“I pick myself up off the ground to have you knock me back down, again and again…” – Nick Lowe, Cruel to Be Kind
It’s a little tough to write The Rundown when the Cubs play the Brewers because I can’t watch the games. I don’t have a cable provider and the games are blacked out on my MLB.TV app. Yesterday’s game looked to be another exciting contest between the two, and thanks to Twitter I at least got to see the fireworks by Willson Contreras, P.J. Higgins, and Patrick Wisdom. Heck, even Victor Caratini launched a bomb, though he plays for the bad guys these days.
It’s interesting to me that a lot of Brewers fans don’t like Caratini, and though they really hate Contreras, Milwaukeeans would love to see their beloved Brew Crew acquire him in a trade or in free agency. Cubs fans are similarly polarized by the starting catcher, though it’s usually the older crowd that is disenfranchised by his amplified theatrics such as bat flips or anything considered grandstanding. Does anyone under 50 ever use that word?
If you’re wondering if the Cubs will trade or keep Contreras, I came across an interesting factoid on Twitter the other day that may provide the answer. The gist of it is that Kris Bryant has been hurt for about half the season, Javier Báez has batted .190 with one home run over the last four weeks, Anthony Rizzo is batting .163 since May 1 and just .213 on the season, and Kyle Schwarber has hit .189 in the same time frame, though he does have five home runs. Jed Hoyer believes the Cubs held on to the former core a little too long and that it was probably detrimental to the long-term health of the team.
“We held on to a group of players until really the very end — replenishing along the way is something that other teams have done, candidly, better than we did,” Hoyer said. “To be willing to make some trades earlier, to replenish. I mean, young players are the lifeblood of a championship team, and we got to a place where we didn’t have that. We didn’t make any of those moves several years earlier in order to continue that cycle.”
Hoyer has taken a number of hits due to lack of transparency but to be honest it almost seems like writers and fans are ignoring the process just to cling to what remains from 2016. I love Contreras, but he’s probably worth more to Chicago long-term as a trade asset. The same goes for Kyle Hendricks, who deserves to go to a team like the Padres where he can have a chance to play in the postseason. The best either of those players can do to help the future of the Cubs is to harvest good, younger players as trade compensation.
If you re-read Hoyer’s quote above it’s actually pretty transparent and sounds like he intends to stay the course he started last year. Let’s not get hung up on whether he defines it as a “rebuild” because as you know if it looks and talks like a duck…yadda, yadda, yadda. He realized that he and Theo Epstein probably got a little too caught up in the hangover from ’16, and he’s trying to avoid making the same mistake.
“We are in a period where we are actively thinking about our future again,” Hoyer added. “We’ve built something really special once. I have no doubt we’re going to build it again.”
We want to believe that tying the past to the future is necessary for continuity. That’s folly, and slapping those expectations on Contreras and Hendricks is unfair. Hoyer could leverage both players, closer David Robertson, and maybe even starter Drew Smyly and reliever Mychal Givens to add to what is quickly becoming one of the league’s best farm systems. It seems like the executive has a knack for unearthing minor league talent. Pete Crow-Armstrong is the obvious test case, but he was a first-round pick by the Mets. Players like Caleb Kilian, Owen Caissie, Kevin Alcantara, and Alexander Canario are probably better examples.
After last night’s win, Chicago is 20-29 with an unsightly 8-17 record at Wrigley Field. It’s embarrassing to watch, and it almost seems like the Cubs are a little too self-conscious of their shortcomings to play in front of the home crowd. The three home runs hit by the home team were a nice throwback to happier times but we’re nearly a third of the way through the season, and the North Siders are on a pace to hit 165 homers and win 66 games.
Back in 2016, we said “flags fly forever” and that’s still true. The hangover came in 2017, but that moment of post-inebriation clarity is happening right now. The Cubs are still a team that is in transition and one that has yet to hit rock bottom, though a series of trades over the next two months will likely land them there. Hoyer will and should finish cleaning the slate. Hopefully, he’ll get it right.
