Archive | Chicago Cubs

Cubs Off to Best Start in Years; Win Streak at 7

Posted on 10 May 2016 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs game was postponed due to rain last evening but the club looks to keep their win streak intact as they host the San Diego Padres tonight at Wrigley Field and shoot for their eighth straight win in as many tries. They will send Jon Lester to the mound to take on Cesar Vargas with first pitch coming at 7:05PM.

The Cubs are ascendant right now entering a different stratosphere than much of the league. They are truly firing on all cylinders; getting the job done with quality starting pitching, a lock down bullpen, a potent offense capable of smashing homers or grinding it out base by base. Every game seems to produce a new hero stepping up on defense or at the plate. The only constant is that the Cubs just keep winning. Fresh off a perfect week that saw them sweep both the Pirates and Nationals, the Cubs find themselves with a 24 – 6 record, good for tops in the Majors and also the best start in the MLB in 32 years. The week culminated in a walk-off home run from Javy Baez in 13 innings on Sunday that sent the Wrigley faithful into hysterics and crushed the Nationals’ spirit on a day that it appeared they might break through.

Javy Baez walk-off

This is new and rarefied air for a Chicago team coming off several, mostly disappointing decades. While still very, very early this team is proving to be of contender-caliber as evidenced by their unbelievable +102 run differential through 30 games and a whopping 8 game lead in their division over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This is shaping up to be a special season and the Cubs hope to keep the magic rolling despite heavy rains on the north side of Chicago the last couple days. Here’s hoping for clear and dry skies tonight.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Addison Russell Delivers in Win over Brew Crew; Cubs Reach Ten over .500

Posted on 27 April 2016 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs upped their record to an MLB-best 15 – 5, on a chilly Tuesday night at the Friendly Confines behind a sharp outing by Kyle Hendricks who pitched five innings while giving up just two hits and one earned run. Hendricks was lifted in the bottom of the fifth but not due to his performance. Manager Joe Maddon simply found an opportunity to manufacture runs on a night that cold temps had made runs hard to come by.


Facing a 1 – 0 deficit with just one out and two men in scoring position; Joe Maddon figured this was the time to strike. With the pitcher’s spot due up; Maddon lifted Hendricks, after just 69 pitches, in favor of Tommy “3am” La Stella. With runs at a premium, Maddon went all in and although La Stella merely walked; he extended the inning and allowed the next man up the opportunity to drive one in, which Dexter Fowler ably did sending a deep sac-fly to center and scoring Soler from third to knot the game up one-all.

Russell Triple Flex

This set the stage for Addison Russell’s late-game theatrics in the sixth inning. After Kris Bryant reached on an error and Ben Zobrist walked, Russell smacked a two-out triple to deep right-center scoring both men and breaking the game wide open for the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo, thankfully added an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to make it 4 – 1; a margin they would use to hang on as the Brewers Ryan Braun delivered an RBI double off the bench in the eighth to bring Milwaukee within a run.

Hector Rondon came on to close in the ninth and made things interesting. After recording the first two outs on a strikeout and groundout, Rondon gave up a single to CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis eliciting some unease from Cubs fans not accustomed to tight contests this year. Brewers third baseman Aaron Hill stepped to the plate next and almost delivered a Brewers’ walk-off celebration, as he flied out to deep left field with Cubs fans holding their breath. The ball appeared to be held up in the wind, saving the Cubs from a potential collapse.

The Brewers and Cubs seemed to be in agreement on this as Milwaukee center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis intimated:

“He’s been a good guy in these spots lately and almost came up with that one at the end there; I think that ball is gone for sure if the wind is not blowing.”

Hector Rondon gave off a look of relief as catcher David Ross came out to congratulate him; knowing how close the Cubs had coming to being on the other end of the one-run game.

Still, the results persist as the Cubs had to play through the wind and cold as well and came away with a 4 – 3 ‘W’. They were able to hang on for the victory and ascend to pole position in the the MLB standings. Their 15 – 5 record gets them off to their best start in over 100+ years and their ten game margin over .500 is a benchmark in how far this team has come from even a year ago. Last year, it took until the dog days of August to reach the milestone; a full three months later than the club this year. That’s a nice testament to this team getting hot of the gate but doesn’t mean anything in terms of how they will handle the grind of a long season. Nevertheless, it shows how dialed in these guys are; the focus and drive of players not only wanting to be better than last year, but the best version of themselves. The Cubs know the expectations and are embracing them fully.

