The Rundown: North Siders Close Home Schedule Against Cards, Replacement Cubs Deserve Victory Lap, White Sox Clinch, Dogfight in AL East
“We could steal time for just one day, we can be heroes forever and ever, what would you say?” David Bowie, Heroes (performed by Hollywood Vampires)
The Cubs will take the field at the Friendly Confines for the last time this season when they take on the Cardinals this weekend. St. Louis has won 12 straight and is the hottest team in baseball. They’re truly peaking at the right time and now have a 4.5-game lead over the Phillies for the second Wild Card spot. That would entitle them to a winner-take-all playoff tilt against the Giants or Dodgers.
Summer went by pretty quickly and a lot of Cubs fans lost interest after Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrew Chafin were traded away in July, but the Replacement Cubs have given us plenty to cheer about for the last two months. Heck, they’ve even played nearly .500 ball this month and could feasibly put a dent in the Cardinals’ postseason aspirations with seven games left against them.
In showing reverence to this merry band of misfits and castoffs, I’ll paraphrase fictional head coach Jimmy McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) from the 2000 movie The Replacements:
“When the [Chicago Cubs] left the field that day, there was no ticker-tape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers or soda pop, or breakfast cereal. Just a locker to be cleaned out, and a ride home to catch. But what they didn’t know was that their lives had been changed forever because they had been part of something great. And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man. Every athlete dreams of a second chance, these men lived it.”
Frank Schwindel MLB ranks since August 6th
🔥 Batting Average – 1st (.369)
🔥 Hits – 1st (55)
🔥 HR – T-4th (13)
🔥 RBI – T-3rd (35)
🔥 XBH – T-3rd (24) pic.twitter.com/aCo9F1gINR
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) September 18, 2021
The truth is, without Jed Hoyer’s great midseason selloff, Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega, and Alfonso Rivas might not have received the full-time opportunities they were awarded starting in August. Nobody knows what the future holds for these gentlemen but they’ve all earned the opportunity to get a similar opportunity next year.
Despite one of the ugliest strikeout rates in the game, Wisdom managed to break the club record for home runs by a rookie. Schwindel was cut by three teams and came out of nowhere to be Chicago’s best hitter. Ortega has at least earned a platoon share of at-bats next season. Rivas looks like he could be another late-budding star.
If anything, these sub-Cubs give Hoyer the insane depth that he and Theo Epstein just couldn’t find in the years after the 2016 championship. At the very least, that means next season the front office doesn’t have to pin their hopes to the likes of Daniel Descalso, Steven Souza Jr., and Eric Sogard to fortify the team’s starting lineup. For that, the post-deadline Cubs deserve a victory lap and the adoring accolades usually bestowed upon Chicago’s star players.
If you make it to Wrigley Field this weekend, give our North Side neo-baseballers a standing ovation. They may never get another.
Cubs News & Notes
- Are these sub-Cubs prepared for what comes next?
- Schwindel has played 46 games for the Cubs and 21 of them have been multi-hit games. His 2.3 WAR is now tied with Wisdom for first on the team.
- Wisdom’s goal for next season? “Same boom, less bust.” Hey, the kid’s ready for a Miller Lite commercial. if anything.
- Alec Mills has made a pretty strong case to be part of the team’s starting rotation next season.
- The Cubs’ next-generation rotation will look nothing like the pitching staffs of previous years.
- Willson Contreras has three home runs and six RBI in his last five starts. He’s 5-for-16 (.313) in those games.
- Jason Heyward is probably done for the season due to a concussion, though he wants to make it back. The right fielder hasn’t played since September 11. “In my mind, talking to him and starting to count down days of trying to get back, the word I’d probably use is ‘doubtful,’ but we’re definitely holding out hope,” manager David Ross said before the series finale against the Twins. “It’s just such a tricky injury.”
- Ross said he would like the front office to add at least two starters for next season.
- The Cubs have a number of intriguing shortstops through their farm system, and all of them are vying to be the next Báez.
- If you’re prospecting future Cubs, the organization has a number of intriguing storylines worth following this winter.
- With an 8.62 KB/BB rate, starter Caleb Killian is the best in the minors of anyone who has thrown at least 100 innings. Killian was acquired from the Giants in the Bryant trade and has 112 strikeouts in 19 starts against 13 walks.
Odds & Sods
Thanks to Danny Rockett, aka Son Ranto, we have video proof that Tom Ricketts intends to field a winning team next season. Make sure you catch The Son Ranto Show podcasts here at Cubs Insider.
