Theo Takes the Blame

Theo stood up and took the blame of the season like a man.  Well, actually he was sitting down but explained the season and how things went from bad to worse.  The Cubs did announce that Joe Maddon will be back next year for the final year of his contract.  He will be in a lame duck year but as Theo explained that is more common these days. Whether that was his way of justifying Maddon going into a lame duck year or what that was the justification.  Theo did the right move to bring Maddon back because Maddon did a lot of right things this year.  Maddon is still the only manager to manage the Cubs to a World Series and win in 108 years.  No that does not give him a pass forever but there does need to be some patience.  No one else has done that.

Maddon had made his mistakes.  Does he manage a bullpen well?  Not always.  Some of us have good reason to question his moves.  Is it possible he can give some of that to his pitching coach?  Maybe but I don’t think he will.  Maddon made 2 big mistakes this year with the bullpen and it cost him a lot.  Maddon pitched Brenden Morrow 3 times in a row in early June which ended up being a time he got hurt.  Morrow pitched until the middle of July but was ultimately out of the rest of the season.  Theo explained that they signed Morrow to the years and money with the injury history in mind.  Down deep I think Theo wished they had more arms in the bullpen to take the load off Morrow  but at the end of the day when Maddon has a horse he rides them till they die, ask Aroldis Chapman.  Maddons second mistake was letting Pedro Strop hit for himself in Washington which ultimately ended with a pulled hamstring.   What would helps is the Cubs having more true gunslingers in the bullpen for Maddon to chose from who are reliable and throw strikes.  They put too many eggs in the Carl Edwards basket and those eggs did not turn out well.

The Cubs finished the season (including the Wild Card game) with 40 games of scoring 1 or fewer runs.  Theo said this is unacceptable and there is no one that will disagree with him.  This does not fall on Chili Davis alone because Chili Davis did help put some players this year.  I don’t believe he hurt anyone either.  At the end of the day Chili has a hitting philosophy that he tries to get players to hit the other way instead of hitting over the shift.  If a hitters approach is working there would be no reason to change it.  There isn’t a major league player that will listen to a hitting coach if their current approach is working well.

Part of the Cubs problem is they have put more value in the players they have then what they might actually have. The Cubs have players that have not done as well as they have done in previous years (Happ, Contreras, Bryant, Russell) and the list goes on.  Some of it can be narrowed down like Bryant was injured this year but he also had a lack luster 2017 as well.  Although people are blaming that on the World Series hangover but at the end of the day great players find a way to make it work.  There is no reason to continue to document Addison Russell’s troubles ( 40 game suspension) but he has been a shell of  a player since 2016.  Ian Happ’s home run production dropped (sophomore slump maybe).  Wilson Contreras needs to focus on being the best catcher he can be and not the best in the league.

The Cubs need to find a way to have a more consistent offense.  They will need to look at it through free agency and trades.  Theo did say that speed on the bases was not high on the priority list but it was there.  He would not promise they would find a prototypical lead off hitter either.  Getting more offense in general is the biggest priority for the  winter.  Theo would not rule out bringing back Daniel Murphy.  Murphy started out hot after the trade but did cool down.  He did hit .297 with the Cubs after the trade but his defense was lackluster.

The Cubs were very impressed by Cole Hamels.  The hope he is a part of the club next year.  Hamels does have a 20 million dollar option for next year.  Look for the Cubs to decline the option but workout a contract extension with him.  Going into next season the Cubs starting rotation is a very good one with the idea that Yu Darvish will be back.  If Yu Darvish did not get hurt they would have never went after Hamels.  The Cubs are going to continue to get depth for the rotation so that will make spring training interesting.  I don’t see who they can send Tyler Chatwood to at this point so he will be around.  The Cubs also have Drew Smyly who will be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.  I do look forward to next year being a special year for the Cubs.

 

 

 

Lineups, News, and Notes For WC NL 2018

Tonight is the Wild Card game with the Rockies playing the Cubs in Chicago.  The pitching match up is Jon Lester for the Cubs and Kyle Freeland for the Rockies.  Jon Lester has a postseason record of 9-7 with an ERA of 255.  This is Kyle Freeland’s first appearance in the post season.

