“For once in my life, I have someone who needs me, someone I’ve needed so long. For once, unafraid, I can go where life leads me…Somehow I know I’ll be strong.” – Stevie Wonder, For Once in My Life
I’ve never been a big believer in the theory that a change of scenery can turn a player’s fortunes around. It’s not quantifiable and my Spock-like analytic self can’t fathom such a postulate. I also wasn’t a big fan of the Franmil Reyes acquisition because he seemed like another in a long line of busted-up sluggers to pass through the Friendly Confines going all the way back to Rico Carty.
But Reyes has melted my icy-cold heart. He strikes out a lot and he rarely takes a walk, but he has that “it” factor since he started playing for the Cubs. I’m ashamed to write something that sounds like it was born from the mouth of Hawk Harrelson, but I have no other way to explain my affinity for the behemoth DH. I want him to succeed in Chicago. Reyes is only 27 and, though I’d like to have visions of a resurgent David Ortiz after he joined the Red Sox, I’d settle for Kyle Schwarber Light.
Reyes was 1-for-4 in last night’s 7-5 win over the Blue Jays, but that lone hit was a majestic opposite field home run that displayed his gargantuan power. The 2022 Cubs haven’t exactly been bashing the baseball, so Reyes’ feats of strength have been a welcome diversion. His 30 home run, 81 RBI pace as a Cub sounds an awful lot like Schwarber. Reyes is also batting .276 since arriving and he’s a career .254 hitter. Even if that’s not quite Big Papi territory, it’s sure not Wily Mo Peña, either.
Franmil Reyes has been destroying the ball since he joined the Cubs pic.twitter.com/BHQ6EC8hcB
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) September 1, 2022
What is it about Reyes that caused my unmitigated about-face? The slugger has made me a “fan” for the first time since Schwarber departed. I want him to succeed because he’s fun to watch, and I love seeing Reyes in the lineup with guys like Christopher Morel, Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, and Seiya Suzuki. I’ve not been much more than a writer this season, but now that’s changed. Give Reyes all the credit for my refreshing turnaround. He’s just so easy to root for.
Cubs News & Notes
- Despite playing 20 games in 19 days, visiting seven cities in three weeks, and having 15 consecutive contests against winning teams, the Cubs finished the month of August with a 15-15 record. That’s their best month of the season and first non-losing month since May of last year.
- The circle of friends Morel is running with is quite distinguished.
- The long journey of Jeremiah Estrada from the minors to the big leagues included Tommy John surgery and a life-threatening battle with COVID-19. When the hospital called his father, Ramiro, the doctor conveyed the seriousness of the situation: “Just pray.”
- The Cubs released their 2023 Cactus League schedule yesterday. I will be making my first trip to Arizona from March 11-15 for the World Baseball Classic. If you’re going to be there I will buy you a beverage.
- Speaking of Arizona, the Cubs are stacking their AFL roster with some very talented players, including Brennen Davis, Matt Mervis, and Miguel Amaya.
- Mark Leiter Jr. has produced a 1.53 ERA in 12 outings since July 30. That’s been especially important for the Cubs since the front office traded the top half of the bullpen at the deadline.
- Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson have relied on veteran teammates Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly, and Wade Miley to help them through the grind of their first 162-game MLB season.
- Stroman can’t stop raving about Hoerner’s hustle.
Odds & Sods
It takes a lot to impress Shohei Ohtani, and this 100 mph sinker from Clay Holmes did just that. Ohtani is the first player in MLB history to blast 30 homers while winning 10 or more games as a pitcher.
Clay Holmes's 100mph Sinker.
And, Ohtani's face when he looks at the scoreboard to see that was 100mph. 😳😂 pic.twitter.com/LzVw3PnsSC
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 1, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
I’m gonna make a change. For once in my life, it’s gonna feel real good.” – Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror
The Cubs struck out in nearly 27% of their at-bats last season and batted .237 as a team. They’d have to strike out approximately 443 times in their final 31 games to reach a similar level. It’s not as big a leap as we’d like, but the improvement is significant, and hopefully trending up.
- Games Played: 131
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,947
- Total Strikeouts: 1,157
- Strikeout Rate: 23.39%
- Team Batting Average: .241
- Runs Scored: 543
- Runs Allowed: 630
How About That!
