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Memorial Day… Independence Day…Labor Day… Let’s See About The Cubs

Labor-dayIt’s Labor day and for the first time since ’07, the Cubs matter! Yes. You read that correctly. No…I am not curing a hangover with some “hair of the dog”. I’m as serious as a heart attack!

As many of you may recall, over the years, I have related the conversations T-Brewski and I used to have at the onset of Spring Training. Some off-seasons were “transformative”…or so we’d thought, while others just sucked. Inevitably, we’d end up saying, “Well, let’s see where they are on Memorial Day; then the 4th, and then Labor Day”. Unfortunately, usually by today, it was over but the shoutin’, which was generally from the pitchforks and torches crowd! But not this Labor Day. Nope. And, as I’d done on Memorial Day and the 4th, here’s today’s review.

 

(Ed. Note. I’m BCC’g some folks in, who may not want to get involved in the “give and take” these things occasionally do. So, there may seem some ‘splantions of things with which you are familiar.)

OK. Let’s get to it.

Wait a minute. Yesterday’s game began with a memorial moment of silence on the passing of the Tribbie who let Greg Maddux get away. Helluva thing to be remembered for, huh? OK, now…

The Cubs are 21+ over .500, with 78-wins, so far. That’s significant but there’s more. Their next win – hopefully in St. Lousy, today – will be their 79th, which matches their total wins from all of last year. I recall sitting at a wedding with my cuz, Big Al, as we  were feeling pretty good that they were .500 at home at that time. One of us then said how nice it was to have such lowered expectations to feel that good about that. The other is, that puts them within 8-wins of my “max-project” for them win-wise…and with 4-more…90-wins! Sun’s off the beach! OK, let’s look at them.

-Javy Baez, aka, Sacacorchos Puertorriqueno…or, The Puerto Rican Corkscrew. So far, though, not so much. I’ve been watching him more as I would if I were a scout than a fan. And from that, I see why they’re not just letting him go. This is one physically-talented young man. I see what they meant when he’s been described as their best defensive SS. (Too bad, as that’s Russell’s. More on him later.) This kid’s a whiz-and-a-half…No, I don’t mean that “whiz”…defensively. The other day, there was a 5-4-3 DP, which Bryant began…nice that he didn’t let it got rhough his legs…to Baez, who while straddling the bag, threw a strike, from a flat-footed position, to complete the DP. That’s natural talent/ability. Another is his speed and agility. Again, in the DBacks-series, he was rounding 3rd, when the coach threw up the STOP sign; he dug in his spikes; pirouetting back to 3rd with a move that’d embarrass Barry Sanders. What I really like with him at 2nd, is they now have a “keystone-combo” that can actually turn DPs, semi-effortlessly…or at least seem to.

What I also like…and I hope I don’t put the kibosh on him…is it does seem that he’s trying to NOT be the Puerto Rican Corkscrew at the plate. He did “genuflect” as Maddon mentioned the other day…but just once. So, as one who was born a CubsCrackBaby, my hope is, he at one time or another…sooner rather than later…quits trying to hit Cousin Keith’s place in Kenosha, Wisconsin and just hit for contact. For example, Brayant’s “longest homer of the year”, yesterday, was on 2-strikes, which he said he was just looking for contact. If that’s not enough, check out Rizzo with 2-strikes.

-Addison Russell. Wouldn’t it be great if his middle name were “Clark”? Anyway, Maddon’s being able to move him to SS has worked wonders. His “D” is even better than it was at 2nd. His range, arm, head-in-the-game, play is what a SS’s supposed to bring. He’s also brought up his average to .242. Now, that may not seem like much, but he put 2 of Rawlings’ finest into the left-field bleachers the other day; makes the routine plays as well as the sublime. As with Baez, his arm, speed,agility, etc., are something we Cubs fans haven’t seen for some time. It’s nice to see those two “up-the-middle”.

Sadly, the steady decline of Castro’s play has opened the doors for these two. I recall arguing with Big Al about what an outstanding hitter he, Castro,  was; which he was…note, past-tense. That 3-error game last week, pretty much sealed his fate, I believe. After all, if he’s not hitting, it’s one thing. But when he’s not catching the ball, it’s just magnified. Where I used to say, “I’m not advocating it, but I won’t be surprised if they trade Castro”, now, I’ll be surprised if he’s with the team beyond Spring Training, if at all. Too bad.

-Rizzo. Dude’s a beast! In this era of non-mesomorph-juicers, he’s a sight for sore eyes.His OPS is .919. And, I was pissed when they traded Cashner for him. OK, in my defense, Cashner was their best starting pitcher and I’d never heard of Rizz. Don’t need to say much more than this. He’s the best left-handed hitting Cub I’ve seen since Billy Williams. Yes. I remember Bill Buckner. Plus, he’s solid on “D”. The two 3-1 groundouts, Saturday with he and Big Jake, were things of besuty. His pivots after fielding the grounders were right there with Baez, except The Rizz is more linebacker-sized, while Baez seems more scat-back, and his tosses to Jake were perfect.

-Dexter Fowler. His “D” has been outstanding. I’m having trouble recalling a Cubs CF who runs down flyballs better, whom I’ve seen. Maybe Dernier or Monday. But this guy’s just a ball-hawk. Plus, he’s been hitting +.300 since the break. With him leading off infront of these guys, is really nice. Right now, his OBP is .349. Not bad. K’s a bit more than I’d like but has 71 BBs and has scored 89.