“We talked about this in the spring,” Anthony Rizzo said. “About turning up the levels to get ready for this.”

It appears that the dial has been turned to ’11’ with little chance of being turned down. A formidable combination of excellent pitching with batting-practice type power at the plate has taken the league by storm.

A storm is where we find ourselves tonight as cold temps and rain have enveloped Wrigley creating a dreary atmosphere for Jake Arrieta’s first start post no-no. He is set to face off against Milwaukee’s Taylor Jungmann with first pitch coming at 7:05Pm CST.

Here’s to hoping the rain clears up so Arrieta and Co. can stay on schedule.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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The Song Remains the Same; Cubs Pitchers Get it Done on the Mound & at the Plate (AGAIN!)

Posted on 20 April 2016 by Bob

For the second night in a row, a Cubs pitcher held the opposing team in check and delivered an RBI single. This time it was Jason Hammel’s turn as he threw six innings of five-hit, one-run ball while striking out six. Facing a one run deficit in the top of the fourth inning, Hammel stepped to the plate with two outs and bases loaded. He proceeded to slap a grounder right between the third baseman and shortstop to drive in not one, but two runs as Jorge Soler and Ben Zobrist came around to score.  They would be the only runs the Cubs would score, but ultimately all the runs they would need as the bullpen combination of Warren, Wood, Strop, and Rondon would work innings seven through nine to keep the Cards at bay and make the one-run lead hold up. The Cardinals lone run coming on a Yadier Molina triple in the second inning that scored Randal Grichuk.

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 19: Starter Jason Hammel #39 of the Chicago Cubs hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium on April 19, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

It was in many ways a replay of the night before when John Lackey went seven strong innings and nabbed himself an RBI single, albeit not the game winner as Lackey was already working with a lead. This night was “Hammel Time” for sure but Jason Heyward grabbed some of the headline yet again this series.  In the bottom of the fourth, with Matt Holliday on third base representing the tying run, Yadier Molina flied out to right field. Holliday was sent by the third base coach and Heyward, using those defensive instincts we’ve heard so much about, got in perfect position to make the catch while already preparing his body to make the throw home. He rifled the ball to Catcher Miguel Montero who was able to apply the tag just as Holliday was sliding towards the plate. Despite another  ‘0-fer’ night at the plate, Heyward’s defense has not only helped us to forget the lack of hits but also preserved the Cubs lead at 2 – 1, which would become the final score.

Heyward throws out Holliday

There’s been a bit of fussing lately concerning the low batting averages of some of the Cubs big hitters and rightfully so. After all, we can’t expect Dexter Fowler to keep up the torrid pace he has begun the season with. Still, it ultimately comes down to if you win the game or not, and to date, the Cubs have done a lot more winning than losing. No one says the heart of your order has to bat  over .200 to win; sure, it helps, but it’s not required. Sometimes taking a walk, or finding a way to get on base, coupled with a stellar defensive effort is enough to get you in position. The Cubs bats will surely wake up as April gives way to May and (hopefully) warmer temperatures. In the mean time, the Cubs don’t need to apologize for anything. They have won big and now they have won a tight contest; the bottom line is that they are finding ways to win, always the hallmark of a good ball club.

The series finale is currently in progress with the Cardinals jumping on Kyle Hendricks early, notching 2 runs apiece in each of the first two innings. The Cubs got one back in the fourth against Carlos Martinez on an Anthony Rizzo solo home run, but it’s been pretty much all Cards so far. Given how well the Cubs pitchers had kept St. Louis in check in over the first two games, the Red Birds were due to break out a bit, especially at home against the Cubs #5 starter. The game is currently in a prolonged rain delay in the seventh inning.

