“Say now baby I’m the rank outsider.” – The Rolling Stones, Tumbling Dice
If you’re a Cubs fan and you survived the weekend, welcome: This is a warm, inviting place to express whatever you may be feeling this morning. We don’t have a toll-free number, but our listening skills are unparalleled. Feel free to use the comments section to relieve yourself of any pent-up anger or sadness still lingering on this back-to-work day. There’s no judging here, only kind words and virtual hugs. Navigating this year’s September swoon isn’t easy for any of us.
The Cubs have today off, and by gosh they need it. Chicago’s North Side Baseballers played like zombies on their 1-5 road trip to Colorado and Arizona, and last night’s 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks pushed the Cubs out of the playoff picture, at least temporarily.
Chicago could have easily won all six games had they not forgotten how to hit with runners in scoring position. The team is 11-for-43 in that category during their current five-game losing streak and went 6-for-19 in Saturday’s 7-6 loss alone. A couple of timely hits would have made all the difference in the world and we’d all be refreshed and looking forward to the six-game homestand that starts tomorrow.
Instead, things are much bleaker and the Cubs have a lot of work to do if they want to push for one of the three Wild Card spots. Running the table against the Rockies and Pirates would be a good start. That means neutralizing Kris Bryant and a hungry Pittsburgh team that would love to knock Chicago on its ass.
The Cubs can’t afford a single loss because they no longer control their destiny. They’re also the submissive team in every single tiebreaker scenario except with the Giants. Those dreaded Sunday lineups are kicking the ass of one David Ross, and a couple of months of Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, and Edwin Ríos didn’t help. The lack of consistency by Jameson Taillon and the injury and off-field issues of Marcus Stroman hurt, too.
It also took a good month and a half for Ross to figure out his bullpen, a byproduct of piecemealing the unit every winter. The next time Jed Hoyer signs a bona fide closer will be the first. One might assume the rancid taste of Brandon Morrow‘s contract is still a little too fresh in the executive’s mouth.
This week will test the mettle of Ross and his charges. If they go on a heater to close out the season, all will be forgotten. It’s “wait ’til next year,” if not.
Cubs News & Notes
- With five straight losses, the Cubs — who had a secure hold on the second NL Wild Card spot to begin the week — are now trailing the Diamondbacks and Marlins in the Wild Card race. This is the first time the Cubs have lost three straight series since May 8-17.
- The Cubs had the bases loaded in the 3rd inning with no outs and their best hitter at the plate. A double play generated one lonely run, a microcosm of Chicago’s wretched road trip.
- Patrick Mooney of The Athletic wrote that this collapse will define the 2023 Cubs ($) if they fail to make the playoffs.
- Chicago could use a little help from the Giants and Twins this week, but make no mistake, they have to take care of their opponents, too.
- Alexander Canario, Kevin Alcántara, and James Triantos are among the prospects headed to the Arizona Fall League.
- The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees appear to be the favorites to sign Cody Bellinger this winter.
Odds & Sods
The Cubs and Bears asked New York to hold their beers this weekend. By the way, 108 years without a championship trumps any of the New York teams’ historical struggles, including the old Brooklyn Dodgers.
No sports fan in the history of sports has suffered as much as Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Rangers fans
— nyyplswin (@nyyplswin) September 17, 2023
- Milwaukee (84-65): Craig Counsell wants the Brewers “to be special” once the calendar turns to October.
- Cincinnati (78-73): Graham Ashcraft will miss the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his toe that required surgery.
- Pittsburgh (70-80): The Yankees and the Pirates played a weekend series at PNC Park, and the ballpark was reportedly electric with a playoff-like atmosphere for the two fourth-place teams.
- St. Louis (66-83): Adam Wainwright is pitching for career win No. 200 tonight in Milwaukee, and will pivot to a full-time career as a country & western singer in about two weeks.
- The Cubs cannot win the Nos. 1 or 2 seeds.
- The Brewers lost, so the Cubs remain 6.5 games behind in the NL Central but are seven behind in the loss column. Milwaukee’s magic number to clinch the NL Central is seven and it is just five to clinch a playoff berth.
- The Phillies lost 6-5 to the Cardinals but hold the top Wild Card spot, three games ahead of the Diamondbacks and 3.5 ahead of the Cubs.
- The Marlins and Cubs are tied for the final Wild Card spot, but Miami won the season series and owns the tiebreaker.
- The Reds are half a game behind the Cubs after losing 8-4 to the Mets.
