The Cubs are a lock-down closer away from being a completely dominant team. They need a reliever who can take the mound in the 9th inning that immediately deflates the opponent while instilling confidence in his manager, teammates, and the fans that victory is imminent. Right now, nobody screams “Game over!” in that situation.
The ragtag bunch of yeoman that Joe Maddon relies on does a fine job of managing the late innings. But it sure would be nice if his bosses in the front office were a little more honest with themselves. Yes, the Cubs have a decent bunch of relievers, but they need a mercenary to protect their leads when the game is on the line, not a pickpocket.
When Kyle Ryan and then Steve Cishek entered the game with a 2-1 lead, did anyone believe a win was practically guaranteed? And when Tyler Chatwood entered the game with the score tied at two, didn’t giving away a game that should have been a win seem inevitable? Fortunately, Jason Heyward rescued everyone with a walk-off extra-inning blast. I love the theater and drama, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable knowing I have a guy in my back pocket who makes getting the last three outs of a game seem routine.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 9, 2019
Last night’s 3-2 victory should be a lesson in reflection for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. I don’t believe it is a matter of assets or finances at this point. It feels a lot more like stubbornness. I know they want and expect to win with this team. But why make things more difficult when the easier solution is just a phone call or two away?
There is some combination of 24 players on the current roster that is capable of giving this team their second World Series championship in four years. It is on the front office to find that missing piece to the puzzle, whether it is signing Craig Kimbrel or trading for a proven closer.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have won consecutive games with walk-off homers for the first time since Sept. 12-13, 1998 versus the Brewers. Orlando Merced and Mark Grace were your heroes 21 years ago.
- Heyward wasn’t sure his game-winning dinger had enough distance to get out of the park.
- The Cubs were buoyed last night by right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who held the Marlins to one unearned run in eight innings. Hendricks lowered his ERA to 0.62 in four starts this season at Wrigley Field, where he has allowed only four runs (two earned) in 29 innings.
- The Cubs have won nine of their last 10 games and have not lost a series since early April. They have won at a .760 clip in 25 games (19-6) since starting the season 2-7.
- Addison Russell returned to the team yesterday. Epstein called it a “conditional second chance” and indicated that it was just a small step in the process toward full rehabilitation.
- Russell did not get the warm, welcoming greeting he received when he first took the field for Iowa last week.
- Yesterday’s official roster changes: Russell and Mike Montgomery were recalled from AAA Iowa; Pedro Strop was placed on the IL with a hamstring injury; Ben Zobrist was placed on the restricted list due to personal reasons.
- Per Jesse Rogers of ESPN: “After breaking his old bat during a late April plate appearance in Phoenix, Kris Bryant grabbed his backup, an Axe Bat, and homered on his first swing with it. He had never used the unique-looking lumber, but since then, that’s all he has been swinging. Axe Bats feature a handle that backers say is more conducive for a hitting grip. They’re becoming increasingly popular across the game, as American League MVP Mookie Betts uses one, and now a former NL MVP is as well.”
- Opposing pitchers may need to adjust the approach they have previously relied on when facing Bryant.
- The perception that players are focused, confident, successful athletes is not always true. Some of the best players are also the most insecure ones, according to Cubs’ Mental Skills Coordinator Bob Tewksbury.
- Members of the Cubs front office have identified the fan who made a racist hand gesture behind field analyst Doug Glanville during Monday’s game at Wrigley Field. The organization has informed the fan via letter that he is no longer permitted on ballpark grounds or any other ticketed areas, but they will not release the fan’s name or speak further on the matter.
How About That!
The Dodgers swept the Braves and won for the fifth time in their last six games. They’re a season-best 11 games over .500 and 9 games better than they were by this point last year.
A minor controversy brewed during Wednesday night’s game in the Bronx between the Mariners and Yankees. Seattle starter Yusei Kikuchi apparently was using pine tar he had slathered on the underside of the brim of his hat.
Buster Olney of ESPN believes “dozens and dozens and dozens” of MLB pitchers are visibly using foreign substances and that almost all of baseball knows about it.
Can Christian Yelich, who had another home run last night, make a push for 60 this year? Prior to 2018, Yelich had never hit more than 21 homers in a season. He leads the majors with 16 so far this season, despite missing five games with a back injury.
The Brewers are almost as hot as the Cubs right now, having won nine of their last 12 games.
David Montgomery, chairman of the Phillies and the team’s longtime former president, has passed away after a five-month fight with jaw-bone cancer.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Jorge Polanco – The Twins shortstop matched his career best with five hits, finishing 5-for-5 with a two-run homer in Minnesota’s 9-1 victory over the Blue Jays.
- Kyle Hendricks – The Professor was stellar again, scattering five hits across eight innings with seven strikeouts.
- Ronny Rodriguez – the Detroit infielder finished a home run shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI as the Tigers smoked the Angels 10-3.
Clayton Kershaw is on a mission to expose rampant child trafficking in the Dominican Republic. According to International Justice Mission, nearly five million of the estimated 40 million enslaved children worldwide are believed to be the prey of sex traffickers. Tens of thousands of those victims are Dominican girls.
Clayton Kershaw using baseball to help battle human trafficking https://t.co/DhsCirb39x
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 8, 2019
Russell seems to be comparing his 40-game suspension to being incarcerated. I understand what he is implying and I apologize if I am nitpicking, but he lost a little less than six weeks of pay split over two seasons, and despite everything he earned a raise instead of being put through arbitration. He did not “serve time.”
That being said, I hope he can spend the rest of his life being a positive, rehabilitated role model, first as a father and husband, and then as a teammate and professional.
After Addison Russell said this whole situation has not only been hard on his family, but on him as well, he was asked if he felt it deserved to be hard in order to aid his growth as a person… pic.twitter.com/itCfu96MWk
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2019
They Said It
- “When I saw the ball going to the left a little bit, I’m thinking ‘you got to be kidding me’ because you know it’s deeper as it gets closer to the [left field] corner. But thank God for the basket.” – Jason Heyward
- “I hope Addison continues to grow. That’s what this is all about. And he should expect to face adversity along the way. He doesn’t deserve to be met with an unconditionally warm welcome and with open arms. I think he will receive an appropriate response, and that’s something he needs to take responsibility for, to process, to handle the right way and to grow from.” – Theo Epstein
- “There’s a lot of science behind [the Axe bat]. How the bat naturally comes through the zone, how it falls into the zone. You don’t have to work for it. I like the idea behind it.” – Kris Bryant
- “I’m excited to meet the people on the front lines who have dedicated their lives to fighting the trafficking and slavery in the DR. You can write checks, which is awesome. Every nonprofit needs the support. But to put boots on the ground and go see it can change your heart.” – Clayton Kershaw
Thursday Walk Up Song
Wild Night by John Mellencamp and Me’Shell Ndegéocello. Two consecutive walk-off wins?
I’m a big fan of this 1994 cover, though it is not nearly as good as the original by Van Morrison. Mellencamp is a great musician, but he no substitute vocally for Morrison. The difference maker is Ndegéocello. Her range is somewhat suppressed by the arrangement and Mellencamp’s stifling unsophistication, but she has a moment or two where she really gets to let loose.