Remember when the Cubs played really poorly in April and people feared Jed Hoyer was about to fly the white flag of surrender? Even I was being forced to reconsider my generally rosy predictions for the team. Then things changed and May saw them run roughshod over just about everyone on the way to first place in the division. Now almost halfway through a very difficult June schedule, the Cubs continue to play great baseball.
Sunday’s win over the Cardinals ensured the Cubs a tie with Milwaukee, which has played a very weak schedule of late, atop the division. It also secured a sweep of St. Louis to add to similar results against the Dodgers, Mets, and Padres at Wrigley this season. The Cubs took two of three in San Diego immediately prior to the Cards series, so not all of the recent success is at home.
You can parse the results all you want by pointing to pitching matchups, injuries, or venue, but the fact of the matter is that the Cubs are 11 games over .500 and are playing very good all-around baseball. That includes the starting rotation, which just put together a very impressive run that featured excellent outings from Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Zach Davies.
The latter has mirrored his team’s performance, pitching to a 1.86 ERA in nine starts since April ended, and makes the Cubs much more dynamic. There’s still a lot of time left, but Hoyer should absolutely be buying at the deadline. How much he spends from a farm system that is just starting to establish a legitimate pipeline again, however, is another matter.
The Cubs need pitching and there are going to be some very good arms on the market, but it seems unlikely Hoyer will want to give up what it’ll take to acquire one or more of them for a stretch run. Given how many players are on expiring deals, the window is just too narrow to risk losing future contributors. Or at least that’s how I see him viewing it.
In any case, they’ve come a long way since a certain quasi beat reporter said they had zero shot at winning the World Series. I’m not naming any names here, but I’ll offer a clue: It rhymes with Schmesse Schmrogers.
Speaking of no shot…
Much has been made of the Cubs’ failure to reach the 85% vaccination threshold for Tier 1 employees, with most of the public discourse dealing with who has gotten their shot(s). Some of it has been very concrete, though. David Ross got his very early on and has been vocal in support of vaccination, Hoyer called reaching the threshold a distinct competitive advantage, and other play, and Kris Bryant talked about how getting his vaccine took a weight off of his shoulders.
Javier Báez and Willson Contreras are even part of public campaigns to promote vaccinations among members of the general public. This weekend brought more confirmation from those on the other side of the decision, as Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward both told members of the media they have opted against getting vaccinated.
“It’s a decision I made, and I stand with it,” Rizzo said Friday. “Obviously, there are people that are going to hate me and think I’m disgusting, and there are people that are going to side with me. It’s out in the open. I try to keep everything personal, but as far as being a leader on this team, I go out there every day and play your best baseball. Don’t be an idiot off the field, just continue to be smart and be aware of everything that’s going on.”
The de facto team captain indeed caught a lot of grief online in the wake of his announcement that he hasn’t gotten a shot, then he put together an epic 14-pitch at-bat that ended in a different kind of shot. Winning tends to cure all ills, except for coronavirus. Hence the vaccines.
Whether spurred by Rizzo’s admission or perhaps the response to it, Heyward offered his own ham-handed explanation Sunday. While he’s not wrong about MLB getting lax with mask protocols or about how people who certainly aren’t vaccinated are shoulder-to-shoulder with those are, turning it around and talking about fans isn’t a good look.
“In the grand scheme it doesn’t matter,” Heyward told the Tribune’s Phil Thompson. “You can take it and say, ‘Oh, Jason Heyward, or whoever, didn’t get the vaccination because’ … all right, that goes out there, and then tomorrow nobody gives a damn. … There’s still someone coming to a game who didn’t get vaccinated, sitting around other people who are vaccinated or not vaccinated, not wearing a mask.
“There’s still people getting in movies, still people going out, they’ll be at Lollapalooza, they’ll be at the freaking air show, not vaccinated, not wearing a mask, doing whatever they want to do.”
The right fielder has been a force for good in the Chicago community and in other more national social justice and equality efforts, so it’s a little surprising to see him handle things the way he did. After all, keeping your mouth shut is free. This isn’t even a matter of disagreeing with his stance, which I obviously do, it’s a matter of how he addressed it.
Heyward also talked about having an adverse reaction to the flu vaccine and feeling bad for three days after, which was particularly bad because it came late in the season as they were prepping for the playoff. Not only is that not applicable since it’s June, I’m sure plenty of folks will be quick to point out that having a guy with a 60 wRC+ out of the lineup for a couple days isn’t very detrimental.
- Russell Dorsey of the Sun-Times worked for two months to put together the story of an unlikely bromance that we now know as Bryzzo.
- Shane Bieber of the Indians gave up two homers on his vaunted curveball yesterday, the first time that’s ever happened. His spin rate was down about 300 rpm, nearly 15%, which might not be coincidental.
- The Cubs are all the way up to No. 9 in MLB.com’s latest power rankings. The Padres are at 5, in case you were wondering.
- Here are 10 starting pitcher trade candidates.
Canter should be back tomorrow, thank God.