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Sosa vs Ricketts: Sammy Breaks the Silence on his Ban from Wrigley Field

Nick

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Cubs icon (whether Tom Ricketts likes it or not) Sammy Sosa has once again made headlines in the baseball world.  Now before I begin, I must say that unfortunately the news isn’t on the same groundbreaking level as some of his other headlines like when he turned white, became the pink panther, or dressed up as a cowboy for his engagement photoshoot just to name a few.

Regardless, we here at General Admission are constantly scouring the internet for Sammy news and now he’s back in our lives.  This time, in the form of yet another update in the case of Sammy Sosa vs the Tom Ricketts organization.

In an interview with former guest and great friend of the podcast David Kaplan, Sosa said he’s just looking to come home to Wrigley to give the people what they want.  People say he calls the Cubs looking for a job in the front office, but Sammy says he calls every now and then just to say “Hi”.

Just to say “Hi”.

This guy is an international superstar turned cult hero and all he wants to do is call his old ball club and say “hi”.  PED’s or not Sammy Sosa is the epitome of class, and he still gets hate from Tommy Ricketts.

To give some background, Sammy has basically remained unwelcome  at Wrigley Field since he retired in 2007 despite starring on the Northside for 13 unforgettable years.  Why?  Tom Ricketts has made it known that he is still waiting for an apology from the Dominican megastar over the (alleged?) PED use.

I won’t remain silent while this standstill continues.  Although this man was instrumental in bringing a World Series back to the Northside and for that I will forever be grateful to him, Tom Ricketts’ ego is massive.  And as a result this clown has crossed the line in his unjust treatment of Sosa.

I could give you all a laundry list of ballplayers that juiced in the 90’s that have been pardoned by their teams.  Alex Rodriguez is still close to the Yankees organization and Mark McGwire was a hitting coach for St Louis (and in their hall of fame !!!!) for fucks sake.

As Cubs fans, we’ve been accustomed to rooting for a classy organization.  So let’s do the right think and welcome back Sammy to Wrigley Field.  Let him say “Hi”.

PS, for Tommy Ricketts-

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The people have spoken, asshole.

First Impressions: Re-Living The Most Notable Cub Debuts Of Last Decade

Lew

There is nothing quite like watching a prospect’s Major League Debut. He’s been the subject of cursory articles you’ve read on the john for years. You’ve plugged him into your imaginary lineup that will be an everyday occurence when you become General Manager in a few years (waiting on the right time to quit the day job). Hell, you might have heard Mick Gillespie fawn over him in a split-squad Cactus League game not too long ago.

But now he’s arrived at the Show. After years and years of hard work, a prospect’s MLB debut is one-part celebration, one-part introduction. And this past weekend, one particular ballplayer turned his introduction into one hell of a celebration.

On a Sunday afternoon at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Nick Kingham debuted in fashion he will surely never forget. Friday morning he was an Indianapolis Indian. By Sunday evening he had thrown nearly seven perfect innings against a division rival. What a moment, what a debut.

The Cubs have had no shortages of memorable debuts of their own over the past decade, so I thought the occasion appropriate to take a look back at some of the best MLB debuts for the Cubs over the past 10 years. Off we go…

  • The Shot Heard Across The PacificMarch 31, 2008: Kosuke Fukudome had an all-time MLB Debut. It was opening day at Wrigley Field, and expectations were sky high for the much-hyped Japanese outfielder and his defending NL Central Champion teammates. Disgusting spring weather in Chicago didn’t quiet the crowd when Fukudome took frumpy looking Eric Gagne deep in the bottom of the 9th to tie the ballgame against the Brew Crew. Ron Santo has an all-time call you can find linked above. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they ended up losing in 10. Unfortunately for Kosuke, this was by far the highlight of his career.
  • The Prince ArrivesMay 7, 2010: Starlin Castro showed up to the Great American Ballpark on a pretty May day. He looked considerably younger than the 20 years and 44 days he carried walking into the ballpark. But he went yard in his very first at-bat and ended up driving in 6 runs in his big-league debut. Starlin was supposed to be a piece that would help this franchise claw its way back into relevancy, and, on this day, he certainly seemed up to the task.
  • If At First You Try and Fail, Try, Try AgainAugust 5, 2014: Javy Baez was the first truly celebrated call-up of the Theo Epstein era. Sure, he was a Jim Hendry draftee, but Cubs fans desperately wanted to believe that the arrival of Baez and his buddies in the farm system would signal and end to the subpar baseball the North Side faithful had been treated to for a number of years. Javy was Javy in his first game, albeit a little pudgier. He went 0 for his first 5 with three strikeouts before unleashing a monstrous home run to right-center to break a tie in extra innings. The Chicago Cubs were never the same.
  • Maybe We Try This Again TomorrowApril 17, 2017: Kris Bryant’s arrival in the Big Leagues was supposed to be the dawning of a new era in Cubs baseball. The Cubs had gotten smart, brought in the best executive team in baseball, and built the franchise from the ground up. And after warming up in Iowa for a few weeks (and maybe delaying his arbitration a little bit), the Golden Boy arrived at Wrigley Field. Kris was… underwhelming in his debut. He went 0-4 with three strikeouts, but the day and moment was still memorable for every Cub fan in the crowd who believed Kris’ arrival was the beginning of something special.
  • Get It Out of the Way EarlyJune 19, 2017: Willson Contreras was welcomed to Wrigley Field with a thundering standing ovation, and he reciprocated the hospitality with a very loud noise of his own. A Father’s Day edition of Sunday Night Baseball was the scene when Willson Contreras took the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer into the seats in right-center. The Cubs had gotten off to a scorching start, and the love affair between the club and the fans sitting in the grandstand had never been hotter. Contreras’ arrival and instant impact had Wrigleyville at a level of excitement most big league ballparks only see in October.

There has never been a better time to be a Cub fan, and this list is pretty telling why. Our young core started somewhere, many of them with debuts that are ingrained in the hearts and minds of every Cub fan. There were other young studs who came to mind. Kyle Schwarber’s takeover in Cincinatti. Junior Lake out-playing Yasiel Puig in his early days. But the debuts listed aboved are, like Nick Kingham’s, truly unforgettable.  Every fan base should be so lucky to have so many memories like these, especially in such short a time.

P.S. I really like Ron Coomer, and like him more every year. But if listening to Pat and Ron call the Starlin and Kosuke debuts doesn’t make you miss those days, you are not a Cubs fan.

 

Ballpark Review: Safeco Field

Lew

More than any other sport, a Major League ball club’s stadium has an outsize impact on how its fanbase feels about the team. Each ball park is unique. From game day atmosphere to concessions, down to the very dimensions of the field, no two ball parks are alike. Each ballpark has its own unique environment, a reflection of the fanbase and the city as a whole.

With this in mind, I’m making it a mission to review every park I go to in the hopes of sharing my experiences with other GAGuys and maybe embracing some friendly debate with host fanbases. First on the docket, Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. I saw Carlos Carrasco of the Indians get the start against James Paxton of the hometown Ms on a beautiful, brisk Saturday afternoon in what was a really good ballgame.

 

Atmosphere: Granted it was Opening Weekend, but their was a definite buzz walking into the stadium down 1st Avenue. There is a row of food vendors as you approach the entrance. Everyone in a good mood and it smells outstanding. There are plenty of bars and restaurants surrounding the stadium so you feel like you’re in a baseball neighborhood. The concourses were packed and the fans were (mostly) locked in for most of the game. Have to dock some points for starting the wave in the 8th inning of a one-run ballgame. There was also waaaaay too much going on on the video board, especially between innings. Less is more. GRADE: B+

 

Concessions: Wanted more here. I had heard good things about the food at Safeco, but found most of the offerings a little too cute. Call me old-fashioned, I don’t want to eat crickets at a ballgame. The beer selection was a highlight, but vendors walking the grandstand were few and far between, and the food itself was nothing to write home about. GRADE: B

Aesthetics: The field itself is beautiful, but this is a park that looks better from far away. Inside the Stadium, the retractable roof gives the park a heavy feel. Like I’m watching the game inside a shopping mall. There isn’t much of a view and there’s too many seats in the shade (especially in a relatively cold weather city) due to the overhang from the retractable roof. Plus, the stadium is just too damn big. The concourses felt jam packed and their were still huge sections in the upper deck that were completely empty. Not a good look. GRADE: B-

Location: I don’t know if this is true for locals, but the location is damn near perfect for a visitor staying downtown near the Market. It’s a quick, interesting walk away from downtown. The location discourages driving to the game, which is all the better in my book. Located next to CenturyLink Field and surrounded by bars, the neighborhood creates an real game day environment. The location is uniquely Seattle as it right next to the port and the Puget Sound. GRADE: A

Logistics: Logistics stunk. I’ve never seen a longer line for the men’s room. Guys going in and out both doors. No troths. Not enough bathrooms. It wasn’t remotely close to capacity crowd, and you have to wait 10 minutes to take a leak. Un-American. The lines were even worse in the team store and the concession stands. Your stadium sits close to 50,000 fans. High customer volumes shouldn’t come as a surprise. Figure it out, people. GRADE: C

FINAL GRADE: 7.1/10

All in all, a damn nice place to watch a ballgame. The weather was beautiful and the buzz in the stadium was real. Not perfectly any stretch of the imagination, but you wouldn’t have to beg me to come back.

 

Let me know if you agree, disagree, what I missed, and what you think.

The Official General Admission 2018 NL Central Preview

Jim

The 2018 season is finally upon us, with action starting early Thursday down in Miami.  The Cubs will see their Prince That Was Promised, Starlin Castro, once again.  The NL Central race isn’t the most interesting storyline in baseball, far from it, but I’m here to break it down, anyway.

The current Oddsshark odds for the 2018 NL are as follows: Cubs -245, Cardinals +325, Brewers +550, Pirates +3000, Reds +4000.  If you’re not a gambling man, that means the Cubs are fairly heavy favorites, as they should be.  They’re virtually the same team as last year, replacing Arrieta with Darvish, and a full season of Jose Quintana to look forward to.  We’ve written enough about the Cubs this offseason, so here’s my preview and prediction for each NL Central team not named the Chicago Cubs.

St. Louis Cardinals: +325 to win NL Central, Vegas wins over/under 86.5

There’s no planet on this earth in which the Cubs should be overlooking St. Louis.  They’ve been the gold standard of the MLB along with the Yankees for what seems like  forever.  Recently, there are a multitude of questions around this years Cardinals team.  Their fans expect playoff runs every year, don’t even want to hear about a rebuild, and if the Cards miss October this year, it’ll be the first time they’ve done so for 3 consecutive years since ’97-’99.  So can Marcell Ozuna be that bat they have been missing since Pujols left?  Ozuna’s acquisition went fairly under the radar this season, maybe because he lived in Giancarlo Stanton’s shadow in 2017 on a sub .500 Marlins team.  Ozuna is an all around hitter that can rip your heart out, do not take him lightly Cubs fans.  Can Carlos Martinez lead this staff back to the relevance of the Chris Carpenter/Prime Adam Wainwright days?  There’s a lot of question marks in the air in St. Louis.

Official prediction: 84-78 falling to the Brewers in a late September race for the 2nd NL Wild Card spot

Milwaukee Brewers: +550 to win NL Central, Vegas wins over/under: 84.5

If there’s anyone who is going to challenge the Cubs this year, it’s our brethren up north.  Winning America’s heart recently with their reenactment of The Sandlot, the Brewers are hungry for baseball to start.  They added Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain as premier outfielders this offseason, possibly pushing Cub killer Ryan Braun into a platoon spot at first base with Eric Thames.  The Brew Crew’s bat power can’t be questioned.  Travis Shaw brings his lumber from the left side of the infield, and their outfield is now a three headed monster of Cain, Yelich, and either Domingo Santana or Ryan Braun.

Meanwhile, this team who missed the playoffs last year by just a few games is struggling to sell tickets for this season. $30/month for season tickets? Almost worth it to commute from Chicagoland to catch games at that price if you’re a Brewers fan.   Although they missed out on premier arms such as Jake and Darvish, this pitching staff is young and able, with 17 game winner Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson leading the charge.  I really wish Alex Cobb ended up a Brewer and solidified this rotation, but I digress.  It’ll be really scary when Milwaukee becomes a place where free agents look to go, and I don’t think they’re far from that point.  This team has a real chance of scaring the Cubs like they did last year.

Official Prediction: 89-73, 2nd Wildcard Spot, beating the Rockies and advancing to the NLDS

Pittsburgh Pirates: +3000 to win NL Central, Vegas Wins Over/under: 73.5

For the Pirates and the Reds I’ll keep it short for obvious reasons.  Pittsburgh not too long was at the top of the league.  98 wins in 2015, only to lose to Chicago in the one game WC game. Since then, it’s been nowhere but downhill. Starling Marte suspended half a year for PEDs, McCutchen and Cole both gone, and Gerrit Cole even throwing a little shade from Houston saying, “it’s refreshing to come to an environment where the team is willing to continually put resources into the club and continue to move forward and try to provide the best possible product for its fans.” WOW!  For such a great ballpark and fanbase, I hope the Pirates do what they have to do to get back to the top.

Official Prediction: 70-92, 4th in NL Central

Cincinnati Reds: +4000 to win NL Central, Vegas Wins Over/Under: 73.5

If you’re still reading to this point, God bless you.  +4000 might be a great value pick at first glance, but I don’t see the Reds winning 90-95 games believe it or not.  They’re in that shitty part of a rebuild that Cubs fans went through.  A storyline to watch this year and the upcoming years is Joey Votto.  A shoe-in Hall of Famer that is habitually overlooked because he plays on the Reds.  And five years into a 12 year deal, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be a trade piece any time soon.  As a long time Cubs killer, I hope Votto either gets to be a vital part of the Reds future success, or move to a team soon where he can showcase his abilities on a national stage.

Official Prediction: 66-96, 5th in NL Central

These predictions mean absolutely nothing come Thursday, couldn’t be more excited.

After All That, Did Jake Arrieta Make a Mistake In Negotiations With The Cubs?

