“Keep on smilin’ through the rain, laughin’ at the pain, and rollin’ with the changes til the sun comes out again.” – Wet Willie, Keep on Smilin’
The Cubs beat the Pirates 11-3 last night, and maybe that will be the game that turns things around. Pittsburgh entered play atop the NL Central, but Chicago’s North Side Baseballers got a quality start from Jameson Taillon and big offensive nights from Ian Happ and Christopher Morel. Heck, even Tucker Barnhart got two hits. What in the name of Jed Hoyer is going on here?
It’s hard to believe the Cubs are only 5.5 games behind the Pirates, and the two teams will play each other five more times in the next week. You would have laughed at me if I said it back in March, but this stretch of baseball — with a three-game set against the Orioles sandwiched in between — is likely to determine if on-the-fence Jed is a buyer or a seller come July.
The biggest trade pieces are of course Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, and Cody Bellinger. I’d prefer that the Cubs didn’t have to be peddling their wares once again, but it is starting to feel like that has been the plan since the team broke camp with Morel and Matt Mervis in the minors.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs celebrated Pride Night with a special marketplace in Gallagher Way outside the stadium that consisted of 16 LGBTQ+-owned and friendly businesses
- Bellinger is off to Iowa on a rehab assignment and Seiya Suzuki was back in the lineup after dealing with “some precautionary stuff.”
- The center fielder’s return could cause an interesting ripple effect on the rest of the roster. Bellinger could shift to first base while his knee continues to heal. That would keep Mike Tauchman on the roster, but Mervis could end up back with Iowa. Entering play Tuesday, the Cubs ranked 29th in baseball with a .609 OPS from their first baseman. Mervis is slashing .170/.240/.295 in 96 PAs.
- Suzuki did play last night and finished 1-for-4 with two runs scored.
- Taillon pitched six full innings for the first time this season.
- David Ross tweaked his lineup a bit last night and the Cubs responded with 14 hits and 11 runs. Chicago was also 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
- The team made a number of roster moves before yesterday’s game. Anthony Kay was called up from Iowa and pitched a scoreless inning last night. Miles Mastrobuoni is this year’s Chicago-Iowa shuttle designee, and he was also recalled.
- The Cubs may have found lightning in a bottle by pairing Hendricks with catcher Miguel Amaya. The rookie was being the plate when The Professor fell four outs shy of his first no-hitter. Amaya really suffered from prospect fatigue but looks like he will be a fixture behind the plate for many years. He could also make Yan Gomes a trade candidate before the season ends.
- To make room for Kay on the 40-man roster, Nick Burdi (appendectomy) was transferred to the 60-day IL. Jeremiah Estrada was also optioned to Iowa.
- Stroman bought all of his teammates the latest Nintendo Switch video game system before yesterday’s game. Chicago’s best starter told reporters he thought it would be good for the team to have something to do on the long flight to London later this month when the team takes on the Cardinals in a two-game series.
- Stroman also donated to three Pride charities, one each in Toronto, New York, and Chicago. Brave Space Alliance, a Black- and trans-led LGBTQ+ center on the South Side, is the organization Stroman highlighted locally.
- According to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the Giants could be interested in trading for Stroman ($), though financial sticking points exist.
Odds & Sods
Most men 40 and over still wear backward ball caps thanks to Ken Griffey Jr., and I’m one of them.
Griffey highlights age like fine wine
— Shit Bsb Players Say (@ShitBsbPlyrsSay) June 14, 2023
- St. Louis: It’s been a nightmare of a season for Willson Contreras, and the former Cubs is now struggling with a loss of confidence. The Cardinals are slumping, too, and now sit at 27-41 on the season.
- Milwaukee: The Brewers added some depth to their outfield by signing former top prospect Raimel Tapia. Milwaukee outfielders Garrett Mitchell, Jesse Winker, and Tyrone Taylor are currently on the IL.
- Cincinnati: Joey Votto is set to return from the IL, and Reds fans are worried he could stunt the growth of one of baseball’s youngest teams.
