“And my eyes are mirrors of the world outside, thinking of the ways that the wind can turn the tide.” – Elton John, Skyline Pigeon
In theory, major market teams don’t do scorched-earth rebuilds, which is why Jed Hoyer refuses to label the current state of the Cubs as such. Still, the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, and Angels never seem to strip it down to the studs. Here on the North Side of Chicago, the Boys in Blue are going through their second reconstruction in a decade. We can debate until the crows roost as to what got us here, but it doesn’t really matter.
Hoyer laid it out pretty plainly last week.
“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.”
The president of baseball operations will tell you every year that the team intends to compete for a division title and a run to the World Series. He has to say that because he’s in year two of a five-year contract while undergoing a roster transformation that will take six stages to go from current Cubs to current Blue Jays.
The first stage is divesting yourself of expiring assets. Hoyer did that last year when he peddled Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Craig Kimbrel in separate deals. He also traded Yu Darvish almost immediately after taking over for Theo Epstein before non-tendering Kyle Schwarber. The Kimbrel trade and losing Schwarber without compensation look like his worst moves to date, though Hoyer will tell you that you can’t judge any of those deals until at least 2027.
The Cubs lost a lot of ball games after backing up the truck, as expected, and Chicago is 43-72 (.374) since the organization started dismantling the core. If the Cubs trade Willson Contreras and others this year, it’s doubtful they’ll play any better than that. It’s as painful to watch as having a tooth pulled without novocaine and losing 100 games in a calendar year will suck the joy out of watching baseball.
What makes it worse is that the amateur draft is a crapshoot at best. Teams that rebound quickly show a propensity to draft well at the top of the first round, and the last Cubs core is proof of that. Hoyer and Theo Epstein fared much more poorly when they were forced to wait until the last third of the first round to make a selection, though they may have struck gold with Jordan Wicks (No. 21 overall last year). That said, the Cubs have the No. 7 overall pick next month and they really can’t afford to blow it. Choosing the next Albert Almora Jr. would probably set the team back a year or two.
Changing the clubhouse culture is the next big step, but it appears Hoyer and new GM Carter Hawkins have already started doing that. Signing free agents Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki were big moves when you think about how much the team’s personality had devolved since winning the World Series in 2016. The promotion of Keegan Thompson last season and Christopher Morel this year have also helped to improve morale. It would be a shame to lose Contreras at this stage, so hopefully something will get done to keep him in Chicago. Keep an eye on Wednesday’s arbitration ruling.
Changing culture also means getting used to winning again, especially with younger players. Thompson, Morel, Justin Steele, Matt Swarmer, Caleb Kilian, P.J. Higgins, and Brandon Hughes have been bright spots in an otherwise dismal season. The Cubs will need more of that as some of their better players matriculate through the system. At that point, the organization can fortify its young talent with key additions in free agency to enter its next cycle of contention. Hopefully, Hoyer sets the organization up in a way that precludes Chicago from completely tearing it all down again.
Cubs News & Notes
- According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, one unnamed GM said the Cubs will definitely get one of the best-of-class shortstops in free agency this winter. Those players include Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Xander Bogaerts. That’s probably not a knock against Nico Hoerner but could serve as an indictment of Nick Madrigal, who has badly underperformed so far this season.
- Though Contreras is on the trading block, it’s worth noting that no team has ever won a World Series with a starting catcher that was acquired midseason. If he’s traded, I sure hope Contreras is the first.
- Frank Schwindel has navigated the ups and downs of his second season with the Cubs by keeping everything in proper perspective.
- The Cubs ended a grueling stretch of 11 games with five wins and the very impressive rookie debuts of Kilian and Swarmer.
- The Cubs sent the rookie starter back to Iowa yesterday, though Kilian has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.
- Kilian’s debut could be the start of something big.
- Steele thrived over seven innings Sunday night after getting some advice from Jon Lester.
- Robel García has left the organization to play overseas.
Odds & Sods
“They put you down, they say I’m wrong. You tacky thing, you put them on.” – David Bowie, Rebel Rebel
I spent Sunday afternoon at the Fat DIX Pride Block Party (yes, that’s really a thing), supporting a family member who performs in a Drag Review at La Cage here in Milwaukee. I’ve always believed that love and acceptance, tenets of almost every religion, are unconditional, so this tidbit about the Rays is a little disappointing. I especially didn’t like its contradictory phrasing, which seems like a preemptive attempt by the organization to reduce backlash.
Tampa Bay Rays players refused to wear the Gay Pride logo on their uniforms this weekend — saying their religious beliefs wouldn't allow it, but also saying they accept everyone. https://t.co/YuLjXTSjNc
— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) June 5, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
The Cubs had 11 hits Sunday night and only struck out five times in the 5-3 loss, but going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position cost them a chance to beat the Cardinals.
- Games Played: 55
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,089
- Total Strikeouts: 480
- Strikeout Rate: 22.98%
- Team Batting Average: .244
How About That!
Pitchers Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs, and Ryan Thompson were the Rays players who did not wear the Pride Day patch on their uniforms and chose to wear the team’s standard caps for the home game.
MLB trade chatter starts with these seven players.
The Mets won for the first time in 15 years at Dodger Stadium when trailing in the 8th inning or later.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Ronald Acuña Jr. – Going 4-for-5 with three runs scored, a home run, and a stolen base is a heckuva way to celebrate Sunday Funday.
- Eugenio Suárez – The Mariners’ third baseman was 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, and four RBI, leading Seattle to a 6-5 win over the Rangers.
- Rich Hill – The 42-year-old Red Sox starter kept the A’s at bay over six innings Sunday, allowing a single run on three hits with five strikeouts in a 5-1 win.
O, Hack Wilson, where is thy sting?
A third of the way into the 2022 season and the Detroit Tigers have just 141 RBI
50 more and they'll catch Hack Wilson (1930) pic.twitter.com/K8bZjlqIBG
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) June 6, 2022
Apropos of Nothing
I liked the five-game series with the Cardinals, and with fuel expenses going through the roof (and then some), I can see how it might make sense to someday schedule series that are longer than the traditional three games. I paid $6.019 for a gallon of gas yesterday, an unsightly benchmark that left me slightly traumatized.
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- Burger King unveiled its Pride Whopper in Austria this week, which is a regular Whopper except it comes with your choice of two top or bottom buns. I’m just wondering if it’s okay to order it and then ask for one of each. Will the order taker ring it up as a Pride or regular version sandwich?
- Please don’t debate if a Whopper is a sandwich or not.
- “The man who invented the hamburger was smart; the man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.” – Matthew McConaughey
- Based on new personnel and after analyzing what the Packers did last season, the scheme that Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will deploy is starting to take shape. Cole Kmet has been impressed.
- Art-pop star St. Vincent said her first music purchase was a cassingle by Pearl Jam, wants Jacques Brel played at her funeral, and thinks Iggy Pop is sexy. Under no circumstances, however, does she think Nine Inch Nails is appropriate for a Christmas party.
- I’d prefer Pearl Jam be played at my funeral, in case you were wondering.
They Said It
- “Coolest ballpark ever. What a place to debut. It was so cool. I got to at least get [to Wrigley Field] early and check out the place, get comfortable. It was breathtaking when I first walked out there, to see this place.” – Kilian
- “Just trying not to think about the hitters as much. I know there are some big-name guys [on the Cardinals], but you have to avoid [thinking about it]. It’s definitely hard because you’re just like, ‘Wow, he’s actually in the box.'” – Swarmer
Monday Walk-Up Song
Sirens by Pearl Jam – I keep forgetting how much I love this song.