The Rundown: No Good Reasons to Trade Báez or Bryant, Theo Feeling Some Hot Stove Heat, Cards Nearly No-Hit by Sánchez

On September 28, 1978, outfielder Jerry White hit his only home run as a member of the Cubs organization, giving the North Siders a 1-0 2nd inning lead in the second game of a doubleheader against the Mets at Wrigley Field. The Cubs would eventually win 5-4, and though they improved to just 78-82 on the season, it was an important win because it clinched third place in the division over the Montreal Expos.

The date is significant for me because it was the first Cubs game I attended without my father, who would die a year later after a two-year battle with brain cancer. His passing was the last thing on my mind that morning when he called in a favor to the front office to get tickets to the doubleheader for my friends and I. He scored us tickets in the first row right between the end of the dugout and the on deck circle, the kind of seats that will cost you about two bills today. I believe they were $12 face value at the time.

Looking back, it is amazing that that day would have a much larger impact on the future of the organization. White had been acquired mid-season from the Expos as a PTBNL in exchange for pitcher Woodie Fryman. After the 1978 season, White was traded back to Montreal along with platoon 3B Rodney Scott in exchange for outfielder Sam Mejias, who had 14 plate appearances with the Cubs before he was sold to the Reds for $25,000.

Because they finished a game and a half behind the Cubs, the Expos selected 3B Tim Wallach, a player Cubs GM Bob Kennedy had coveted, with the 10th overall pick in the minor league entry draft. Wallach went on to enjoy a 17-year career and was a five-time All-Star, finishing with 260 home runs, while earning 38.5 wins against replacement and two Silver Slugger awards. Chicago, with the 12th selection in the draft, selected pitcher Jon Perlman from Baylor University. His Cubs career consisted of six games for the ’85 team, finishing the season with an 11.42 ERA that was somewhat inflated by bad luck, as his FIP was a more respectable 9.03.

In 1978, Scott platooned at 3B with Steve Ontiveros, and the two combined for one home run and 37 RBI across 160 games. Ontiveros played three seasons with the Cubs before being released in 1980. For the next 25 years, only three players manned the hot corner for at least three full seasons on the North Side: Ron Cey, Luis Valbuena, and Aramis Ramírez, who was allowed to walk in free agency when Theo Epstein took over in 2012. Kris Bryant broke that unfortunate streak, which also includes forgettable names like Leo Gómez, Willie Greene, and Mike Olt.

Here are some sobering numbers: Other than the nine years Ramírez spent with the Cubs, the team’s starting third baseman since Ontiveros came to Chicago in 1977 have earned a cumulative 32.5 WAR. In five seasons, Bryant has been worth 25.1, which is worth one more win than Ramirez was on the North Side.

Now a large number of Cubs fans want to trade Bryant. Why? There is this crazy notion that Bryant has a vendetta against the Cubs because Epstein delayed his service time as a rookie in 2015, and that he and his agent will refuse to re-sign once the highly decorated third baseman becomes a free agent after the 2021 season. Get what you can get for him now, they will say, rather than get nothing for him in two years. One would think that after a quarter century of misfit toys at third base, Cubs fans would want Epstein to keep Bryant no matter the cost.

In truth, Bryant would love to finish his career with the Cubs, and has said so on more than one occasion.

Ironically, most of the fans who want to move Bryant are also the same individuals that believe Epstein has an underwhelming record in previous trades. And now they’re trusting the president of baseball operations to maximize any potential return trade value for Bryant. Makes perfect sense.

Cubs News & Notes

MLB Playoffs

A pitcher overshadowed on the radar gun, stat sheets, and about $549 million in combined dollars by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin may have put the Redbirds in a big hole heading into this afternoon’s game with the Nationals. Washington starter Aníbal Sánchez nearly no-hit the Cardinals last night, and St. Louis will have to try to even the series while facing Scherzer this afternoon.

The game was not without controversy, as St. Louis starter Miles Mikolas made an attempt to rib Washington outfielder Juan Soto, who wasn’t amused with the mockery of his batter’s box tendencies.

“To me it’s not good,” Soto said. “I don’t care. He can do whatever he wants. We’re going to keep going.”

The Yankees and Astros will start their ALCS battle tonight as Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka takes the bump in Houston against Zack Greinke. This series could go seven games and may become a postseason classic on star power aone.

Extra Innings

Can we just stop with all the nonsense? A good reason to trade Javier Báez does not realistically exist.

They Said It

  • “You asked what are we doing differently. It’s adjust our approaches a little bit but stay aggressive and know that we’re the right group to build the next Cubs championship team. I’m up for everything that comes with this role. I’m up for the high expectations.” – Theo Epstein
  • “It’s hard. It’s definitely going to be hard [dealing with offseason rumors]. You go on the internet, it’s in your face. You put on the TV. … But it’s the position we’re in right now. It’s unfortunate. But it’s part of the gig.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “Coming back from last year, yes, there is plenty to be proud of for me. But, there’s always going to be things that I want to do better. That’s how I’m always going to answer that question, whether it’s an MVP year or the worst year in my career. I’m always going to say I want to be better until I’m done playing this game.” – Kris Bryant
  • “If you’re a Cubs fan, study up on those Rangers prospect lists in the days to come because that’s going to be a major story of the winter.” – Jon Morosi

Saturday Walk Up Song

Home by Phillip Phillips. Ireland was a blast, but I’m happy to be back writing for CI. Slainte!

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