Cubs News & Notes
- The homer Contreras hit last night was a 116 mph rocket.
- The pending free agent catcher has been the team’s best offensive performer, as our own Ryan Thomure points out in this week’s edition of Tuesday Trends.
- The Cubs will open the month of June in full tryout mode.
- Frank Schwindel has taken a page from the Joe Maddon Book of Baseball Idioms.
- Higgins offers the team some positional versatility, so perhaps he’ll stick when Yan Gomes returns.
- John Heyman believes the Cubs will be big sellers this year, big spenders in free agency this winter, and thinks Hoyer may even trade Ian Happ and Marcus Stroman.
- Matt Swarmer was impressive in his major league debut on Monday.
- A daddy-daughter trip to see the Myrtle Beach Pelicans is exactly the kind of feel-good story we all need as Hoyer prepares to finish disassembling his team.
- I kind of got thrown off my Minor league IPA schedule a bit by an overload of Memorial Day content here at Cubs Insider, but I’ll pick it back up tomorrow.
Odds & Sods
"Hitting, not about muscle…" ~ George Costanza, Assistant to the Traveling Secretary for the New York #Yankees, gives batting tips to Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter! #Seinfeld #MLB #Baseball pic.twitter.com/XOJu6fwSnG
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) May 19, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“And I’m here, to remind you of the mess you left when you went away. It’s not fair, to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me.” – Alanis Morissette, You Oughta Know
Am I overly excited about Higgins? He kind of snuck up on us didn’t he? The backup backstop is slugging .619 since being recalled from Iowa. In addition to his tater last night Wisdom stole a base too, his second of the year. If I had my druthers, I’d leave Christopher Morel at leadoff. He has the same type of infectious personality that Dexter Fowler had. Oh wait, we’re letting go of 2016 now. My bad.
- Games Played: 49
- Total Plate Appearances: 1,840
- Total Strikeouts: 445
- Strikeout Rate: 24.18%
- Team Batting Average: .236
How About That!
So you just crushed a baseball. Too bad it’s more likely to be a long loud out than a home run.
Five managers might be feeling a little heat under their seats right now, and all are former players, including three former Cubs: Joe Girardi, Dave Martinez, David Bell, Don Mattingly, and Scott Servais.
It looks like an international draft is getting closer to becoming a reality.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Alejandro Kirk – The Toronto catcher was 3-4 with two homers and four RsBI* as the Blue Jays edged the White Sox 6-5.
- Contreras – He just keeps on raking, and he’s either increasing his trade value or making it impossible for Hoyer not to extend him.
- George Kirby – How about a nice round of applause for the Mariners rookie who earned his first major league win after pitching six shutout innings with eight strikeouts against the Orioles.
Pete Crow-Armstrong produced a .354/.443/.557 line for Myrtle Beach.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 30, 2022
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- Brett Favre has allegedly been ripping off the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
- A currently active quarterback keeps popping up in the news and it’s the same story time and again. The NFL may have its version of Trevor Bauer.
- Most Bears fans were expecting the Bears to draft an alpha wide receiver to pair with Darnell Mooney, and they may be overlooking talented rookie Velus Jones Jr. just because the data crowd thinks he’s too old.
- The iPhone and its iOS software are getting significant facelifts designed to make multitasking even easier.
- Do you really read this section? My guess is that ever-shrinking attention spans may cause you to skip it entirely or quickly peruse the links to see if something piques your interest.
- The DeLorean is back (to the future!) with its new and highly-anticipated electric car that’s just begging Hollywood to repurpose the franchise.
They Said It
- “You have the ability to look back on what we accomplished in that run and be really proud of what we accomplished but also look back and say: ’OK, what are the things we should do differently, what are the things we didn’t do as well?’ I am incredibly self-critical about those things, and we didn’t get it perfect.” – Hoyer
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
The Underdog by Spoon – Here we are again, Cubs fans, approaching another trade deadline with freshly painted rummage sale signs adorning Wrigley’s bricks and ivy.