The Rundown: Cubs Playing Savage-Like Baseball, Time to Extend Báez, Sunday Baseball Notes

Once again, in honor of and with respect for the late Nick Cafardo…

With a 7-1 record to kick off the second half and a chance to sweep the Padres today, the Cubs are playing savage-like baseball since the All-Star break. In five seasons under the leadership of Joe Maddon, the North Siders have won 196 of 300 games after each season’s Midsummer Classic. That’s a gaudy .653 mark and equates to a 105-win season.

The team is still not without its faults, as yesterday’s sloppily-played game indicates. It wasn’t as much a matter of the Cubs dominating San Diego in their 6-5 win as much as it was that the Padres played just a little worse than Chicago. Without the heroics of Javy Báez, yesterday’s game might have been considered one of the worst home games of the season.

One thing that may have been lost Saturday is that the heart of the lineup had an excellent game. Báez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Robel García combined to go 7-for-13, driving in all of the Cubs’ runs. That type of production from your 2-5 hitters will win most games. Also, it’s nice to see the Cubs winning the games they are supposed to win. I don’t want to take anything away from San Diego, which has a very promising young nucleus led by Fernando Tatis Jr., but they’re not a playoff team just yet.

Leading Off

Every single person who donated to Chicago Metropolitan Battered Woman’s Network through my fundraiser on Facebook will be going to a game with me. I’ll be in touch and thank you for the donations. Today I will be attending with reader D. Palumbo. The next game I attend with a reader will be August 4 when the Cubs play the Brewers.

Cubs News & Notes

  • I’d sure like to see the Cubs extend Báez, because he is arguably the most complete player around and if he reaches free agency he is going to earn one of the richest contracts in baseball. El Mago told ESPN’s Álex Rodríguez earlier this season that he wants to finish his career with the Cubs.
  • A cold front moved into Chicago just as the 7th inning started, after which the sellout crowd gave the weather a standing ovation. The temperature dropped about 25 degrees and the wind shifted, giving us all a much-needed respite. Game time temperature was 94 degrees and felt more like 110.
  • When the Cubs pulled starter José Quintana for pinch hitter Jason Heyward, I was surprised that they left David Bote at third base while moving Bryant from right to left. Addison Russell was having a terrible game at the plate, in the field, and on the bases, and I thought moving Bryant to third and Bote over to second would have been the better move. Nobody gives Russell more chances than Maddon.
  • But Russell may now — finally — be on a short leash with the Cubs’ skipper. Maddon was graciously upset with the second baseman’s effort yesterday. “He’s got to straighten some things out,” Papa Joe said after the game. “He has to. We’ve talked about his baserunning in the past.”
  • Maddon then took a veiled, colder shot at Russell while praising his all-world shortstop. “[Báez] is a baseball player and you saw a lot of plays today that weren’t baseball plays. The game is clamoring for baseball players that know how to play this game. And [Javy] is one.”
  • Russell’s play yesterday sure has a lot of us wishing Ben Zobrist would return, but that may not be as likely as indicated earlier this season.
  • Prior to Friday’s game, according to the Associated Press, Rizzo met a 9-year-old boy named Matteo Lambert in the dugout. Lambert asked the first baseman to hit a “moonshot” in support of Lambert’s group, which is running a 5K race in Chicago’s Grant Park to raise money for children with cancer. So all Rizzo did was cook up a grand slam for the young man. That’s epic. And yes, I am bringing “epic” back. Don’t hate.
  • The Cubs may be interested in Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Theo Epstein had his scouts in attendance for Detroit’s game against the Blue Jays on Friday, according to MLB.com.
  • Could the Cubs be on the verge of acquiring some pitching help from the Giants? San Francisco had two scouts at yesterday’s game.
  • Willson Contreras showed no signs of a sore foot as he ripped line drives off the ivy-covered wall in batting practice.
  • Cubs radio announcer Pat Hughes has a chance to be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame next year.

Apropos of Nothing

Daniel Vogelbach had a Ruthian game on Friday, slugging two home runs with six RBI in the Mariners’ contest with the Angels. Always nice to see ex-Cubs having big games. His home runs traveled 414 and 441 feet, respectively. In that game, Mike Leake came within three outs of pitching a perfect game.