Here’s hoping the Cubs can get the runs and weather to climb back into this thing and complete the sweep. If not, two out of three ain’t bad.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Lackey Carries Cubs Past Cards in Return to Busch

Posted on 19 April 2016 by Bob

In his much-ballyhooed return to St. Louis, John Lackey put on quite a show. He may wear a Cubs jersey now but the man clearly still feels at home in Busch Stadium scattering four hits over seven innings while striking out 11, just shy of his career high. More importantly, he allowed zero earned runs, building on his 1.93 home ERA at Busch last year. Pretty impressive for 37-year-old. He even added an RBI single late in the game; perhaps to let the Cardinals know he was worth more than just a qualifying offer.

Lackey Mows Down Cards

“You could tell he was amped up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. That’s one way of putting it.

On a night when much of the attention was supposed to be on Jason Heyward; it was his older, less sought-after  teammate who stole the headline. That’s not to say J-Hey didn’t contribute.  Heyward struggled at the plate, going 0-4, but  compensated with his fielding, leaving his feet to make several catches in right field to support his pitcher. They did all this amidst a chorus of boos from the Red Bird faithful; something that seemed to invigorate rather than intimidate the two former Cardinals.

“I’ve seen booed, that ain’t booed,” Lackey said. “That was pretty soft boo.”

The escalation of this rivalry has been hastened by the results of last year’s NLDS and the defection of two key players to the North Side. Now the action on the field threatens to elevate it to a fever pitch.

Chicago Cubs' Dexter Fowler, right, rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off St. Louis Cardinals' Mike Leake, left, during the sixth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 18, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Even though the Cubs were able to pile on, beating the Cards by a final score of 5 – 0, the game was very much a pitcher’s duel heading into the sixth inning. To that point, Lackey and Card’s starter Mike Leake had allowed just a few hits apiece, each displaying the ability to work out of jams with men in scoring position. Then Dex Fowler came to the plate and ignited the Cubs offense; depositing a monster home run 435 feet to dead center (his third of the year) and breaking the stalemate. The Cubs piled on in the seventh with Jorge Soler launching a zinger to shortstop Aledmys Diaz who could not corral it cleanly and then sailed the throw to first over first baseman Brandon Moss’ head, allowing Kris Bryant to score from third, Miguel Montero to advance to third, and Soler to take second on the errant throw. Addison Russell would then hit a sac-fly to center to plate Montero before Lackey delivered his RBI-single to score pinch runner; Matt Szczur.

The Cubs would add their fifth and final run in the eighth when Kris Bryant would single home Ben Zobrist, who had doubled to lead off the inning in breaking out of an 0 for 24 slump that I’m sure was as much a relief for him as it was for fans of the new second baseman. All around it was a night full of positive takeaways for the Cubs as they got a leg up on their division rivals at their house and did so with some moxie and swagger that will prove helpful should the teams find themselves in a playoff chase/series yet again.

The series continues tonight as Jason Hammel takes the ball against the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia. First pitch is 7:15PM CST at Busch Stadium.

Let’s Go Cubs!


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Cubs Drop First Series of the Year to Rockies; Look to Rebound vs. Cardinals in St. Louis

Posted on 18 April 2016 by Bob

The Cubs finished up their opening home stand with a loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon, falling 2 – 0 despite a pretty solid outing from Jon Lester. The lefty threw 7.1 innings, giving up four hits and striking out ten. His lone mistake; a solo home run by Rockies third basemen Nolan Arenado provided all the offense Colorado would need as the Cubs were held scoreless for the first time this season. Arenado would add another solo-shot in the ninth inning off of Justin Grimm to provide some insurance. The Cubs offered little of note outside of two plays by Jon Lester that will surely find their way to Sports Center, albeit for different reasons. The first, an awkward throw to first on a bunt attempt that Lester fielded quickly but bounced twice en route to Rizzo’s glove, shockingly recording an out.  The second was a double by the pitcher; his first extra-base hit and one that almost jump-started a Cubs rally before being snuffed out. Some things change, others stay the same.