- If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have first-round byes, the Marlins would play a best-of-three series at Milwaukee, and the Diamondbacks would travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies. The Cubs still have an excellent chance of making the playoffs, but they’ve got to start winning games, obviously.
Climbing the Ladder
“So take these broken wings and learn to fly again, learn to live so free.” – Mr. Mister, Broken Wings
The Cubs have six games against two teams with no shot at the playoffs, followed by six games with the Braves and Brewers. Looking at the schedules of their competitors, the Cubs realistically need to win at least nine of those games to extend their season.
- Philadelphia – at Braves (3), vs. Mets (3), vs. Pirates (3), at Mets (3)
- Arizona – vs. Giants (2), at Yankees (3), at White Sox (3), vs, Astros (3)
- Miami – vs. Mets (3), vs. Brewers (3), at Mets (3), at Pirates (3)
- Reds – vs. Twins (3), vs. Pirates (3), at Guardians (2), at Cardinals (3)
- Giants – at Diamondbacks (2), at Dodgers (4), vs. Padres (3), vs. Dodgers (3)
The Cubs dearly miss Jeimer Candelario and Adbert Alzolay. Dansby Swanson looks gassed and is basically MIA. Chicago has struggled all season whenever key players are out. Hoyer needs to build better depth next season.
- Games Played: 150
- Record: 78-72 (.520)
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,744
- Total Strikeouts: 1,294
- Strikeout Rate: 22.53%
- Team Batting Average: .254
- Runs Scored: 749
- Runs Allowed: 663
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 55.4%, 2.2% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Rays are set to announce that they’ve completed a deal for a new stadium in St. Petersburg, which is nice for me because that’s where I’m moving when I retire.
Tampa Bay clinched a playoff spot yesterday despite losing to the Orioles.
Oli Marmol will return to manage the Cardinals despite their (likely) first last-place finish since 1990. Any combination of nine Pirates’ wins or Cardinals’ losses will secure a spot in the basement.
Mike Hazen is on the shortlist to replace Chaim Bloom in Boston, but the Red Sox will have to outbid the Diamondbacks for his services.
Perry Minasian of the Angels is on the hot seat, as is A.J. Preller in San Diego, but Brian Cashman appears to be safe.
You may hate the White Sox, but you have to admit they have some cool threads. Some folks at a Tinley Park block party in 1990 convinced the designer that black and white were the best color choices.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Jazz Chisholm Jr. – The Miami outfielder was only 1-for-2, but he walked three times, scored four runs, plated four runners, and hit a grand slam for the second consecutive day.
- Juan Soto – The potentially soon-to-be ex-Padre drove in six runs on a 3-for-5 day that included two home runs. One came with the bases loaded.
- Jason Heyward – The ex-Cub has had a comeback season that nearly rivals Bellinger’s. Heyward was 3-for-5 last night, is hitting .283 for the Dodgers, and slugged his 15th home run of the season in a 6-1 win.
Congratulations to good friend Brandon Hyde for leading the Orioles into the playoffs. Here’s hoping Baltimore also wins the AL East and storms to the World Series, which would be great for baseball.
This is the first step. pic.twitter.com/h1ZNUfg4Oq
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 17, 2023
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears were beaten and broken by the Buccaneers yesterday, and things seem to be very much in disarray for the NFL’s charter franchise. To quote QB1 Justin Fields: “I think we have a long way to go…definitely have a lot to fix…we’re going through a storm right now.”
- It also appears that the Bears aren’t buying into the HITS philosophy of head coach Matt Eberflus. Chicago has one sack and has yet to register a single turnover in two games this season.
- Tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Jack Sparrow, Francis Drake, Blackbeard, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillén, and Dock Ellis are all acceptable options.
- Jann Wenner, the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, was removed from the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after he disparaged women and Black musicians. Wenner apologized.
- Willie Nelson, who probably never said a bad thing about anybody, is still going strong at 90. Herbs have been good to the man.
- This is the last week of summer, but if you dig on fall foliage I’ve got you covered.
They Said It
- “We all have to understand the amazing baseball we played to even put us in this position. It hasn’t been going our way past a week and a half. But we’re also the same team that was balling for a month and a half.” – Bellinger
- “We weren’t very good. They were better than we were [in] all aspects of the game. They also played better defense, pitched better, timed their hitting, and ran the bases better. [We] just got beat all the way around.” – Ross
- “We have to lock in, grind a little bit harder in those moments, not get too anxious. We had a lot of traffic; the at-bats are not bad. We just get in those moments and take the pressure off the pitcher pretty quickly.” – Ross
Monday Walk-Up Song
Perhaps Willie can patch up the Cubs’ broken wings.