Lew

The waiting is finally over. After suspecting it since a standing ovation sent him to the dugout after his masterful performance in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS, it’s finally official. Jake Arrieta will not suit up for the Chicago Cubs in the foreseeable future. In what has been a historically disciplined free agent market, Jake signed a 3 year $75 million contract that will make him the next ace of the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies.

I could go on a wandering soliloquy about how much Jake has meant to this franchise, this fanbase, and this city. How his excellence propelled our rebuild ahead of schedule. How he amazed us with a run of dominance the likes of which we probably won’t see again. Or how he created culture and inspired his teammates with his tireless work ethic and his naked photo shoots.

But the Chicago sports media landscape has been rife with tearful goodbye’s to Jake this past week. So I’ll go in a different direction. Looking at the contract he signed with Philadelphia, I can’t help but wonder if Jake made a big mistake this offseason.

He let Scott Boras whisper sweet nothings in his ear and went home with a sub-optimal contract. Not to say that $75 million is chump change. But Theo offered Jake $120 million over six years a few short weeks ago. The only way Arrieta exceeds $120 million of earnings in the next 6 years is if he signs for more than $45 million coming off his 35-year old season in 2020. Given GM’s increasing reluctance to dole out cash to veteran players, that scenario seems exceedingly unlikely.

I’m happy for Jake that he finally signed. And I’m even happier that he won’t be playing in St. Louis or Milwaukee. But I can’t help but feel like he was getting too much advice from the wrong people. His agent spent so much time selling his client to front offices, and I firmly believe he failed to understand the nature of this 2017-2018 free agent market.

It goes without saying that the Yu Darvish signing energized the fanbase. He’s our shiny new toy. But, at the end of the day, in their heart of hearts, most Cubs fans would rather have Jake than Yu. And after seeing how much it took to sign him, it feels like we should have kept him. It would have required Scott Boras and Jake to check their egos at the door and listen to what the market was screaming at them. And it didn’t happen.

Thank You, Jake

Jordan

(skip to the last paragraph for the emotional part)

In 2013 the Cubs traded two of the many names we say and chuckle at to Baltimore for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. I didn’t even know it happened. The Cubs were so unbelievably bad (tank szn) that there wasn’t much point in watching them – kind of like the Bulls now. They were so terrible that following them just hurt. Arrieta at the time had putrid numbers. Maybe he needed a “change of scenery”, they said. In 9 starts with the Cubs that season he went 4-2 with an ERA of 3.66

Fast forward to next season, where Arrieta didn’t start until May 3. He finished the season with a 2.53 ERA in 25 starts and pitched the second-most innings on the team. You may remember the 2014 season as the last time the Cubs were bad. He took a no-hitter into at least the 7th inning three times, once in Boston and twice against the Reds. He even finished 9th in Cy Young voting. It was clear that Jake was gonna be pretty good in Chicago, but there was someone who was skeptical:

jake take

 

Yup, that’s yours truly in an article for the blog we had to do for journalism class senior year. So what did he do in 2015? He went out and fuckin pitched. I actually went to his first start of the season (shoutout Jathon) which was their first win of the year. Jesus it was cold as shit that day. I went to the last game before the all star break vs. the White Sox in which Jake threw a complete game and hit a yabo (shoutout Sklar). That first half of the season was pretty good for Jake – 2.66 ERA in 18 starts, and if I remember correctly he was leading the National League in wins at the break – but was snubbed from the all-star game. It wasn’t super controversial, but it probably lit a fire inside of Jake, who then went on to do things that nobody had ever done and nobody will probably ever do again. This dude allowed 9 runs in 15 starts. He had an ERA of 0.75. That’s insane. He finished 2015 with a 1.77 ERA (which didn’t even lead the league, Zack Greinke went nuts), an MLB-leading 22 wins, a no-hitter in Los Angeles, and one Cy Young Award. And we all know what he did in Pittsburgh in the Wild Card game. That was fruitful.

In 2016 Jake obviously wasn’t as good because it would’ve been impossible to duplicate what he did the previous season. But he was still pretty freakin good – he was 13th in the majors in ERA and was an all-star for the first time. We’ll remember his 2016 most for his playoff heroics – his dong off of Bumgarner in San Francisco and then two ballsy wins in Cleveland in the Fall Classic – and for helping his team end the longest drought in sports history. Oh yeah, he threw another no-hitter too (against the Reds, because of course).

Then the World Series hangover happened, and before the all-star break, Jake, along with most of the other players on the whole damn team, stunk. But he turned it around after the break, like the rest of the team, and had a 2.28 ERA the second half. And as we knew he was probably leaving us after the season, his last two starts in October were so much more magnified. I remember when I listened to Pat Hughes make the call of Jake walking off the mound as a Cub for the final time in Game 4 of the NLCS (I was listening because I literally could not watch) I was tearing up a bit. And this is why.

 

Jake Arrieta did way more for the Cubs, us as Cubs fans, and the city of Chicago than anyone could have thought. For a few months Jake was an unhittable force who hit more home runs than he gave up. He was larger than life; a stonewall of a man who would get plunked, be in the middle of a brawl, and steal second on you. Without him there is no screaming “he threw a no hitter!!!” in Forest A1001, not once but twice. Without him there would be no NLDS against the Cardinals. Without him there is no game 7 in the World Series (although Addy kinda did that himself). Without him there is no Grant Park. Without him there is no three straight NLCS appearances. Without him, there would be nothing. Jake Arrieta gave us everything he had for four and a half seasons, and we are forever in debt to his greatness and what he did for us – a Chicago legend forever.

From the bottom of my heart and the hearts of Cubs fans everywhere – thank you, Jake.

Arrieta finally gets the deal he likes, is finally no longer a Cub

Nick

The ex Cub is going to the City Of Brotherly Love, ending a remarkable chapter in his career.

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Here we are less than three weeks away from Opening Day.  And the Jake Arrieta signing circus conducted by Scott Boras has finally come to a close.  It was announced on Sunday that the former Cubs ace (finally, I can officially say that) is heading to Philadelphia on a three year $75 million dollar deal.

A massive weight was lifted off of my shoulders when I first heard this news.  The signing of Yu Darvish, which effectively destroyed any hopes of Jake returning, feels like an eternity ago.  And with every passing day the bearded righty remained unsigned, the rumors continued to grow.

“Dexter Fowler came back late in free agency and signed a one year deal in ’16, why can’t Jake”? “Joe Maddon’s always wanted to have a six man starting rotation”.  These theories played like a broken record in my head to the point of insanity.  A six man rotation with five aces?  That team realistically doesn’t lose a game until August.

These rumors needed to END and never be spoken into existence for the rest of time.  Sunday these rumors were ended by Philly, and thank god it was Philly because other potential landing spots for Jake were St. Louis and Milwaukee.  Where I’m one million percent positive Jake would have been the most ruthless Cub killer of all time.

Other than being relieved, I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this.  It doesn’t feel right to be sad.  Hopes of seeing #49 in Cubbie blue really died a slow and painful death this offseason after he sold his Chicago home and Yu was signed.

At this point the best thing Cubs fans can do is acknowledge that Jake was either going to die a hero or live long enough to see himself become the villain.  Yes, he’s still a quality starter but his play has been steadily declining since his immaculate 2015, and the teams looking to offer him a contract knew this.

To the Philly fans, this means they’ll never know the Jake the northsiders knew.  Although Jake definitely has gas left in the tank after posting a 2.28 post all star break ERA last year, it’s impossible to recreate what he did in 2014-2015.

Cubs fans and only Cubs fans will remember the Jake the two time no hitter architect, Jake the Cy Young winner, and Jake the cornerstone of a World Series winning ball club.  Goodbye Jake, this time its official.  I’ll still be watching you make the rest of the league fear the beard from afar.

What Joe Maddon’s Art of the Game Means to the 2018 Cubs

Lew

Joe Maddon is certainly an unconventional manager, especially by MLB standards. He regularly questions the utility of everyday position players. He batted his pitcher eight before anyone else did. He travels to Spring Training every year in a Winnebago. He chooses to live in Tampa during his time off. If it’s not obvious from this list, I’ll say it bluntly: Joe Maddon is a weird guy.

But even by Maddon standards, Joe has been particularly eccentric this spring. Wherein the past, Joe implored his club to “Try Not To Suck”, or “Embrace the Target”. In 2018, Joe wants his players to bring art back into the game. He’s bringing paintings of Michelangelo’s David wearing a jock strap into the clubhouse. He’s got some of Salvador Dali’s finest stuff enhanced with a catcher’s mask. And his latest piece? A portrait of Muhammad Ali, with his “5 Stages of Being a Pro Baller” writ large.

It’s a very weird painting. But I kind of love it. More than the art, I love how Joe articulates how big leaguers mature throughout their career…

Stage 1: I’m happy to be here. The green among the clubhouse. Just excited for a cup of coffee in the Show. The Dillon Maples’s and Victor Caratini’s of the world.

Stage 2: Survival Mode. These guys have gotten a taste, and they don’t want to go back to riding the bus from Des Moines to Omaha. Whatever it takes. On a hunt to find their role and cement a spot on a big league ballclub.

Stage 3: I belong here. I can do this. These guys have matured into everyday contributors. They’re not superstars. But they know their role and do their job. Think Javy Baez. Think Kyle Hendricks.

Stage 4: I want to make as much money as possible. The All-Stars and the cash cows. These cats are established big leaguers who are good enough to drive the team, and motivated enough to want to do it. The Bryzzo Boys.

Stage 5: All I want to do is win. The grizzled old vets who have done everything there is to do in the league. They’re not here for a haircut, they’re here for jewelry. Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, Pedro Strop. The anchors of the ballclub.

Championship teams have the right mixture of guys in each stage. Enough stage 1 guys to provide sparks of energy. Enough stage 2-ers to drive competition. The stage 3 guys to provide stability. Stage 4 powers the ship, and stage 5 steers it.

I know for a fact we have enough guys in stage 5. We’ve seen our no-ego veterans lead from the front time and time again. I know we have superstars who are in stage 4. I’d take Kris, Anthony, and Willy over the middle of any lineup in the Bigs.

What will decide whether the Cubs are riding trolley cars down Michigan Avenue in November is how many guys we can get from stage 2 to stage 3, and how many stage 1 new faces can bring us some juice when we need it.

We need Addison Russell to leave survival mode. We need Ian Happ and Albert Almora to get comfortable in regular big league roles. We need them to be prepared for big-time ABs in October. We need Carl Edwards Jr. to take the next step. And we’re going to need guys in the middle of the summer to provide the spark that Ian Happ did last year.

It takes all 5 stages to win a championship. Joe Maddon might be a weirdo, but he’s in stage 5 of his career, and he knows what he’s doing. If he wants to bring art into baseball, more power to him. I think another World Series ring on his hand would make one hell of a final piece in his 2018 gallery.

 

Revenge 2018: A Cubs Season Preview, Bullpen Edition

Jordan

Last year you may have caught me saying “This is the year… again.” Obviously it wasn’t the year again, but it was pretty damn close. Last year the Cubs were the first team since 2009 to win the World Series and then win their division the next year. So for all the trash they had tossed at them on Twitter, for all the dumb shit people said all 2017… three straight LCS appearances is not common. Only six other teams have done that since the postseason became three rounds in 1995. That’s impressive.

But here we are on February 27, 2018, where there are exactly 30 days till Opening Day in Miami. And now that you’ve read the first two parts of the revenge preview, here is the final part of the trilogy. I’ve covered how dirty both the Cubs’ rotation and the lineup is and will be, but this is the final piece of the puzzle, and it also happens to be my favorite – the bullpen, aka Dirty Mike and the Boys.

Before we get started, we need to get rid of the bullpen dancing thing. Yes, it was cool, but I’d prefer it stays in 2017, because we need to get 2017 out of our system. The only thing I want staying is the dugout interviews with the fake microphones from La Stella and Happ, because those were nothing short of hilarious. Javy mixing in some imaginary camera work only helped it. But here we are. It’s 2018. And the Cubs are going to have one of the best bullpen in the bigs. And this is why.

Last year the Cubs had the sixth best bullpen ERA in baseball. Does that surprise you? Even with all the stupid idiots that would blame good pitchers like Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, and Mike Montgomery for losses? These dudes are good. Let’s go through the dudes who will probably be the sitting behind the outfield walls on Opening Day.

2017 ERA next to name

Dirty Mike Montgomery – 3.38 (2.49 as reliever)

Dirty Mike could easily be the Cubs fifth starter. And we all know he wants to be. But that ship sailed when a guy named Yu Darvish told Theo bet, followed the paper trail, and pinstriped up. But that’s okay with Montgomery, aka Seth Majewski, who is one of the most reliable relievers on the team and in my eyes one of the best long relievers/swingmen in baseball. But man did he have a shitty postseason. Of all the players that were straight trash in October, Mike was the worst. In 4.1 innings against the Nationals and Dodgers combined, he gave up 8 earned runs, three bombs, four walks, 14 hits, and had an ERA of 16.62. Not even five innings. It was not Mike’s best couple of weeks, but he was seventh on the team in WAR last year and also hit a dickshot into the chophouse at whatever that new Atlanta stadium is and that was fucking awesome.

Steve “Sea Shark” Cishek – 2.01

As one of the new kids on the block, Sea Shark’s signing flew somewhat under the radar. But make no mistake – this dude is a beast. Let’s be clear, ERA for relievers is of course flawed. But I have my own scale for reliever ERA and it’s pretty simple. If you’re above 4.00, you aren’t good. If you’re between 3.50 and 4.00, you’re meh at best. If you’re between 3.00 and 3.50, you’re decent, but still could be better. If you’re between 2.50 and 3.00, you’re good, and if you’re under 2.50, you’re one of the best. And last year Steve Cishek was one of the best relievers in baseball. His 2.01 ERA was 14th best among relievers who appeared in over 40 games. He also has 121 saves in his eight-year career and if it were up to he’s the 2018 Cubs closer, but the remains to be seen. Regardless, Sea Shark is a bona fide relief pitcher and we should be excited to have him on the North Side. At least I am.

