The Rundown: Let Second Half Begin, Trade Deadline Approaching, NL Central Free-for-All
If the old man was still alive he’d say there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and that the American League will win the All-Star Game. The junior circuit made it seven wins in a row last night despite the fact that the National League had what seemed to be a far better roster. The AL has also won 11 of 14 dating back to 2003, the year after the game infamously ended in a tie.
For just a hot minute near the end, it looked like the game could have possibly gone to extra innings, which surely had Rob Manfred feeling a little excited. Were the game tied after nine, the commissioner would have been able to unveil his boutique gimmick of starting the 10th inning with a free runner on second-base. I’m not sure last night’s snoozefest could have handled that type of excitement.
It was nice to see Willson Contreras and Ronald Acuña, Jr. exchange numbers during the game, though. I think they just became best friends.
Millenials & their phones, smh. #AllStarGame pic.twitter.com/29Ya4GsG2o
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 10, 2019
But the mid-summer yawner is now past us, and as fans of the greatest sport alive we get to focus on four things going forward:
- How many games the Dodgers will win;
- The MLB trade deadline and countless articles about the elimination of baseball’s waiver deadline;
- Which team will finish in first place in the NL Central and play for the right to get smoked by the Dodgers in the NLCS; and
- Watching the Dodgers eventually lose their third World Series in a row, this time to the Yankees.
It’s hard to gauge what the trade deadline will be like. The only division that seems up for grabs is the NL Central, where 4.5 games separate all five opponents. Teams may be hesitant to sell the farm, so to speak, for a chance to get sent home after a loss in the Wild Card play-in game. When teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Twins, Astros, and Braves stand in the way of a World Series berth, a chance to sneak into the divisional rounds doesn’t really seem like much of a chance at all.
A buyer’s market could help the Cubs a great deal, however. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer seem reluctant to move any of their top seven guys or top prospects, so they may be able to entice a team to give up a reliever or an experienced bat in exchange for some high-ceiling, lower-level minor league players. My wish list includes replacing Daniel Descalso and Brad Brach. Ben Zobrist may be able to do the former and I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs acquire Brad Hand for the latter, even if they have to move prized minor leaguers Miguel Amaya and Brailyn Marquez to get it done.
And, despite all the tough talk from Epstein in recent weeks, I just don’t see the Cubs making any major moves this month unless they decide to become sellers. Zobrist’s potential return will be part of that decision. That’s my All-Star break prediction.
September call-ups will likely include players with major league experience like Ian Happ, Carlos González, and Taylor Davis. I’m sure prized prospect Nico Hoerner will get a shot. Brandon Morrow could return then, too, and Craig Kimbrel should be in mid-season form by then. All of that means the Cubs should be fresh enough to compete for what will likely be a tight race up until the final weekend of the season.
It’s hard to believe we are now on the back nine of the 2019 season. And as it turns out, it may not be that beating the Brewers will determine if the Cubs make it to the playoffs. Their success against the Reds and Pirates may instead be the leading indicator.
Cubs News & Notes
- Javier Báez spoke about his second All-Star start and the Cubs first half before last night’s game (video).
- For the third time under the tutelage of Joe Maddon, the Cubs lead the NL Central heading into the game’s traditional second half. We are all counting on the manager’s penchant to inspire .600 baseball from his troops in post-break games.
- The Cubs could use one more consistent offensive threat ($) and a specific type at that — someone who can complement Chicago’s group of patient and powerful sluggers. Of course, that player could turn out to be Zobrist.
- Happ continues to work on his timing at Iowa. Meanwhile, Hoerner had an impressive start after returning from his wrist injury.
- The Cubs have fallen to 12th place in the latest power rankings from CBS Sports, but that’s still tops in their division.
How About That!
This week’s no-holds-barred cage match features Manfred and Astros’ starter Justin Verlander.
Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella honored late teammate Tyler Skaggs by wearing his #45 jersey during yesterday’s game.
Former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig says that career home run leader Barry Bonds is simply unlikeable.
The All-Star Game is far from perfect; it’s not what it once was, and wishing for it to recapture it’s 1970’s competitiveness solves nothing.
The highlight for me yesterday was the Red Carpet Walk, an opportunity for MLB to market its starts with a whisper of product placement from its sponsors. Báez, Contreras, and Kris Bryant looked very Entourage-ish as they posed for fans and photographers.
“Now my beloved, step down from your chariot, and let not your foot, my lord, touch the Earth.” – Clytemnestra, wife of Troy.
Red carpet time. ? #AllStarGame pic.twitter.com/jUPSeHZpcX
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 9, 2019
They Said It
- “I don’t think anybody in the clubhouse is worried about where we’re at. We’ve just got to dig ourselves [out of] our own hole right now and focus on each other and what we can do day in and day out to win baseball games. The outside noise, the panic and all that other stuff, won’t affect us.” – Jon Lester
- “Any time you get a veteran presence like [Zobrist] back it’s always a good thing. But right now we can’t worry about he end of the season. When Zo does come back and helps us out, we can talk about then. But we’ve got a long ways to go before then.” – Theo Epstein
Wednesday Walk Up Song
Things Can Only Get Better by Howard Jones. Heard this while watching Stranger Things 3 and thought it epitomized the Cubs at the break. Thanks for reading, and buckle up for a turbulent second half.