“As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer, ’cause I’m in need of some restraint.” – The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil
It’s fun being in the thick of a battle to make the postseason, isn’t it? The Cubs blew a 4-0 lead last night, were tattooed by rookies Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter, further taxed their bullpen, and somehow managed to escape with a gritty 7-6 win over the Tigers. Nick Madrigal and Seiya Suzuki were the offensive heroes, and Mark Leiter Jr. pitched just well enough to preserve the victory.
The bullpen is completely gassed, so manager David Ross needs a big outing from Drew Smyly. I have kept my mouth shut regarding Marcus Stroman, but if Smyly doesn’t go at least six innings tonight, blame the mysterious fractured rib for the bullpen’s ever-flickering check engine light. Don’t forget, Tucker Barnhart isn’t around to mop up anymore, his 2.25 ERA buoyed tremendously by the fact he never had to catch himself.
I was hoping Jed Hoyer might have surprised us with reinforcements from the farm system, but no roster changes have been announced as of this writing. Chicago used five relievers last night and needed to go to the bullpen 12 times in the recent series against the Royals. The Cubs have had three days off in the last 12 days, but I’m sure the team’s relievers feel like they’ve had no rest since the All-Star break.
Smyly hasn’t started since August 7, and he’s faced 10 batters in three appearances since the Mets buried him 11-2 in that game. I’d be shocked if he makes it through Detroit’s batting order twice, and if the Tigers bring their big sticks, Smyly could become a sacrificial lamb. The 34-year-old has pitched 120.2 innings this season, and his high water mark since 2016 is 126.2. That came two seasons ago when he pitched for the Braves.
Championships don’t come without blood, sweat, and tears, however. We’re just past the three-quarters mark of the season. It’s time to reach back for something extra or spend October on the sidelines. Smyly is well-rested if you’re a glass-half-full fan. On the other hand, I wouldn’t watch tonight’s game if you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you do, be sure to stay fully stocked with the libations and elixirs that calm your nerves.
Mind you, I have no problem blaming Stroman for Chicago’s current predicament. A tiny part of me thinks Tucker busted his ribs, resulting in his DFA. I have no proof and it’s a silly notion, but it is fun to think about. That said, it won’t be much fun if Stro opts in after the season and Hoyer passes on re-signing Cody Bellinger.
Before I continue, I want to apologize for an insensitive remark I made on Twitter over the weekend. I make no excuses. I offered to resign from my post here at Cubs Insider, but will instead donate my quarterly earnings here and from my work at Bears Insider to charity. I’ve also apologized publicly to those I offended. I learned a valuable and costly lesson, but I’d prefer to keep the gist of it private going forward.
I’m going to go one step further, though. I’ll match any contributions by my readers to the linked charity dollar-for-dollar up to $2500 in total. Send me proof of your donation, and I will match it at the end of this year.
Cubs News & Notes
- The bullpen is a big reason why the Cubs have won 38 of their last 60 games.
- After his big night Monday, Suzuki is now hitting .333/.340/.1.073 with 5 homers and 9 RBI in 13 August games. He finally looks like he’s enjoying the game, too.
- Suzuki’s time off — a four-game stretch to open the month of August — was meant to help him address his swing mechanics while toning down his self-diagnosed overthinking at the plate. Based on the early returns, it’s safe to say whatever was done behind the scenes is paying off.
- Javier Báez said his favorite Cubs memory was his walk-off home run on Mother’s Day in 2016. Chicago improved to 24-6 with that win over the Nationals.
- Facing the Cubs for the first time since the 2021 teardown proved to be emotional for Báez.
- It’s fair to wonder what moves the Cubs would or wouldn’t have made if they retained El Mago, and if they’d be in the playoff hunt this year if he was Chicago’s shortstop instead of Dansby Swanson.
- Could the Cubs re-sign Bellinger and also make a run at Shohei Ohtani? Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic have the answer in their latest mailbag ($).
- Bellinger’s overall .933 OPS is a 322-point improvement from his .611 OPS across 2021-22.
- The resurgent outfielder is one of 13 MLB players who once starred in the Little League World Series.
- The Cubs have two players who have set themselves up nicely for free agency this winter.
- Barnhart cleared waivers by the way and was granted his release.