Brandon Morrow – 2.06

Right under the list that Cishek was 14th on is Brandon Morrow. As the set-up man for arguably the best closer in the game, Morrow was a monster. He allowed a grand total of zero home runs in 43.2 innings. Since becoming a reliever full time in 2016, he has an ERA of 1.96. Filth. As of right now he’s probably the closer, but that remains to be officially seen. The best part about this guy is that we stole him from the Dodgers. The worst part is that he doesn’t have a nickname. Yet.

Brian Duensing – 2.74

Since we (hopefully) have moved on from the bullpen dancing, “Dancing Duensing” is gonna need a new nickname. But independent from that, a case can be made that Duensing was the most reliable guy not named Wade Davis to trot to the mound last year. 68 relief appearances from Brian turned into a 2.74 ERA. I wasn’t expecting much from him before the season started, and he had a shitty April. But after that he was pretty nails. In 50 games from May to August, he gave up eight runs. This guy is also a stud. If you haven’t noticed, they’re all studs.

Carl “Crabman” Edwards, Jr. – 2.98

If you’ve seen My Name Is Earl, you’d understand the nickname, because the two dudes are basically twins. Oh CJ. Probably the most polarizing reliever on the team. This guy gets more hate than anyone and it’s mostly unjust. Before the all-star break last year, he had a 2.29 ERA in 38 games. He didn’t give up a run till May. He had bad June, a good July, a god awful August, which you may remember because the Nationals ran him out of Wrigley over Lolla weekend. But he settled down in September before his very interesting postseason – a Game 1 in Washington where he went 3 up 3 down, Game 2 where he gave up the game-tying blast to Bryce, Game 3 at Wrigley where he not only got the win but went three up three down in one of the most intense games I’ve ever seen, a Game 4 where he gave up two runs and recorded zero outs, and a Game 5 where honestly every pitcher on both teams sucked ass and we were lucky to have the only one that didn’t. Carl is throws straight gas, but has a control issue. Regardless, he’s an above average relief pitcher who’s only getting better.

Justin “Bag of Cheetos” Wilson – 3.41 (5.09 with Cubs)

I call Wilson a bag of Cheetos because when the Cubs traded that Jeimer Candelario package to Detroit for him and Alex Avila, a certain friend of mine said we traded a bag of chips and a cookie for Wilson and Avila. Turns out Avila was actually good, and Wilson was the real bag of chips. But man what a disaster did he turn out to be. Hopefully he’s not as bad, and it’s easy to think he won’t be after having a 2.68 ERA in Detroit last year. I don’t know how he didn’t give up a home run in a Cubs uniform last year, but in his 23 Cubs appearances, he gave up a walk or a hit in 16 of them. That’s nothing short of terrible. But optimism runs high on the North Side and we all know that. Try not to suck this year, Justin. This leaves us to the final member of the bullpen, who is probably my favorite pitcher on the team…

Pedro “Hats to the Left” Strop – 2.83

For my money, Pedro Strop is the most electric player on the Chicago Cubs. Everything from his almost unhittable slider to his fist pumps are straight voltage. And I didn’t even mention his hat. Strop is one of the longest tenured Cubs after coming to Chicago with Jake in the Baltimore trade. Since then he has a 2.72 ERA in five seasons with the team. His highest ERA of those years is 2.91. I want this man to be a Chicago Cubs until he retires. His consistency is impressive. Oh, and in 9 games against the Brewers last year, he allowed nothing. Hats to the left, forever.

As you can see this Cubs bullpen, who already had the sixth best ERA in baseball last year, is nice to say the least. Morrow and Cishek replacing Rondon and Grimm should only help things (if Grimm doesn’t make the roster, which he shouldn’t).

Look, obviously the Astros are the best team in baseball coming into 2018 just like the Cubs were going into last year. But I see no reason why are not the second best team in baseball. Our rotation is stacked, our lineup is tough, and our bullpen is lockdown.

It all begins again in Miami in 30 days. We’re gonna start 5-0. After that I have no idea. But all I see is another NL Central title and potentially another pennant. From now, to Miami, to whatever happens in October (or November), we’ll have it all covered for you here at General Admission. By Northsiders. For Northsiders.

What to make of the Skinny Cubs

Lew

My biggest takeaway from the Cubs’ early spring games is probably yours as well. These Cubs aren’t Those Cubs. These Cubs are skinny.

Hector “Cerveza and Bratwursts” Rondon is enjoying Texas barbeque. René “The Prince of Puff” Rivera is inhaling fish tacos in Southern California. And about half of Kyle Schwarber is missing.

Even Chris Gimenez, a man whose job (back-up catcher) is the most ideal in sports to keep that holiday weight on a couple months extra, looks like he does Soul Cycle on the weekends.

When Ben Zobrist said this team was hungry, I didn’t realize they were just physically wanting for food.

So what am I to make of this latest development from Mesa? What do we think of these CrossFit Cubs?

I really think there’s only one conclusion to draw here. This 2018 club seems to be a little short on the lovable fat guys and a little long on the motivated hardos. And that’s just fine with me. After an oft-lackadaisical 2017, I’m happy to see the fellas going the extra mile with their fitness. Time will tell if Schwarber’s lower BMI will lead to a higher OBP, but we know his head and his heart are in the right place, and he’s putting in the work. Here’s to winning skinny in 2018.

Who is going to back up Willson Contreras at catcher this year?

Nick

Willson Contreras might try, but he just can’t start 162 games behind home plate this upcoming season.  And unfortunately Alex Avila and  Rene Rivera have both parted ways with the reigning NL Central champions.  So with the #2 catcher spot wide open, who on the Spring Training roster is primed to see the most action in 2018?

Victor Caratini: After the Miguel Montero fallout last season, Caratini was called up from Des Moines and showed flashes of quality last year.  In 59 plate appearances he batted .254 with a single home run and 2 RBI.  Victor’s power hitting was less than desirable, but his time in the minors has helped him steadily improve his power game.  Does Joe Maddon feel like one appearance every ten or so games in the majors will help his development more so than starting every game in Iowa? Only time will tell

Chris Gimenez: Unlike Caratini, Chris Gimenez has plenty of experience in the big leagues.  He’s never been the everyday catcher anywhere he’s been, but he’s made a career out of being a viable backup.  At 35 years old coming off of a season where he batted .220, his ceiling isn’t incredibly high anymore.  On the flip side, Contreras could definitely benefit from working with a seasoned veteran behind the plate.

The Rest: Big league experience between the three other catchers expected to compete in the spring is few and far between.  Taylor Davis saw some action at the end of last year with 3 hits and an RBI in 13 plate appearances.  Ali Solis has played triple A ball for a decade with 10 sporadic plate appearances in the bigs.  Last and probably least, Ian Rice has never even seen time above the double A level.

Barring a miracle or an unexpected signing, this looks to be a two horse race between Caratini and Gimenez.  Since Victor is also capable of playing first base (another position where the Cubs could use a solid backup) and he is the only catcher besides Contreras on the active roster, the Puerto Rican looks to have the edge over Gimenez.

The Cubs play their first Spring training game tomorrow (!!!), and the position battle at catcher will undoubtedly be one of the top storylines out of Mesa.

Ben Zobrist Soundbites Get The Blood Flowing in Early Spring Training

Lew

Spring has sprung and the boys are back in Mesa. And while it’s great to hear mitts popping and bats cracking, we all know Spring Training is not exactly baseball season. It is certainly, however, soundbite season.

The non-stop parade of player interviews in February is often an exercise in cliche. Player X is in the best shape of his life. Coach Y is really changing the way the guys approach situation Z. And on and on and on. Blah blah blah.  February and March in Arizona is the time and place to talk, talk, talk.

With that being said, an unexpected Cub has been the MVP of the early chatting season. Benny with the old man socks. Mr. Game 7. Mr. Julianna Zobrist. Zo was running circles around the press corps the other day, unleashing one fist-pumping quote after the other. And I couldn’t have been more into it.

He acknowledged that the World Series hangover was a real thing in 2017. For whatever reason, the club just didn’t have the same spark we saw for such a mammoth portion of the 2016 season.

But more importantly than looking backward, Zobrist declared that he felt a renewed energy in the early portion of Spring Training 2018. He said “I don’t know if we’ll ever figure it out [in reference to a slower 2017]. It’s part of human nature. But I can tell you this: the hunger is back for this team. We’re excited to get back at it and prove to the league that we’re the best team again.”

Yes, Ben, Yes!! But Zo went even a step further than saying the team’s energy is back. Zo said the team ego is ready to leave. He knows in this deep roster, at-bats will be hard to come by. But he’s “thirty six years old. His main concern is winning championships. I’ve told Joe that I’m ready for whatever.” This is the “Everbody In” mentality that Joe Maddon is trying to foster. This is what veteran leaders on championship teams say and do.

I really hope this attitude becomes the M.O. for our 2018 club. Check the ego at the door and show off that drive and hunger. Everybody In. Win Ugly 2018.

Jon Lester Didn’t Hold Anything Back When Asked About MLB Pace of Play Rule Changes

Jim

“It’s a terrible idea…It’s all terrible.”

Jon Lester didn’t hold back when he was asked about the proposed (now official) changes to the pace of play in Major League Baseball.  The MLB has cut down the time allowed for a pitching change, and limited mound visits to six per nine innings.

Lester went on to discuss how technology is changing the game, with cameras and communication allowing teams to steal signs from opposing catchers.  He said that Contreras isn’t coming to the mound to “ask me what time I’m going to dinner.”  Pitchers and catchers are constantly trying to keep their signs under wraps, and this new ruling challenges that effort.  The big lefty went on to discuss pace of play in general, saying that “the beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”  Fans should know what they’re getting into when attending a game or watching on TV.  It could be 2.5 hours; it could be 4.  That’s baseball, according to Jon.

Some may glance at this headline and think “Old Man Yells at Cloud.”  A lot of times, I would agree with that.  Players and managers rarely give a reason that the pace shouldn’t be changed.  They just say “This is baseball. Keep it this way.”  But Lester brought up a good point about why this change may be a bad idea.  We saw what happened to the Red Sox in 2017, caught stealing pitching signs and communicating them with Apple Watches.  Once technology can impact the game like that, all Hell can break loose, and it’s up to the MLB to combat it in any way they can.

I’m all for speeding up the game, as long as it doesn’t affect the outcome.  Seems simple, right?  But we are far from the end of this effort to shorten baseball.

Joe Maddon was asked about the rule changes and declined to comment because “I always get in trouble when I comment on the pace of the game.”

Good call, Joe.

[Wittenmeyer, Sun Times]

In a Top 5 Rotation, Where Does “Ace” Jon Lester Fit in After a Subpar 2017?

Nick

lesterpresser

Since 2015, it’s safe to say that Jon Lester has been the ace of the Chicago Cubs pitching staff.  He’s been our opening day guy, and he started game 1 of the World Series.  With respect to Jake Arrieta, Lester has always been looked at as the #1 pitcher on this roster and an experienced leader with championship pedigree.

The pitching staff heading into this season looks the best it has since 2016, when Lester posted a pristine 2.44 ERA.  But it isn’t 2016 anymore, two years later (and two years further removed from his prime) Jon Lester is 34 and coming off of a season where he put up a 4.33 ERA, his worst since 2012.  Amongst a starting rotation filled with studs, will Jon Lester be able to return to his dominant form and continue to be this team’s ace?  The Cubs are counting on it.

Hendricks has never really appreciated the spotlight, Yu Darvish is new, and Quintana is relatively new.  So it would be a big luxury for the Cubs if Jon could do enough to stay ahead of these guys as the ace.  But after his shaky 2017, it may not be surprising to see Joe Maddon shuffle the rotation and make any of the three other guys the #1 starter.

The bottom line is that Jon Lester should still be able to lead this club because 2018 will be different than 2017.  Lester won’t need to overextend himself as much as he did last year because the starting pitching and bullpen going into 2018 look like they’re capable of shouldering much more of the load than the pitching staff last year.  Barring any injuries in 2018, the Northside just might witness a renaissance of our skipper #34 this summer.

 

Witnessing Goodness: Taking a Moment to Appreciate Anthony Rizzo

Lew

With the country still shaking from the horrifying act of violence committed in Parkland, Florida this week, Anthony Rizzo headed home to support the community that made him the man he is today. Rizzo spoke eloquently at a vigil in his hometown of Parkland, Florida, and made it clear that he would be an advocate for whatever the community might need. Anthony was what Anthony is. Rock solid. Dependable. Kind.

In a clubhouse full of lovable dudes, Rizz has always been a cut above. He’s been here since he was a pup and the Theo rebuild was in its infancy. For the  entirety of his time on the North Side, Rizz has been nothing but class. Suffering through losing seasons with what sometimes seemed disinterested teammates. Grinding through a sophomore slump that was hard to watch at times. Ceding the spotlight at times to the younger, flashier corner infielder named Kris Bryant. Leading the team to a World Series Title. He handed the game-clinching ball to his boss! Who does that?! Rizzo has taken it all in stride, with his signature smile and consistency.

The City of Chicago is incredibly lucky to have a guy like Rizzo as the face of our most recognizable franchise. He’s a selfless giver in an era when many star athletes are look-at-me guys. It’s impossible not to love the guy.

As Anthony’s hometown, and the country as a whole, attempt to put together the pieces from yet another senseless tragedy, it’s important to appreciate how lucky we are to have Mr. Cub 2.0 in our lives. Anthony, we love you.