Lester throws to first

In the other dugout, Rockies pitcher Tyler Chatwood was outstanding allowing only two hits over seven innings and the Colorado bullpen followed suit, giving up just one hit and zero walks the rest of the way. A pretty impressive feat given the potency of this Cubs lineup and the gorgeous weather at Wrigley Field on Sunday. Losing a series for the first time this season, while disappointing to a rabid Cubs fan base, will (believe it or not) happen from time to time throughout this season; even with a lineup as solid as the Cubs.  That’s baseball, and I’m sure Manager Joe Maddon has already turned the page, as two games in which the Cubs didn’t play their best don’t make a trend. Finishing up the home stand at 4 – 2, and 9 – 3 overall, the Cubs can hold their heads up high as they head to St. Louis to face the Rival with-a-capital-R  Cardinals in the clubs’ first meeting since the NLDS last October. Ask any Cubs fan on the street for the result in case you missed it.

Heyward a Cub

This is indeed a big series for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, the Cardinals have to carry a bit of a chip on their shoulder after winning the division and sporting the best record in baseball last season, only to be chased from the playoffs by an upstart Cubs squad they had suppressed for a long, long time. Adding insult to injury, two of the Cards top contributors; John Lackey and Jason Heyward traded in their Cardinal Red for Cubbie Blue (and less money to boot). They will surely hear it from Cardinals fans tonight as they begin a three game series at Busch. Lastly, these are division games between the two teams picked to contend for the division title this year. They will face each other 19 times and both squads would tell you how important it is to get a leg up on the other, especially for the Cubs being on the road.

Lackey a Cub

Bragging rights abound in what is becoming the juiciest rivalry in baseball. The Cubs hope to stop their series-losing streak at one while I’m sure the Cardinals will look to set the tone that they are still the team to beat in the Central.

Lackey is set to square off against the newly-acquired; Mike Leake for the Red Birds. Game time is 7:00PM CST.


Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Go on a Walkabout in Rout of Reds

Posted on 14 April 2016 by Bob

With the drama and theatrics of Opening Night behind them, the Chicago Cubs got down to business Wednesday night and ensured in the first inning that this game would not be close. In fact, it was pretty much over from the start as the Cubs sent eleven men to the plate and Cincinnati Reds starter; Alfredo Simon, threw 49 pitches but was still unable to record a third out. The Cubs scored five runs in the inning with a combination of walks, hits, extra-base hits, and a HBP. Everyone got in on the action with exception of Jason Heyward who recorded two K’s in the first but would come through later in the game.

“I’m a pitcher who throws a lot of strikes, but today my balls were away, and that was the trouble,” Simon said.

Trouble, indeed, as Reds pitchers issued ten walks total on the night. That brought the Cubs’ season total to a Major League-leading 48 walks en route to a 7 – 1 start and first place in the division. This plate discipline has been a welcome change from a team that led the league in strikeouts a year ago. It has forced opposing pitchers to pick their poison; either try to get guys to chase with stuff off the plate and run the risk of issuing free passes and driving your pitch count up, or throw strikes over the plate against a team loaded with contact and power hitters. Not a fun position to be in, which is exactly the point.

Chicago Cubs starter John Lackey delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Chicago Cubs starter John Lackey delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

“This lineup’s deep,” Cubs starter John Lackey said. “Looking from the other side as a pitcher, it’s tough to get through without suffering a little bit of damage.”

Anytime you can knock a starter out of the game early, that’s a good sign for your offense. To be so relentless as to chase a starter before the first inning is over? That’s a sign you’re primed for a big night. The Cubs never looked back after that five run first inning, tacking on a pair of runs in third behind Jason Heyward’s two-out single and then another pair in the fourth courtesy of a Kris Bryant solo home run (his first of the season) to left and a Miggy Montero score off a wild pitch. The Reds showed little resistance from there on, scoring only one more run in the seventh inning on a Ivan De Jesus RBI-ground out. Your final score: Cubs 9, Reds 2.

KB Homer in April

Not only do the Cubs lead the Majors in walks but their run differential currently sits at +36, also good for tops in baseball and a testament to not only the Cubs explosive offense but the excellent pitching they have had thus far. John Lackey, backed by tremendous run support yet again, went 6 and 2/3 innings while allowing two runs on six hits while striking out seven and allowing three free passes.  He even drew a walk himself in the protracted first inning, furthering his own cause while demonstrating just how contagious the team’s plate approach is.

