The Rundown: Cubs Dominating Down Home Stretch, Sun Sets on Heyward and Possibly Contreras, La Russa Set to Retire
“But if all of these dreams might find their way into my day-to-day scene, I’d be under the impression I was somewhere in between.” – Jack Johnson, Better Together
Believe it or not, the Cubs are 31-26 (.544) since August 1, which is better than the Brewers (27-29), Padres (30-26), and Phillies (30-26), and right behind the Mets (34-23). Additionally, Chicago has won 11 of its last 12 games, the best in all of baseball. I would have liked them to finish with a better chance in this year’s lottery drawing, but you’ve got to give it up to David Ross and his players for playing meaningful baseball even though the team has been eliminated from playoff contention. The Cubs would be a Wild Card team if they had played .544 baseball all season.
The best of the streak has been three-game sweeps of the Phillies and Mets. The Cubs can rightfully say they helped knock New York out of first place. Were it not for an epic late-season meltdown by the Brewers, the Phillies might be on the outside looking in, too. Chairman Tom Ricketts must be caught up in all the excitement because Cubs Convention is returning in January after a three-year hiatus.
If Ricketts and his family truly intend to entertain their die-hard fanbase, expect Jed Hoyer to be as active in free agency and the trade market as his boss has previously promised. The team is banking on its youth to buoy its next spending spree and with the Cubs on the verge of a three-year wave of minor league call-ups, it seems like a good time to rev that fandom engine. I’m sure Ricketts will also use the event to give a final and proper farewell to Jason Heyward.
Of course, Hoyer made the very same promises last September, too. As Alexander Pope once wrote, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” In other words, exercise trepidation and guard yourself with extreme caution against disappointment. By the way, that quote is not cryptic messaging to insinuate any potential trade for Shohei Ohtani.
Despite Chicago’s impressive streak, we’re all looking forward to Hot Stove Season. The Cubs will close the curtain on 2022 with a three-game set at Cincinnati starting today. A sweep would give Chicago 76 wins, six games better than most preseason forecasts. The Cubs beat the Reds 8-1 yesterday, closing out a 6-0 run in their final homestand.
Things have gone so well that it’s almost tough to call the pending season-recap presser a postmortem event. The Cubs are trending forward and it’s a very good feeling, indeed. There should be nothing but positive vibes when Ross and Hoyer address the media later this week.
There are 179 days until the start of the 2023 season, and yes, I’m already counting.
Cubs News & Notes
- Sunday’s game proved to be quite emotional for All-Star catcher Willson Contreras.
- While it’s possible Contreras will accept the QO or that he and the Cubs can work something out on a multi-year deal, the team reportedly wants to move in a different direction.
- Contreras received an extended standing ovation in his first plate appearance Sunday, and his last, in which he drew a walk. He got another when Ross then removed him for a pinch runner.
- Marcus Stroman will enter 2023 as Chicago’s number one starter unless Hoyer signs one of the premium free agents.
- Stroman said things truly are different with the Cubs than with other organizations, adding that “The fanbase has a lot to do with it.” He sounds like a guy who’s ready to recruit a stud pitcher and shortstop.
- The Arizona Fall League commences today, so here’s a look at the eight Cubs prospects who will be participating this year.
- The Cubs shared a touching video tribute to Heyward on Saturday.
- Heyward shared stories of the 2016 season in return, and all are worth rehashing over and over and over again.
- The team had a special message for its fans after Sunday’s game concluded. Ross and the rest of the coaching staff and players stayed on the field clapping and singing along as “Go Cubs Go” blared throughout Wrigley Field.
Odds & Sods
Hayden Wesneski is a hero to all of the baseball geeks and stat nerds who understand math and physics as much, if not more, than the game itself.
Nerded out with #Cubs starter Hayden Wesneski today.
Pitchers who are comfortable chatting seam effects & intent-based command training are the best. @WatchMarquee
Will thread some of his comments below. First on seam effects & how they help his slider… pic.twitter.com/9EB8gto25f
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) October 2, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“I wonder if tomorrow will be like today.” – Nelson, (Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection
Nelson Velázquez jumped above the Mario Mendoza line with a 2-for-3 afternoon that included two RBI. Stroman had a strong outing, his third consecutive at home. Stro has allowed two earned runs in his last 20 innings with 18 strikeouts against the Rockies, Phillies, and Reds. Nico Hoerner has nine home runs this year, more than his previous career major and minor league total combined.
Give Adrian Sampson the quote of the year after his September 8 outing: “Heaven on Earth is pitching at Wrigley on a day like today.”