What Does Yu Mean? Reacting to the Yu Darvish Signing

Lew

Saturday was unequivocally a very good day to be a Cubs fan. In what has been a historically quiet Free Agency market, the Cubs made a loud noise and signed the consensus number one pitcher available.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this move.
First of all, any time you can sign, at market value, a top-tier free agent with multiple suitors, is a sign of the organizational health of your franchise. The front office showed us that they can still woo with the best of them, closing on a target they identified as attractive. Ownership ponied up when the time came to sign off on signing off some big honking checks. And the franchise and city itself was attractive enough for Darvish to be excited to sign up for the next 6 summers of baseball.
To land a player of Darvish’s caliber, every organ of the club’s ecosystem needs to be functioning correctly. This is clearly the case on Clark and Addison, and is reason enough for celebration. And if reports are true that the Dodgers were offering a comparable contract to what Theo doled out, all the more reason to rejoice at the organizational aptitude and momentum the franchise is currently enjoying.
Three years and one championship after Jon Lester signed up to try to bring a World Series Title to the North Side, the Cubs are still viewed as a viable landing spot for the top free agents of the day. This is no small achievement. And something our friends in Milwaukee (Darvish) and St. Louis (Stanton) simply cannot claim.
I also like the structure of the contract. Listen, everyone knows that six years is probably excessive. But Darvish’s average annual salary will be borderline cheap. At $21M/year, Darvish will only be making $3M more per year than the departing John Lackey. Every Cub fan with a functioning nervous system would gladly trade John Lackey plus $3M of Tom Rickett’s money every year for Yu Darvish. And I’m confident the same will be true at the end of Yu’s contract in 2024.
Finally, I just like the aggressive signal this deal sends to the franchise and their competitors around the league. This feels like a move by a club that extremely motivated to win another title in the near-term future. Last offseason was quiet and calculated, and we ran out of gunpowder in October. This move is a sign of a “burn the boats” mentality that is a requisite characteristic for any organization that wants to win a championship.
I’m not saying this deal is without negatives or risk. The acquisition of another front-line starter further alienates Mike Montgomery, a player who once looked like an integral component of our long-term rotation. And six years is a very long time, especially for a pitcher with a lot of innings under his belt and a lot of visits to the orthopedic surgeon. Throw in a questionable resumé in high leverage circumstances, and there are reasons for tepidity before going all-in on the Yu Darvish train.
At the end of the day, the efficacy of the deal will be judged based one criterion. The number of parades down Michigan Avenue in which Yu Darvish participates. Like Jon Lester before him, front-line starters get paid front-line money with the expectation that they address a couple million locals sometime in early November. The probability of that address happening in Grant Park in 2018 got a whole lot higher this weekend. The countdown to Opening Day continues…

Remembering Ernie Banks, From Someone Who Can’t Really Remember Ernie Banks

Lew

Today is January 31. The day, 88 years ago, that Mr. Cub entered God’s green Earth. As such, it’s a cause to celebrate and reverence the Franchise’s greatest icon.

But as the proportion of Cubs fans who actually saw Ernie play on the North Side shrinks, how will Ernie Banks be remembered? In other words, how will those who can’t remember Ernie Banks remember him? And why will they remember him?

I, for one, certainly never saw Ernie Banks trot onto the infield at Clark and Addison. I was not even a glimmer in my parent’s eye when he was stealing the hearts of the North Side. I never saw him “play two”, turn two, or hit a goddamn double.

And yet, to me, Ernie Banks is the Cubs. He was when I fell in love with them in the early 2000s. And he still is today. The iconic smile. The grainy replays of a beautiful swing at a simpler Wrigley. “Let’s Play Two.” Electrifying Wrigley with his rendition of the 7th inning stretch. Ernie Banks was everything you wanted baseball to be. Loving, gracious, supremely talented, and perhaps most significantly, happy to be there.

I never saw him play, but his was the first jersey that hung from my bedroom as a kid. It’s the jersey my mom prayed to (successfully!) in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. When my Grandpa died a few years ago, the greatest treasure I found in his apartment was a hand-written thank you note from Ernie Banks. A thank you note for sending him fan mail! Who does that?! Ernie was simply a different breed. The epitome of class. And everything you want to represent a franchise that you (probably irrationally) allow to hijack so much of your time, energy, and emotional capital. If Cubs baseball was worth Ernie Banks’ attention, why not mine?

Now I know Ernie Banks was just a man. But I never saw Ernie Banks’ faults. I never saw his slumps. Or his personal struggles. That is for an earlier generation to remember. I will remember Ernie Banks forever as Mr. Cub. A lion of the game. On the North Side: baseball incarnate. And the best man you could hope to be. Happy Birthday, 14.

Jason Heyward Saying Things Grinds My Gears

Lew

“It is what it is. I earned it. For me, it’s awesome. To be where I want to be, that’s the most important thing.” These were Jason Heyward’s words a few days ago when questioned about the burden of his ludicrous contract and the pressure it creates on the current and future payroll of the club.

Where do I begin to unpack how angry this quote makes me?

First of all: you didn’t earn this contract, Jason. You were overvalued. Grossly. For all of Theo’s considerable wisdom, he has handed out a few stinker mega-deals to players that turned out to be pretenders. Edwin Jackson didn’t earn his mega-deal. Carl Crawford didn’t earn his mega-deal. Getting a big contract shouldn’t be looked at as a reward for past success. It should be looked at as a vote of confidence in your future ability to produce. Jason Heyward has not deserved that confidence. He lucked out in a bull market. He is much much more Carl Crawford than Giancarlo Stanton.

Jason, if you were a free agent today, you would be lucky to get a 3 year deal for $28 million. The fact you got 8/$184 is thievery. NOT than getting what you earned.

Second of all, we KNOW it’s awesome for YOU. You get paid a ZILLION dollars to be a black hole in an otherwise threatening lineup. We KNOW you love Chicago. We KNOW you’re a great teammate and the clubhouse loves you.

But guess what, the contract matters. You’re an albatross on our future. Either Bryce Harper or one of our young guys is going to get forced out of Chicago so you can enjoy this awesome, amazing contract that you so thoroughly “deserve”.

Please, Jason, for my sake, STOP talking about your contract. Period. Stop saying you’re going to be the Cubs MVP in 2018. Stop talking about it. Start being about it. The thought of 6 more years of you in right field makes me depressed. I’m begging you to change that sentiment in my brain. I know 2016 and ’17 were awesome years for you. Collecting $50 million, winning a championship, contributing ZERO offensively. But I’d like for 2018 to be filled with a little less money, and a lot more production. PUT IN THE HOURS. MAKE OFFENSE HAPPEN. Or get the fuck out of the way and let Bryce Harper be the man we thought you were.

Farewell, Cutch: Why Losing a Division Foe Makes Me Feel.. Weird

Lew

The news out of Pittsburgh is cold by now, but the Pirates have decided to continue their fire-sale and trade the face of the Franchise to the City by the Bay. And while this is by no means a Pirates blog, there is something to be said for the relationship fans of an MLB ballclub form with the superstars of their division rivals.

This isn’t the NBA where divisions are seemingly meaningless and rosters are thin. This isn’t the NFL, where you see your most hated rival twice every 365 days and the typical career is 36 months long. This is Major League Baseball. In a given season, we’re watching Cutch torment us 15-20 days a year. And we watched him do it with incredible durability during his nine year run in Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen has 637(!!!!!) career plate appearances against the Cubs. That’s more than Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Tommy LaStella (and damn near Willson Contreras) have put on tape FOR the Cubs. There’s a reason why the exit of the soft-spoken, high-socked McCutchen hit home for the Wrigley faithful.

During McCutchen’s run, the Buccos were putrid, excellent, and everywhere in between.  Number 22 was the constant in the lineup and in the clubhouse. In a dugout full of hot heads (hello Sean Rodriguez, Josh Harrison), roid heads (too soon, Starling?), and loud mouths, (well I guess Gerrit Cole is gone now, too) Andrew McCutchen was always the most like-able guy on the diamond. He had a quiet stance and a loud bat. I think I speak for all of  the North Side when I wish McCutchen the best on the West Coast. The Steel Town subsidiary of the best (ok, maybe the most fun) division in baseball will be missing the captain of its ship next year.

We Just Re-Signed Brian Duensing, my Pants Just got a lot Shorter

Nick

brian-duensing-slide-photo.png

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

In a whirlwind of an offseason where the Cubs were reportedly linked to Giancarlo Stanton, Yu Darvish, and Manny Machado signings, it’s the little things that get me going.  Experienced left-hander Brian Duensing will continue his reign on the Northside.  It was announced earlier today that he signed a two year, seven million dollar contract.

I absolutely adore this move.  He got the money he deserved after only making 2.5 million over the last two years (albeit he was on a minor league contract with the Orioles).  Now all he has to do is prove he can be the same pitcher he was in 2017, obviously no easy task.  But I 1000% believe he has the arsenal of pitches to be able to carry on at the same level for the next two years.  He’s a crafty left-hander in its purest form.

And to anybody that would even begin to think Theo overpaid this man; shut up, you’re wrong.  He’s arguably the most consistent guy in our bullpen at the moment given the departure of Wade Davis.  And that bum (until he can prove otherwise) Justin Wilson just resigned and is set to make 4.25 million in 2018.  Bottom line, if Brian Duensing can continue to do what he did in 2017, this is a phenomenal signing.

Hendricks through 6, Duensing in the 7th, CJ in the 8th, Brandon Morrow in the 9th.  Just take a step back and appreciate that for a moment.

Cubs Planning to Launch Media Network After 2019 Season

Jim

via Chicago Tribune [Mark Gonzales]

For what seems like forever, the Cubs have played on WGN-9, a staple of Chicago sports. That changed a few years ago, with the addition of ABC-7 and Comcast Sports Network.  Now, the team has focused their efforts to launching their own media network when their current network agreements end after the 2019 season.  At Cubs Con, President of Business Operations Crane Kenny said “I’d say at the moment we’re 80 percent inclined to do it on our own” when asked about the network possibility.

This isn’t a new idea in Major League Baseball, but it isn’t common.  The most notable example of this club owned media network is the YES Network, owned and operated by the New York Yankees, known as the benchmark for economic stability in the MLB.  A deal like this would potentially finance the club’s payroll by itself.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I’m sure it is a financially smart move to do when you have the fan base and national allure that the Cubs have acquired during their franchise rebirth during the Epstein era.  I’ll miss WGN like any other Cubs fan.  It’s synonymous with Cubs history, with memories of Harry Caray coming to mind instantaneously.

I’m assuming this channel will be included in a normal Chicago cable package by the way, but I don’t want to jinx it or assume the best.  If I have to pay an extra HBO-like fee for Cubs baseball I’ve taken for granted for years, I won’t be so undecided on my stance anymore.

Everything You Need to Know From Cubs Con Day 1

Jim

This year’s Cubs Convention is off to a hot start at the downtown Sheraton, and looks  similar to the last few years in some ways.  Lots of fanfare, players announced like rockstars, Cubs morale through the roof.  As it should be.  There’s a lot to be excited about on the North Side, with a hangover-free talented roster hungry to get back to the Fall Classic taking the field in less than 80 days.  There’s been a few storylines from Day 1, some big, others small.  Lets start with the big.

Kris Bryant (among others including Russell) signed a record breaking $10.85 million arbitration deal with the club yesterday, the most ever for a first year arbitration eligible player.  Most of us expected this, but maybe not this much money.  At face value, it’s a little surprising, but anyone who has been watching/following Kris in his first three seasons knows he’s worth every penny.  An MVP, two time all star and sure to add to that number, and among the league leaders in almost every offensive categories year in and year out.

 

Kyle Schwarber was asked “If someone were to ask you what position you play right now, how would you answer that question?”  The slim looking lefty chuckled and said with a straight face “I’d say left field.”  Kyle’s offseason workout results can be seen as soon as he walks into a room.  He looks a million times skinnier, obviously something that would help an everyday outfielder.  Maybe I’m an optimist, but I think this will be a statement year for Schwarber.  He had every headline on him during and following the World Series, with the injury, Maddon deciding to bat him leadoff, and the struggles that ensued.  There’s nowhere to go but up for him, hitting .211 but still managing to put 30 balls in the bleachers last season.  The lower expectations for Kyle this year will let him do what he does under the radar and reach his “ceiling” that everyone loves to talk about.

Willson Contreras was quoted saying ““I know that I have a lot of talent, and I thank God every day for giving me this kind of talent that I have. In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”  Contreras is poised to be a perennial all star catcher for the foreseeable future.  He’s shown the power, and he can hit for average, an attribute that many catchers lack.  One thing separating him from the best of the best is how he performs behind the plate.  Not a liability by any means, but there’s definitely room for improvement.  It was clear during 2017 that he was carrying the slumping Cubs throughout the summer where he caught almost every day, so when he went down in August with a hamstring injury, his absence was clearly seen on the field.  No disrespect to Avila, he was a great substitute, but the Cubs were missing that bat.  I have nothing but the highest faith in Willy to improve and be up there along with Posey and Molina when we look back at the best catchers of this era.

That’s all I got from day one, thanks for reading, and see you tomorrow.

Wade Davis Is Gone. Here’s Why I Liked Him (and you probably did too).

Lew

Wade Davis’ brief time on the North Side has come to an end. And while Agent 71 wasn’t a Cub for long, he made one hell of an impact on the 2017 season and earned his fair share of affection in the hearts and minds of the Wrigley Faithful.

There are a lot of reasons why I was a fan of Wade Davis. First and foremost, Wade knew who he was. When the young guys of the bullpen could be seen dancing celebrating fourth inning home runs, Wade was typically off-camera, presumably scowling at something.

Wade wasn’t cute. The man was an expressionless, emotionless sniper. Never too high. Never too low. Arrive. Throw strikes. End ballgames. Shake hands.

For a ballclub that has endured the wildness of Carlos Marmol and the fragility of Aroldis Chapman, Davis was a breath of fresh air. A pitcher, not a thrower. Someone who didn’t need his stuff to be A++ to consistently get outs.

I liked Wade because nothing made him blink. He was perfect in save opportunities for the better part of a season. His performance in Game 5 of the NLDS is one of the gutsiest and most impressive performances in the Theo era.

At the end of the day, I liked Wade because he was a pro’s pro. A gamer. A role model. And one HELL of a weapon at the end of games. Colorado DEFINITELY overpaid for Wade Davis, but his one summer fling on North Side will not soon be forgotten.

Arrieta Sells Chicago Home, Soul for $2 Million

Nick

AP BREWERS CUBS BASEBALL S BBN USA IL

 

This is basically the nail in the coffin, right?