The Cubs are clicking on all cylinders right now, avoiding the slow starts of years past and exhibiting a patience at the plate that has been sorely lacking the last several years. Tonight, they go for the sweep as Jason Hammel is on the mound vs. the Reds Raisel Iglesias. Game time is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!


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Cubs Win Home Opener in Epic Fashion After Bats Come Alive Late

Posted on 13 April 2016 by Bob

After a relatively mild Chicago Winter; after an expensive off-season that brought in top-level talent and championship pedigrees; after all the pomp and circumstance of a new season’s beginning, Baseball returned to the Friendly Confines Monday night and for the better part of the evening, all that cheer and hoopla surrounding this 2016 edition of the Chicago Cubs had been bottled up by Reds starting pitcher; Brandon Finnegan. You had to look closely to see it; past a series of walks and line-outs, but there in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Cubs sat on the wrong side of a no-hitter in progress and the tension was palpable throughout the stadium.

Opening Night at Wrigley 16

Seven outs from being no-hit in their home opener, in the year in which Vegas odds-makers and baseball writers alike had crowned them the prohibitive favorites; this is not how a contender begins their campaign for World Series glory. So David Ross flipped the script. He of the .176 batting average in 2015; playing out his last year in the Majors. With all the young guns in their arsenal, the Cubs still require a veteran presence for moments just like this. It was only a two-out single to center  but with that hit the Cubs had not only broken up the no-no, but had set the stage for fireworks (both figuratively and literally) in the innings to come.

After the Ross’ single, pinch hitter Matt Szczur drew the walk bringing Finnegan’s pitch count to 111 and chasing him from the game. Caleb Cotham came on in relief for the Reds and promptly walked Dexter Fowler to load the bases. Tony Cingrani replaced Cotham for the penultimate at-bat of the game and Jason Heyward stepped into the box with a chance to deliver some Cubbie magic for the first time at Wrigley Field. After falling behind 0-2, Heyward slapped a single to right field, plating Ross and Szczur to make it a 3-2 game and put the Cubs right back in it. Even though Bryant grounded out to end the inning, the entire dynamic of the stadium had changed as Cubs fans came alive to restore the raucous atmosphere that the evening began with. A fan set off some fireworks outside of the bleachers that got the crowd and players whipped into a frenzy that proved contagious throughout the remainder of the game.

Heyward Opening night single

Things only got worse for Cincinnati as Cingrani prolonged the damage in the eighth inning issuing a walk to Ben Zobrist before battling in a seven pitch at-bat that ultimately ending in Jorge Soler being hit by a pitch. With one out and two on, Reds skipper Bryan Price had seen enough and pulled Cingrani in favor of Jumbo Diaz, who with his first pitch served up the game-winner to short stop Addison Russell in the form of a three-run homer to left center that got the concourse at Wrigley shaking.  From a potential no-hitter to a three run lead over the span of six outs; that’s how potent this Cubs offense is. Just when you think you have them locked up, they find a way to bust out.

Russell Homers in Opener

You have to tip your hat to Brandon Finnegan who was the hard luck recipient of the night, seeing his impressive outing spoiled by the Reds bullpen. Still, it’s not as if he was perfect through seven innings, issuing five walks that caused his pitch count to eventually become an issue.  Jon Lester had a so-so night for Chicago, surrendering three runs and five hits in six innings of work while striking out five. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrendous either; it was simply just enough to keep the Cubs in it and sometimes that’s really all you can ask for in baseball. Trevor Cahill and Adam Warren were solid, each surrendering only one hit in their one inning of work, respectively, before Hector Rondon came on to close the ninth and absolutely slammed the door on the Reds throwing just twelve pitches, nine of which went for strikes to strike-out the side. All three batters he faced struck out looking on some filthy pitches. Game over: Cubs 5, Reds 3.

It’s not how you would draw it up, but this is a game Cubs fans will remember for a long time.  The ability to battle through adversity, relish the big moments, and play all 27 outs are becoming hallmarks of this team in this still young season. Here in a partially revamped ballpark with old, iconic fixtures beginning to blend in with shiny, new technology; a team with tested and proven veterans is coalescing with some powerful, young talent; complementing each other in a beautiful symbiosis that is producing some damn fine baseball. The future looks bright for this club and that future is now.


