“It’s one thing to go into the other team’s ballpark and buy the tickets and come to the game. That’s great, support your team, I think everyone feels that way.”
But when you start the chant about “Let’s go Cubbies” and you’re up by six runs in the 9th inning, that’s where the rub oftentimes happens with the…
Kris Bryant hits the Cubs’ third consecutive double of the inning to score Jason Heyward
I could devote more words than most of you were care to read to my issues with the tone and delivery of Thom Brennaman’s statements (and those words above are, in fact, a direct transcript of his call from Friday night), but I’m going to touch briefly on them and move on to what this says about the Cubs. We’re talking about professional sports here, and while the broadcast teams are allowed a little homeristic indulgence, they also need to embody a degree of, well, professionalism. Trying to tell visiting fans, particularly when they comprise a majority of the people in attendance at said game, how to fan never really comes off well.
It’s possible I missed the memo on the unwritten rules for spectators, though I guess that would have made them written rules. In any case, I wasn’t aware that opposing groups of supporters are supposed to keep feet and arms inside their seats until the game has come to a complete stop. The rationale that the blue-clad onlookers should stop their chant just because their team is up six runs on the road against a rival totally escapes me.
But the best part of mini diatribe is that, just as the Reds play-by-play man was working himself into a nice self-righteous lather, Kris Bryant turned the water cold. You could almost see the exasperated Brennaman climbing down from his soapbox and into the ash heap, no longer possessed of the will to go on. Better get used to it, Thom, it’s gonna be a long season.
You almost have to feel bad for the guy though, employed as he is by a team that has is not only punting on the near future but that also has to play in a division with three very serious NL contenders. It can’t be fun to show up to the ballpark and see more of the opposing team’s devotees, particularly when said fans are gonna let you know about it all game long. Cubs fans tend to be just a little incorrigible too, a general trait that hasn’t been dimmed by early-season results.
Having been through what the Reds are attempting to undertake, you’d think the visitors to Great American Ball Park might have a little empathy. Nah, who am I kidding? Losing sucks and winning is awesome and fans of the NL’s top team are reveling in relevance once again. That’s particularly true of the crowds at GABP, who have seen the Cubs add 23 tallies to a Major League-best +67 run differential.
That margin is greater than the next two highest (Nationals +31, Cardinals +28) combined, and it’s more than 17 clubs have scored in total. The Cubs have scored the most runs (105) in baseball by a fair bit (Cards 92, Rockies and Giants 88) and they’ve allowed the fewest (38). Their 2.08 team ERA is MLB’s and their bats are only just starting to wake up. In short, the Cubs are looking like a juggernaut and they haven’t even put everything together yet.
One of the keys thus far has been their ability to get on base and score in a variety of ways. Take Javier Baez’s performance in Friday’s game, for instance. Baez, known by most for having a massive swing and tendency to chase, is showing the world what a complete baseball player he really is. Starting at third base after having previously gotten some run at second and short, the athletic super-utility player went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a stolen base, and three runs scored. But it was how he did it that was really exciting.
Down a strike leading off the 2nd inning, Baez sat back on a Jon Moscot curveball off the outside of the plate and poked it into right for a single. He then stole second base and advanced to third when Addison Russell grounded out, eventually coming in to score on a David Ross sac fly. 1-0 Cubs.
The score was 2-0 when Baez came up in the 4th and reached on a force. The Reds got Ben Zobrist at second, but Baez was a good 8 feet past the bag by the time the throw came to first. A single from Russell pushed his teammate to third and then the fun started. David Ross laid down a perfect bunt and I could have sword Baez was home before Moscot had even fielded the ball. The pitcher’s errant throw allowed Russell to move to third and then score on a subsequent bunt from Jon Lester. 4-0 Cubs.
That was the score when Baez came up to lead off the 9th against J.J. Hoover, who thought he could get the young hitter with breaking stuff. Baez go the count to 2-2, but after looking a swinging at curves earlier in the at-bat, he probably knew what was coming. Boy, did he ever, as he hung back and roped the bender just over the wall in left. 5-0 Cubs.
Here’s the thing, though, folks: you’re not supposed to be able to do that. How many guys can wait on that pitch, in that location, and then pull it on a line like that? It’s a very short list.
When he first came up, the book on Baez was that he could hammer mistakes but that the offspeed stuff would really mess with him. Due to his big leg kick and exaggerated hand load, his ability to recognize and react to pitches was compromised. I can’t think of two better examples of his improved approach than the hits he collected Friday, both off of curveballs. He went oppo on a pitch up and away and then absolutely whipped a down-and-out offering into the seats, illustrating a willingness to take what he gets rather than just trying to crush everything. The power, speed, and defensive versatility were givens, but now we’re seeing that Baez can be a very solid Major League hitter.
Throw that in with the rest of the Cubs lineup and…enough already.
But it’s not enough and it won’t be enough until this team is standing atop the pile when all the dust settles. They’re going to pour it on and they’re going to blow teams out and they’re not going to apologize for being really flippin’ good. The Cubs are going to win because they can mash, they’re going to win because they can run the bases, and they’re going to win because they can pitch. And their fans are going to let you know about it the whole time. If that rubs some folks the wrong way, well, so be it.
I readily admit that the Cubs have their fair share of obnoxious morons, but this team is looking every bit as special as the hype made it out to be and that’s plenty of reason to celebrate. So drink your beers and chant your chants and laugh when it feels like you’re watching a lopsided Little League game. Just remember to save some of that energy, because this team is going to give us a lot of performances like the one we saw Friday.