Odds & Sods
Will Levis has signed a lifetime endorsement deal with @Hellmanns.
Levis went viral last year when fans learned he adds mayo to his coffee ☕
— Sports Business Journal (@SBJ) August 22, 2023
- Milwaukee (68-57): The Chairman of the opaque board managing the Milwaukee Brewer’s stadium district recently said revenue from the new 0.4% sales tax enacted by the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County will need to be part of a deal to keep the baseball team in Milwaukee.
- Cincinnati (64-61): The Reds recalled infielder Noelvi Marte to be part of their baby-faced infield. Marte is playing third base for an all-rookie infield that includes Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Matt McLain.
- Pittsburgh (56-69): The Reds placed rookie Henry Davis on the 10-day IL with a strained hand.
- St. Louis (55-71): The Cardinals were smacked by the Pirates last night, and are on pace to finish in last place for the first time since 1990.
Climbing the Ladder
“Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good. When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.” – Led Zeppelin, When the Levee Breaks
It’s probably too much to ask for a rainout in Detroit this evening. The bullpen is just going to have to suck it up. At least the Marlins and Giants lost yesterday, so the Cubs have a 0.5-game lead over San Francisco for WC2. Keep your eye on the Diamondbacks, though. They’ve won three straight and are getting pretty close in the rearview mirror.
- Games Played: 124
- Record: 65-59 (.524)
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,752
- Total Strikeouts: 1,108
- Strikeout Rate: 23.32%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 624
- Runs Allowed: 558
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 67.1%, 1.1% to win the World Series
How About That!
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said he is considering moving the team out of Chicago when their lease at Guaranteed Rate Field expires in six years. There is also “chatter among team insiders” that he may entertain selling the Sox while holding onto the Bulls. The 87-year-old Reinsdorf and his ownership group paid $19 million for the team in 1981. Forbes’ latest valuation is slightly more than $2 billion.
Ed. note: White Sox vice president Kenny Williams and senior VP/GM Rick Hahn have been relieved of their duties. Sox fans are also relieved.
Nashville could be the team’s primary option if it cannot find a new stadium in Chicago or the suburbs.
Perhaps Reinsdorf will find Salt Lake City appealing.
The Mariners are the hottest team in baseball right now.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Cal Raleigh – Seattle’s catcher was 3-for-5 with two homers, a double, and six RBI in the Mariners’ 14-2 win over the woebegone White Sox.
- Joshua Palacios – The Pittsburgh outfielder plated five runners on a 2-for-5 night that included a home run as the Pirates dropped the Cardinals 11-1.
- Chas McCormick – The Astros outfielder hit two home runs in a 9-4 win over the Red Sox.
If I keep putting Suzuki’s highlights here, will he keep hitting home runs? I suppose we’ll find out tonight.
Two home runs in as many days for Seiya Suzuki! pic.twitter.com/EUdzZ77UNy
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 21, 2023
Tuesday Afternoon Six-Pack
- Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins will miss at least six weeks with a leg injury, so the team is scrambling to find a replacement.
- Rookie running back Roschon Johnson has a captive and enthusiastic audience of fans, teammates, and coaches whenever he carries the football.
- Elon Musk wants to remove headlines from news article links posted to Twitter. His ultimate vision is to have long-form tweets replace stories linked from other websites.
- Donald Trump has agreed to a $200,000 bond and will turn himself in on Thursday in the Georgia racketeering case accusing him of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He is also still running for President in 2024.
- The best hot dog you can buy is at Wrigley Field, but some of these others are worth eating, too. I grill my dogs and then steam them in an oatmeal stout, topped with sauerkraut, caramelized onions, and brown mustard, and nothing tastes better.
- Burger King gave a goodie bag filled with candy to a cashier who never took a sick day in 20+ years of working. The internet raised $400,000 to reward the man.
They Said It
- “Our environment is a benefit for everybody. As a player, you come here on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, the place is packed and there’s great energy. It’s a great place to live. It’s a great ballpark. Who wouldn’t want to play here? That’s been pretty consistent for a while now. I think it’s a great environment for Cody [Bellinger]. I think it’s a great environment for a lot of guys.” – Hoyer
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
I’d hate to see the White Sox leave Chicago but I have no problem with Reinsdorf selling the team.