“Mental wounds still screaming, driving me insane.” – Ozzy Osbourne, Crazy Train
A rare defensive miscue by Nico Hoerner cost the Cubs dearly in yesterday’s 11-5 loss to the Red Sox, and the team is trending toward selling at the break after dropping two of three to the Beaners. If you’re looking for a nice bow tie on said ugly loss, Tucker Barnhart was the lone Chicago pitcher to escape unscathed.
Of course, each time Chicago’s North Side Baseballers lose the trade rumors ramp up to obscene levels. I’m wondering aloud if any team has previously traded its front office because I blame Jed Hoyer for this maddening season. He’s mastered the art of building mediocre rosters whether his budget is limited or not. The Cubs have a $225 million payroll and are barely outpacing the Pirates.
The Cubs have devoted about $225M to the 2023 roster and are ~$5M away from the penalty threshold, and a week away alienating a large portion of their fan base assuming they trade Stroman and Bellinger. If I'm part of Jed Hoyer's front office, I'm thinking about job insecurity.
— Brendan Miller (@brendan_cubs) July 16, 2023
That’s not to say that spending is analogous to winning, apologies to fans of the Mets, Yankees, and Padres. Why not spend wisely, however? The Cubs desperately need help at the corners, a few depth pieces, and a lights-out closer. They’ll also need a top-of-rotation starter if Hoyer trades Marcus Stroman. Cade Horton, Jordan Wicks, and Ben Brown are promising, but are any of that trio ready to lead a rotation with Justin Steele? Perhaps Pete Crow-Armstrong will make the 2024 Opening Day roster, but wouldn’t Cody Bellinger be a great fit at first base as well as some nice insurance? The former MVP probably won’t get the Cubs much in trade.
I was a proponent of Hoyer’s plan earlier this season. The Cubs should win 90 games with this roster and a couple of midseason acquisitions. But they’re going to be sellers again, which means it’s time for Tom Ricketts to restructure the front office and also replace David Ross. Ricketts owns the only major market team in the division. Winning 90 games should never be something fans question, but because that’s an unreachable benchmark almost every season, the right men are not running this ballclub. Chicago needs to go 47-23 (.671) to finish with 90 wins.
To quote The Exorcist on behalf of Hoyer, “There isn’t a day in my life when I haven’t felt like a fraud.”
Cubs News & Notes
- Stroman questioned the organization’s commitment to winning while discussing his future with the team.
- The Cubs are running out of chances to right the ship.
- Stroman and Bellinger led the Cubs to their 10-4 win over Boston on Saturday.
- The veteran starter indicated once again that a contract extension isn’t looming on the horizon.
- The Astros are reportedly interested in both Bellinger and Stroman.
- The Giants may be interested in Bellinger, too.
- Hoerner said it “was the worst feeling in baseball” after whiffing on a 5th-inning ground ball.
- Steele pitched poorly in yesterday’s loss, too, which is as rare as a Hoerner miscue.
- The Cubs announced that they have signed top draft pick Matt Shaw and six other 2023 draftees.
- Rowan Wick is no longer Chicago’s closer-in-waiting.
- The Cubs acquired P.J. Higgins from the Diamondbacks for cash considerations. I can neither confirm nor deny that Hoyer and his front office entourage broke out the champagne once the transaction was completed.
- Dansby Swanson is still sidelined with his heel injury and Nick Madrigal is inching closer to a rehab assignment.
- Mike Tauchman is taking full advantage of his PT while Swanson heals.
- Trade strategies for all MLB teams are starting to crystalize, but the Cubs still need to choose a lane.
- Hoyer said he wants to build around the team’s core, but is open to teams willing to overpay for his tradable assets.
- If Hoyer is looking for a potential closer, Scott Barlow of the Royals could be a cheap acquisition.
- The Saturday Baseball Quiz by Bill Chuck focuses on post-2000 Chicago baseball. I’m game for anything that includes Sammy Sosa, Ryan Theriot, and Kerry Wood. I answered five of 10 questions correctly.
Odds & Sods
“This single-bullet explanation is the foundation of the Warren Commission’s claim of one assassin. And once you conclude the magic bullet couldn’t create all seven wounds, you must conclude there was a fourth shot and a second rifleman. And if there was a second rifleman, then by definition there had to be a conspiracy.”
The Magic Bullet: Baseball Version.
Apparently grazed Ozzie's forearm, then his bat, then Zavala's mitt, then his shoe, then HP Ump Ryan Addition's hamstring. pic.twitter.com/QcuH1Bx23l
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 16, 2023
- Milwaukee (52-42): Jesse Winker and Rowdy Tellez are unlikely to survive the trade deadline if the Brewers decide to make a move or two.
