“Hey…If we can solve any problem, then why do we lose so many tears?” – Paul Young, Every Time You Go Away
The calendar turns to September this week and it’s really starting to feel like we are accelerating toward autumn. We’ve anticipated the return of October for 10 straight seasons, though the last two have been for all the wrong reasons. The Cubs haven’t been to the playoffs since the Marlins swept them in two games at Wrigley Field after the COVID-shortened season in 2020. There will be no postseason this year, but hope is on the horizon according to Jed Hoyer.
The president of baseball operations likened this Cubs team to the one that finished on a strong note in 2014. Chicago shocked the world the following season by winning 97 games and steamrolling its way to the NLCS.
“I’m thrilled that we’re playing this way,” Hoyer told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. “There were a lot of parts of the season that were really frustrating. We felt all along that we knew this was probably a tough needle to thread.
“We knew a lot of things had to go really well to compete against where [the Cardinals] and the Brewers were this year. I think we said that. But we felt as we were struggling, ‘We’re much better than this.'”
If you’re looking for components that are likely to carry over to next season, look no further than Nico Hoerner. The fourth-year shortstop belted his eighth home run in Sunday’s 9-7 loss to the Brewers and has a legitimate shot to finish in double digits. Hoerner is sporting a .754 OPS with a 3.7 fWAR and a wRC+ of 111 after yesterday’s 3-for-5 effort.
Franmil Reyes also hit a home run, his third as a Cub. After going 2-for-4 on Sunday, he’s slashing .280/.304/.824 since Hoyer nabbed him off of the waiver wire. He hasn’t been this productive since splitting the 2019 season between the Padres and
Ian Happ also had a two-hit day and a very strong series. He blasted two taters on Friday night to account for all of Chicago’s offense in a 4-3 win. I am of the mindset that Hoyer should work to extend Hoerner, Happ, and Willson Contreras before the end of the season. All three deserve to be integral parts of the next successful iteration of this ballclub, and if the executive is serious about comparing this team to the one Chicago rostered in 2014, extending each should be a no-brainer.
With Chicago’s impressive farm system, Hoyer needs core pieces in place, if only as a conduit to that 2016 championship team and the contending teams that followed through 2020. Because outfielder Jason Heyward will not be returning, Contreras, Happ, and Kyle Hendricks can serve in the capacity of instilling the type of work ethic and chemistry the Cubs need as their minor leaguers matriculate to the bigs.
Justin Steele looks more like an ace as he continues to mature. Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel, Brandon Hughes, and Nelson Velázquez have been impressive, too. None of those players carry the pedigree of Happ, Contreras, and Hendricks, however. Additionally, all three are on the record as wanting to stay in Chicago. It would behoove Hoyer to keep Contreras, who is now seen as a leader among his clubhouse peers. Let us hope the two sides can get something done before the starting catcher hits free agency.
Cubs News & Notes
- Oh, Jon Morosi. You’re really going to have me spend my winter thinking that the Cubs have a chance to acquire Shohei Ohtani? I’ve already scheduled my “bleeding heart” tattoo for mid-March.
- Cue “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” by Kate Bush.
- If the Cubs let Contreras walk, a nightmare scenario exists where the All-Star backstop could sign with the Cardinals to replace the soon-to-be-retired Yadier Molina. Keep in mind, however, that St. Louis has never signed a free agent that was attached to a qualifying offer. Deep breaths, please and thank you.
- Steele left his start on Friday with lower back tightness.
- Steele and yesterday’s starter, Adrian Sampson, are among the players on Chicago’s restricted list. Neither will travel with the team to Toronto.
- Triple-A relievers Jeremiah Estrada and Brendon Little will benefit from the absence of Steele and Sampson. Both traveled with the team for their set against the Blue Jays.
- Happ made MLB history on Friday with his two-homer effort. According to STATS, Happ is the first player in the modern era to hit a pair of multi-run homers for his team’s only two hits in a game.
- Reliever Eric Uelmen received a heartwarming gift from his grandmother when the team arrived in Milwaukee.
- Minor league slugger Matt Mervis will play in the Arizona Fall League thanks to his breakout season.
Odds & Sods
Giggle. Snort. That said, I think this is a photoshop job. I believe the sign actually appeared in the left-center bleachers. Yesterday, Tony La Russa used his most talented hitter as a pinch runner and used his worst, least talented hitter as a pinch hitter…all with the game on the line. The White Sox (63-65) were swept by the 59-67 Diamondbacks.