Tom Ricketts just promised me we’d be good next year. pic.twitter.com/3Gf65sxqRl
— Danny Rockett (@SonRanto) September 23, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“But I really, really want to thank you for dancing ’til the end. You found a way to break out, you’re not afraid to break out.” – Janelle Monáe, Dance Apocalyptic
- Games Played: 152
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,597
- Total Strikeouts: 1,520
- Strikeout Rate: 27.2%
- Team Batting Average: .234
The Brewers and Marlins are the only NL teams with a worse batting average than the Cubs, and with a .308 OBP, Chicago is 13th in the NL. There is definitely offseason work to be done. Imagine where they’d be without Frank the Tank.
How About That!
As part of Hispanic Heritage month, USA Today revealed their all-Cuban team, which includes closer Aroldis Chapman and designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro.
The White Sox have clinched the AL Central title for the first time since 2008, which is also the last time both Chicago teams played in the same postseason.
With 10 games left in the season, the AL East is a Wild Card frenzy, with the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays all fighting for the two slots (subscription to ESPN+ required).
Though the Mariners are two games off the pace, they shouldn’t be discounted either. Seattle has won seven of their last 10 games and just swept the A’s.
The Padres are looking to play spoiler against the Braves this weekend.
Though the Brewers have earned a spot in the postseason, the red-hot Cardinals have kept them from clinching the NL Central. Still, that 1982 Milwaukee team, led by Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, Ted Simmons, and Gorman Thomas was one of the best ever. Ironically, they lost to St. Louis in the World Series that year.
Meanwhile, the Reds have fallen out of the race pretty quickly.
Nick Gordon is an emerging superstar for the Twins. Gordon has contributed a .362/.412/.638 slash line (1.050 OPS) in 16 games this month.
MLB is going to use pre-tacked baseballs at Triple-A next season, which I guess is another way of saying league-allowed sticky substances.
Cleveland is finally saying goodbye to its current nickname. On Monday, one of the American League’s charter franchises will play its final home game of 2021 and last at Progressive Field as the Indians, the team’s name since 1915. Back then, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was the starting right fielder on Opening Day.
Unlike last year when the Rays relied on veteran starters to reach the World Series, their success this season has come because of a number of rookie pitchers.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Paul Goldschmidt – The Cardinals are riding a 12-game winning streak and just swept the Brewers, and Goldschmidt is a big reason why. The handsomely-paid first baseman has two home runs and three RBI last night in an 8-5 win over Milwaukee.
- Juan Soto – Washington’s superstar right fielder was 3-for-3 with two taters and two RBI as the Nationals felled the sliding Reds 3-2.
- J.T. Realmuto – The Phillies were down 6-0 to the Pirates before scoring 12 unanswered runs, largely in part to Realmuto. The backstop was 3-for-3 on the night with a home run and four RBI as Philadelphia inched to within two games of the first-place Braves in the NL East.
Is Soto the Ted Williams of this era? You could make a compelling case.
Remember when it was said "Juan Soto is the Ted Williams of this era"?
Players with 95+ HR and 350+ BB in their first 455 games:
Juan Soto (98 HR | 359 BB)
Ted Williams (96 HR | 367 BB)
End of list📃#NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/ozUE8zYLKO
— Erick José Lantigua (@EJLantigua) September 24, 2021
Apropos of Nothing
If you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band, I have great news for you. On November 16, Springsteen will release The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concert footage in its entirety on digital video. No word yet on where it will stream but based on the current availability of his video catalog, I’d say Amazon Prime is probably most likely. The 90-minute performance features all 13 songs newly edited from original film footage, restored and remixed in HD. I’ve heard the audio and standout songs include “Sherry Darling,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” and the Mitch Ryder medley.
They Said It
- “This is my first full big-league year, so for me to get through that and grind through that, obviously the last few (starts) haven’t been what I’ve hoped for. But let’s finish on a strong note, be a cornerstone maybe for what’s going to happen next year.” – Mills
- “[Contreras] is swinging the bat really well, and that at-bat just emphasized that when he’s on pitches, his timing’s really good, and you could definitely see that carry forward. Hopefully, the off day doesn’t mess him up too much. Some of those guys get too much rest and that’s not good.” – Ross
- “I’m ready to be in the majors. Don’t [sign] any shortstops. You have a lot.” – 18-year-old shortstop prospect Kevin Made (pronounced MAW-day).
Friday Walk-Up Song
Living in the Heart of Love by The Rolling Stones – The new music video for their Tattoo You reissue is dedicated to the band’s drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away last month.
Ever moving forward, the band just kicked off their tour with drummer Steve Jordan replacing Watts. Take a look at some footage from their first night out in Foxborough, MA as well as a touching on-stage tribute from frontman Mick Jagger. If you don’t know Jordan, he’s a very worthy replacement.