Lineups:

Rockies:

  1. Charlie Blackman CF
  2. DJ LeMahieu 2B
  3. Nolen Arenado 3B
  4. Trevor Story SS
  5. Matt Holiday LF
  6. Ian Desmond 1B
  7. David Dahl RF
  8. Chris Iannetta C
  9. Kyle Freeland P

Cubs:

  1. Ben Zobrist RF
  2. Kris Bryant LF
  3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
  4. Javier Baez SS
  5. Albert Almora CF
  6. Daniel Murphy 2B
  7. Wilson Contreras C
  8. David Bote 3B
  9. Jon Lester P

There have not been many times that Joe Maddon has not had Murphy leading off since the trade at the end of August.  It will be interesting to see how the lineup responds tonight.  Matt Holiday is getting a start in the playoffs after not even being on a teams opening day roster.

The Cubs home record this year is 51-31 and the Rockies road record is 44-38.

Joe Maddon has a strong record in Wild Card games but some Cub fans are probably questioning his ability with the way he is using the bullpen.

Notes:

Kerry Wood is singing the 7th inning stretch.  Pedro Strop is back after his hamstring injury.

Prediction:  Cubs Win!

Don’t Blame Chili, Blame the Front Office

Here is something we all know, in order to win the game you must score runs and score more than the team you are playing.  There have been 39 games where the Cubs have scored 1 run or no runs.  This is not a good recipe for success.  Fans have clearly placed their blame on Chili Davis.  Fair or unfair he is the hitting coach and is getting a lot of the blame as displayed here:

Even Boston fans are expressing their thoughts about Chili Davis.  It is easy to say that Cubs fans will never feel they have a good hitting coach.  The hitting coach does not control Contreras taking a pitch right down the middle of the plate in the 8th inning yesterday.  The hitting coach does not control Contreras going into a slump since the All Star Game since he believed he was Babe Ruth after making the All Star team.  The hitting coach does not control the fact the Addison Russell may have made some bad choices that even my 5 year old knows is not okay.

Offensively the Cubs got off to a slow start to the season and never really found their grove.  Anthony Rizzo could not hit his way out of a shoe box for the first month of the season but since then he has been a .300 hitter.  Kris Bryant is playing hurt and spent a lot of time on the disabled list which has been well documented.  We are starting to find out what we have in Kyle Schwarber which is an all of nothing kind of swing and the old guy Ben Zobrist is having one of his better seasons by average alone.

If you really want to question something then question why Theo didn’t throw all of his eggs into the basket and trade for Yelich.  Everyone knew he was something special and available at the right price.  Ian Happ, Albert Almora and Addison Russell would have been a great start to the conversation.  Money could have become a problem but this front office has not let that stand in their way before.  So if you want to put blame on someone, blame the front office.  They have overvalued the talent they have on the field and have refused to upgrade key spots like Center Field.

Game 163: This could be Legendary

This is a game just to sit back and enjoy.  The Cubs have been there before and know what it takes to do it again.  The Brewers are up and coming but look like it will take a Mack truck to stop them from winning the Division.  This is playoff baseball before the playoffs even start.  Both teams are in the playoffs, they are just playing for the division.  Playing for home field advantage in the playoffs and a couple days off.

Who has the advantage is any ones guess.  It is easy to say the Cubs have the advantage because they have the big game experience and Joe Maddon has managed in game 163 before.  While with the Tampa Bay Rays Maddon managed the Rays in a victory over the Rangers in game 163 in the 2013 season.  You could say that the advantage is with the Brewers because they have the momentum of a 7 game winning streak.  They have proven to be a good team because they caught the Cubs to force this game 163.  The Brewers could have the advantage because as of now we don’t know who is pitching for them.