- Pittsburgh: Outfielder Jack Suwinski clobbered two solo home runs off of Taillon, the Pirates’ lone bright spot on a dismal evening. He was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, two RBI, two walks, and two taters.
Climbing the Ladder
“Driver take away my worries of today and leave tomorrow behind.” – Gary Wright, Dream Weaver
If the Cubs are going to fold up the tent and sell again this season, I’d like to see them take a page from the Reds’ and Pirates’ playbook and start promoting their best minor league players. Pete Crow-Armstrong appears ready for a promotion to Iowa, but why not just bring him to Chicago? Hoyer seems to over-coddle his young stars, at least to me.
The Cubs are 13-10 in blowout games after yesterday’s win, but it is a little concerning that a little more than one-third of their games have been wins or losses by five or more runs. Chicago is also 6-11 in one-run games.
Tauchman has emerged as the team’s leadoff hitter and his .389 OBP earned him a spot at the top of the order for the third straight game Tuesday (it rose to .403 during the game). Mervis was 1-for-3 with an RBI single on Tuesday and Happ homered for the first time since May 1. Morel’s home-road splits have done a 180 this season. He has a .807 OPS at Wrigley Field compared to 1.115 on the road. His OPS in away games in 2022 was a puny .638.
- Games Played: 66
- Record: 29-37 (.439)
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,513
- Total Strikeouts: 610
- Strikeout Rate: 24.27%
- Team Batting Average: .245
- Runs Scored: 285
- Runs Allowed: 290
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 22.8%, 0.5% to win the World Series
How About That!
MLB is considering setting limits on off-field spending, including technical staff.
Bally Sports could lose the broadcasting rights of the Twins, Diamondbacks, Guardians, and Rangers as soon as today. The Reds are due payment tomorrow, and Bally is also expected to renege.
MLB will hold its 2024 Field of Dream Game at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field. That’s about 100 miles from Auburn, where Frank Thomas, who now owns the property in Dyersville, IA, played college ball. Rickwood is the oldest baseball park in America. The Cardinals are tentatively scheduled to play the Giants in the ’24 event, though nothing is official.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Gunnar Henderson – The Baltimore rookie was 3-for-5 with a grand slam as the red-hot Orioles dropped the Blue Jays 11-6.
- Hogan Harris – The Oakland swingman pitched seven innings of one-run baseball piggybacking opener Shintaro Fujinami as the Miracle A’s won their seventh straight, beating the Rays 2-1. Oakland fans held a reverse boycott to protest a potential move to Las Vegas, so 27,000+ witnessed Hogan’s gem.
- Philadelphia Batters – The Phillies beat the Diamondbacks 15-3, pounding out 20 hits with eight extra-base hits and four stolen bases. Believe it or not, catcher J.T. Realmuto swiped his 10th bag of the season. John Wathan stole 36 bases in 1982 and holds the single-season MLB record for catchers.
Apropos of Nothing
I think I finally hit rock bottom with my health issues, but the latest string of therapy has made a tremendous difference. I feel like my old self again for the first time in months. Fingers crossed for no regression. I will be eligible for a procedure in October that has 93% efficacy, though I have to travel abroad to receive it and the $22,000 cost is not covered by my insurance. I doubt I’ll have to worry about Cubs playoff baseball, though.
Morel really gets the most out of every home run cut.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 14, 2023
They Said It
- “I’m trying to continue to form the lineup in a way that gets us the most runs.” – Ross
- “I’m sure this season’s been stressful on [Ross]. He’s trying to put the magic pieces together, and I appreciate that. I’ve seen what he’s been doing behind the scenes, and I know he’s rooting for us and pulling for us. But at the end of the day, I think sometimes it just comes down to us just playing better.” – Taillon
- “I loved everything about the [San Francisco] organization, top down. Talking to the GM, talking to Gabe Kapler, talking to Farhan Zaidi, all those guys were pretty incredible. So, yeah, nothing but love for the organization. I feel like they’re one of the more progressive organizations in the big leagues, and I like how they handle everything, not only on the field but off the field as well.” – Stroman
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Has anybody ever seen Burton Cummings and Robert Goulet in the same room at the same time?