The Rundown: Brewers Embarrass Cubs, Rodón Nearly Perfect, Epstein Proposes New Mound Dimensions, Happy Jackie Robinson Day

Yesterday represented one of the more embarrassing moments in recent history for Cubs fans. In the 6th inning of yesterday’s 7-0 loss to the Brewers, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell allowed starting pitcher Corbin Burnes to bat for himself with the bases loaded and a 5-0 lead. Burns slapped a single to plate two runs and was promptly replaced by reliever J.P. Feyereisen to start the top of the 7th.

Burnes has now driven in more runs than he’s allowed this season.

In other words, Counsell thought so little of the Cubs’ ability to come back that he allowed his starter to hit for himself rather than burn through a pinch-hitter. Counsell had a short bench with Christian Yelich nursing a bad back, but still, rosters are at 26 this season and things weren’t dire. The Brewers were just toying with the Cubs and managed to exact a little revenge for the display by Willson Contreras the night before that seemed to aggravate all of Milwaukee.

Speaking of which, it was a little odd that Contreras was not in the lineup yesterday. After all, David Ross, Jed Hoyer, and any of the backstop’s teammates that were interviewed said that the game-winning home run was the perfect jumpstart for Chicago’s flailing offense and the emotional lift a lifeless team desperately needed.

“The worst thing we could ever do is take the emotion out of the game,” Jed Hoyer said Tuesday night.

One way to remove said emotion is to sit its catalyst the following day, especially since the Cubs are off today before starting a 10-day homestand with a three-game set against the Braves. By the time Friday afternoon rolls around, any semblance of momentum ignited by Contreras will be completely iced.

The Brewers will be back at Wrigley Field for the final series of that homestand but they’re just another annoying roadblock for a Cubs team that can’t compete with anybody right now. With the toughest part of the early season schedule staring down the North Siders — they’ll play the Braves, Mets, and Brewers at home, followed by trips to Atlanta and then Cincinnati — the last thing Ross should have done was stifle any forward propulsion Tuesday night’s win may have created.

Then again, by the time Mother’s Day rolls around, we could be looking at a vastly different roster. Chicago’s front office may have been handed a bigger disaster than anticipated when Theo Epstein bolted over the winter. It’s doubtful this team can win the NL Central — heck, they got slapped around by the Pirates — and another rebuild, which grows more likely with each listless loss, would keep the Cubs in the lower echelons of the National League for at least 3-4 seasons. Even that may be a bit generous.

It’s going to be a long season. Strap it on.

Cubs News & Notes

Climbing the Ladder

It’s certainly not as energizing as bird-dogging the batting average of shortstop Shawon Dunston with the Shawon-O-Meter back in 1989, but until the Cubs can start putting bat to ball, we may as well track that futility. As Harry Caray would say, “Things can only get better from here.”

  • Games Played: 12
  • Total Plate Appearances: 415
  • Total Strikeouts: 122
  • Strikeout Rate: 29.4%
  • Team Batting Average: .163

Apropos of Nothing

The decision to sit Contreras and Kris Bryant for yesterday’s game was called the “Burnes Flu” by Milwaukee announcers Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder. The insinuation of cowardice regarding Chicago’s hottest hitters did not sit well with me.

Odds & Sods

I’m not sure why this inside-the-park home run by Adolis García was scored a triple. It’s difficult to tell from the video if the ball hit one of the empty outfield seats and bounced back into play, and even if that ruling was correct, he clearly beat the tag at home despite being called out via instant replay.

How About That!

Today is Jackie Robinson Day, a day of American honor and reverence, and, at least for me, the celebrations never get old. Teams that are not on the schedule today will pay homage to Robinson tomorrow.

More than 100 players, including Jason Heyward, will donate their gameday salaries to the Player’s Alliance, a nonprofit organization founded by a group of active and former MLB players with the goal of improving representations of Black Americans in baseball.

White Sox starter Carlos Rodón threw MLB’s second no-hitter of the season last night. Both no-hitters were a hit-by-pitch away from being perfect games. Joe Musgrove of the Padres threw the first last week.

Rodón was legitimately a baby toe away from pitching a perfecto.

The Astros placed five players, including four starters, on the COVID related injured list before yesterday’s game against the Tigers: José Altuve, Alex Bregman, Martín Maldonado, Yordan Álvarez, and Robel García.

At the suggestion of Theo Epstein, MLB announced on Wednesday they’re again experimenting with potential rule changes in the Atlantic League. In the second half this season, the pitcher’s mound in those games will be moved back a foot, to 61 feet, 6 inches.

The league-wide strikeout rate was up to 24.7% entering play Wednesday, up from the previous high-water mark of 23.4% set in 2020.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The Humboldt Park Gators, a youth baseball team from Chicago’s illustrious neighborhood, is an all-girls Little League team that will compete against teams comprised mostly or all of young boys. Fewer than 10 all-girls teams in the U.S. play complete seasons rather than occasional tournaments.

“Incredibly, we still have girls in 2021 being told they shouldn’t play baseball,” said Justine Siegal of Baseball for All, an organization that promotes the sport for girls. “They’re told they should play softball — that’s what girls do. They’re told they aren’t going to be big enough to keep playing with the boys, that they’ll get hurt. There’s all kinds of things where people try to limit what girls can do.”

Wednesday’s Three Stars

  1. Carlos Rodón – Call me Captain Obvious, but the no-no belongs here. The White Sox starter added seven strikeouts to his near-perfect game and has yet to allow an earned run this season.
  2. Corbin Burnes – I’m not sure that striking out 10 Cubs’ batters qualifies as anything mention-worthy at this point, but the judges say they will allow it, at least for now, as long as I include his two ribeyes.
  3. Ronald Acuña Jr. – The Braves center fielder may be the best player in baseball right now. Acuna hit two homers last night, his fifth and sixth of the season, and plated four runners. He’ll come to Chicago slashing .447/.500/1.500 at the top of Atlanta’s batting order with 12 RBI.

Extra Innings

This is a fantastic article by Anthony Castrovince and well worth your time to read this morning.

They Said It

  • “That’s baseball. We’re going to look bad, we’re going to look great. Things tend to balance themselves out over the course of a six-month season. We just so happen to run into one of these stretches right out of the gate. Not ideal, obviously. But it’s going to happen.. There has been frustration, but it’s not going to do us any good to dwell on it too long or take it for more than what it is.” Jake Arrieta
  • “We’re driven by the science of [the vaccine] and we believe in it and think it’s the right thing to do. Not everyone shares our beliefs. … Some people may take more convincing than others. It feels like every day is sort of a new challenge with this. We’re doing the best we can with it, honestly.” – Jed Hoyer
  • “We expect to learn a great deal about the impacts of such a change and whether an adjustment to this critical field dimension is worth potential future consideration at other levels of professional baseball.” – Theo Epstein

Thursday Walk Up Song

Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm by Crash Test Dummies. A weird and obnoxiously depressing tale that aptly portrays the Cubs’ play through 12 games.

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