-The Schwarbernator. Now this kid’s been a pleasant surprise. In 48 games, he’s hit 13 homers, with 38 RBI on 23 BBs and 55 Ks. He’s gotta be their LF. His “D” behind the plate qualifies him as their “emergency-catcher”. Sorry, but as much as I love his hitting-mechanics; behind the plate, they’re bad. Sorry. I’ve noticed his “Shawon” pitch, is the high-heater. He seems to be able to lay off Dunston’s bane, the down and away, slider. But he doesn’t seem to be able to resist that shoulder high fastball. That said, his short, compact swing is a thing of beauty. That and the fact that he seems to hit to the opposite field well.

-Kris Bryant. Normally, when a guy’s K’d 164 times in 126 games, the mopery-parade would be in full-flower. However, as often as he misses pitches, he also has hit 23-homers, with 86 RBI…several of which have been game-winners; one of which, “The Fat Lady Sings” promo they play, I attended with T-Tom. I keep hearing they may eventually put him in center. Don’t know. Thing is, this kid is a rook, as are Schwarbs

and this guy…

-Jorge Soler, aka, Rico Carty/Pedro Cerrano. I heard Jim Deshaies use the Cerrano reference in a game the other day, in speaking of Soler. That said, he can be a devastating hitter. I mention Rico Carty only for comparing his inability to stay healthy and when he makes contact, he hurts the ball. Granted, Carty only K’d 663 times in a 17-year career, while Cerrano may do that in 2-years. I am hopeful his time on the DL has been put to good use by he and his coaches; getting him to lay off certain pitches. Why? How’s 111Ks in 90-games? He hasn’t hit as many homers, (7), as expected from a guy who’s 6′ 3″/ 215#s…and that’s not 215 hashtags. Still, he’s still a babe in the woods. These three + Russell bode well for the future.

-Chris Coghlan. I like him. He’s steady; can play a variety of positions, decently. Still, as soon as Schwarbs came up, he sat down. So, apparently Maddon’s going to use him as a sport-ute.

-Chris Denorfia. Another “nice” player. Good OF “D”.

-Montero/Ross. These are two, solid MLB level catchers. With guys like Arrieta and Lester throwing those diving-sliders, they have to be. And, with Lester not-seeming to be able to hold my fat-67-year-old-arse on a base, they’re needed as teams have begun to run on him with greater regularity. Montero has it over Ross at the plate. But behind it, they’re both solid.

STARTING PITCHERS

-”Big Jake” Arrieta. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. From the first time I saw him pitch, I knew this guy had it. Add to that, his mental toughness and tenacity and you have the makings of a Cy Young winner. At the least, he’ll be in the conversation.

-Jon Lester. OK, this one’s tough. From the mound to the plate, he’s solid. 169 Ks in 168-innings, ain’t bad, nor is his WHIP of 1.21. Trouble is, when those 1.21 base-runners are on, they’re a threat to steal, as he just can’t hold them on. I mean, I taught my Frosh/Soph-pitchers (14 and 15-year olds) at SGHS, that if nothing else, step-off the rubber! Oh well. He’s still a solid starter but Big Jake’s my guy.

-Jason Hammel. T-Tom ‘n’ me were at that game where he went toe-to-toe with Greinke, which they won in the 10th or 11th, 1-0 on Denorfia’s Sac Fly. But since then, it seems his hammie’s been a problem. Yeah, Hammel’s hammie. Watch him pitch. It takes him awhile to loosen it, as his pitches seem high, early-on and only when/if he gets it loose, does he bring them lower in the zone. Still, I like him. He’s another tenacious competitor.

-Kyle Hendricks. Well, he’s been an end of rotation starter, with his 6-6 record. Thing is, at times, he’s been lights out; other times though, not so. He was much better a year ago, which is why he’s at the end of the rotation. He could be much better. Needs to get more consistent.

-Haren/T-Wad/Whomever. None of these guys have been very impressive.

RELIEVERS…

-They need help, which won’t be on the way till next year. There is no “go-to” guy in this pen. They’re decent but not devastating. Feeling the exuberance of riding a roller-coaster during the beginning and middle of  games is fine. That’s why we watch. But wondering if Strop, Rondon or Motte are going to serve up gofer-balls or twist guys into the ground, isn’t what we need in the late innings. Again, at times, solid; others, not so.

THE PLAYOFFS…

Unless they have an epic fail, their 7-1/2 game lead for the Wild Card play-in, seems to be solid. That said, if/when they make it, do they have enough to get past whomever they’ll play? I don’t know. They could or they could not. Same if they do with the next opponent. That’s too far ahead for tight now.

Will say this. If they do make the playoffs but lose the play-in game or any other series after, I won’t be disappointed with them for this year. Why? They’re a year ahead of schedule. They need another starting pitcher…David Price would look nice in a Cubs-uni, wouldn’t he?…a closer or bullpen-in-general, on which they can rely, etc. They’re also babes in the woods, age-wise. So, to expect the unexpected from them, while nice if it were to happen, and as disappointing if it does not, I’ll be OK. Next year, though. Uh-uh. We’ve/I’ve had a taste of solid baseball and we/I like it.

As always, I’m leaving the Sox to Arnold,Bill,Dave and Nick; The Mets to Joe; Yanks, to Whitney; Giants to Bill and Doyers to Rene. That said, feel free to chime in. It sure is nice that next Sunday, I’ll be flipping over to the Cubs from the Packers/Lake County Football Club, game, not to see how badly they’re losing, but to see how well they’re doing. I may even DVR it.That’s nice.

OK, pre-game’s on for the RedTurds’ game from Saint Lousy. Have a great Labor Day Holiday, topped off with a Cubs win,

DaBigFatWat


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