The Rundown: Jay Thanks Fans, Borzello Developed Jansen’s Cutter, Harper Loves Chicago

I can’t deal in the extremes of the well-worn axiom, so I’ll just say I had a like/dislike relationship with Jon Jay this season. He was a guy I had thought the Cubs should have pursued last winter as a clubhouse leader and rope-shower for Albert Almora Jr., which they did. Until Jay turned out to be good enough to get more everyday run in center.

And when neither Kyle Schwarber nor Ben Zobrist could handle leadoff duties, Jay took that role over as well. His overall line was admirable and he was well worth the $8 million the Cubs paid him, but he just never felt like an ideal fit. Maybe it was the previous two seasons of Dexter Fowler or the fact that his ceiling was so low. In any case, I can’t see much room or impetus for bringing him back.

Except that his Instagram thank-you post almost seems to indicate that he’s coming back.

That whole, “Blessed to spend another year living out my dream” makes it sound like he’s returning, though I think that’s simply a matter of wording. Had he submitted this post to me for editing, I’d have tweaked it to, “Blessed to have spent…”

Either phrasing gets people wondering whether he’s bidding Chicago adieu or announcing his return, but I don’t think there was any real motivation beyond simply showing his appreciation for the last season. A longtime Cardinal, Jay was obviously very familiar with Wrigley and Cubs fans. Seeing everything from the other side must’ve been pretty fun.

Jansen’s cutter is Borzello’s fault

If you read my earlier piece about Chris Bosio’s firing, and maybe you had seen earlier stuff, you know that part of the reason may have been that he doesn’t actually deserve all of the credit he’s gotten. Kyle Hendricks, for instance, may have been more heavily influenced by catching instructor/master strategist Mike Borzello.

But Hendricks isn’t the only pitcher whose improvement can be tied to Borzello. In speaking with MLB Network after the Dodgers’ Game 1 victory, Kenley Jansen said that his dominant cutter goes back to working with Borzello when he first came up. The current Cubs coach had served as Mariano Rivera’s bullpen coach in New York and then as Jansen’s in LA.’s Ken Gurnick wrote about this during last year’s NLCS as well, going into a good bit of detail about how the two worked together. Jansen credited “a 10-pitch pregame repetition drill” devised by Borzello with honing his command and building his confidence.

The Cubs need to keep this coach in the fold at all costs, if for no other reason than to prevent him from turning other projects into Cy Young candidates.

Bryce Harper loves him some Chicago

First he was photographed in a Bulls hat…

Then he’s at a Blackhawks game…

Hell, he named his dog Wrigley and is Kris Bryant’s friend from their boyhood baseball days. Bryce Harper is sending us very clear messages that he plans to sign with the Cubs. Done deal, right?

Well, except that the hockey game in question was in Las Vegas, home of the Golden Knights, and I don’t think Harper is really signalling his future intentions. Or is he?

Anthony Rizzo is a good dude

As cancer survivor himself, Anthony Rizzo has a great heart for children and families fighting the disease. He’s helped to raise millions of dollars for cancer research and facilities, he spends a lot of time visiting children in hospitals, and he’ll send autographed pictures or notes even when he can’t be there in person.

One such photo and letter combo was received in June by 12-year-old Abby Schrage, who was battling brain cancer at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. And it was there with in her pediatric ICU room until someone apparently decided they deserved said photo more than Abby.

When word of the missing photo reached Rizzo, he sent Abby a new autographed picture and jersey to hang in her room. The Shrage family has also been given tickets to the Cubs’ 2018 home opener.

I can only imagine how much this gesture meant to Abby and her family as they’re going through this battle. Just getting the picture and jersey is surely a huge boost, probably even bigger than the one I received when my uncle snuck Long John Silver’s into my hospital room 35 years ago now (Thanks again, Beans). But this is much bigger than memorabilia.

Just how abjectly awful a human being do you have to be to steal an autographed picture from a child, let alone one who’s in the ICU fighting cancer? That little girl saw hope in that picture, so to have it stolen shook that in more ways than one. Beyond just the coolness of the items themselves, I’d imagine this gift from Rizzo provides Abby and the rest of her family with a little more faith in humanity.

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