For an up and down season for the Cubs this is a fun way to end the season.  It is hard to say the Cubs would be in the situation if they did not have all of the key injuries they had this year.  In fact, with the Cubs trying to win their 96th game today shows how good of a team they have been with all of the injuries.  The Cubs have the right guy on the mound to win this game.  Jose Quintana has a 1.50 ERA verse the Brewers in 10 starts but this is not the same Brewers team.  So this year Quintana has a 2.17 ERA in 6 starts.  The Brewers are out to prove something and felt they did over the weekend but really they didn’t.  The last 3 games the Brewers played a Detroit Tigers team that was going no where.  The Cubs still faced a hungry Cardinals team.

What will be interesting to watch is the Javy Baez Christian Yelich MVP show.  Yelich is like the smooth MVP candidate that has carried the Brewers for the last 2 weeks.  Javy Baez is the MVP candidate that tries to hit the ball to Waveland with every swing.  Baez plays hard and reckless but calculated on the bases.  He makes teams nerves and has scored from first more times this season then we have seen in a while based on errors he forces teams to make.  This is a game where legend stories come from.  Who will build on their legend is any ones guess.  Just sit back and enjoy game 163 because there is no bigger game this year.

Baseball Drama: The Good Kind

For true baseball fans today is what it is all about!  Two different division races have not been decided yet and when we go to bed tonight they still may not be decided.  Think about it, game 163 tomorrow with the possibility of 2 different games.  This is where you see if trades your teams made are truly a difference maker.  For me, I woke up early like it was Christmas morning thinking about all of the different scenarios that could possibly happen.

The Cubs:  They are putting their faith in Mike Montgomery.  This is a huge game for Montgomery.  During the past off-season he told the Cubs he wanted to be a starter but the Cubs had different ideas.  This is where he can prove that he can start.  He proved he could close big games since he got the last out in the World Series back in 2016.  This is where the Mike Montgomery legend can continue and more free drinks at Murphys.

This is also the time for Daniel Murphy to continue to stand out.  In the last 7 games he is batting .367 and went 2 -4 yesterday.  Javy Beaz to show why he is in the MVP conversation.  In the past 7 games he is only hitting .207 while Christian Yelich is carrying his team with a .444 average while pocketing the MVP.  Anthony Rizzo needs to show he is the team leader and put the team on his back.  The Cubs have not beaten Flaherty this year so this could either be the perfect storm or have their hands full.  Take your pick.

The Brewers: Thee Brewers have Gio Gonzalez pitching who they picked up from the Nationals.  Gonzalez wants to show he deserves a good contract next year from someone so he has a lot of reason to pitch well.  The Tigers have Spencer Turnbull (who) o made his major league debut on September 14 of this year.  I think the Brewers will jump on him early and often.  The Tigers are just ready to put this season to bed since they don’t have anything to play for but pride.

I think we will see game 163 tomorrow at Wrigley Field and the Cubs and Brewers will play deep into October.  This will start a true new rivalry that is more then just for the fans.

Note:  If the Dodgers don’t win the division after all of their trades this year, they need to look to replace Dave Roberts.

 

Enjoy Miguel Amaya: Could Be Traded Soon.

Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya is currently playing in the futures game.  After the game the Cubs will be promoting him as a reward but also because he has been a standoutut prospect this year.  In less then 3 years in the organization, Amaya is in the top 10 on the Cubs top prospects list.  The Cubs signed him for $1 million as in an International Draft Pick and he has lived up to the hype.  It is unclear the power he will truly have but he is displaying some good power in Single A South Bend with 14 home runs so far.

You can say Amaya is blocked by the talented Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras and Victor Caratini but really is not the case.  The chances are Amaya will never play a game in Chicago as a member of the Chicago Cubs.  As the trade deadline looms, the Cubs are looking to improve the team and Amaya will be getting a lot of attention from other teams.  Is it worth trading him for a chance at the playoffs and possible World Series?  Yes it is!  Tomorrow is never promised so it is important for the Cubs to put all they can into winning the World Series again this year.  The Cubs need pitching more then anything else right now and a good catching prospect could give them a chance at a good arm.  Amaya would be a good way to start the conversation with Rangers on a Cole Hamels deal.

