Schwindy City: Frank Schwindel Relishing Role of Replacement Hero

Frank Schwindel looks like someone cross-pollinated Craig Counsell with Kyle Hendricks and his name sounds like someone the Cardinals would call up in September to become a postseason hero. There will be no playoff heroics on the North Side this year, but Schwindel is certainly making the most of his unlikely turn as the Cubs’ starting first baseman.

Schwindel came out of nowhere as a waiver-wire pickup from the A’s to rake his way to NL Rookie of the Month Honors in August, then he provided a walk-off infield hit Saturday to push the Cubs’ win streak to five. Three of those W flags have flown at Wrigley, which might not seem like much until you remember that the Cubs recently suffered a franchise-worst 13-game skid at the Friendly Confines.

Now more than a month removed from the trade deadline fire sale and with the first wispy cobwebs starting to gather on the memories of bygone icons, there may be a new Mayor of Wrigleyville. What was once Anthony Rizzo‘s domain is fast becoming the Schwindy City. Not that Counsell’s doppelgänger will cop to as much, at least not publicly.

“He was one of the most-liked guys in the city,” Schwindel told Midway Minute’s David Brown about Rizzo. “I wouldn’t say I’m replacing him but I’m here and they put me in the lineup.

“Hopefully the fans like me even half as much as him someday.”

Oh, they’re liking him plenty with the way he’s hitting in the two-hole as part of a group that went from making fans puke to making opposing pitchers sick. First came the 450-foot blast off of the video board in left, then came the grounder to the hole and the El Mago slide to avoid the tag at first that sealed the walk-off win. Is there anything Schwindel can’t do?

“It was a tough spot coming in here, with those guys being so loved, and it had to be tough for fans, losing their favorite players, and really a bunch of guys they haven’t really heard of to help fill out, but today was unbelievable,” Schwindel said after the win.

How can you not love this guy? I don’t care if he ends up being Micah Hoffpauir or [insert short-lived slugger here], his run with the Cubs should endear him to fans whether they’ve been following since before it was cool or just hopped on the bandwagon when David Ross was still a player. From the sound of it, Schwindel will be fine even if this is just a sparkle and fade situation.

“Oof, definitely not easy,” Schwindel said in August when asked about being DFA’d by Oakland. “You feel like you’re on top of the world, and then the world’s all the way against you. That’s baseball. It’s one of the hardest games you can do. You make outs most of the time.

“But I cherish those moments: being an Opening Day starter for Kansas City and homering in my first game for Oakland. Those are moments nobody can take from me. Moments like that make it all worth it.”

He added another moment Saturday afternoon and I’m going to go ahead and guess he doesn’t give a flying flip at a rolling donut that it’s just a footnote to most fans. A lot of these guys are getting cups of coffee simply because the Cubs need to field a full roster, but no one can argue that they aren’t making the most out of the opportunity.

Between Schwindel, Rafael Ortega, and Patrick Wisdom, you’re talking about three guys who average 29.8 years old and have just over 1,200 combined plate appearances. Ian Happ, who combines with the aforementioned trio to form the top four of the batting lineup, just turned 27 and has 1,694 plate appearances. The Cubs might be the first team ever to trade a bunch of veterans and actually get older in the process and it’s unlikely they’ll keep building a team around late bloomers, but you sure as hell can root for those players to do well and have a little fun in the process.

Be pissed about how Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer handled the development of pitchers over most of the last decade. Loathe the signings and trades they made along the way. Shake your fist in anger at the way Tom Ricketts restricted the budget or how the business side has repeatedly botched the works on everything from PR to Marquee’s launch. I’ll never tell you not to be angry about why the Cubs are where they are.

But even with all that in play now and almost certainly into the future, it’s okay to revel in the unadulterated joy of Frank the Tank and his merry band of no-names celebrating wins. In fact, I demand you do so.

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