Updates on Nine

  1. Mariano Rivera headlined this year’s inductees into the MLB Hall of Fame. Rivera was the first unanimous selection in the Hall’s hallowed history.
  2. Former Cubs closer Lee Smith, also a HOF inductee, admitted the key to his success and career longevity was “plenty of sleep.”
  3. Reds manager David Bell is on a pace for ejections that would break a record that has stood for 114 years. How many times has he been given the thumb, you ask? Seven times in 96 games, going into Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. That’s once every 13.7 games.
  4. It seems no matter who they promote to the bigs, the Astros showcase a pitcher who flashes dominant stuff. Meet José Urquidy, and if the young hurler was on your top prospects lists during the offseason, you’re a smarter person than I am.
  5. Red Sox infielder Brock Holt became the first player in team history to play first base, second base, and shortstop in the same game in yesterday’s 17-6 win over the Orioles.
  6. Red Sox starter Andrew Cashner on the recent trade that sent the big righty from Baltimore to Boston: “This is one of the places I would come. It wasn’t a place that I would ever not come to. We’re talking about the World Series champions. Why would you not come here?”
  7. Fernando Valenzuela became the third inductee into the Dodgers’ new “Legends of Dodger Baseball” club. Don Newcombe and Steve Garvey were the first two inductees. I imagine the Los Angeles front office has reserved spots for Jackie Robinson, Orel Hershiser, and Vin Scully, among many others.
  8. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is on the fence with the trade deadline just 10 days away. St. Louis has few prospects to move, a relatively fixed roster, underperforming or injured stars, and subpar results in the standings. Mozeliak once again finds himself in a position where he may be neither a buyer nor a seller.
  9. Giants GM Farhan Zaidi probably figured he could coast into July 31 with his team a comfortable distance from a playoff berth, allowing him to trade away every conceivable asset with a clear and unperturbed conscience. Then the Giants started winning and now he has some really tough decisions to make.

Saturday’s Three Stars

  1. El Mago – Báez was 3-for-4 with three runs, a home run, three RBI, and an impossible tag on Wil Myers attempt to steal second base in the 9th inning of yesterday’s win.
  2. Jackie Bradley Jr. – The Red Sox outfielder plated six runners on just two hits. Both were homers.
  3. José Urquidy – The Astros’ rookie allowed just two hits and a single walk while striking out nine Rangers’ batters across seven dominant innings.

Extra Innings

Do we prefer Javy’s offense over his defense, or vice versa? What does Báez prefer?

On the flip side, Russell lost one pop fly in the sun and let another fall behind him in shallow right-center field. He also struggled badly on the basepaths, getting doubled off second base and then later thrown out at home. At times he looked like his head wasn’t in the game at all.

I’m no expert, but it would appear the Cubs have little or no chance of trading him, and for a playoff-bound team he represents a major distraction. Should the Cubs just cut him? I’d say Ian Happ deserves the shot that the front office has gifted Russell.

From the Christopher Kamka Files

They Said It

  • “[Báez ] has the biggest hard drive, the most RAM. He’s got everything going on every day. He’s got great vision. What he sees in advance, it’s like the best running back. It’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that as a shortstop.”Joe Maddon
  • “They’ve got a room in Chicago, it’s like the quiet room, they’ve got beds and they’re monitoring these guys’ sleep. I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me. You should put my name on that door. Back in the day, the clubhouses weren’t big enough, especially for a man my size, to get comfortable. I could sleep anywhere. I remember the old stadium in Milwaukee. It was a tiny clubhouse. I could actually sleep right in the middle of the floor. The guys would step over me. Guys were like, ‘Man, how do you do it?’ Throw a towel over my face and I’m out, man. I always told the trainers that their job was making sure I was up in the sixth inning.”Lee Smith

Sunday Walk Up Song

Sunday Will Never Be the Same by Spanky & Our Gang. I hit the Wayback Machine pretty hard to uncover this gem from the Summer of Love (1967). I’m digging the Sunday column. Hope you are as well.

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Michael Canter

Favorite Quote: "Look Ma! Top of the World!" Cubs fan since I was five years old (1969): lover of B&W movies, the Oxford Comma, classic rock, and of course, baseball; annual roto-champ; partial insomniac; I detest the liberal use of the word 'albeit' by baseball writers; Nice guy, though somewhat brooding. Comment me, please and thank you.

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