“I used to think that the day would never come,
I’d see delight in the shade of the morning sun.” – New Order, True Faith
After sweeping the Dodgers to start the week, the Cubs enjoyed a well-earned day of respite and the sunny disposition that comes with the warmth of May. They follow it with a chance to continue their winning ways against a team they should handily beat. But which version of the North Siders will we see this weekend? Will it be the team that refused to lose against Los Angeles or the one that struggled to win against the Pirates last month?
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 6, 2021
It’s not my intention to piss in your Wheaties this morning or dampen the start of your weekend, but these Cubs are such a streaky bunch that you never know what you’re going to get. In fact, you could use any number of songs penned by 1980s original emo poster boy Morrissey to narrate what has been the oddest of 15-16 starts. Are the Cubs playoff contenders or are they simply flashing trade potential to the teams that are? I mean, Kris Bryant has played almost everywhere besides pitcher and catcher through 31 games.
“I am the son and the heir
Of nothing in particular.” – The Smiths, How Soon is Now?
Under normal circumstances, and after sending the world champions back to Los Angeles with their tails between their legs, one could look at the Cubs’ schedule for the rest of this month and honestly feel like a run worthy of the 2019 Nationals lies at the collective feet of the boys in blue. To wit, Chicago’s upcoming slate looks almost like a cakewalk in comparison to the last two weeks. They play series against the Pirates and Nationals at home, with tilts at Cleveland and Detroit before a showdown against the Cardinals beneath that unsightly arch in St. Louis.
“Soul, I hear you calling
Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me.” – Erasure, A Little Respect
The Cubs just finished a tough stretch of games against the Mets, Braves, Brewers, Reds, and Dodgers with a record of 11-11. Though that’s nothing to beat their chests about, it’s worthy of a little respect considering the struggles with the rotation during that time. That 22-game span saw the Cubs hit .244 as a team while averaging 5.5 runs per game, both above league average and particularly impressive since Chicago was well below the Mendoza Line at the start of that run.
Kyle Hendricks is coming off of his best start of the season, Adbert Alzolay has been the team’s most electric rookie starter since Kerry Wood, and the bullpen has performed yeoman-like work to give Chicago a chance to win most of those contests. Offensively, the Cubs can be downright high-octane when the lineup features a combination of Bryant, Matt Duffy, Jake Marisnick, and Nico Hoerner. Contact, after all, portends great things. Speed on the basepaths helps, too.
“I never thought this day would end…
I never thought tonight could ever be
This close to me.” – The Cure, Close to Me
Make no mistake, the Cubs still seem to be stuck in second gear and we should expect the streakiness to continue as the season progresses. The next two weeks will decide if Jed Hoyer has to break the team up or continue forward with a core that is certainly capable of winning the NL Central.
Cubs News & Notes
- Though the Cubs’ core remains intact, at least in the present, the future is now for the organization’s top pitching prospects.
- Were my dad alive, he’d describe the ’21 Cubs as “consistently inconsistent,” an apt description if ever one existed.
- The Pirates have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride this season themselves and each team could be playing to avoid the division cellar or vault into contention for first place this weekend.
- Javier Báez has been stepping up when called upon in big moments.
- We’ve got some trade speculation infiltrating the wires this morning, and of course Bryant is mentioned at the top of the story.
- My two cents: The White Sox no longer have an “intriguing blend of prospects” after promoting everybody and trading Dane Dunning to the Rangers.
- Are we really comparing the drafting of Justin Fields by the Bears to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016? C’mon, man.
Odds & Sods
Seems like a potential cash cow for the Ricketts family, am I right?
“Online gambling now ranks 11th among the 1,200 product categories tracked by Nielsen, accounting for 2% of all spot TV spend.” I’d only expect online gambling to move further up the ranks in the future. https://t.co/sZwbMkDOGA
— Jake Kline (@JakeAKline) May 6, 2021
How About That!
The Angels have designated Albert Pujols for assignment and will likely eat nearly $30 million in doing so. Assuming nobody claims the 41-year-old first baseman, he’ll finish his Hall of Fame career with a .298/.376/.921 slash line, 667 home runs, and 2,112 RBI. Even more impressive: In a career that has spanned 21+ years, Pujols has walked more (1,334) than he has struck out (1,317).
Pujols is without doubt one of baseball’s all-time talents.
Yankees fans immediately turned their eyes to Pujols as a potential pickup. He hit .198 with five homers in 86 at-bats this year and would probably hurt the Bronx Bombers more than he would help them.
The Reds are among five teams that might realistically take a chance on the aging slugger after losing Joey Votto to a thumb injury. One would assume any team would wait until Pujols clears waivers so he could be signed for the league minimum.
The Twins are really struggling in extra innings and are now 0-7 in games that include ghost runners.
Perhaps MLB pitchers are simply too good to throw perfect games.
Batting practice pitchers are baseball’s unsung heroes.
Win or lose, the Rangers may be the league’s most entertaining team.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Albert Pujols – It has been an honor and privilege to witness his entire career, even when he was single-handedly beating up on the Cubs.
- Randal Grichuk – The Blue Jays outfielder homered, doubled, and plated five runners as Toronto downed the Athletics 10-4.
- Zack Wheeler – A complete-game shutout while outdueling Brandon Woodruff is no small accomplishment. The Phillies starter allowed just three hits and punched out nine Milwaukee batters in a 2-0 win.
Sliding Into Home
I finish phase one of my year-long work project on Monday, so depending on how this weekend goes, I may or may not be part of your Monday morning ritual. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for an uneventful 72 hours on that front.
I’ve dropped a few tidbits surrounding Kid K the last two days hoping someone would strike up some conversation surrounding May 6, 1998. We all remember what we were doing that day, don’t we? I was unemployed so I watched the game in its entirety while eating my way through a box of Frosted Flakes.
In keeping with today’s theme, how about a little Peter Murphy as a complement to Wood’s incredible performance?
Kerry Wood. 20 strikeouts.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 6, 2021
They Said It
- “Honestly, we’re riding a roller coaster right now. We’re up and down, up and down, up and down. The one thing is when we’re down we keep fighting, when we’re up we just keep grinding. For weeks now we’ve been showing on offense we’re going to keep coming back and keep fighting back and keep punching you back. For us offensively, that feels good. We’re never out of it.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “[Báez] is the magician, that’s how you describe him, right? That’s the nickname, he can do a lot of things. Pull tricks out of a hat. He definitely did that [Tuesday] night, huge spark for us, a guy that has been a staple here and put up some really good numbers. And he’s a hard worker. He’s a leader in a lot of ways.” – David Ross
Friday Walk Up Song
Friday I’m in Love by The Cure – Would you expect anything else?