Even for the biggest Jake fans on the planet, this reality check will sock you in the face as if you were A.J. Pierzynski on the receiving end of a right hook from Michael Barrett circa late May, 2006.

The Graceland West mansion the Arrieta family lived in that had been put up for sale immediately after the Cubs bowed out of the postseason just sold for $1.775 million.  Back in October, there was an uproar when twitter found out about the for sale sign in front of the Cubs ace’s home.  But Brittany Arrieta attempted to clear the air shortly after, saying the internet needed to relax because she and Jake had been renting and planning to move out no matter what happened.

Move out to where, Brittany?  It’s been two months since that tweet and no, there isn’t any concrete evidence he wants to sign elsewhere.  But its time for even the most delirious Jake fans like myself to wake up and smell the roses.

The Cubs are signing pitcher after pitcher in an attempt to revamp an aging pitching staff, and Yu Darvish seems to be the priority at the moment.  In addition, this house was located just blocks from Jon Lester and neither the buyer nor the seller wants to talk to any journalist about the details of the purchase.  Again, these are just unsettling signs, there is nothing concrete.

The way I see it, Jake is sitting in some CrossFit gym in Austin right now waiting for a text back from Scott Boras saying the Rangers just offered him $200 million.  And that breaks my heart.

I can never speak ill of Jake Arrieta, he’s just done too goddamn much for this team.  His four years at Wrigley Field have been some of the best years of my life.  He went from a no-namer in Baltimore, to an ace that put the worst team in the NL central on his back every time he stepped on the bump in 2014.  Then a Cy Young winner, then a World Series Champion.

The truth is, Jake, you reached the top of the mountain in 2015 and 2016.  You were too irrefutably driven to be the best, you weren’t going to change your approach.  You wanted to throw 98 seven innings deep forever, and thats ok.  You put the lovable losers back on the map and you made the rest of the league fear the beard.  Just know this, when you walk away from the city where you resurrected your career, things will just be.. different.

 

The Cubs Should Pull Trigger On a Deal to Acquire Machado For Russell and Montgomery

Lew

As the New Year approaches, the rumors surrounding Manny Machado are intensifying. Provided that Baltimore is game, it’s becoming obvious that the Cubs should jump at an opportunity to acquire Machado for a package centered around Addison Russell and Mike Montgomery.

I have heard the critics. And they are not without reason. Both Russell and Monty are high ceiling guys under club control for the foreseeable future. Machado appears to be a one-year rental. His contract demands make it unlikely for him to be on the North Side past 2018.

I’m here to tell you why the deal still makes sense. The Cubs simply do NOT need Addison Russell OR Mike Montgomery to be a part of their long-term plans.

Addison Russell is great defensively. But his offensive game has completely plateau-ed. His power and plate discipline regressed in 2017, and I see no reason to believe he will be more consistent offensively in 2018 or the years that follow. Quite simply, Addison is overvalued. And I’m not sure why people are so smitten with him. He was an All-Star in 2016 riding completely on the tidal wave of positivity from the Cubs’ scorching start. If you played every day for the Cubs in 2016 (and your name wasn’t Jason Heyward), you were an All-Star. I don’t see Russell being a perennial all-star. He’s an outstanding defender, a marginally above average hitter, and he’s young. Period.

As for Montgomery, it’s time we go our separate ways. Monty has outgrown his role in the bullpen, and Cubs’ brass does not view him as a starter in this league. A clean break would be best for both sides. The Cubs have fortified their rotation with the addition of Tyler Chatwood and Drew Smyly. The bullpen is chalk-full of new arms. The music has stopped and Monty doesn’t have a chair.

The Cubs are undoubtedly a better team in 2018 with the superstar talent of Machado and without the expendable Addi and Monty. A 2,3,4,5 including Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo is borderline pornographic. This era of Cubs baseball deserves a one-summer fling with a player of Machado’s caliber.

IMG_3130The sky will not fall when Manny leaves in 2019. Javy and Ian Happ are more than capable as the middle infield of the future. The club has too much to gain to say “no thanks” to one year of Dominican megastar Manny Machado.

Kris Bryant Bodyslammed an Instagram Troll Yesterday

Jim

Hey @bighig44, get fucked.

Kris Bryant has been the Major Leaguer every fan dreams about his first three years. He’s been quiet, calm, reserved, and beating the Cincinnati Reds to a pulp.  He made it known that even though he’s the superstar of the team, after a 2016 MVP season, he takes a back seat to Rizzo when it comes to who the leader of the clubhouse is.  I’m excited to see him transition into a veteran in this league, and this absolute Five Knuckle Shuffle  on @bighig44 might be a step towards that.

Usually, the players that clap back at Internet trolls get on my nerves (cough cough Brett Anderson). “Let me know how your next professional game goes” is usually the go to response for guys like this.  Kris’ response here was perfect.  He didn’t attack @bighig44, that’s easy to do when you’re a professional baseball player and you’re up against a guy who spends his day trolling.  He disagreed politely, and ended it with a “pal”.  Dagger. Calling someone pal in an argument gives you 1000 bonus points.  There’s no coming back from that.  It’s power ranked #1 on the buddy/guy/pal spectrum.

We’ve seen someone I like to call “Bad Boy Kris” come out of his shell only a few times in three years, most notably when he got ejected for arguing a blatant missed ball/strike call in 2017.  While it’s nice and safe to have that guy on your team who hides his personality to the media, saying the same “yeah we just did our job today, fan atmosphere was great today” BS every player says, it was great to see Kris Bryant show us a sneak peek of his real personality.  Get dunked on, @bighig44.

I’ve Been Letting the Hot Stove Absolutely Have its Way With Me

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Nick

This holiday season my conversations with the various Cubs enthusiasts in my extended family have been a lot different than the ones held in the past.  What’s the difference?

Today there’s Bryce Harper talk, Manny Machado talk, and STILL Yu Darvish talk.  And for the majority of my history as a Cubs fan, I never got to partake in this kind of talk.  With all due respect to Marlon Byrd, the Cubs were never in the running to sign or trade for anybody of note.

I don’t care that an Addison Russell-Manny Machado trade in some way, shape, or form doesn’t make sense.  I don’t care that Addi is 23 years old.  And I certainly don’t care that Machado only has one year left on his contract.

The truth is I’m just happy to be here.  I love scrolling along on Twitter and seeing rumors like these.  But the Cubs aren’t just a rumor mill, and they’ve got the signings to show for it.

Tyler Chatwood and Drew Smyly represent a revamped, new look pitching staff that was desperately needed this offseason.  I’m not at all crazy about the move to let Chris Bosio go, but Joe got his right hand man from their days with the Devil Rays (Jim Hickey) as a result, so I can understand that it’s a rational move.

And at the end of the day, what puts my qualms to rest is that this organization is run by an evil genius in Theo Epstein.  Cubs fans say it a lot but it cant be said enough; In Theo We Trust.  We’re done trading our studs for prospects because those prospects have now turned into studs.  Meanwhile this organization continues to flex its muscles.  Boy would I hate to be a Cardinals fan right now.

Barstool Chicago Blogger Falsely Reports Yu Darvish Signed With Cubs, Is An Asshole

Lew

Yesterday, Barstool Carl, a blogger for Barstool Chicago, falsely reported that Yu Darvish had agreed to a contract with the Chicago Cubs.

As soon as he sent out the tweet announcing the Darvish deal, an army of seasoned baseball writers responded with tweets of their own. Their responses to Carl’s breaking “news” ranged from “unconfirmed” to “a blatant lie”. Even Darvish himself got in on the fun, quote-tweeting Carl’s original tweet with the caption “#fakenews”.

Carl’s actions rubbed me the wrong way here for a LOT of reasons. Not to be the grumpy old man in the room, but a relatively anonymous part-time blogger has no business trying to break huge free agent news unless he is 110% confident in its accuracy (verification from multiple sources). I get that he’s trying to nail scoops and build his personal brand, but the guy is CLEARLY just throwing shit against a wall and hoping it sticks. Breaking fake news is lazy, irresponsible and has a real impact on Darvish, his family, and his support staff.

If this, in any way, hinders the club’s pursuit of Darvish (and I can’t imagine it helping), Carl is a GIANT asshole. If it doesn’t hinder the club’s pursuit of Darvish, he is STILL an asshole.

Reporters report the news. Bloggers offer their commentary on the news. Neither one is more valuable than the others. But the thinking that part-time blogger Barstool Carl beat out the most experienced and well-connected writers in the baseball universe suggests an INSANE amount of arrogance on Carl’s part (and an absurd and misplaced amount of trust in the source who misled Carl).

Stick to the opinion pieces, Carl. Let the people who have devoted their professional lives to breaking baseball news handle that.

 

I Need Travis Wood Back on the Cubs Like I Need Air to Breathe

Jim

Travis Wood is on the market, and I need him.  He had a very poor 2017, posting a 6.80 ERA with the Royals and Padres.  Only 30 years old, Travis was the only player besides Anthony Rizzo to play on the 101 loss 2012 team and receive a ring in 2016.  I imagine if you ask a Major League baseball player “What is your ideal teammate?” they would describe Travis Wood head to toe.  He’s the hero we need right now, with clubhouse tension and anxiety brewing.

As for the 6.80 ERA? I’m not too concerned about it.  It’s like when you get a new dog and he shits in the house for the first couple weeks.  The change of scenery can be everything for a pitcher.  Travis Wood was not at home in KC or San Diego.  With bullpen/rotation being the main issue this offseason, why not?  Is two years $8 million enough to lock him down? And more importantly, can you imagine the dynamic he’d bring to the bullpen dances?

What Happens to a Role Deferred? Why Mike Montgomery Feels Held Back. And Why He’s Right.

Lew

One of the more intriguing and under-reported development from the Cubs’ busy week in Orlando is the sudden malcontent of our young swingman Mike Montgomery.

In the midst of Theo and Jed’s latest plundering of the MLB free agent market, Monty thought it necessary to air his grievances with recent developments within the team’s pitching staff. Monty was displeased with the Tyler Chatwoood signing and the club’s interest in adding new arms into the mix. The Chatwood signing and interest in a glut of remaining free agent starters signaled to Montgomery that 2018 would be another year where he would not be counted on as an every fifth day starting pitcher.

This didn’t please Monty. And he made his displeasure perfectly clear, saying “I don’t know if the role I’ve been doing the last few years is in my best interest. I want them (Cubs Management) to know I’m serious about starting. I want to be a starter. I’ve proven I can do it, and I want the opportunity.”

This outburst certainly took the front office by surprise. Both Theo and Jed expressed their disappointment and concern that one of the most valuable cogs of the staff was seemingly adopting a me-first attitude and putting his own success ahead of the interests of the ballclub.

But who could blame Montgomery? He’s been a good soldier for two seasons in a thankless role. He has excelled, proven he has the stuff to be a starter in this league, and is desperate for an opportunity to expand his role.

Monty’s outburst is a symptom of a roster that is at a crossroads. The young role-playing studs who have been so vital to our success over the past two seasons are growing up. Gone is the  happy-go-lucky portion of Monty’s career. He isn’t excited just to be in The Show and on a contending club. Montgomery has tasted team success, demonstrated his own talent, and wants to grow his role.

The list of players who identify with this “Montgomery Syndrome” is long. While they may not be vocal about it, I have a hard time believing that the likes of Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr, Carl Edwards Jr, and Javy Baez don’t also feel trapped in sub-optimal roles when they consider their place on the 2018 club.

These guys have shown up, excelled at what they’re asked to do, and earned greater opportunity. But will that opportunity come?

While Theo insists the team-first character of guys like Monty and Javy will prevent this opportunity crisis from corroding the Cubs’ feel good culture, a young player can only take so much frustration before it begins to affect his attitude and play.

I cannot understate how important it is for the Cubs to create a culture in which maturing young players do not feel stifled or stuck in sub-optimal roles. Theo, Joe. Let Monty show you that he can be a plus starter in this league. Let Ben Zobrist’s disappearing bat ride the bench in 2018 and give Happ and Almora those at-bats. Give Carl an opportunity to mature and become the closer of the future we so desperately desire.

For the club to continue to grow, our role players need to grow up. It won’t always be pretty, but now is the time to give the young guys the ball and see how far they run with it.

 

Giancarlo Stanton Reportedly Will Only Accept Trade to Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, and Cubs, I Reportedly Need New Underwear

Jim

December 8, 2017 12:39 am

Giancarlo Stanton, the $295 million dollar man is the trade MLB fans are waiting for this offseason.  As we know, the Marlins are looking to unload his behemoth of a contract on any team that’ll take it.  The Marlins had reached trade agreements with St. Louis and San Francisco, but were quickly shut down by Stanton’s no trade clause.  Thursday night, Stanton narrowed his list of teams he would accept a trade to to four: NYY, HOU, LAD, and the gosh darn CHC.

There’s still a long way to go, of course.  Stanton’s input doesn’t mean jack squat if Theo doesn’t put the pieces together to get him, or even if he wants to.  But the thought of that mountain man in blue and white pinstripes makes me jumpy.  I’d take a Schwarber, Heyward, Stanton outfield over any offensive line in the NFL.

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Theo has said earlier this offseason that he doesn’t plan on going over the MLB luxury tax, making this move all but impossible.  And with the Cubs having the second best offense in the NL last year behind the Mile High Rockies, it’s evident that pitching is the missing link on this team, with Theo already making moves for Tyler Chatwood earlier today.

But the mere thought that Stanton wants to come here makes me happy, even if we’re a long shot.  Players want to be a part of what’s buzzing on 1060 W Addison, and I don’t blame them.  Just close your eyes and imagine Kris Bryant batting with Rizzo on deck and Stanton holding a bat on the dugout steps. Now open them. Now get a tissue and get your self together.

