My dad was a big fan of the old Charlie Chan movies when I was growing up. I haven’t watched any of them since I was a kid because I fear they haven’t aged well and are probably chock full of bad Asian stereotypes, but I remember one phrase the quiet detective used often and it was this:
“The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room.”
There are just some things in life we can’t rightly fathom. For instance, is telekinesis really a thing? Who invented bar soap, and why? Or, to hit on a current social theme, how is it that in an era of unprecedented economic growth, inequality has taken on such proportions that it threatens the existence of an entire society? More importantly, at least for the Cubs organization, how do you find that damned black cat?
The metaphysical approach theorizes that the seeker is looking for something that isn’t really there. One can continue to search every corner of the room, fumbling through the dark, and even hypothesize that no such cat exists, though the search is likely to continue.
The Cubs offense may not be in playoff shape but their manager seems to be. Today’s story: ‘The W is all that matters': Cubs manager David Ross is already in playoff mode https://t.co/oMbyygkK1V
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) September 25, 2020
For David Ross, that means trying to figure out why his team hasn’t hit this year, and it’s a guarantee he’s not going to come up with any answers with three games left in the regular season. Chicago’s batters have never struggled like this, as Sahadev Sharma points out in his latest post for The Athletic ($). Still, it seems to be almost impossible to find any answers.
Ross thinks he knows exactly how to find that clandestine kitty, tough. As Chan would say, you need simply turn on the lights.
“If I know anything about this group,” Ross said, “[it’s that] when the lights shine the brightest, a lot of these guys have been there and stepped up and risen to the occasion.”
There’s no time like the present, Skip.
The Cubs will play the White Sox in the final series of the regular season with each fighting to win their respective divisions. The North Siders, losers of three straight to Pittsburgh, lead the Cardinals by 2.5 games, but St. Louis has three games in hand. On the South Side, the ChiSox have lost five straight and suddenly find themselves trailing the Twins by a game. If it feels like neither team controls their own fate, it’s only because neither is playing good enough baseball to beat anybody. Something will have to give this weekend.
Both teams would feel a whole lot better about their odds to take a division title if they could sweep the other. The Cubs clinch if they sweep, so this series will have all the emotions of a Crosstown playoff series. In the meantime, Ross is probably checking all the switches and breakers to see if he can’t get that room any brighter. Yu Darvish is starting for the Cubs and a win would really loosen those collars the Pirates were too happy to tighten.
Cubs News & Notes
- I really didn’t want to mention it, but the Cubs lost 7-0 to the Pirates yesterday, managing to scrape together just two hits against middling Pittsburgh starter Chad Kuhl.
- With a short season and the fact that the White Sox are one of the most improved teams in baseball, we all kind of figured the season would come down to these final three games at Guaranteed Rate Field.
- The Cubs slashed .244/.344/.431 during their 13-3 start, but then regressed to a .213/.307/.365 line heading into yesterday’s shutout loss.
- Javier Báez is currently ranked as MLB’s worst hitter of 2020.
- Darvish will be the team’s X-Factor during the first round of the playoffs.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the Cubs a little bulletin board material in today’s Tipsheet column.
- On the other hand, Connor Grossman of SI believes the Cubs could be the surprise team of the postseason.
- The Cubs have added hard-throwing rookie Brailyn Marquez to their 40-man playoff pool.
- Outfielder Ian Miller did not make the postseason cut, though light-hitting outfielders Billy Hamilton and Albert Almora Jr. did.
- The South Bend Cubs will host a watch party for tonight’s game.
Odds & Sods
Coincidence or Tommy La Stella effect? When Tommy made A’s debut in game 2 on 8/29 vs Houston, A’s were LAST in the league in strikeouts…now they are ranked 5th in AL overall, and have the FEWEST K’S of any team in September in either league
— Vince Cotroneo (@vincebaseball) September 24, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
To get in the proper mood for potentially more offensive futility, I watched the movie “Blankman” at 3 AM this morning. In case you forgot or haven’t seen the crime-fighting parody, his trusty sidekick is known as “Other Guy.”
How About That!
The Blue Jays are in the playoffs! I’m sure the Yankees fear any potential postseason matchup with their AL East rivals.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina got his 2,000th career hit last night. It only seems like it took him 30 years to get there.
The Indians swept the White Sox in a four-game set and are just one game behind Chicago for a potential top 6 AL seed. Cleveland will close out their regular season with three home games against the Pirates.
The Padres are in a bit of a freefall of their own.
Seeding, and not regular season records, will determine who bats last (aka home field advantage) in this year’s World Series.
MLB isn’t allowing the families of non-players to join those essential workers in quarantine, but the Dodgers ownership group will host those family members at a separate hotel so they can then join coaches, trainers, front-office execs, and other staffers in Texas if Los Angeles advances.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Alex Bregman – The Astros third baseman was 3-for-5 against the Rangers last night and was a single shy of hitting for the cycle. Bregman also had three RBI.
- Austin Hays – The rookie outfielder had three hits last night, including a big home run to ensure the Orioles would finish the season ahead of the Red Sox in the standings. Boston will finish in last place in the AL East for the fourth time in nine seasons.
- Walker Buehler – Though he didn’t stick around long enough to earn the win, the Los Angeles righty one-hit the A’s over four innings with six strikeouts. Buehler threw 45 of 65 pitches for strikes, and the Dodgers earned their 40th win of the season. The Rays are the only other team with a chance to win that many games.
Wrigley Field may not be full of fans next season, either.
Source: Cubs plan for potential limited seating at Wrigley Field in 2021 and cut 60 jobs in their business departm… https://t.co/US9GbBnets
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) September 25, 2020
Sliding Into Home
I am off to the hospital for more tests this morning, and the good news is I’ve reached my maximum financial contribution, so it’s like I have free healthcare for the rest of the calendar year. In the meantime, according to an email I received the other day, good friend and reader Scott Crandall has an extra challenge or two in his immediate future, so keep Twin31s in your thoughts and prayers. Scott loves the Sunday Rundown columns, and I’ve been lax lately, so in honor of my friend, and because this is a big weekend for all Cubs fans, I’ll write columns tomorrow and Sunday. Big hugs, Scott – you’ve got this.
They Said It
- “I think we’re the No. 1 team out of any team that’s gonna be in the postseason that’s happy that everyone is starting at zero. I try to keep the focus on that and telling guys that, ‘Hey, a good postseason and I don’t think anybody will remember your regular-season numbers.’ Everyone just remembers what you did in the postseason. These are the big moments and the big at-bats. Try to focus on what can be is what I’ve been preaching to the club. Don’t worry about what’s already happened, that’s in the past. Worry about what’s ahead of us.” – Jason Kipnis
- “I definitely think that this is the hardest baseball season anybody’s really ever had to go through, from what I’m hearing from other people. Whoever wins the World Series this year should be extremely proud.” – David Ross
Friday Walk Up Song
The Sound of Silence by Disturbed – Somebody wake up those damned bats, please and thank you.