, party over, oops, out of time.” – Prince, 1999

I never thought I’d see the day where I say “I can’t wait until the Cubs are as good as the Orioles” but here we are. After last night’s 4-2 loss, the Cubs are now 34-53 (.386) and on pace for a 100-loss season. Baltimore, which has now won nine straight and 20 of 29, is playing .500 ball (44-44) this late into the season for the first time since 2017 and their winning streak is their longest since 1999. Indeed, the Orioles are baseball’s new fun bunch while the Cubs too often look like they are simply going through the motions.

Remember when we thought 1999 was unfathomably far away, sort of like the next Cubs championship? The unsavory thought that I may not live long enough to see another North Side victory parade invariably crosses my mind now and again. Then again, the Orioles should provide Cubs fans a glimmer of hope that things can turn around quickly once you’ve weeded the garden. If Baltimore can win eight more games, they’ll reach their entire victory total for last season. It’s downright sad that Cubs fans will be leaning on similar benchmarks in years to come.

We are three weeks out from the Aug. 2 trade deadline and the most fun Chicago will have after the All-Star break will be greeting new prospects. Of course, that may mean saying goodbye to the likes of Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, Rafael Ortega, and David Robertson. Bittersweet times await the lot of us, just like last July, and if you think the Cubs are a desultory bunch now wait until next month.

I have heard that the Mets are practically in heat over Contreras, and if you consider how well Pete Crow-Armstrong has played since he was acquired for Javier Báez and Trevor Williams, you should be licking your chops. It’s doubtful New York would give up Francisco Alvarez for a three-month rental, but stranger things have happened. That said, third baseman Brett Baty, who hasn’t shown the in-game power Mets scouts were expecting, could be in play. I am almost positive the Cubs hitting instructors would love to work with that young man. He has an Anthony Rizzo-like offensive profile and is an on-base machine who could be a 30-homer player with the right coaching.

As I say every year, my baseball contacts hear things even if they aren’t necessarily on top of all of baseball’s rumors like the game’s insiders. I can tell you that about a dozen teams are interested in Happ, with the Padres, Yankees, and Angels being the consensus choices. The Braves are sweet on Ortega, Hendricks is unlikely to be traded, and one of the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Dodgers, or Blue Jays will step up for Robertson if needed. Los Angeles is going to exit the deadline with a new closer, though their top choice is Daniel Bard.

In the meantime, let’s all give credit to the Orioles. They are a fun team to watch, and they make it nice to think about the Cubs reversing their current trend to (eventually) become one of baseball’s up-and-coming teams.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Ryan Tepera and the rest of the league’s pitchers have a muddy balls problem. Pardon the language, folks.

Climbing the Ladder

“If you open your mind for me, you won’t rely on open eyes to see. The walls you built within come tumbling down and a new world will begin.” – Queensryche, Silent Lucidity

Happ had a home run last night and Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki had stolen bases but there wasn’t much more to Chicago’s offensive profile against Orioles starter Jordan Lyles. I’ve always called Lyles “that six and seven dude” and now he’s actually 6-7 on the year. Matt Swarmer had a nice bounce-back outing, allowing just one hit in the 9th inning with three strikeouts.

  • Games Played: 87
  • Total Plate Appearances: 3,325
  • Total Strikeouts: 767
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.07%
  • Team Batting Average: .245
  • Runs Scored: 378
  • Runs Allowed: 449

How About That!

The A’s made a mockery of the ghost runner rule by plating eight runners in the 12th inning to beat the Rangers 14-7. A grand slam by Chad Pinder was the big blow.

The intrigue and anticipation of mid-July gets bogged down by the reality that MLB front offices are making deals in a language few understand.

Kumar Rocker has gone from a top pitching prospect in the 2021 draft to one of this year’s biggest mysteries.

A spike in pitching injuries should significantly impact this year’s draft.

MLB has instructed the Florida State League to test a rule to limit infield shifting. The league will implement chalk lines behind second base, forming a sort of “pie-shaped” right angle. The idea is to prohibit infielders from taking away balls hit up the middle that would otherwise go for base hits.

J.D. Martinez, Garrett Cooper, and Carlos Rodón were named replacement players for this year’s All-Star Game.

ESPN’s use of micing up players during Sunday Night Baseball continues to push MLB into a more progressive broadcasting territory.

MLB’s new Chief Marketing Officer Karin Timpone has been tasked with making the game more attractive to younger fans, and she’s starting with All-Star week.

This year’s ASG jerseys go back to featuring team names and logos.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Shane Bieber – In game one of a doubleheader, the Guardians’ ace pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout against the White Sox with seven strikeouts.
  2. Dylan Cease – He “Biebered” the nightcap, striking out nine Cleveland batters in 5.2 innings to improve to 8-4 on the season. Cease now has 142 strikeouts in 97.2 innings pitched. Yeah, that stings.
  3. Sean Murphy – The A’s catcher and viral Twitter star enjoyed a 4-for-5 night with two RBI.

Extra Innings

Jordan Wicks had a breakout performance for South Bend last night.

Wednesday Morning Six-Pack

  1. Work-life balance, you say? Yeah, work-from-home policies have reached their equilibrium point.
  2. A three-year combination of the pandemic, inflation, and looming recession has pushed small business sentiment to a 48-year low.
  3. Inflation hit a blistering 9.1% in June, a 40-year high.
  4. Spotify is buying Heardle, the Wordle-inspired music game.
  5. In a recent survey, 84% of LGBTQ adults said not enough protections are on social media to prevent discrimination, harassment, or disinformation.
  6. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Lilith Fair, the groundbreaking all-female music festival conceived by Sarah MacLachlan. The festival debuted in 1997 with Sheryl Crow, Jewel, The Indigo Girls, Lisa Loeb, Fiona Apple, Shawn Colvin, Tracy Chapman, Natalie Merchant, and more.

They Said It

  • “[The Orioles] are probably the most aggressive team in baseball. They’re going to come out swinging and they did. A couple of early-count fastball homers was the difference in the game.” – Ross
  • “Specifically for Pete [Crow-Armstrong], his defense is something that’s major league-caliber. You see it in spring training when these guys come up and play in major league games. It’s not like they look out of place. Really what we’re trying to develop in a lot of ways is just the consistency of that greatness. Great is just good consistent over time oftentimes. And Pete has certainly shown that on defense and is continuing to try to develop his approach offensively. He tore the cover off the ball in Myrtle Beach and added some power.” – Hawkins

Wednesday Walk-Up Song

Happy Birthday Roger McGuinn!

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