- Games Played: 159
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,952
- Total Strikeouts: 1,417
- Strikeout Rate: 23.81%
- Team Batting Average: .240
- Runs Scored: 639
- Runs Allowed: 723
How About That!
The MLB playoffs start this week whether Aaron Judge hits home run No. 62 or not. That said, we’re all rooting for him to make history.
The Yankees slugger has four games against the Rangers to break the AL record held by Roger Maris. Including Sunday’s game, Judge has been walked 17 times with one HBP in his last 10 games.
Jacob deGrom gave up more homers (9) than walks (8) in 11 starts this season – with 102 strikeouts. He isn’t planning to pitch again until the playoffs start, but could take the bump Wednesday against the Nationals if the Mets still have a shot at winning the division.
After sweeping the Mets, the Braves’ magic number to clinch the NL East is down to one.
The Mariners ended a 20-year playoff drought by clinching a Wild Card spot over the weekend.
The Angels avoided arbitration with Ohtani on Saturday as they signed the two-way star to a one-year deal worth $30 million for the 2023 season. Ohtani, the reigning AL MVP, remains set to be a free agent after next year. The early agreement could also be a precursor to a winter trade. That situation certainly bears watching.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Cardinals are expected to join the Cubs and a number of teams in pursuing the top shortstops on the market this offseason: Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, and Dansby Swanson.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa is expected to announce his retirement on Monday.
Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, as many as eight teams could be looking for new managers this winter ($).
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Contreras – Oh captain, my captain. If this is really the end of your tenure in Chicago, you will be missed.
- Albert Pujols – This is really the regular season end for the veteran slugger, and he’s going out with a bang. Pujols hit s his 23rd homer of the season on a 2-for-2 afternoon and now has 702 in his illustrious career.
- Mike Trout – Baseball’s top player hit his 39th home run and he’s done that in 115 games. That’s a pace that nearly rivals Judge.
Those closeups of Mickey Mantle and Sal Maglie are intense. I’m not sure how broadcasters did that in the 1950s unless they used stock footage from spring training or something.
Today In 1956: New York #Yankees legend Mickey Mantle hammers a HR vs. Brooklyn #Dodgers pitcher Sal Maglie in Game 1 of the World Series at Ebbets Field! #MLB #Baseball #History #Postseason pic.twitter.com/CwOXeO7shT
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) October 3, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney had their best games of the season but that’s not saying much given prior results. The Bears still lost to the Giants, 20-12.
- Robert Quinn, Kyler Gordon, Dominique Robinson, and Trevis Gipson all had forgettable games, but the blame for yesterday’s loss sits squarely on the shoulders of GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus.
- In one of the world’s worst sports stadium tragedies, 125 people died after a match between Arema FC and Persebaya FC on Saturday. After Arema (the home team) lost, police fired tear gas at rioting fans who had come onto the pitch, leading to panic and a run for the exits.
- Chess isn’t the only sport to be rocked by cheating allegations recently. On Friday, a competitive fishing tournament in Cleveland went off the rails after the two winning anglers were found to have loaded up their five fish with lead balls and other items, adding eight pounds of total weight.
- Higher gas prices are coming just as the U.S. enters its mid-term election cycle, and that can’t be good for Democrats. The OPEC+ alliance will consider lopping off more than 1 million barrels a day in oil production as soon as this week in a bid to boost prices. That move, the biggest cut in production since the pandemic, will undoubtedly anger the White House.
- The Cubs and the Bears aren’t the only teams in the midst of a rebuild. SNL kicked off its 48th season with an almost entirely new cast. Unfortunately, the schtick seemed tired and regurgitated except for an opening bit that parodied Eli and Peyton Manning.
They Said It
- “I know this is the last game of the season, especially the last home game of my journey with the Cubs. Just going to go out there with my head up high and keep doing the best for this team into the last day. The fans appreciate how hard I work. I’m a guy that gives 100 percent, and they see the effort.” – Contreras
- “We’re going to be better. We’re getting better. Guys love playing here. They love playing in front of you. It’s a special place to be. It’s a special park to come to. It’s a special energy with Wrigleyville and the whole area around here. The love they show us…doesn’t go unnoticed.” – Ross
- “Baseball should consider making two separate home run records. PED home runs and [non-PED] home runs. Baseball’s commissioner established separate home run records in 1961. Babe Ruth was credited as the home run king with 60. [My father] was credited for his 61 separately under 162 games.” – Roger Maris, Jr.
Monday Walk-Up Song
It’s nice to write positive columns but it’s also a bit confusing because things still seem a little premature given Chicago’s roster.