Good job by AP and USA Today photographers David Banks and Jamie Sabau getting this sign on the wires. pic.twitter.com/WmdyxUxipE
— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) August 28, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“I get a crazy feeling that chases in my head. It’s nothing that you do to me. It’s nothing that you said.” – Culture Club, I’ll Tumble 4 Ya
Chicago’s team batting average tumbled three points over the weekend, a significant drop considering the elevated number of plate appearances this late in the season. Hoerner, Happ, Reyes, and Seiya Suzuki have been Chicago’s only noteworthy offensive contributors.
- Games Played: 128
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,831
- Total Strikeouts: 1,126
- Strikeout Rate: 23.31%
- Team Batting Average: .240
- Runs Scored: 529
- Runs Allowed: 615
How About That!
Speaking of money, Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez shouldn’t have to worry about such trivial matters anymore. The rookie outfielder signed an extension that could potentially lock him up for the next 18 years at a maximum value of $470 million.
Over the weekend, minor league catcher Brett Auerbach made one of the most spectacular and difficult catches you’ll see behind the plate on a popup near the entrance to the dugout on the third-base side.
Nationals southpaw Patrick Corbin has a chance to make the wrong kind of history this season. He entered Sunday with 17 losses, putting him within shouting distance of becoming the majors’ first 20-game loser since Mike Maroth in 2003. Corbin beat the Reds 3-2 yesterday for his fifth win of the season.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Isaac Paredes – The former Cub and current Rays second baseman went 2-for-2 with two home runs and three RBI in a 12-4 win over the Red Sox.
- Hunter Dozier – Going 4-for-6 with three runs scored, a double, and two stolen bases is one way to earn your paycheck.
- Germán Márquez – The Rockies starter outdueled Max Scherzer in a 1-0 win over the Mets. Márquez tossed seven one-hit innings with five strikeouts.
Apropos of Nothing
A lot of legacy acts, aka, the Viagra and Depends (™) touring bands, are announcing 2023 tours and, as a man of a certain age group, I can’t tell you how excited I am to attend those live concerts next year. I already have Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scorpions, Yes, and, believe it or not, Matchbox 20 on my tentative schedule. That said, the coup de grâce will be the tours by Ozzy Osbourne and The Rolling Stones. Osbourne is reportedly playing with some members of Black Sabbath, and word is the Stones sound as tight as ever with Steve Jordan handling drums in place of Charlie Watts.
We want more Mash, thank you very much.
— Iowa Cubs (@IowaCubs) August 28, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears capped off a perfect exhibition season with a 21-20 win over the Browns on Saturday night. Justin Fields lit it up in the first half by going 14-of-16 for 156 yards and three scores. The second-year quarterback finished with a pristine 146.9 passer rating.
- The defense played a spectacular first half as well, and defensive tackle Justin Jones said the unit is ready to hit the ground running when Chicago opens regular season play with a contest against the 49ers on September 11.
- The first radio commercial aired 100 years ago yesterday on WFEA-AM in New York. It was a 15-minute ad offering apartments in Jackson Heights and cost the company $100.
- Did you know that a human hasn’t stepped foot on the moon since 1972? NASA is going to change that, and this morning they were set to launch a new rocket named Artemis I that will orbit the moon for 36 hours as part of its uncrewed, 42-day mission. The entire program will serve as a dress rehearsal for an eventual manned mission to Mars. In Greek myth, Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, the name of NASA’s OG moon-landing program.
- This Saturday is National Cinema Day, and the majority of US movie theaters will be selling $3 movie tickets. The discount, made possible by The Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit group, will be available in celebration of the event. I guess I’ll finally go to see Top Gun: Maverick.
- From the WTF Files: If all other disciplinary actions fail, teachers in Missouri’s Cassville R-IV School District will be allowed to spank a student with a paddle, parents learned last week. The superintendent said the school board brought back the practice after parents asked for more punishments other than suspension.
They Said It
- “My understanding is the Cubs were impressive to Shohei’s camp. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Shohei were to be traded to the Cubs, and you look around and this is to me a compelling time to join the Cubs. They’re going to get better. They’ve already been pretty good through the last couple [of] months. There are better days ahead for the Cubs. And I think if Ohtani were to come to Chicago and look around, I feel better about the Cubs’ next five years than I do the Angels’ next five years.” – Morosi
- “For me, [being non-vaxxed] was a personal decision, as I believe it is for everybody. I talked to my friends and my family, and the final decision was I just felt like I didn’t need to get it, so that’s kind of what we went with.” Steele
Monday Walk-Up Song
There are rumors that Van Halen will tour next summer, though nobody knows if they will employ David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar as frontmen. I’d really like to see that show. The last time I saw Van Halen was in Biloxi, MS in 1984. I couldn’t hear for about 12 hours after the concert.
PS – I prefer Hagar.
PPS – Sorry for the Rick-Roll in the Climbing the Ladder section but I just can’t stand that Culture Club song, though I do like most of the band’s output.