The Cubs Just Locked Down Tyler Chatwood, Marking the Beginning of TheoSZN

Nick

C201112-S-Theo-Epstein-Chicago-Cubs

Doubt creeps into the mind of every fanbase when you don’t win as much as you’re supposed to, and Theo Epstein is one of those guys with the best winning reputation in the MLB.  But this season left a lot of Cubs fans questioning his moves.  There were inconsistencies galore in the batting order and bullpen, and there were murmurs that maybe Theo wasn’t doing what was expected of him.  I want every Cubs fan who might have said something along these lines of this to do me a favor, take the redline to Sox-35th next opening day, go grab a six pack of Modelo, and go join the dumb organization you belong in, because you’re not wanted on the north side anymore.
Theo doesn’t need to prove anybody wrong, but if he did, he’s doing it exactly how it needs to be done.  Locking down Tyler Chatwood for three years is incredible.  This is another Mike Montgomery-type fourth/fifth starter or a long relief guy who has the second best road ERA in the NL since 2015 (2.57), only trailing Clayton Kershaw (2.16).  His home ERA on the other hand is horrendous (6.01 last yr), seeing as he’s had to fight the high altitude playing for the Rockies for almost his entire career.  They say you can’t make everybody happy but I’m pretty sure Theo just did it, I’m ecstatic and you should be too.  Chatwood has been chomping at the bit to get the fuck out of Denver for half a decade and Joe Maddon can’t wait to drill his philosophy in his skull, what a time.
Theo made free agency fun again, gone are the days where free agency meant trading away your studs for prospects, miss you Soriano /: .  But today its US in the hunt for top players.  And I can really only attribute that to what Theo has built around here.  Can you picture Jim Hendry successfully contacting and locking down Shohei Ohtani to come play at Wrigley? No?
I rest my case.

Willson Contreras Won the Venezuelan HR Derby Last Night

Jim

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There is nowhere else I’d rather be in the world last night than Valencia, Venezuela.  Willy put on a show for the home fans, bombing 33 home runs, with 9 in the final round. Just Willy doing Willy things.

One thing bugs me, however. Why no Venezuelan arm sleeve? Maybe it’s seen in the same light as a millenial wearing American flag Chubbies and Willy is two steps ahead of me.

“Beyond winning, I decided to give a message to the fans, especially the little ones in the house,” Contreras told reporters. “They must remember that there are no limits when you dream big.”  Tell me again how Yadier Molina is the best/most likeable catcher in the NL Central one more time.  Willson posted a .276 average with 21 homers, 74 RBIs, and .356 on-base percentage all while missing over a month of games.  I see plenty of hardware in his future, but for right now, let’s all join together and congratulate Contreras on what seems like a delightful night in Venezuela.

Did Kyle Schwarber Just Scare the Rest of the MLB into Retirement?

Jim

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70 days until Spring Training. We’re so close. In times like these, we have to focus on smaller things than pennant races.  Today, Kyle Schwarber took over the Cubs Snapchat, showing his his offseason workout regimen. And boy did he look good.

“We should have traded Kyle after the World Series!” “Kyle should be in Iowa!” “Kyle’s fat!”

Kyle just stuffed you in a locker, nerd. He looks leaner than ever, meaner than ever, and like he’s ready to hit 50 baseballs onto Sheffield Ave.  Go ahead, LA! Break the bank on Stanton, Kyle’s counting down the days until Mesa, just like you should be.

Goodbye Hector, It’s Been Nice: Bidding Adieu to the Last of his Kind

Lew

IMG_3076

Goodbye, Hector. It’s been nice. Hope you find your paradise. On a day when Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Tommy LaStella and (shudders*)  Justin Wilson were all tendered and brought back for the 2018 season, the North Side lost a good man, and a better piece of the Latin Swag puzzle.

Listen, it was Hector’s time to go. There’s no debating it. Rondon’s been pitching on borrowed time ever since Aroldis poisoned his mojo in midsummer 2016. But I do think it’s appropriate to take a step back and acknowledge his unique and magical run at the Friendly Confines.

First of all, there will not be another Hector Rondon pitching in a Cubs uniform any time in the near future. The guy emerged from NOWHERE to become the go-to guy out of the ‘pen on a very good ballclub, and a pretty dominant closer (for a minute or two).

Before Theo was making headline deals for flashy closers, he was using Rule 5 draft picks to flyers on guys like Hector Rondon. Hector was never the flame thrower that Aroldis was. Not the sniper that Wade was. He looked like an anteater and had a gut that would make Jim Irwin proud. But the guy had a fastball with life, plus-plus offspeed stuff, and a fearlessness when tasked with getting the final three outs of a ballgame.

His “come from nowhere” effectiveness is a dying breed. It seems like every day, a bigger percentage of the team becomes a hot-shot rookie or a big-name market acquisition. But these new guys on the block will never have the “awkward, sweaty uncle” look on lock like Hector Rondon. Adios, 56. Thanks for the memories.

Death of Innocence: What Henry Blanco’s Departure Means to the North Side

Lew

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Very quietly, Henry Blanco’s time on the North Side has come to an end. Henry is leaving his post as Quality Control Coach on Joe Maddon’s bench to be the bullpen coach for Davey Martinez in D.C.

Now this may not seem to be a big deal. And to be honest, it’s probably not. But for some reason, this move really struck a cord with me. In my mind, he was the last of what I like to call the “Innocent Cubs” left in the dugout.

Blanco’s Cub playing career ended in the glorious 2008 season. It was a different era. An era when Tom Rickett’s name was unknown, Jim Hendry’s reign was unquestioned, and a digital scoreboard at Wrigley was unthinkable. The bullpens, and the Budweiser house, were visible to anyone who cared to look. The Eamus Catuli house wasn’t a sign full of zeroes. The chase to end the curse was at a fever pitch.

Now I’m not saying the 2016 World Series wasn’t the most epic Cubs experience that has or will ever happen. But I will miss Blanco’s familiar face. A guy who was around before the Cubs were so polished and corporate. When the Old Style man was still king at Clark and Addison.

With Blanco’s departure, the innocent Cubs are all gone. Thanks for your service, Hank White. CubForLife.

Infamous Jameis: Why Winston Reminds Us How Much We Miss Baseball

Lew

This past NFL Sunday, I saw something that TRULY made me long for baseball season. It happened pregame in a matchup of the most irrelevant division in the NFL (with respect to the AFC South), the NFC South. The pretty good Saints vs. the pretty bad Bucs in a game no one really cared about.

Famous Jameis Winston is trying to his 2-5 teammates fired up. How does he do this? He gives the single worst speech in the history of oral communication. He curled his hand into a “W” shape, licked his fingers, and implored his coworkers to “Eat a W!!” on this Sunday afternoon.

Watching this unfold was the single worst thing I have done in my brief time on Earth. Stupid shit like this just doesn’t happen in baseball. There are no publicized pregame speeches. No need for “look at me” communication. Just go out there, play the game, and have fun doing it. I love NFL football as much as the next guy. But so many NFL personalities (Jameis, Zeke, OBJ, the list goes on and on) suuuuuck right now.

MLB personalities, on the other hand, are exciting engaging, and likable like never before in history. Altuve, Springer, Javy, Rizzo, the list goes on and on. Consistently more entertaining. The celebrations and emotion come out during the actual contest. Not when the cameras are trained on them pre-game.

All the names I just listed would never pull a stunt like Jameis did this weekend. Jameis, be better. And Cubs baseball, miss you babe.

An Ode to Chris Bosio

Jim

Most Cubs fans know Chris Bosio as the guy with the white goatee who comes out of the dugout when pitchers are in trouble to make a mound visit.  But he’s much more than that. Bosio was hired by Theo Epstein in 2012 to make a difference in a struggling pitching staff.  He had several “projects” throughout his six year tenure as the Cubs pitching coach, and has a track record as good as they come.  He helped transform Jake Arrieta from the baby faced Oriole who came over in a deal with Pedro Strop into a lumberjack Cy Young winner with two no hitters under his belt.  He helped transform Kyle Hendricks from a 2011 eighth round Rangers draft pick into the 2016 MLB ERA leader, with a fastball that rarely touches 89 mph.  He improved one of the worst pitching staffs into the best staff in the MLB in 2016, topping the rankings with a 3.19 ERA.  So when the pitching staff regressed in 2017 to a 3.95 ERA, with the bullpen seemingly collapsing in October, with eighth innings giving Tribune writers plenty to write about, it was obvious that changes needed to be made.  Part of the problem was personnel wise, there’s no debating that, but the endless walks throughout the regular season and more evidently in October weren’t a lack of talent.

So Theo told Joe after the Dodgers series that he can have any coach back that he wishes, giving him the reigns to the club. The first to go was Chris Bosio, fired Saturday, being made an example of for the lack of pitching in 2017.  Probable replacementh candidates include Jim Hickey, Maddon’s pitching coach when he did his time in Tampa Bay, former Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux, and recently fired Red Sox manager John Farrell, a 2013 World Series Champion.

A manager-pitching coach is delicate, with crucial decisions about who should be on the mound in a tight situation causing an inevitable conflict between Maddon and Bosio.  It’s clear that the Cubs are aiming to add more solidity to the bullpen this offseason, and part of that is addition by subtraction, kicking Bosio to the curb.

The pitching staff was far from a championship caliber performance this year, but does that mean Theo should get rid of one of the key faces behind the miraculous rebuild?  We have a long way to go this winter, and we’ll see several friendly faces we’ve grown to know and love leave the North Side, so you better get used to it.  But this blog is a recognition and a thank you to Chris Bosio for his time at Wrigley.  This one’s for you.

Heart Full of Hate: What I Learned in the NLCS

Lew

I wanted this blog to be a grateful look back on what truly has been a wonderful season on the North Side. I wanted to wax poetic on how there’s never been a better time to be a Cubs fan. How the lineup is young and under club control for the foreseeable future. How the front office is first-in-class and committed to sustained success. How ownership is dedicated to bringing more championships to Wrigley Field.

But I’m writing this on Thursday night and I’m pissed off. There’s no doubt that the Dodgers were the better team this October. But that doesn’t mean I have to like them. In fact, I kind of hate them. I hate a lot about how this NLCS played out actually. On the podcast, we like to do a segment called “What I Hate About You”, so how about a special NLCS edition.

I hate that the city with the worst fans won. I hate that Curtis Granderson got 4 strikes. I hate Brian Anderson’s stupid Milwaukee voice. I hate that David Ross sang the 7th inning stretch in the last game at Wrigley in 2017.

I hate Chris Taylor’s face. I hate Justin Turner’s beard. I hate Yasiel Puig’s mannerisms. I hate Charlie Culbertson’s existence on that roster.

I hate that our lineup disappeared. I hate that Justin Wilson let Theo Epstein down. I hate that we went 1-1000 with RISP this NLCS. I hate that I liked the Doyer Dog.

But the reason I have all this hate in my heart right now, is because of how much I love this ballclub, and this city. And how much hope I had a season to match the magical 2016. But hell, this is baseball. You get what you earn. And this 2017 ballclub simply didn’t earn the spoils of victory our 2016 Cubbies did.

I just hate that we have to wait 5 more months to watch the boys in blue run out of the dugout and onto the Wrigley Field dirt.

Can the Cubs Pull This Off?

By Jim Irwin

The Cubs shot themselves in the foot this whole postseason, with a bullpen ERA above 6.00, hitters batting .172, and living and dying by the long ball. Quickly, the Cubs found themselves down 3-0 in a best of 7.  Actually bad.  The only time a team has come back from this deficit has been, of course, the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS vs. the big bad Yankees.  As Kevin Millar said before game 4 in that series, “Don’t let us win tonight. ‘Cause we got Pedro [Martinez] tomorrow, [Curt] Schilling in game 6, and anything can happen in a game 7,” an iconic interview that defined what has become one of the best postseason series in MLB history.

The 2017 Cubs narrative, however similar, is a little bit different.  Our “don’t let us win tonight” game is tonight, game 5.  Last night, the matchup was in the Cubs favor, with Jake Arrieta vs. Alex Wood.  Tonight, the Cubs are extremely outmatched, going against the best pitcher on Earth right now, Clayton Kershaw.  The bullpen is taxed, with Wade Davis throwing 2 long innings last night, so they need 7+ innings of 2 runs or less from Q tonight.  The Cubs have one job, one goal, and that is to board a flight to LA on Friday.  The flight to LA from Chicago is long enough as it is.  Make this a flight for the Dodgers where they’re itching their necks, saying “We’re fine” when deep down they know the Cubs smell blood in the water.  Don’t let the Cubs win tonight, because we got Big Jon Lester Saturday, and anything can happen in game 7.

What Happened to our depth?  Are the Cubs Really Giving LA Their Best Shot?

By Nick Gargano

As much as I want to go off on Joe Maddon for the way for he handled the bullpen Sunday night I’m concerned with much graver issues.

But what could be worse than electing to send John Lackey to the mound with 2 runners on? How can anything be more concerning than sending a guy who’s specialty this year was giving up home runs early to face Justin Turner, who’s specialty this year has been to rip out the beating hearts of opponents?

Whats more concerning is that the Cubs have failed to score more than three runs in a game all but once this October, but it goes further than just the sheer scoring power. And obviously most of the fault has to be given to the players when they can’t really get on base or get a hit when somebody is on base.

Joe needs to realize that he’s gotten away from the identity that earned this team the best second half record in the majors.  Depth and versatility.  Javy Baez is hitless and Contreras has been garbage aside from one, maybe two games.  Meanwhile Ian Happ and Alex Avila continue to ride the bench.  So what Joe Maddon and his ball club have to do is look at the man in the mirror and some soul searching and rediscover who they are.

When this team is at its offensive best, everybody’s eating.  Its why six Cubs had 20 plus homers this year and its why its time for Joe to take a step back and kind of get back to his coaching identity where he rotates his lineup a fair amount.  Joe’s style is quirky and you can hate it or love it.  But its who he is, its who he’s always been, and its who he needs to get back to being to even have a shot at returning to the World Series.

Whose Booze: Reminiscing On Locker Room Celebrations Past

Following up the epic Game 5 victory, the Cubs had an equally epic postgame celebration. We have had the privilege over the past 3 years to witness more than our fair share of champagne showers in the locker room, and it always gets us thinking… What are the guys sipping on after the cameras go off? In that spirit, I want to wind back the clock and do a special “Whose Booze” recap from the 2016 World Series and 2017 Central Division Championship celebrations.