Now Amaya is not the only prospect that has generated interest.  David Bote who has been taking the express between Triple A and the Majors has had Toronto interested in him if the Cubs were to trade for J. A. Happ.  Bote would be a nice replacement for Donaldson whether he is traded or leaves at the end  of the season.  I am not leaving out Victor Caratini at all.  I would be surprised to see the Cubs trade him because of depth on the Major League roster.

No matter who the Cubs keep or trade, Cub fans should trust Theo and Jed who have brought the Cub fans one championship.  Looks like they are poised and ready to step on the neck of the Central Division and go deep into the playoffs.

The Cardinal Way Needs Change

With the firing of Mike Matheny it leaves the Cardinals fans asking now what?  That is a good questions but the firing of Matheny should be a stepping stone.  In the press conference today, the Cardinals talked about hitting the reset button.  That is all well and good but is there a deeper problem?  Is this just a bandage for now?

Most people felt Matheny would be fired at the end of the season if the Cardinals missed the playoffs and that is probably what would have happened.  It is clear this decision was fast forwarded a few months because of recent articles written in the last few weeks about the lack of communication in the clubhouse and Bud Norris policing the clubhouse.  Most fans think Bud Norris is just lucky to be on the team and has no right to be policing and telling on players.

The damage that has been done under Matheny is not something that can be fixed this year and save the season.  Based on what was heard  the press conference today it is clear the Cardinals are going to ride the season out and make additional moves from there.  If the Cardinals were set on turning this around right now they would have either hired a manager with experience or named Mike Shildt the manager (no interm tag) and gave him a contract extension so people know the team believes in him.  The problem is they do not and do not have a road  map to success for the end of the season.

The Cardinals have been in a downward slide for the last few years.  As they continued the downward slide they moved then General Manager John Mozeliak into a President of Baseball Operations role.  They named Mike Girsch the new General Manager and he inherited a mess.  As most things go in situations like this Mozeliak is making the baseball decisions and Girsch is a puppet.  This is sadly the way organisations are starting to handle things.  So if you ask fans who needs to go?  The whole Cardinals organization needs to be cleaned out and restart.  The Cardinal way needs to change.

Where do the Cardinals go from here?  They need to hire a manager with experience and success.  The Cardinals need to hire someone who understands how to communication with players in the social media generation.  The Cardinals need to spend smart money, get back to drafting well and produce home grown talent.  One question that will never be answered is, how much did the death of Oscar Taveras set the Cardinals Organization back?

Machado Not the Right Fit for Cubs

I remember the buzz around Wrigley Field when Nomar Garciaparra stepped up to the batters box as a Chicago Cub.  The Cubs announcers at the time, Steve Stone and Chip Carey enjoying the electricity around Wrigley field as Steve Stone said, “if he hits a home run he could run for Mayor.”  Now fast forward to 2018 and Manny Machado stepping up to the plate as a Chicago Cub.  It would be fun and exciting but at what cost to the Cubs.

The package that the Cubs has talked about for Machado is Addison Russell, Mike Montgomery, and prospects.  Yes, that was the Addison Russell of last year which was already a shell of Addison Russell of 2016.  Now the Cubs would have to include a package that would most likely include Ian Happ.  Despite Happ’s early stuggles he has come on strong as of late and is a valuable piece to the organization.  So to include Happ in a deal is just bad baseball business.  So what should the Cubs do?

The Cubs should continue to build the organization from within.  They won a World Series by good drafts and quality trades for the long term as well as some luck (which all teams have).  Making trades for the short term goes against the “Cubs Way” and it is not something they should do now.  The Cubs should never give up on the season but they need to think more long term then just this year.  There is no reason to mortgage the future for just one year.  The Cubs have won a World Series and there was nothing more exciting than that.  Many felt they needed to win at any cost and I did to but now it is different.  Lets win year after year so to do that the Cubs need to make smart deals.  Manny Machado is not a smart deal for the Cubs.  Manny Machado is a smart rental for a team that is not the Cubs.

So what should the Cubs do?  They need to be smart and let the season play itself out.  See if Addison Russell can play out of his year and a half funk. Find a way to to get out from under the Jason Heyward contract.  This is the time when Joe Maddon shows why he is the best in baseball so he doesn’t get replaced by another Joe “Girardi”.