Up Next:

Tonight it’s John Lackey on the bump for the Cubs vs. the Reds’ Alfredo Simon. First pitch is 7:05PM CST.

Let’s Go Cubs!

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Cubs Romp Over Angels to Kick Off ’16

Posted on 06 April 2016 by Bob

The Chicago Cubs got things off to a rousing start in 2016, unloading on the Los Angeles Angels in a two game series at Angel Stadium to the collective tune of 15 – 1. Jake Arrieta picked up where he left off going seven strong innings and allowing only a pair of hits while striking out six and walking one on Monday night. He was backed by the revamped Cubs offense that got on the board early and often. Dexter Fowler was the catalyst collecting three hits and setting the table for the heart of the order. Miguel Montero hit the Cubs first home run of the year and Matt Szczur drove in 3 RBI’s on a bases clearing triple.  It was a perfect start to the season, flexing both pitching dominance and an incredibly versatile lineup.

Game 2 was much of the same with Jon Lester doing his best to mirror Arrieta throwing seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball while striking out four. Fowler and Rizzo led the way with two hits a piece as the Cubs offense once again lit up the scoreboard, throwing up six runs. Lester allowed the only run for the Angels in the brief series and Chicago’s pitchers combined to hold the Angel’s big guns, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, hit-less over the two games. The two teams are set to meet again in August at Wrigley for another two game set.

When starting a new season, this is exactly how you would draw it up on paper. Jake Arrieta looked dominant and Jon Lester looked very comfortable, both good signs given Arrieta’s work load and Lester’s struggles early last year. The offense showed plenty of pop but also the ability to grind out at bats against some tough pitching, collecting twenty hits the last two days. This is precisely what people expected the 2016 campaign to be, leading many to believe that this Cubs team has the juice to go the distance. 2 games doesn’t make a season but the Cubs have come out firing on all cylinders.

Up Next: The Cubs begin a four game series in Arizona tomorrow with John Lackey facing off against Rubby De La Rosa in game one. Game time is 8:40PM CST.

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Spring Training Begins as Cubs Look to Build Upon 2015 Success

Posted on 04 March 2016 by Bob

After a brief and mild winter the Chicago Cubs full squad returned to Mesa, AZ last week to commence spring training and with it, another season in their quest for a World Series title that has eluded them for the last century and counting. Of all the squads that have come and gone since then, perhaps none have been better poised to lift the hardware over their heads in the crisp, November air. None have been as “hyped” as well.

Embrace the Target

Expectations are sky-high entering 2016, as they should be. Fresh off a turnaround season that saw the Cubs float from last place to the NLCS, there will be no sneaking up on teams this year. 2016 is the year that was circled in pen when Theo Epstein was signed back on October 12, 2011. ‘This is the year’, ‘The time is now’, and ‘Embrace the target’ are the mantras (old and new) that the Cubs will live by this season. While some will say pegging the Cubs as the favorites on paper is detrimental to the team’s success, I would ask “what choice does one have with a roster like this?”

The Cubs return an incredible young core led first baseman and MVP candidate, Anthony Rizzo. He is flanked by Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant, phenom shortstop: Addison Russell,  and the one man wrecking crew that is Kyle Schwarber. Throw in the best right fielder in the game; the newly acquired Jason Heyward and World Series Champion/two-time All Star second baseman Ben Zobrist and it is clear why the prognosticators have chosen the Cubs as the favorites (and we haven’t even discussed the pitching yet).  This team amazingly got better without having to give up any of it’s highly-rated but largely unproven talent (the lone casualties being Starlin Castro and Chris Coghlan, who while solid contributors were not long term answers for this squad moving forward).