2016 World Series Parade

  • John Lackey: Old English. Guy was fucked up on the trolley. Wasn’t even saying anything. Absolute Zombie.
  • Miguel Montero: Don’t know what he was drinking but know he was fucked up. Got invited on to the stage to say a few words and he just screams, “WE ARE GOOD!”
  • Kris Bryant: Juice Box. Obvious.
  • Travis Wood: Any cheap whiskey. Feels like a flask guy. Wild Turkey, Evan Williams. Something cheap and dark.
  • Trevor Cahill: Licking Budweiser off the trolley floor. You know that muskrat fuck knows that he’s never going back to this, so he’s trying to get absolutely every ounce of free alcohol he can get.
  • Pat Hughes: Gin and tonic. Classy Drink for a refined man. Guy had to talk a lot at the rally in Grant Park so he wasn’t sloppy, but didn’t stop him from enjoying a little head buzz.
  • Ben Zobrist: Sprite. Boring. Expected. White paint on white wall personality. Nothing There.
  • Javy Baez: White girl wasted drinking Hennessy.
  • Dexter Fowler: Also drinking Hennessy. Not to microagress.
  • Kyle Schwarber: Old Style and dip spit.

2017 Central Division Championship Celebration in St. Louis

  • Taylor Davis: Absolutely mutilated. Drinking boring Budweiser and enjoying every ounce. Living off a Triple-A salary and squeezing Tom Ricketts for every dime of booze money he can.
  • Alex Avila: Whip-Its. Insane frat guy move. You got a rich up-tight dad, you crave an unhealthy high. Avila’s dad has traded his son away multiple times. Al is working off the excess rage with some Whip Its.
  • René Rivera: Finest French Chardonay. Guy is all class. No bottom shelf bullshit for René.
  • Felix Peña: Don Julio for himself and the Latin Swag boys. No way those guys are feebly accepting Bud Light after clinching a division. No way.

Game Recap: NLDS Game 3: Scherzer vs Quintana

By Jim Irwin

Yesterday’s game was my favorite game of the year bar none.  It was day baseball at Wrigley, a chill in the air, with Chicago legends involved in the festivities as far as the eye can see.  It was put up or shut up time for Jose Quintana, as the July addition to add stability to the rotation showed flashes of brilliance down the stretch, but had some starts that made Cubs fans scratch their heads.  He showed up.  Just under 6 innings pitched, 2 hits, a start that should have gone a little longer if not for Kyle Schwarber’s blunder in the sixth inning, kicking the ball around in left field to give Daniel Murphy 3 bases and the Nationals a 1-0 lead. On the other side, Max Scherzer threw lights out no hit baseball for over six innings, making fans forget about his hamstring injury a little over a week ago.

That all changed in the bottom of the 7th, when 2B Ben Zobrist broke up Scherzer’s no-no with a double in the gap, with Kyle Schwarber on deck to redeem himself. Dusty Baker pulled Scherzer after the Zobrist double, bringing in the lefty Sammy Solis, forcing Maddon to pinch hit Albert Almora in Schwarber’s spot, and he delivered.  He tied the game on a screaming single to left field, putting the game in the bullpen’s hands, and they delivered.

Carl Edwards trotted out in the top of the eighth, giving Cubs fans flashbacks to Saturday night’s Game 2 where he gave up the game tying home run to Bryce Harper, ultimately swinging the game into Washington’s hands. Who should Edwards face in the eighth but the top of the order, and he did what we have seen him do plenty of times in the past, go 1-2-3 and show great emotion, firing up the home fans.  Tie ball game, bottom of the eighth.

Tommy LaStella led off the eighth on a pinch hit walk, proving his necessity on the 2017 playoff roster.  Leonys Martin pinched ran for LaStella, advancing to second on a perfectly placed Jon Jay bunt.  With two outs, the red hot Anthony Rizzo dug in and hit a bloop single to left, perfectly placed, scoring Martin and taking a 2-1 lead. Wade Davis shut the door in the ninth, and that’s all she wrote. 2-1 win taking a 2-1 lead in the series with Jake Arrieta on the mound today.  Who’s got it better than us?

Class Is In Session: What Kyle Hendricks Taught us on Friday Night

Lew

I’m sick and tired of Kyle Hendricks not getting the respect he deserves. Over the past two seasons, Hendricks has been as consistently excellent as anyone in the Bigs not named Scherzer, Kluber, or Kershaw.

And yet, because he doesn’t throw gas or have a disgusting curveball, Kyle is NEVER mentioned in the same breath as those guys. So-called baseball people refuse to say he’s even a top-15 pitcher in the League.

On Friday night, Hendricks punched another line on his nearly silent 2 year journey to be counted amongst baseball’s elite hurlers. The Professor did what he does. He went on the road against an absolutely stacked lineup, in a head-to-head matchup against one of those media darling megapitchers from Mars, Stephen Strasburg.

And Kyle absolutely SHOVED. Biggest game of the year to date and he unequivocally outdueled the pitcher with far greater hype. And why should we be surprised?!!? He was magnificent throughout the pennant race in 2017. He outdueled the Great and Almighty Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS. He outpitched the omnipotent Corey Kluber in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

So why the FUCK are people trying to argue that Luis Severino and Trevor Bauer are better pitchers than the Professor. It is absolutely INSANE. The guy has pitched in the biggest games of the past two seasons and maintained an ERA South of 3.0. And because he throws like Greg Maddux and not Nolan Ryan, too many in the baseball world refuse to acknowledge his greatness.

Wake up and stop being an asshole. It’s not a coincidence that Kyle Hendricks consistently spins gems against top-5 offenses. Kyle Hendricks is a top-5 pitcher walking the planet today.

Hats Off to You, John Lackey

By Jim Irwin

So, as we know, the Cubs clinched the NL Central once again on Tuesday, the first back to back division win since 07-08 and the first 3 consecutive playoff appearances since 06-08, 1906-1908 to be clear. It was great seeing this team clinch in a rivals ballpark, and as Len Kasper said, the location meant even more to the fans than the players.  But this blog isn’t about the Cubs, it’s about one Cub, and his name is John Lackey.  

We, as podcasters, myself included, have ragged on this guy a lot the past two years, but it’s time to recognize excellence when it’s been right in front of your face this whole time. John Lackey is 38 years old, an MLB journeyman who knows as much about professional baseball as anyone in this league right now.  So when Jon Lester raised his beer for what was probably John Lackey’s last regular season start Tuesday night, it got me looking back on exactly what his career was exactly. 188 wins, almost 3000 innings, 2293 strikeouts, a sub 4 ERA, and not to mention 2 World Series rings.

As much as people ridicule this guy for complaining about what seems like every call each time he starts, I think he’s earned that right.  Now he’s not a Hall of Famer by any means, but as Lester said in his toast “Here’s to one hell of a fucking career.” I hope we see this guy in a broadcast booth someday; it would be appointment television.

St. Louis, the Cubs Just Ate Your Nachos. And They’re Not Sorry. MY COLUMN

Lewis Burik

A franchise, fanbase, and a city saw their hopes and dreams disintegrate this week. St. Louis is in ashes. And Theo Epstein lit the match. We walked into Busch Stadium and we took their nachos.

Monday night Addison Russell literally stole a St. Louis man’s nachos. Ran into the stands and kicked them all over his face. Could a fanbase be more beta to a ballclub than Cardinals Nation is to the Chicago Cubs? After we ruined that man’s shirt, evening, and sense of self-worth on Monday night, we began our real destruction of the most overrated city (is this giving St. Louis too much credit? Do people know that St. Louis exists?) in the Midwest.

Wednesday night we took their division. Former Cardinal Ace and current human psychopath John Lackey shoved it down their throat in front of thousands of Cubs fans and hundreds of Cards fans at Busch Stadium. We partied on their field, in their dugout, and in their (what I presume to be horrifying) casinos. We drank their liquor, we stole their women, we tore out their souls.

Thursday evening we ended their season. We trotted out a AAA lineup (Taylor Davis I am NOT sorry) and eliminated the Cards in their own house. In the 9th inning, your do-or-die time, we trotted out a pitcher who is more likely to serve as a diplomat in hopes of de-escalating nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula than he is to pitch a meaningful inning in October. And he shut you down. A center fielder who wears #24 made a game-saving play on the biggest stage. It was Leonys Martín. It was not Dexter Fowler. Fowler switched to #25 to piss of St. Louis people who are in love with known cheater Mark McGuire. Dexter Fowler doesn’t make big plays in big games anymore. Dexter Fowler doesn’t play in big games anymore (not the Cardinal Way).

St. Louis we just ate your nachos, and we did it with a smile on our face. Thanks for playing the Cardinal Way. See you in 2018, losers.

One Hitter: Puffing and Passing on the Best Football Takes From the Weekend OUR COLUMN

At the end of the every weekend, the cohosts here at General Admission like to offer their most definitive takes from the slate of weekend football games. This is still a Cubs baseball podcast, but we’d be bullshitting our listeners if we didn’t share some of our takes from the gridiron. We’re not gunna write essays. Quick, dirty. One hit. That’s all. Like most GAGuys, we stay away from the Coasts, focusing our time and effort on the places where GANation reigns: beautiful Soldier Field and B1G 10 Country. Without further ado, offering our one hits from the weekend.

Jim: Mike Glennon just beat one of the best defenses in the AFC with 101 yards passing… The guy rode a stellar defense and the rushing efforts of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard to a W. Gotta respect the move.

Nick: The Bears defense is fucking dominant. They get put in shit situations time after time after time and they answer the bell. The front 7 is top five in the league.  Getting sacks, stopping the run. Great day to be a Bears fan, great way to set up a Thursday night game against the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers look shaky, Aaron Rodgers does NOT have the protection this year…

Lew: Crying tears for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Pour one out for Kirk Ferentz. If you can’t root for the Iowa Hawkeyes, you can kick rocks. Bunch of try hard dudes, sweet jerseys, nothing like Kinnick Stadium at night. Unbelievable effort against the more talented Penn State football team. Both teams played their ass off, but when Penn State converted the fourth and goal walkoff Touchdown to win the game, a little piece of me died.

It’s Time To Use Baseball As A Distraction From The Real World

By Jim Irwin

The biggest storylines this weekend didn’t come from the baseball diamond, they came from the White House and NFL sidelines, with hundreds of players using their platform to promote political agendas, seemingly dividing the country in two.  Dominating sports headlines, this will be on front page news every week for the near future.

Now baseball, baseball is seen as America’s past time, a family atmosphere where you can enjoy a ball game and forget about life for a while.  Now we are priming ourselves for one of the best MLB postseasons in recent memory, with several contenders and no clear cut favorite.  This is a call to arms for GA Nation.  The world outside in 2017 is scary, there’s no denying that.  Politics have driven this country into a black hole, with people not able to have a conversation without it turning into a political debate with no one changing each other’s minds.

So this call to arms is to use baseball this October.  Use it as a distraction, put the phone down, and lose yourself in this team.  Invest now, because the Cubs we love to watch season could be over in 2 weeks.  Use this postseason as therapy, because Lord knows we need it right now.

It’s Time We Recognize Wade Davis

By Jim Irwin

We’ve talked about this guy a lot on this website, but not enough.  He has been the lone spot of perfection on this team, and it’s time to recognize him.  That man is Wade Davis, closing out his 31st save today out of 31 opportunities Sunday against the Cardinals, lowering his ERA to an astoundingly low 2.05. Now I’m not a math guy but that’s near or might even be 100% saves per save opps.   He pitched 3 days in a row this weekend, not giving any excuses, just performing.  

There’s a reason why he’s the only all star on this team, and the Jorge Soler trade is looking pretty pretty good right now, with Soler spending the majority of the year on the Royals Oklahoma City Triple A affiliate playing video games in motels around the American Southwest.  Wade’s given us a few nail biters, but for the most part, it’s been cruise control in the ninth inning with a lead.  No drama, no nothing.  Give me Wade Davis over Aroldis Chapman any day of the week.

An Inconvenient Truth: Cleveland’s Dirty Little Secret MY COLUMN

By Lewis Burik

In recent days, there’s been only one MLB story that has dominated the national headlines. The Cleveland Indians’ outlandish 22-game winning streak. And this streak absolutely should be the it story in the MLB right now.
They’ve gone on this streak in the most dominant fashion available. They’ve trailed for roughly 6 of their past 100 innings. Absurd, absurd shit.
What makes this dominant run an even better story? The ballclub is pretty damn loveable. They’re a scrappy, young, well put-together team with a ton of good ballplayers and no over-exposed, over-hyped aging sluggers. The Indians have a unique and universally respected manager, and they play in a loveable Midwest town. They burst onto the scene last year and now seem poised to finish the job in October. This sound at all familiar? Yeah, sounds an awful like the 2016 Chicago Cubs narrative.
And that is all fine and dandy!! I’m happy for the Indians and the city of Cleveland. No matter what happens in October, the historic nature of this streak of this 2017 season will long live in the memory bank’s of Indians fans.
But that brings me to my next point. This incredible streak doesn’t mean jack SHIT in October. The Indians are what the Cubs were last year. Fun up-starts, hot, loveable. But ultimately, unsure. Unproven. A contender.
The Cubs are Champions. Big Dogs. Bad guys. The cutesie storylines are gone from the Northside. It’s been replaced by a Championship pedigree.
This Indians streak has been great for baseball. But to quote the great Ric “Nature Boy” Flair, “To be the man, you got to beat the man.” The 2017 Chicago Cubs ARE the man, and the Indians are just the next guy who wants a shot at the title.
It don’t matter how many you win in September. They hand out rings in October. All the loveable-ness in the world don’t mean a thing when you’re in a 12-round fight with a battle-tested, proud champion. We’ll see you if we see you, Cleveland.

Winning Lineup

By Jim Irwin 8/29

If you have the MLB at bat app, like any out of market Cubs fan does, you see the lineup notification about 6 hours before the first pitch every day.  You stop what you’re doing to see who’s playing where, to see what did Joe Maddon schemed up today.  

