“Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky don’t fall on me.” – R.E.M., Don’t Fall on Me
In recent years, it was a struggle for Cubs fans to accept the way the team teetered on the brink of .500 baseball, a constant since the team started the 2020 season with 13 wins in their first 16 games. These days, Chicago is straddling the fence of winning once every three games, a continuation since last June, mind you, and the frustration amongst fans is palpable. The Cubs are tough to watch, and staying up late to watch West Coast games is something many have abandoned completely. In fact, I’m watching the replay as I’m writing this.
Wade Miley returned after missing the first five weeks of the season and looked as rusty as one might expect. He didn’t have that bad of an outing, but he did need 64 pitches to navigate three innings of work, giving up three runs in the 5-4 loss to the Padres. The Cubs had a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a late rally, but it died on the vine. The loss dropped Chicago to 10-19 on the season and prevented the team from winning back-to-back games for the first time since April 17-18.
Alfonso Rivas provided an entertaining highlight when he hit a home run that bounced out of the glove of rookie centerfielder Jose Azocar and over the fence. Convert the highlight to black-and-white, eliminate the sound, and add some piano-roll music while doubling its playback speed, and you’ll have an iconic video that would make Mack Sennett proud. The reaction and play-by-play from Kyle Hendricks was priceless.
Sadly, that’s where we’re at as Cubs fans, cherry-picking a moment or two just to evoke a few chuckles. Rivas seems like a good guy, as does Rafael Ortega, Ildemaro Vargas, Michael Hermosillo, and Clint Frazier. All are capable backups, but teams don’t win championships with that bunch as everyday starters. When I see Ortega listed as the leadoff hitter, my immediate reaction is a loud, frustrating expression of expletives. Even with Nick Madrigal out, I would think David Ross has somebody better to kickstart the offense each game.
Though the farm system looks like it could yield a bountiful of prime-time players, even with Brennen Davis struggling, I am starting to lose patience with the ability of Jed Hoyer to field a viewable product at the major league level. Believe it or not, the Cubs were one of this winter’s biggest spenders, but it’s difficult not to question the allocation of those funds. It was great to sign Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki, and getting Miley from the Reds for nothing seemed like something of a coup, but why not reinforce those acquisitions with other big-time additions? A pull-happy Punch-and-Judy lineup clearly isn’t winning many ball games, though I suppose it’s possible the slumping hitters could be on the verge of a breakout.
The Cubs entered the offseason needing at least two power pitchers and some left-handed (or any) slugging and failed to achieve that mission. I know they appeared to be close on Carlos Correa, but in hindsight, how much could he have helped if the spending stopped there, too? It’s tough to uncover any rhyme or reason to Hoyer’s 2022 roster construction unless it was to accumulate viable trade pieces for this year’s deadline.
Perhaps that’s Hoyer’s forte, and if so, he’d make a fine director of minor league scouting. The major league product continues to be unwatchable, however. At least we have midseason transactions to look forward to.
Cubs News & Notes
- It seems almost inevitable that the Cubs will trade Willson Contreras before the end of the year. The catcher is handling the situation with the same aplomb as he does anything else (Subscription to The Athletic required).
- Madrigal was placed on the 10-day IL with a lower back strain. Vargas was recalled as his replacement.
- Ian Happ has struggled lately, though closer David Robertson has been a steadying force in the bullpen. our own Ryan Thomure has both stories covered in this week’s edition of Tuesday Trends.
- Prospect Caleb Kilian has made five starts for Triple-A Iowa this year and is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA over 24.2 innings. Thanks to a tweak in his mechanics, his strikeouts are up while his HR rate is down. The 24-year-old righty still needs to work on his command, though. He’s walked 10 batters this season after giving up 13 free passes in 100.1 innings across three levels last year.
- DJ Herz is among the game’s hottest pitching prospects.
- Speaking of prospects, Alexander Canario and Max Bain head a group of players who have been promoted from South Bend to Tennessee.
