“Honey, I know, I know, I know the times are changing. It’s time we all reach out for something new, that means you too.” – Prince, Purple Rain
It’s been a long time since I’ve been simultaneously excited about the future prospects of the Bears and the Cubs, but here we are. Of course, I’m here to write about baseball, and the North Siders have executed a subtle but seismic paradigm shift this season. Because I like to be sarcastic, I’m calling it the “Hawkins Effect,” just like Stranger Things.
Carter Hawkins was hired as GM last October, and brought sweeping changes to Chicago’s system, even if it was purely coincidental. That said, the Cubs drafted 16 pitchers in this year’s draft, led by Cade Horton and Jackson Ferris. It’s almost as if Jed Hoyer, Dan Kantrovitz, Matt Dorey, Jared Banner, and Craig Breslow challenged Hawkins.
“Okay Hoss, show us what all the fuss is about.”
Hawkins is often referred to as a “pitching whisperer” based on the success of the Guardians rotation while the executive served as Cleveland’s assistant GM. Nevertheless, Chicago’s farm system took a big leap in the league rankings over at MLB Pipeline based almost wholly on their improved pitching. In fact, 15 of their top 30 prospects are pitchers. How’s that for balance?
Chicago’s system is as deep as it has been since it was assembling the talent that would win the 2016 World Series. They have arguably the best outfield prospects in the game and their pitching is obviously on the come. It’s easy to be excited about the team’s future. In yesterday’s Rundown, I mentioned that Hoyer compared this year’s team to the 2014 Cubs. I think that’s a tiny stretch, if only because I don’t believe next year’s squad will match the ’15 team that went to the NLCS, where they lost to the Mets.
Of course, a lot depends on what the Cubs will do in free agency this winter, but I tend to think next year will feel like an elongated version of 2014’s second half. After that, the 2024 Cubs could be on the verge of being a juggernaut. As I said, the future provides a lot to be excited about. I honestly didn’t see it coming after another disappointing winter, and admittedly, the lockout really helped keep anticipation at bay. Still, thank the stars for Hawkins, right?
Cubs News & Notes
- Last night, Javier Assad became the first pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to have two scoreless starts against teams 10 or more games above .500 to begin a career. My buddy calls Assad the “next Jose Berrios” but he needs to pump his brakes just a bit. I suppose anything is possible.
- I’ve tried to skip this topic for a few weeks, but Drew Smyly wants to stay in Chicago, and lately, he has been pitching in a way that makes it tough to ignore when thinking about next year’s rotation. I still think there are better options, but I’ve been wrong at times, too.
- Smyly is not the only veteran believer in Chicago’s future. Wade Miley would like to stick around, too.
- The Cubs might be a good fit for Shohei Ohtani, but how shocking would a trade of that magnitude be? Tom Ricketts has put us in an off-season slumber for about five years running. Still, why not just wait until Ohatni’s a free agent?
- Marcus Stroman is one fantastic dude.
- Tommy Hottovy said that the Cubs want to be diligent in managing the workloads of Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson for the remainder of the season.
- One would think that might present a great opportunity for Caleb Kilian, but the fireballing righty may need to work a bit on intestinal fortitude.
- Hayden Wesneski, Alexander Canario, Jeremiah Estrada, and Owen Caissie are four minor league players to keep an eye on as the affiliate seasons wind down.
- The Chicago baseball season has kind of gone in an opposite direction than most thought it would. There is growing optimism on the North Side. while the White Sox are looking more and more like a team that’s about to be torn down.
- Does anybody remember Frank Schwindel?
Odds & Sods
Pay that man his money.
The White Sox have jumped ahead to the “2019 Cubs” stage of their contention cycle.
— Ryan Thomure (@RyanThomure) August 29, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Crank up the drums, crank out the bass, crank up my Les Paul in your face…” – Sammy Hagar, There’s Only One Way to Rock
Seiya Suzuki had two hits last night and is on a torrid pace. He’s had 12 hits in his last 34 at-bats ( .353). Franmil Reyes had another two-hit game, upping his BA as a Cub to .291 and I think it’s safe to say he’ll enter 2023 as the team’s top DH candidate. Nick Madrigal has been blistering the ball since his return. He had three hits last night and is batting .303 in August.
- Games Played: 129
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,875
- Total Strikeouts: 1,133
- Strikeout Rate: 23.24%
- Team Batting Average: .241
- Runs Scored: 533
- Runs Allowed: 620
How About That!
The MLBPA announced it is launching plans to formally unionize minor league players.
The Orioles have become the most unlikely playoff contender in league history.
St. Louis slugger Paul Goldschmidt is chasing history with a legitimate chance at baseball’s Triple Crown. The last NL player to achieve the rare batting feat was Joe Medwick in 1937. Medwick also played for the Cardinals. Goldschmidt is batting .335 with 33 home runs and 105 RBI.
This post by The Onion had me in tears this morning. Sorry, not sorry.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Albert Pujols – For the rest of the season, whenever he homers he gets the top spot. Pujols blasted his 15th homer of the year on a 2-for-4 night, and now has 694 career round-trippers against 450 different pitchers. He victimized Ross Detwiler last night.
- Aaron Judge – He’s chasing Roger Maris, and he belted home run No. 50 off of Ryan Tepera last night. Judge is on pace to finish with 63 taters. Future Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit his 29th bomb last night in case you’re keeping score at home.
- Kyle Schwarber -In a losing effort, the leadoff slugger hit his 36th home run of the season and had four RBI to boot.
Suzuki is better than you think. He’s also not a second baseman.
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears have the fourth-easiest schedule in the league, with most of the patsies playing Chicago in the first half of the season. Expect the Bears to exceed sportsbook win projections by mid-November.
- Safety Eddie Jackson is primed for a big comeback season and the Bears’ secondary should be one of the best in the league, a big improvement over last year. Jaquan Brisker is a heavy hitter and should be fun to watch. That’s Brisk, baby!
- The economy isn’t going to the moon anytime soon, and neither is NASA. Space is hard. So is money management.
- Yesterday, the FTC sued ad tech firm Kochava for selling geolocation data that could expose people’s movements to sensitive locations, such as abortion clinics. In a July executive order, President Biden asked the FTC to use its regulatory powers to help stop “digital surveillance” of reproductive healthcare.
- For the first time ever, American companies are betting big on suburban office space, anticipating that remote workers living outside of large metropolitan areas will come back to the office if they don’t have to sit in grinding traffic forever. Somewhere Steve Carell, John Krasinksi, and Jenna Fischer are smiling.
- Student loan forgiveness also means an increase in scammers trying to take advantage of a confused consumer group. It’s important to know when and how you might be duped by illegal profiteers.
They Said It
- “Summertime in Chicago, Wrigley Field, it’s just more fun, the home games here. The fan base, there’s way more positive energy. [In] some places, it doesn’t matter how good you are, people may hate you. Here, you get ready to pitch a game and I know they care, but it almost feels like win or lose, they’re happy to be at Wrigley watching a baseball game.” – Smyly
- “There’s talent here, no doubt. We’re in a weird part of the year where it’s like, we’re not out of it but we’re out of it. It’s really hard but things can get really selfish this time of the year. Guys start going after their numbers. We need to be stubborn and understand it’s very important to play together and win games right now.” – Miley
- “We know we don’t want to push these guys to a crazy limit. But we also know that every inning we get this year is just going to help with the volume for next year.” – Hottovy
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
I didn’t see Men at Work on any legacy tour announcements, and that’s a shame.