Unionizing minor leaguers seems to be a lot more complicated than one might think. For starters, 30% of the minor-league players must submit confidential authorization cards indicating that they want to join the MLBPA. If they do, then the National Labor relations Board will hold an election in which 50% plus one of the minor leaguers must vote to unionize. Or, if Major League Baseball is so inclined, MLB can voluntarily recognize minor leaguers as a separate collective bargaining unit within the MLBPA.
From the same article: “There is also the issue of the minor leaguers themselves: you can’t organize those that don’t have the desire to be organized, and fear has been the emotion they’ve led with for years now. Fear of reprimand, of losing their jobs, of no longer having a chance to make it to the majors, of what would come next were all that to pass.”
Umpire Angel Hernandez was on track to work in the 2018 World Series before getting overturned three times at first base on video reviews during Game 3 of that year’s ALDS between the Yankees and the Red Sox, MLB wrote in response to his latest legal filing.
Henderson swung so hard that he lost his batting helmet.
Congratulations to the teams that are in first place this morning. Since 1996, 80% of teams entering September in first place took the divisional crown.
There is nothing more frightening than thinking about Aaron Judge playing for the Cardinals. CBS Sports takes a look at this winter’s top 20 free agents and Judge is No. 1. It seems a certainty, at least to me, that the slugging outfielder/DH will land with the Dodgers or Padres. Yes, I still want Jed Hoyer to be focused solely on Carlos Rodón.
The Padres and Giants will play a three-game set in Mexico City at the end of next April.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- The Phillies – Philadelphia pounded out 22 hits without a home run while beating the Diamondbacks 18-2. Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, and Brandon Marsh had three hits apiece.
- Xander Bogaerts – The potential prize of the 2023 free agent shortstop class plated five runners on a 2-for-4 night that included a grand slam and a stolen base. My friends over at Razzball call that a “Slam and Legs.”
- Kyle Wright – The Atlanta starter shoved for seven innings in earning his MLB-leading 17th win. Wright did not give up a run and struck out six batters in the Braves’ 3-2 win over the Rockies.
First career strikeout for Jeremiah Estrada! pic.twitter.com/qy10PGVXzI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 31, 2022
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- This is one of the biggest news weeks in the NFL thanks to Cut Day and lots of players switching teams. One player who isn’t going anywhere is Bears QB Justin Fields. In fact, he’s starting to get national recognition as an elite signal-caller. We’ve got it covered in our latest edition of First & Long at Bears Insider.
- One thing that shifted dramatically during the pandemic is the preference for plastic over cash. You can’t even use cash at baseball games to pay for food or MLB-licensed retail items since most MLB stadiums have gone cashless. Is baseball squeezing out fans who do not have access to credit or debit cards?
- NFTs may have been another in a long line of bubble economic fads. Don’t @ me.
- The estimated American lifespan plunged last year to about 76 years and one month, dropping for the second consecutive year to its lowest level since 1996.
- This evening—less than two weeks after HBO released its Game of Thrones prequel—Amazon Prime will drop the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, its uber-pricey Middle Earth CGI extravaganza. The series is reportedly bold, ambitious, and chock full of grandeur according to many critics.
- It’s not exactly a modern-day version of Animal House, but 10 of 14 fraternities at USC have disassociated themselves from the university, a growing trend among college campuses across the country. Fat, stupid, and disgusting is no way to go through life, son.
They Said It
- “I don’t think [Hoerner] gets enough credit throughout the league. That guy shows up each and every day and puts his absolute best foot forward. His preparation’s amazing. No matter if he’s dealing with any bumps and bruises, he’s out there giving 110% each and every day. He grinds out every single at-bat; he’s all over the field making plays. He’s someone that you need on your roster to be [an elite team].” – Stroman
- “So much of the game now is focused on taking care of your body already — from the minor league level on up — so they kind of come up here with an idea of what they’re looking for and what they need to do to stay healthy And, you can see [Steele and Thompson], they’ve picked up the ball every fifth day and been out there, and that’s saying really a lot for guys that young.” – Hendricks
Thursday Walk-Up Song
A 45-year-old wedding reception staple.