The Rundown: Brewers Shut Cubs Down Again, Bryant Trade Talk Maddening, Zobrist Appreciates Second Chance

The Cubs lost 4-0 to the Brewers yesterday, giving Milwaukee consecutive shutout wins, and based on a bunch of comments on Twitter, and even one in my column yesterday, fans of Chicago’s North Side baseball team have it all figured out: the blame squarely belongs to Kris Bryant.

That statement that is beyond ridiculous, and the fact that I have to address whether or not the Cubs should or shouldn’t trade their all-star third baseman is even dumber. Since he has come into the league, Bryant has the third-highest WAR in all of baseball, trailing only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout. KB is a franchise cornerstone and the Cubs should make every effort to extend him rather than trade him to another team for prospects.

That should end the argument right there, but I know it won’t. You’ll point to Bryant’s meager RBI total (64) and tell me he is not a clutch hitter. I’ll tell you he has spent far too many games batting second on a team that hasn’t had a legitimate leadoff hitter in three seasons.

You’ll tell me that he is putrid with runners in scoring position, and I’ll tell you that that is not quantifiable, and judging by Bryant’s OPS+ of 128 I’d be right. Then you’ll tell me he fails in big moments and I’ll say he has scored 95 runs this season. Not to mention, the guy has been a 6 oWAR player his entire career, the only blemish being last season when he missed 61 games.

Yes indeed, the Cubs, who have lost two straight games, are followed by a large fan base that is programmed to expect the worst despite the fact that the team is consistently battling for a playoff spot. And for some reason, Bryant has become the poster child for what fans perceive as  an underachieving ball club.

Underachieving? I’ll allow it, but the better term would be inconsistent.

Why not trade Javier Báez, too? He’s had just one home run since August 5. Surely he deserves some of the blame.

What about Anthony Rizzo? He’s only had 17 RBI since the All-Star break. Maybe this is all his fault.

Maybe the Cubs should dump Nick Castellanos? He’s just 5-for-30 in the last seven games.

The Cubs are three games behind the Cardinals with 26 games to play, including seven head-to-head contests. If you believe the season is over, I have great news for you: the Bears season opener is Thursday night, and the Monsters of the Midway are widely considered to be one of the best teams in the NFL this season. By all means, jump on that bandwagon.

The rest of us die-hards will hang out here until the Cubs make the playoffs or their season ends disappointingly. No matter the outcome, any lack of offense is not due to the production of their core four, as their OPS+ indicates:

The Cubs’ biggest problems are lack of depth and Joe Maddon’s desire to tinker with the lineup on a daily basis. It is far too often that he chooses to go with a less-than-optimal front eight, sticks with his hunches for far too long, or makes the decision to sit the player with the hottest hand. Inconsistent lineups beget inconsistent play, elongated team slumps, and Maddon-ing results. I fear expanded rosters will exacerbate that problem further, as a well-stocked bench in the hands of an overthinking manager is akin to giving a hand grenade to the kid who already lost a finger to a firecracker.

But by all means, please continue to blame the guy who has been an all-star three times, an MVP, and Rookie of the Year in his five seasons in the bigs. Have a good time at the next Bears tailgate.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Justin Verlander pitched his third career no-hitter yesterday, beating the Blue Jays 2-0. Verlander’s only blemish was a walk to Cavan Biggio. He is the sixth pitcher ever to record three or more no-nos, and joins Larry Corcoran, Cy Young, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan in that elite club. All are Hall of Fame inductees, and Verlander will eventually join them there, too.

The Yankees won their 90th game of the season on a Mike Ford walk-off blast yesterday, and have won consecutive games on walk-off homers for the first time since May 16-17, 2009.

The Dodgers are calling up Wisconsin native Gavin Lux, one of baseball’s top prospects, and he’ll make his major league debut today. Lux hit .347 with 26 taters at the Double and Triple A levels this season.

J.T. Realmuto eye-rolled relief pitcher Jared Hughes as he entered the game the other night. It’s safe to say that he regrets that, especially since it went viral on social media. The Phillies’ catcher called it “bad timing.”

When Patrick Corbin recorded his 200th strikeout of the season yesterday, he gave the Nationals three pitchers that have surpassed that mark this season. The 1969 Astros are the only other team to have accomplished that feat.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Justin Verlander – With 14 strikeouts and just one walk, the Astros ace had one of the most dominant no-hitters in the history of baseball.
  2. Freddie Freeman – The Braves first baseman was 3-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI as Atlanta defeated the White Sox  5-3.
  3. Luis Castillo – The Reds ace derailed the Cardinals yesterday, getting eight strikeouts across six solid innings of work to improve to 14-5 on the season.

Extra Innings

The Brewers DFA’d Jeremy Jeffress, who was an absolute stud last year, though possibly overused by Craig Counsell. He’ll sit out the rest of the season, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cubs take a chance on Jeffress this winter. He was lights-out last season, finishing with an ERA+ of 320. This year has been just the opposite. In fact, he and Cubs reliever Pedro Strop have had similar 2019 seasons.

They Said It

  • “It’s hard to win when you don’t score any runs. You give them credit. We pitched really well, too. Yelich gets us in the ninth inning, but both sides pitched really well.” – Joe Maddon
  • “I don’t know if you forget about [the loss], but you definitely want to learn from it and understand that tomorrow you can get one game closer. Down the stretch here, every game is big. If we get on a nice roll, momentum is big, especially going into the playoffs.” – Craig Kimbrel
  • “Honestly there’s a part of me that’s so overwhelmed by how much it feels they wanted me back and wanted me here. “I don’t feel like I make that much of an impact in the clubhouse or with the guys, but they certainly have made me feel that way.” – Ben Zobrist

Monday Walk Up Song(s)

I’m going to do it a little differently today. Baseball and Bruce Springsteen seem to go together like peas and carrots, and since it’s Labor Day, no rock icon better represents the working man than the boss himself. So I’ll give you a couple “working man” Springsteen songs and you can choose your favorite(s). My favorites, in order:

  1. The Ghost of Tom Joad (featuring Tom Morello)
  2. The River
  3. Badlands
  4. Working on the Highway
  5. My Hometown


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