- A quote by outfielder Mookie Betts really hits home when contrasting the differences between the Dodgers and Cubs organizations.
Odds & Sods
Anthony Rendon, a righty batter who is not a switch-hitter, swatted a home run last night from the left side of the plate. He hit it against Rays’ right fielder Brett Phillips, who was pitching as a bullpen stopgap in the middle of a 12-0 route by the Angels. By the way, Rendon’s teammate Reid Detmers threw a no-hitter at Tampa Bay, the first of his career. Way to upstage that feat, Anthony.
Anthony Rendon bats left-handed for the first time in his career and he hits a home run! pic.twitter.com/pXcE8GhrVW
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 11, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Blood from a stone, water from wine. Born under an ill-placed sign.” – R.E.M., How the West Was Won (And Where it Got Us)
Frank Schwindel pinch-hit yesterday, made a very long and loud bases-loaded out, and his batting average dropped to .200. Like Shawon Dunston, the impetus for creating this section, Schwindel needs an official Tank-O-Meter. It could double as a marker in Chicago’s struggle to divert from a 100-loss pace.
- Games Played: 29
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,066
- Total Strikeouts: 258
- Strikeout Rate: 24.2%
- Team Batting Average: .236
How About That!
Red Sox reliever John Schreiber earned the first save of his career Tuesday night. The right-hander was a 16th-round draft choice who signed for a $16,000 bonus, so he had to work some very odd jobs in order to pursue a career as a professional baseball player.
Minor league players have reached a settlement in their minimum wage lawsuit against MLB. Terms were not disclosed, but two people familiar with the negotiations, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the release of details was not authorized, said the sides had been discussing an agreement in the range of $200 million dollars.
The road teams split an unusual doubleheader between the A’s and Tigers.
MLB umpires continue to upstage the players, and frankly, it’s more than played out.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Detmers – At 22 years and 306 days old, Detmers is the youngest Angels pitcher to throw a no-hitter in franchise history. He’s also the youngest pitcher to toss a no-no in since Aníbal Sánchez did it for the Marlins in 2006.
- Mike Trout – Baseball’s G.O.A.T. has been on fire lately, and last night he was 3-for-4 with two taters and three ribeyes.
- Justin Verlander – The Astros’ ace missed his fourth career no-hitter by five outs, one-hitting the Twins over eight innings with five strikeouts.
Apropos of Nothing
The most underrated R.E.M. album, and possibly inclusive of all rock performers, is New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
A Six-Pack for Your Sorrows
A new addition to The Rundown to help each of us escape some of the drudgeries of following the Cubs.
- Yes, our government is still wretchedly inefficient, and the IRS is now paying interest for delayed tax refunds.
- The WNBA season is now in full swing, and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is still trapped in a Russian jail.
- Hate him or love him, TB12 signed a monster 10-year, $375 million contract to work for Fox Sports once he (really) retires. Brady represents the greatest American success story of all time.
- Former Chicago running back Tarik Cohen bared all in a heartbreaking, self-penned letter to his 17-year-old self for The Players’ Tribune.
- If the Cubs are almost too much to bear these days, be sure to follow all of our posts over at Bears Insider, where we have welcomed new contributor Rick Leen.
- Pentagon officials will testify about UFOs before a House panel next week, the first such hearing in more than 50 years.
Owen Caissie is good at baseball.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 11, 2022
They Said It
- “Man, it’s really tough. It’s really tough to even watch, to be honest. I know we’re trying. I know we’re trying our best to win some ball games. But things are not working our way. The only thing that we can control is [how] we go about our business. Come down here, day in and day out, do our best. And if it goes our way, it’s really good. But losing sucks, I’ll tell you that. That’s all I can say.” – Contreras
- “No excuses. We haven’t played very well. We’ve had opportunities to win games we haven’t. We just have to get going and see where it takes us.” – Miley
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight by R.E.M.