Heyward Cubs Spring training

As if the off-season hadn’t been kind enough to the North-Siders with the additions of Heyward, Zobrist, and starting pitcher John Lackey (on an incredibly affordable deal), the Cubs welcomed Dexter Fowler back last week on what is essentially a one year deal. Media reports had linked Fowler to the Orioles and many Cubs players thought that a deal had been finalized but Fowler had remained in contact with Cubs and ultimately wanted to be here with this team, even if he left money on the table to do so. The rich definitely get richer as the Cubs lineup will now be a veritable murderer’s row looking something like this on any given day:

  1. CF Dexter Fowler
  2. 2B Ben Zobrist
  3. 1B Anthony Rizzo
  4. 3B Kris Bryant
  5. C Kyle Schwarber
  6. RF Jason Heyward
  7. LF Jorge Soler
  8. P
  9. SS Addison Russell

It’s not as if the talent ends there either with Miguel Montero still likely to resume the starting catcher’s role and Javy Baez waiting in the wings as a super utility player capable of filling in at a number of positions both infield and out. Depth is a wonderful thing to have, as any big league skipper will tell you. The grind of a season coupled with a rash of injuries can sink a team faster than you think making the Cubs’ focus on redundancy and utility a needed insurance policy that any team with championship aspirations should carry.

The depth isn’t limited to position players either as, unlike last year, the Cubs have great depth and multiple, quality starters led by Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Jon Lester and John Lackey round out a top three that look to be as formidable as any in the National League save the NY Mets. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks look to be in line for the final rotation spots but will need to prove it this year after somewhat rough outings in the second half and playoffs of 2015. In the event that they stumble, the Cubs added insurance in the form of resigning Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill, both former starters turned bullpen long men. They added Adam Warren in the Castro trade with the Yankees who could compete for the fifth of sixth spot, provided his value isn’t better served in the pen. They also acquired Aaron Brooks from Oakland in the Coghlan tried which freed up money to sign Fowler and netted another potential spot starter/bullpen arm who will most likely start the year in Triple-A.

The team, as is, appears set with the season a little over a month from starting but one has learned to expect the unexpected from this Cubs’ front office. Still, there is one thing that should not be unexpected and that is for this club to get every team’s best shot on the field, hence Maddon’s acceptance of the hype in his theme for this season: “Embrace the Target”.

Maddon Spring Training

“I’m really a big believer in running towards the fire instead of away from it,” Maddon said. “I want our guys to get comfortable with the concept of everyone speaking so glowingly of us.”

He steered a young and inexperienced club through rough seas in his first year but this season it will be mostly uncharted waters. Here’s hoping to churn that hype into a calm and steady wake as the SS Cub sets sail.



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Giants & Dodgers Making Moves; National League Full of Intrigue

Posted on 05 January 2016 by Bob

All has been relatively quiet on the Cubs front since the calendar flipped to 2016 as has been expected given the headline-grabbing moves they made in the waning weeks of December. Out on the left coast, however, the arms race continues as the West’s Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks have amassed impressive arsenals in an attempt to overtake the Mets and Cubs in the battle for N.L. supremacy.

While the Diamondbacks made the largest splash landing Zack Greinke AND Shelby Miller (and are reportedly still making moves), and the Dodgers recently signed Scott Kazmir to a three year deal to add to their ever-ballooning payroll, it is the San Francisco Giants who may have pushed all their chips to the middle this offseason in adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to a rotation that already includes Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. Now, there are reports that the Giants are talking with free agent Dexter Fowler, who roamed CF for the Cubs in 2015. While signing with the Giants would net the Cubs a draft pick due to having offered him a qualifying offer, it would be somewhat concerning to see him go to a NL rival, especially a team like the Giants who already have a pretty stacked lineup. In fact, some might argue their most glaring weakness would be capable outfielders so adding Fowler would make sense. Either way, it seems like the Giants will be a force to reckon with in 2016 along with the D-Backs and the Dodgers. Winning your division is paramount, as the Cubs and Pirates showed us last year and one can expect the N.L. Wild Card field to be even tougher next year.

Still, for all the hype the West has generated for the incredible talent they boast on paper, the Cubs stack up quite well in that department too given they bring back a young and powerful core bolstered by talented, veteran free agents. The outfield market hasn’t really even opened up yet so it’s possible that before it’s all said and done some of these “paper champions” may be improved even further.

More. Later.



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