The Rundown: Báez Gaffe Lowlights Loss, Offense Stagnant Again, Hendricks Playing Stopper, Darvish’s Spin Rate Drops Dramatically

“But you’ve got demons in your closet and you’re screaming out to stop it.
Saying life’s begun to cheat you, friends are out to beat you so grab on to what you scramble for.” – Supertramp, Hide in Your Shell

Instant Replay

I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but last night may have been the season’s low point for your 2021 Chicago Cubs. It’s incredible how bad this team looks when their offense stagnates into the one-dimensional version that has frustrated us over the past few seasons. If the North Siders aren’t hitting home runs right now, they’re not scoring. That type of futility leads to screams from the masses for an imminent rebuild.

In yesterday’s 4-0 loss to Cleveland, the Cubs presented another in what has become a series of lackluster performances capped by an inexcusable mistake by Javier Báez, who handed the Indians a double play when he forgot how many outs there were in the 4th inning. David Ross promptly removed Báez from the game. Adding a little heat to that incident, the Cubs shortstop mentioned after the game that there were “no hard feelings” between him and Ross, that his manager “saw one thing” while he “saw another,” and that he didn’t feel Sergio Alcántara “was ready to enter the game at that time.”

In my mind, those postgame comments are more than enough fodder to warrant Ross benching Báez for tonight’s game, too. it definitely sounds like El Mago has some hard feelings, and I’d lose a little respect for the Cubs skipper if further action to reprimand the all-star shortstop is not taken. To his credit, Rossy certainly took the high road when asked about the gaffe, and it sounds like the beleaguered shortstop will play tonight.

“When you see somebody that might be a little distracted, you try to get somebody else in there and that’s maybe focused to give that person a break,” Ross said. “Maybe they’re just grinding a little bit mentally and not all the way there and we try to give them the rest of the day and come back tomorrow refreshed and ready to go.”

Perhaps that makes a little more sense but considering the listless play of the entire team, maybe now is not the time to soft-peddle such an unprofessional mistake. If one’s head is that removed from the game, a day or two off should help return the necessary focus to perform at an elite level. If I’m being too assertive, I apologize, but these types of blunders usually send teams into a tailspin, and the Cubs have averaged just 1.8 runs in each of their last eight games. So shake things up a bit, even if it is just to let Báez clear his head.

The Cubs are now 1-3 on the current homestand and really need to put together some good at-bats tonight to end the five-game set on a high note. Chicago will once again depend on Kyle Hendricks to stop the bleeding, and with the offense the mess that it is right now, he’ll need another stellar effort to send his teammates to Los Angeles with at least some semblance of pride.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Adbert Alzolay pitched decently in his return from the IL and the Cubs are going to need him to remain healthy if they are counting on a postseason run. Alzolay hasn’t thrown more than 120.1 innings in a professional season, and that total came in 2016 while he pitched in High-A.
  • The umpires inspected Alzolay last night for sticky substances and Ross said the process went smoothly. All pitchers will be inspected as part of the league’s new protocol as Rob Manfred continues to find innovative ways to speed up the games. I’m being facetious, of course.
  • Hendricks will put his seven-game winning streak on the line tonight against Cleveland starter Eli Morgan. Chicago’s ace is succeeding despite an average four-seam fastball velocity of 87.1 mph, 183rd among 184 qualified pitchers.
  • Joc Pederson has gained significant ground in this year’s All-Star balloting. He’s currently seventh overall among outfielders. If I’m being fair, the Cubs’ representatives should be Hendricks, Craig Kimbrel, and Kris Bryant. Unbelievably, Hendricks has never been chosen to play in the Midsummer Classic.
  • Ben Zobrist has filed a lawsuit accusing his former minister of having a sexual relationship with his wife Julianna and defrauding Zobrist’s charity foundation.
  • Cubs minor leaguers, led by Brennen Davis and Chris Morel, had a good week overall. Our own Greg Huss has all the details.

Odds & Sods

Miguel Sanó sent everybody to bed with big smiles thanks to a walk-off homer 5 hours and 14 minutes after the game’s first pitch.

Climbing the Ladder

“The story is a sad one, told many times. The story of my life in trying times, just add water, stir in lime.” – R.E.M., How the West Was One and Where it Got Us

  • Games Played: 73
  • Total Plate Appearances: 2,662
  • Total Strikeouts: 690
  • Strikeout Rate: 25.9%
  • Team Batting Average: .223

The team batting average has dropped 19 points since June 3. It doesn’t get much uglier than that.

How About That!

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who is prone to injuries and just returned from the IL three days ago, was hit by a pitch last night and suffered a fractured hand. He will be out indefinitely.

Yu Darvish was checked for illegal foreign substances and passed before his start yesterday, but the spin rate of his four primary pitches was dramatically reduced. He still had a stellar outing, though.

Several doctors and medical personnel believe the league is putting pitchers in harm’s way by banning certain substances.

Twins starter José Berríos could be a potential fit for the Yankees.

You’ll need a subscription to ESPN to access the content but with the MLB Draft less than a month away, the consensus is that three of the top five picks will be shortstops. The flagship has the Cubs selecting CF Jud Fabian of Florida at No. 21 overall.

Here’s the scouting report on five-tool outfielder Fabian. After the first 5-7 picks, everything is a crapshoot.

CI’s Greg Zumach has this year’s primer for all you draftniks.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Yu Darvish – The ex-Cubs’ ace had 11 strikeouts in six innings of work against the Dodgers yesterday, leading the Padres to a 6-2 win over their NL West rivals.
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks – They ended a 17-game losing streak by beating the Brewers 5-2 last night, helping the Cubs maintain a first-place tie for the NL Central lead.
  3. Jake Odorizzi – The veteran righty has quietly led Houston’s staff since returning from injury. Last night, he blanked the Orioles over five innings with nine punchouts while not allowing a hit in the Astros’ 10-2 win.

Apropos of Nothing

I’ve discovered some really good music while I’ve been laid up with various ailments and injuries, and Colors by Black Puma may be my favorite so far. There’s more than just a slight nod to the Rev. Al Green in this single.

Extra Innings

Though it has nothing to do with baseball, this is the sweetest thing I’ve seen on Twitter in years.

They Said It

  • “[Alzolay] is a really big part of our success, right? There’s nothing changed in our minds with him. He’s still a big part of this rotation. He’s obviously a huge piece for us and pitching big innings for us. He’s given us a chance to win and continues to grow every time out. So in my mind, he’s going to continue to help us as long as he’s healthy and pitching the way he’s capable of.”David Ross
  • “I did not feel good taking Javy out of the game. I never feel comfortable doing that at all. It was in my stomach the entire game.” – Ross
  • “There are no hard feelings. We talked after the game. We’re on the same page right now. Things happen between teammates and managers.”Javier Báez

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Feel Good, Inc. by Gorillaz – Hendricks is a welcome sight for a really reeling team.

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