The Rundown: Hughes Honored, Three Cubs to Watch, Future Outfield On Display in South Bend, MLB Holding Umpire Camp

“You’re simply the best. Better than all the rest.” – Tina Turner, Simply the Best

Before I get started, congratulations are in order for fan favorite Pat Hughes. The play-by-play announcer and staple of Cubs radio broadcasts earned an inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame yesterday. Hughes was joined by Buck O’Neil and José Cardenal as 2022 inductees. That’s one heck of a trio.

Now I’d like to give you a trio of current Cubs to watch for the rest of this season. How each finishes 2022 should dictate the course of action that Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins take this winter.

  1. Nick Madrigal – It’s been an up-and-down 12 months since Madrigal arrived from the White Sox in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to the opposite side of town. Since returning to the lineup on August 4, Madrigal is slashing .321/.406/.357 (through Tuesday). That SLG is frighteningly low but power has never been part of the second baseman’s arsenal. That said, he’s going to have to start barreling some baseballs to keep the Cubs from shopping for middle infielders this winter. If they are committed to Nico Hoerner at shortstop — and they should be — they need to find power elsewhere. Keeping the light-hitting pair as Chicago’s double-play combination would mean Hoyers is going to have to splurge on an outfielder or first baseman who can regularly put a baseball into the outfield stands. Preferably one who bats from the left side.
  2. P.J. Higgins – If you think I’m going to suggest the Cubs trade Willson Contreras and elevate Yan Gomes to starter with Higgins as his backup, you’re wrong. I think it’s imperative that Hoyer extend Contreras and, if Higgins shows he’s cable of 300-350 solid at-bats, trade Gomes. Higgins has a 109 OPS+ in 168 plate appearances, and his 21.4% strikeout rate indicates he could be even better with more playing time. Not many teams have second-string catchers that can belt 12-15 home runs, and Higgins can also play first base. That versatility means keeping the rookie is an easy decision, but it’s much wiser to have him as an understudy to Contreras.
  3. Rowan Wick – The Cubs do not have a closer right now and Wick should be that guy, but he’s been terrible at times. The righty has been very hittable and he walks too many guys, which is why he has that unsightly 1.68 WHIP. The problem is that the few times Wick has been dominant have been outliers. If he can’t establish control of the zone without giving up hard contact, the front office is going to have to find a closer this winter. I’m betting against Wick. Maybe Codi Heuer is the answer, but he is probably more of a set-up guy. Adbert Alzolay and Brailyn Márquez could be options, but I still don’t trust their ability to adapt and each has a wretched history of injuries. Before you mention him, forget Burl Carraway, and Manny Rodriguez for that matter, too.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to beat the shift and still failing. Heckuva web gem courtesy of Matt Chapman, by the way.

“See the way he walks down the street. Watch the way he shuffles his feet. My, he holds his head up high when he goes walking by.” – The Crystals, He’s a Rebel

Hoerner had three hits last night and shows no signs of slowing down in his resurgent season. Zach McKinstry hit his first home run since the Cubs acquired him.

  • Games Played: 124
  • Total Plate Appearances: 4,683
  • Total Strikeouts: 1,089
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.25%
  • Team Batting Average: .243
  • Runs Scored: 515
  • Runs Allowed: 588

How About That!

Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz set an exit velocity record last night when he smoked a single that was clocked at 122.4 MPH.

The Nationals will promote top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli for Friday night’s game against the Reds. Cavalli, MacKenzie Gore, and Josiah Gray should form the nucleus of Washington’s 2023 rotation.

It is being reported that Washington GM Mike Rizzo is on the hot seat heading into next season.

The Dodgers are an MLB-best 84-37 and look like the favorite to win this year’s World Series.

The Mets have the easiest remaining schedule of all teams with a legitimate chance to make the postseason.

Six players in the Dominican Summer League were suspended 60 games each by Major League Baseball on Wednesday after testing positive for performance-enhancing substances.

Do you think you’re better than Joe West and Angel Hernandez when it comes to calling balls and strikes? MLB is hosting a free, one-day umpiring camp on Saturday in Brooklyn.

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Nathaniel Lowe – The Rangers DH had a five-RBI game and finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle. Go ahead and go look him up. I never heard of him until this morning either.
  2. Matt Manning – Detroit’s most-heralded pitcher since Justin Verlander is finally starting to pitch like an ace. Manning tossed six scoreless frames at the Giants with eight strikeouts, earning his first win of the season as the Tigers dropped San Francisco 6-1. Manning has allowed one earned run in his last 13 innings pitched.
  3. George Kirby – He didn’t get the win last night, but the Mariners starter pitched seven innings of one-run baseball with nine punchouts. Even more impressive? The first 24 pitches he threw last night were all strikes.

Extra Innings

I can’t stop watching this.

Thursday Morning Six-Pack

  1. NFL Insider Adam Schefter “thinks” the Bears will trade offensive lineman Teven Jenkins as they finalize their 53-man roster for this season. Don’t believe the rumors. It looks like Jenkins will be Chicago’s starting right guard on Opening Sunday.
  2. One guy who won’t be traded – at least not in the next week or two – is edge rusher Robert Quinn. He’ll anchor the Bears’ defensive line in their switch back to the Tampa-2 defense.
  3. I don’t know if it’s a point of pride or not, but 12 of America’s top 20 drunkest cities are in Wisconsin, including the top four.
  4. Today is National Kiss and Makeup Day, so if you’re angry with me for any reason, consider it water under the bridge (for today). I’ll grab the Listerine so we can just get this over with.  That said, I’m also open to an airing of grievances with a test of strength.
  5. The state will announce today that it’ll ban the sale of new cars that use gasoline by 2035. It’s a landmark moment in the fight against climate change, given that California’s economy is so big it would rank as the fifth largest in the world if it were a country.
  6. A new study shows how psychedelics, in conjunction with talk therapy, have the potential to treat alcohol addictions. It’s the latest evidence that hallucinogenic drugs—particularly the magic mushroom’s key ingredient, psilocybin—have medical uses.

They Said It

  • “We’re thrilled to add Buck, Pat, and José to the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame. Their contributions to the game of baseball and the Cubs organization are deserving of such recognition within the walls of Wrigley Field. We look forward to adding more plaques to the Hall of Fame in the coming years.” – Crane Kenney
  • “I love playing for the Cubs. I think that being here, being part of the next great team here would be one of the coolest things you could do as an athlete. Being there from the quote-unquote rebuild, or whatever you want to call it, to the next championship would be an incredible thing to do.” – Hoerner

Thursday Walk-Up Song

Congratulations again, Mr. Hughes. Now let’s get you to Cooperstown.

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