At first I thought I would dig the Cubs home whites for Players’ Weekend. Turns out I can’t stand them, and I’m not alone.
It may or may not have something to do with the fact that Nationals’ buzzsaw is making sawdust of the North Siders, but that certainly doesn’t help matters. Washington has scored 97 runs over their last 10 games and they’ve kept the pedal floored since arriving in Chicago.
The Cubs decided to go a little rogue, shunning the required white toppers that match their unis. Pitchers are required to wear black caps so the batters can better see the ball coming out of their hands, but the players decided instead that the entire team would wear their standard blue caps. Not that any of it matters. Washington batters could probably step up to the plate blindfolded and churn out five-run innings right now.
At least the social media commentary has been far more colorful than baseball’s tribute to Mad TV’s Spy vs. Spy.
I hope MLB releases their sales numbers from this marketing boondoggle. And to think they did it during their showcase series of the season as the Dodgers are hosting the Yankees. The Los Angeles front office reportedly asked MLB for a weekend exemption and were denied.
The Cubs have looked like dead milkmen in their white units. Forced fun seldom works and the atmosphere at Wrigley Field this weekend is living proof. The combination of poor play and unsightly threads has left a palpable silence enveloping the Lake View area. All in all, it’s just another distraction in a year that has been nothing but one big disturbance in the force for Cubs fans.
It will be a relief to put the white-hot Nationals and baseball’s poor choices in all-white haberdashery behind us. A win today would be huge, even if it just serves to keep pace with the surging Cardinals.
The Cubs are recalling David Bote for today’s game, and we all remember what he did to the Nationals last season. But lost in the dramatic ending of that game was the epic pitching duel between today’s starter, Cole Hamels, and Max Scherzer. Hamels will draw Stephen Strasburg this afternoon and a repeat of last year’s pitching performance could go a long way toward somewhat salvaging this series.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ian Happ was thrown out of yesterday’s game for arguing a strike call and Joe Maddon’s insistence on carrying a nine-man bullpen left him hamstrung when reliever Kyle Ryan was forced to bat for himself. Ryan walked, but was thrown out trying to go from second to third base on a passed ball, killing a rally and ending the 6th inning.
- Nick Castellanos has been the Cubs’ best hitter and deepest thinker in his first four weeks with the team. He is undoubtedly a perfect fit for this team and his manager.
- Willson Contreras is recovering nicely from his hamstring injury and will travel with the team to New York, where they will face the Mets for a three-game set starting Tuesday night.
- Javier Báez has been slumping lately, but has been generating a lot of contact, so a breakout should be forthcoming. El Mago has a career .855 OPS with four home runs in 15 games at Citi Field.
- One day after hitting 10 singles to beat the Cubs 9-3, Washington batters had eight singles among their nine hits to take the second game of the series. The Cubs were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position yesterday, leaving nine men on base.
- Joe Maddon isn’t saying what the exact plan is regarding Ben Zobrist, including whether or not the veteran would be included on the team’s playoff roster.
- Today is the Cubs’ annual “Out at Wrigley” game, the team’s celebration of its very devoted LGBTQ+ fanbase. Started in 2001 and described as the oldest “gay day” of any Major League Baseball team, the event was chartered to provide a safe space for individuals worried about being taunted or harassed due to discriminatory ignorance or hatred.
From the Christopher Kamka Files
Kyle Hendricks at Wrigley Field
2019: 11 starts
1.79 ERA in 75.1 innings
Career: 77 starts (78 games)
2.59 ERA in 476.2 innings#Cubs
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 22, 2019
Updates On Nine
- Max Muncy got leveled by Brett Gardner yesterday while trying to turn a game-ending double play and a faint “Yankees suck” chant broke out at Chavez Ravine. Muncy stayed in the game and there was no beef, but the out call was overturned. Time was called, so a run that had scored on the play was overturned and Gleyber Torres was required to return to third base. The Los Angeles second baseman later admitted to “flopping” on the play to prevent Torres from scoring. The Dodgers won the game 2-1.
- Torres has 32 home runs this year, becoming the second Yankee player in team history to hit 30+ HR before turning 23 years old. Joe DiMaggio led the majors with 46 in 1937 at age 22.
- Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette has a swing that is very similar to that of Cubs outfielder Nick Castellanos. The two are among the best hitters in the sport right now.
- Pete Alonso has changed the Mets’ batting order the way Mike Piazza once did, and the way Yoenis Céspedes did when New York made their World Series run four years ago. He tied the franchise record for home runs when he blasted his 41st of the year on Friday.
- A’s outfielder Stephen Piscotty lost a fly ball in the sun and still managed to make a no-look catch. You’ll have to watch it a few times to truly believe it.
- Astros starter Justin Verlander appears to be the runaway favorite to capture this year’s American League Cy Young award. Verlander leads the AL in ERA, innings, and K/BB ratio, and he leads the majors in strikeouts and WHIP. It is all happening in his age-36 season.
- Twins catcher Mitch Garver has the 12th-highest slugging percentage all time for a catcher with at least 250 plate appearances. That’s quite a feat, considering there have been a lot of good hitting catchers in the history of the game. The Twins, in fact, are the greatest slugging team of all time right now, even mightier than the, hold your breath and wait for it…1927 Yankees.
- Indians pitcher Corey Kluber is in a tough spot and the free-agent-to-be may be forced to accept a qualifying offer or undervalued contract from another team this winter, or he could become the 2020 version of Dallas Keuchel.
- Nationals shortstop Trea Turner has now reached base in 31 consecutive games. He’s batting .341 and slugging .538 (six doubles, one triple, six homers) during his streak while seeing a drop in his strikeout rate from 23.9 to 14.7 percent.
Apropos of Nothing
Andrew Luck’s retirement just a few days shy of his 30th birthday was the biggest new coming out of the NFL this weekend. The announcement came in the form of a tweet from ESPN reporter Adam Schefter during the Bears’ 27-17 preseason win over the Colts, with Luck standing on the sidelines. After the game ended, Luck was booed off the field.
“[The injuries] have been unceasing and unrelenting,” Luck said after the game. “… I felt stuck in it and the only way I see out of it is to no longer play football. It has taken my joy of this game away.”
As fans, sometimes we get just a tad too crazy about the teams and players we support, removing the human element completely. The world doesn’t end when our favorite player retires or if the team we support misses out on the playoffs, and no, I am not trying to be prescient here with regard to the ’19 Cubs. Sports are entertainment and nothing else, and they’re certainly not life and death. It is, in fact, apropos of nothing.
The Cubs are every bit the team PECOTA projections insinuated before the start of the season, and could be fighting for their wild card lives if they don’t get on some kind of a hot streak. They’ve won five of seven, lost ground to the Cardinals who have won 12 of 15, yet still have a slight edge on St. Louis per FanGraphs.
NL playoff chances, per Fangraphs:
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 25, 2019
They Said It
- “I don’t know, I get into so many tough spots when I demonstrate my feelings on certain things. I’d just like to know who said [the uniform choice] was a good idea. That’s the best way I could describe that. Just really awkward… They’re getting enough heat. I don’t need to pile on.” – Joe Maddon
Sunday Walk Up Song
Let It All Hang Out by The Hombres. “A preachment, dear friends, you are about to receive on John Barleycorn, nicotine and the temptations of Eve!” Arguably the best garage rock song of all time and an attitude the Cubs need right about now. This season has seemed to be one pressurized week after another. Time to breathe a little. Go Cubs Go!