This whole year, I’ve looked at my phone and thought questions like,  “Why the hell is Javy not playing? Why is Schwarber still leading off?” and many many other questions of holes in our lineup.  Saturday, I looked down at my phone to read the lineup and thought “This is a winning lineup.”

Almost every one is hot.  Schwarber is settling in to the 2 hole, Rizz is the best player on earth in August not named Giancarlo Stanton, Avila is looking like the perfect trade, and even Tommy Fucking LaStella is producing, with one of the best averages on the team.  

While our pitching has been shaky these past few weeks, lacking consistency, offensively, I’m getting a feeling I haven’t had since 2016 when I look at this lineup.  We have one of the easiest remaining schedules in all of baseball, now let’s take care of business and be the Cubs.

Rags to Riches

By Lewis Burik

One of the great things about MLB baseball is its unpredictability. Over a marathon 162 game season, players always emerge from anonymity to grab a piece of your heart as Cubs fans. The “nobody” who rises up to earn the respect of the ballclub and the city. Arriving with little fanfare, but delivering results night in and night out. Last year it was Mike Montgomery.

This year that guy is Brian Duensing. Duensing was an under the radar acquisition. And I don’t think I’m alone when I say I was hoping for Theo to snag a higher profile guy to be our lefty specialist out of the pen. Duensing’s first few appearances out of the ‘pen made me dislike and distrust him even more.

In early April, the guy was getting rocked every time he took the bump. Duensing in the game was an “Oh fuck” moment for the entire North Side.

But since then, Duensing has been spectacular. 50 plus innings pitched and a sparkling 2.50 ERA. While he doesn’t have the flash of Pedro or Carl, I trust this guy more than anyone in the ‘pen not named Wade Davis.  What a rags to riches story.

And for every rags to riches story like Brian Duensing, there’s a story about a fat cat who is overhyped and underperforms. The dude who looks great coming off the bus, but can’t get it done when the lights are on. Last year it was Jason Heyward.

This year, that guy is Justin Wilson.  When he arrived from Detroit a few weeks ago, many in the media were talking about him being the guy to replace Wade in 2018 as the closer of the future. Well since arriving on the North Side, Wilson has STUNK. He’s worked in 5 plus innings and given up a million runs. Every time he toes the bump, bad things happen. Can’t locate. Gives up hits to the bottom of the order. An ERA closer to 7.00 than 6.00.

The “closer of the future” talk has stopped. But we need Justin Wilson to start doing his job, and STOP being a liability. This team needs a little more Brian Duensing and a little less Justin Wilson.

Miggy Madness

By Lewis Burik

The Toronto Blue Jays being in town this past weekend meant only one thing to this GAGuy: The return of one the North Side’s lost sons. The re-emergence of an icon of our magical 2016 playoff run. The arrival of a prince of Latin Swag. That’s right. The Blue Jays in town meant the one and only Miguel Montero was back in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Miguel Montero was last a Cub in the late days of June. We saw him melt down after an embarrassing showing against the Nationals in our nation’s capital. And we saw him unceremoniously DFA’d after that disastrous day in D.C. when anyone and everyone on the Nats was running at will against Miggy and Jake.

With that gut-punch of a loss, (one of the most disheartening of 2017) the Cubs fell to 39-38 on the season. A second place team in a second rate division, struggling mightily to stay above .500.

And where are the Cubs now? Has Miggy’s banishment to Canada fixed some perceived locker room poison and righted the ship of the defending World Champions? I would argue STRONGLY that the answer is a resounding NO.

Sure, the Cubs are now in first place in a watered down N.L. Central. Sure, a blazing hot streak after the All-Star Game has given the Cubs a marginally larger cushion over the .500 mark. And sure, Miguel Montero is batting a paltry .083 with the Blue Jays since they picked him up (Yikes, Miggy).

But a lot of the big-picture problems with the 2017 Cubs remain.  Situational hitting, manufacturing runs, having consistently professional at-bats, and most importantly, clutch hitting  (especially off the bench) have been in short order with our current lineup.

In 2016, Miggy was the guy who checked all the boxes you see above. His run of clutch hits in 2016 is nothing short of legendary.

Now the haters and losers will say Miggy’s departures pushed Willy towards the superstar he was becoming before he went down in San Francisco with a hamstring strain. But regardless of Willy’s development, the ballclub misses Miggy’s bat off the bench and I miss his presence in the clubhouse.

Miggy brought “We are Good” into the world, and for that we will always owe him a great debt. Sure, Willy created “We are Back”, but now “He is Out”, and “I am Lonely”. With all due respect to Al Avila, I like my catcher’s English broken and their hearts in Venezuela.

So I hope you thought fondly of Miguel when he strolled to the batter’s box this weekend at Wrigley. GANation will not soon forget you.

The Disappearance of Ben Zobrist

By Nick Gargano

Watching Ben Zobrist this weekend was nothing short of uninspiring.  Game after game all Zo could give this team were weakly hit groundouts, errors in the field, flubbed pinch hit appearances, and strikeouts.  All while watching his average teeter below .220.

The lowlight of this series for Zo came on Saturday night against the DBacks. 6-2 in the middle of a two out rally in the 9th, the momentum swinging in the northsiders’ favor.  This would have been the best comeback of the season and we were well on our way to making this a game.  But up steps Ben Zobrist… and he strikes out.  Granted that the final “strike” was an awful call by the home plate ump.

  Zo then glares at the ump, and I’m thinking “fuck yes, we’re really about to see some bad boy Zobrist, something we haven’t seen all year!”  But of course he drops it and walks away.  He kept quiet and probably got a pat on the back and a little handy or something from his wife Julianna.  But where’s the passion man?  I’ve seen two quiet guys in Kris and Willy blow up at an ump over less erroneous strike calls.

This is the start of the Doormat Zo Accountability Train.  This is a guy that won the World Series MVP only a year ago, and he barely plays this year.  Stop letting latin swag walk all over you and take your starting job in the infield.  Stop letting Julianna walk all over you and make you play her bubblegum pop music as your walk up song.  And lastly, stop letting these umps walk all over you, the next time Mike Wenger calls some bullshit on Zo, I need to see him put his foot in the ground, get in his face, maybe drop an F bomb like Kris did a few weeks ago when he got ejected, and tell that prick that Doormat Zo is no more.

No One Puts John Lackey In The Corner

By Jim Irwin

There’s a saying popularized from Patrick Swayze’s Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” If you were ever on a sports team down at halftime, like the three of us were, you probably heard a coach try to motivate the team by saying something along the lines of “Nothing is scarier than a dog that’s stuck in a corner.” Because that’s when a dog bites. That is when a dog does everything it can to survive.  To take this one step further, there’s nothing scarier than a GA guy in a corner.  He’ll scratch and claw, doing whatever it takes to live another day.  To take it one more step further, there is NOTHING scarier than John Lackey in a corner.

 There were a lot of questions about the back end of our rotation in June, with critics, including us, saying Lackey’s career is presumably over, 38 years old and giving up any home run he can get his hands on.  He responded to this criticism in a similar manner as a young Tom Brady.

 When Drew Bledsoe went down in 2002, a veteran wide receiver told Brady that he’s doing well in place of Bledsoe, keeping the seat warm until he gets back.  To this, Brady responded “He’s not getting this fucking job back.” Eddie Butler is not getting his fucking job back, Mike Montgomery is not getting his fucking job back.  

John Lackey is here to stay, winning five straight starts in a tight division race, not doing anything special, just winning ball games, cementing his spot in the rotation and making the fourth playoff starter decision harder for Joe Maddon every time he takes the mound.  Do not put John Lackey in the corner, because that’s when he does his best.

Image Vs Identity

By Lewis Burik

This past weekend, with the Nationals in town at Wrigley Field, and half the world at Lolla in Grant Park, is probably the most frenetic of the year. Humans moving, shaking, sweating in all directions. You your best friends, side by side with the scum of the Earth, navigating through a drug-addled mass of humanity. All while trying to pretend you give a shit about who’s playing music at a given time, and not just what the next substance you consume will be, who you want to clock in the mouth, or figuring out when the hell that chick from Bio in high school started looking like that.

Now I was watching this shit show from afar.  Being out of the city for the weekend forced my people watching/trolling to take place exclusively on Instagram and Snapchat.  And watching from afar, I couldn’t help but think about one of my favorite concepts: image vs. identity.

What the hell is that, Lewis? It’s how the world perceives you vs who you actually are.

“Look at my Snap Story at Perry’s!! I’m tight!!! I am a person that doesn’t suck!!!” Unfortunately, often times this is not the case. I’m not saying every person who posts on social media from Lolla sucks. I am saying that the image people project on social media is often COMPLETELY different from who a person REALLY IS. The image you project doesn’t change your identity.

Now Lewis, what the FUCK does this have to do with the Chicago Cubs? Everything. The Cubs front office and media relations people continue to project an image of this year’s ballclub that is completely inconsistent with the true identity of the team.  

The higher-ups at Clark and Addison are selling the squeaky-clean image of the “That’s Cub” Cubs. The “Bryzzo Boys”. Polished. Clean. Professional.  That’s the image that keeps getting shoved down our throat.

But what’s the true identity of this team? These are the Willson Contreras Cubs. Young. Streaky. Growing. Incomplete. But most importantly: authentic.  There are ups and downs with this club, but never doubts that its heart is in the right place. It’s often not pretty, but it always is engaging.

This identity is perfectly aligned with THIS podcast. We’re not corporate, we’re not polished. What we are is authentic. What we are is passionate. We know the identity of this Cubs ballclub, and we want GANation to get the coverage they deserve.

The Dog Days

By Nick Gargano

We might be 6-0 after the All Star Game, with sweeps of Baltimore and Atlanta on the road, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t in the dog days of summer. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. It’s this time of the year where all of those “Cubs fans” get lured away for what they think are more interesting or entertaining things.

A few episodes ago Lewis told the Cubs not to start worshiping false gods. I’m here telling the fans not to worship false gods. Everybody’s caught up with the NBA free agency, who cares when we’re gonna see the same two teams in the finals again next year, and ESPN is concerned about whether the McGregor-Mayweather media tour was racist or not.

They’re trying to suck you back in… don’t go anywhere. Everything you’ve ever wanted or needed has been right here in front of you the entire time. The Cubs are riding high into a home stand with the two teams us northsiders love to hate; the Saint Louis Cardinals, and then the Chicago White Sux. There’s never been a better time to be a GAguy or a Cubs fan, stick with us guys.

Hate Him or Not, Bryce Harper Entertaining the Thought of Being a Cub is AWESOME

By Jim Irwin

As we know, this weekend’s series at home against the Nationals did not go as the Cubs planned, dropping two out of three including a penultimate bullpen collapse on Sunday heading into a West coast road trip. However, I consider myself an optimist, always looking for the silver lining that comes along with losses like these. The silver lining in this recent string of losses is the all too common rumors of Bryce Harper wanting to join the Chicago Cubs when he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. We’ve heard all of the headlines: Harper named his dog Wrigley, he grew up in Vegas with Kris Bryant, their wives have become friendly with one another, it’s all the same. Politics aside, whether you want Harper on the North Side or not, you should be excited about this news as a Cubs fan. For decades, the Cubs have been known as the “lovable losers,” being the butt of countless jokes throughout their 108 year drought. That narrative has been flipped on its head by Theo Epstein. He has rebranded this team into holding themselves to a higher pedigree. A championship pedigree. Five years ago, the thought of a premiere talent in the MLB wanting to join the Cubs would be few and far between, if present at all. With blockbuster signings like Jon Lester in 2015 and Jason Heyward in 2016, it seems as if more and more players want a piece of the culture the Cubs have created the last few years. If my opinion holds any weight to you, I don’t think Harper will join the Cubs in 2019 at all, but the thought of the face of baseball wanting a piece of the crown makes me excited in itself. Kris Bryce and Rizzo one after another does sound like a Murderer’s Row type lineup, though.

Be Who We Are

By Lewis Burik

It’s no secret to anyone familiar with myself or this podcast that I have no particular tenderness for the University of Notre Dame. I’m not a fan of the school. Not a fan of the athletic department. And most especially not a fan of the football program. The reason I’ve never liked the ND football program has everything to do with the bullshit that happens OFF the field at ND. The  history and pageantry of ND football more frequently comes across to me as arrogance and delusion.

The peak of this mountain of bullshit is that notorious sign that every sports fan has seen a million times. The sign the good Catholic boys of South Bend slap before every home game at Notre Dame Stadium. Play Like a Champion Today.  The dumbest five words in sports.  What could be more arrogant or misplaced? A program that hasn’t won a championship in 29 years imploring their players to be what they simply have not been.

The sign shouldn’t say “Play Like A Champion Today”. Slapping a sign pre-game doesn’t make you any more of a champion than watching Al Pacino’s halftime speech from Any Given Sunday does.  The sign should say “Be Who You Are. Be Who You Trained To Be.”  Teams prepare to be champions long before the pregame warm-up. A 4-8 football team that slaps a sign is still a 4-8 football team.

Now when I saw Jon Lester pitching this weekend with the acronym “PLACT” on the brim of his cap, I couldn’t help but smile.  The “PLACT” acronym stood for “Play Like a Champion Today.” Lester was wearing it to honor his late uncle, a Notre Dame alum and Domer for life. And I absolutely loved it.

Lewis, what the hell?! I thought you just said the motto made you sick? I thought it reminded you of entitlement and arrogance?

So why did it not bother me when Lester shows off this motto I find so vile? Here’s why, punk. Jon Lester IS a champion.  Jon Lester did what it took to become a champion. He trained like a champion. He prepared like a champion. He earned the confidence of a champion.

And guess, what? He’s not alone. Anthony Rizzo is a champion. Ben Zobrist is a champion. Jason Heyward is a champion. Willson Contreras is a champion. This team is full of guys who knows what it takes, who have done what it takes, to be great.

It’s Julaugust. The pennant race is here. Every game matters.  We don’t have to do anything crazy. We don’t have to slap some stupid sign in the dugout. We have to Be Who We Are.  We have to Be Who We Trained To Be. We have to Play Like Champions.

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