- Cincinnati (50-44): On the heels of being swept by the Brewers, the ice-cold Reds are the first team in at least 130 years with zero runs & less than eight hits in a three-game span.
- Pittsburgh (41-52): The Pirates have now lost 44 of 65 games after starting the season on a 20-8 run.
- St. Louis (40-53): Jack Flaherty is the subject of numerous trade rumors, but he won his fourth consecutive start in the Cardinals’ 8-4 win over the Nationals.
Climbing the Ladder
“Liars and the martyrs lost faith in the Father, long lost is the wishing well.” – Mötley Crüe, Wild Side
Bellinger was 4-for-11 with three taters and six RBI in the series despite going 0-for-3 yesterday. That’s not going to boost his trade value, however. Miles Mastrobuoni stole his seventh base of the season but it’s disheartening to see Ross pencil the speedy outfielder in his lineup. I know the skipper is dealing with Swanson’s injury, but Mastrobuoni started both losers against the Red Sox, and that’s almost conceding those losses.
- Games Played: 92
- Record: 43-49 (.467)
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,525
- Total Strikeouts: 849
- Strikeout Rate: 24.09%
- Team Batting Average: .247
- Runs Scored: 428
- Runs Allowed: 407
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 27.1%, 1.4% to win the World Series
How About That!
A Rays-Braves World Series is the likeliest of outcomes with 70 games left in the season.
MLB will stage 2024 games in four international countries.
Cincinnati called up Encarnacion-Strand, their No. 5 prospect, yesterday. The Reds are going to be tough to beat if they can acquire some starting pitching.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Masataka Yoshida – The Red Sox outfielder singlehandedly destroyed the Cubs on a 3-for-5 afternoon that included a grand slam and six RBI.
- MLB Pitch Clock – The Royals beat the Rays 8-4 in a crisply played game that took all of one hour and 54 minutes. Bobby Witt Jr. had a triple, home run, and three RBI. It must have been a light day for the beer vendors, though.
- Danny Coulombe – The Orioles reliever earned his first save in 233 major league appearances, and he retired Luis Arráez to get it.
Ian Happ has been a little too quiet this season but this play speaks volumes.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 16, 2023
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is simply handing out cash ($20 in gift cards, to be precise) to anyone who donates as little as $1 to his presidential campaign. Burgum needs to hit a 40,000-donor target to qualify for the first GOP debate next month, but it’s unclear whether this scheme is legal. A donor is allowed just one gift card, so don’t get overzealous. Then again, we find ways to “vote early and often” in Chicago, so have at it.
- Soccer star Lionel Messi was seen shopping at a South Florida Publix over the weekend. I don’t blame him, Publix has the best chicken tenders on the freaking planet.
- Twitter has a negative cash flow and its ad revenue has dropped nearly 50%, owner Elon Musk said.
- The Jerk starring Steve Martin hasn’t aged well, but I always thought it cringe-worthy.
- Check out BLOB if you’re in need of a time-wasting activity to kickstart your Monday morning. I actually figured out how to play despite a lack of instructions.
- People can reliably pick up on aspects of a person’s personality solely based on the stickers on their laptops, according to a 2022 study. Mine is covered in Grateful Dead and Cubs stickers. Imagine that.
They Said It
- “Everyone’s always putting this emphasis on, ‘Oh, we need to play good in seven days, 10 days, and then we can be buyers.’ But I truly don’t believe in that. This division’s wide open. And then if you even look deeper than that, as an organization, why would you not want to be competitive for multiple years, year after year after year? Belli’s a guy who changes your lineup. He’s a guy who, why would you want him to get away? Why would you want [to deal away] a guy like myself, who goes out there and gives you quality starts in a league that it’s incredibly hard to do. It’s incredibly hard to say, ‘Oh, we’re gonna get this production out of this young guy’ or ‘We’re gonna get this.'” – Stroman
- “The trade deadline’s obviously a real thing. It’s real for every team. July is a month that does come with other factors between the break and the trade deadline. Those things can change things, for sure, but there’s no change as far as how you play or how you approach it. If anything, the attitude should just be attacking it, embracing it and doing it on our own terms. It’s not a decision that anyone in this locker room is going to get to make, so we’re controlling our end of it as best we can.” – Hoerner
Monday Walk-Up Song
More like a Monday morning wakeup call to the Cubs. If they don’t sweep the Nationals it’s time to start thinking about next season.