“Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang.” – David Seville & The Chipmunks, The Witch Doctor
I was lucky enough to score a pair of “scout seats” for last night’s 8-3 win over the Brewers and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was garnering the most buzz before and during his start. That was even more the case once he left the game with a shoulder issue that he said was similar to what forced him to skip a start earlier in the season. I don’t know how other teams feel now, but the men and women there to watch him pitch made it seem like Hendricks was a hot commodity.
Other than that, most were tight-lipped when it came to rumors surrounding other players so I can only speak to some of the high-level stuff I overheard.
- “Rafael Ortega will help some team make the playoffs.”
- “It will be odd seeing the Cubs without Willson Contreras and Ian Happ.”
- “The Cubs aren’t that bad a team and that’s why tanking is bad for the game.”
- “Hey, [tanking] keeps us employed.”
- “Jed Hoyer must have promised Jason Heyward a job in the front office out of loyalty once he retires. He always seems to get hurt right before the deadline. Out of sight, out of mind.”
- “No offense to Hoyer, but the Cubs are definitely rebuilding. He says ‘It’s not a rebuild’ because he hasn’t started the reconstruction yet.”
- “David Robertson is a tough sell. Most teams that might trade for him won’t need a closer. Makes it hard to get fair value.”
- “Nico Hoerner is a star. No one saw that kid coming except Theo [Epstein].”
- “The pitching injuries are going to crush Hoyer at the deadline. He made some risky moves, and they don’t look great right now.”
Most of that came from me engaging in small talk with my neighbors while some of it was blatant eavesdropping. The biggest news of the night was Hendricks leaving early because, by my count, most of the individuals were there specifically to see The Professor pitch. A number of them actually left once Matt Swarmer took over.
They talked about some of the Milwaukee players too, most notably Christian Yelich, who “has just kinda lost it.” It wasn’t long ago that Yelich and Javier Báez were the toast of the National League, but their epic MVP battle in 2018 almost seems like decades ago. Several scouts also believe the Brewers are one good starter and a right-handed masher away from being a very serious World Series contender.
One other thing that seemed odd is that everybody looked more “front office” than the stereotypical scout. Maybe I watch too many baseball movies or just have the wrong impression about scouts, but I was expecting more Clint Eastwood than grad school graduate and baseball ops types. The notion I had that each may have been privy to deep state baseball secrets seems laughable now. That may be another reason why most left halfway through the game. Heck, I think even Front Row Amy was gone after the Cubs scored four in the 6th inning. I left shortly after and besides, it was pouring out and the roof was leaking.
Alas, my not-so-secret reconnaissance mission was practically a bust. I could have gotten the same feedback in the comments section here or by following live tweets of the game. Gordon Wittenmyer probably knows more about who may or may not be traded than the folks surrounding me at American Family Field. Maybe they were just fans and not baseball insiders. Who knows? I was too afraid to ask.
I will say that a couple of Brewers fans were giving me the business quite a bit. I was dressed in full Cubs regalia and bore the brunt of every insult imaginable from one guy sitting about five rows back. My favorite was “Is that your sister playing first base?” Poor Alfonso Rivas. The guy also kept telling me to “Go back to Naperville,” whatever that means. I did score some points for continually calling the stadium “Miller Park” and at least the Cubs won.
I told the heckler I write for Cubs Insider and maybe he’s reading this morning, so I’d like to point out once again that Frank Schwindel is injured and did not play last night. If you’re gonna bust chops, try to at least know what you’re talking about. I’ll be back this afternoon in the same seat if you’d like to reengage.
PS – I actually gush about writing here whenever I am in public. I think being on staff at CI is worthy of more than a little pride.
Cubs News & Notes
- Hendricks logged just 69 pitches before being removed yesterday.
- The Professor was named the team’s top trade chip by NBC Sports Chicago before the start.
- Chicago’s inability to score runs in extra innings is odds-defying. That jibes with what was said last night about the Cubs being too good to tank. Maybe they’re just unlucky.
- That futility, along with the team’s failure to execute with runners in scoring position, might be the difference between an extra 6-10 wins.
- Ortega stole home last night, the third time he has done so since 2020.
- The undervalued outfielder credits a steady mindset to his success on the field.
- MLB Pipeline released its mid-season Top 100 Prospects update, and Brennen Davis has dropped to No. 30 overall. Other Cubs prospects that made the latest iteration include Cristian Hernandez (69), Pete Crow-Armstrong (80), and new entry Kevin Alcantara (99).
- Baby Boomstick Nelson Velázquez dedicated his first big league home run to starter Justin Steele.
- Schwindel has challenged late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert to a baseball competition. The comedian poked fun at the Cubs’ first baseman a few weeks ago.
- The 2016 Cubs helped one fan beat cancer and launch a line of children’s books.
Odds & Sods
Yet there remains a 100% chance that Aaron Judge won’t sign with the Cubs.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) July 5, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Oh yes, they call him the streak (boogity boogity), fastest thing on two feet.” – Ray Stevens, The Streak
Ortega and Happ stole bases last night. Is it just me or have the Cubs been running a lot more lately? Maybe David Ross has finally realized that in order to manufacture runs you need to keep baserunners on the move.
- Games Played: 81
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,115
- Total Strikeouts: 714
- Strikeout Rate: 22.92%
- Team Batting Average: .249
- Runs Scored: 357
- Runs Allowed: 420
How About That!
The best playoff race that nobody is talking about belongs to the AL Central, where the Guardians and White Sox are chasing the Twins in a division that may not field a Wild Card entry.
There is a clause in the new CBA that allows Rob Manfred to add one player to each of this year’s All-Star teams, which could mean roster spots for Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as “legends of the game.”
The Yankees might be one of the best teams of all time, which I assume means New Yorkers are bickering about this year’s squad as compared to the 1927 and ’61 versions.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Max Scherzer – The Mets starter didn’t get the win, but that wasn’t his fault. Scherzer mowed down the Reds on Tuesday, striking out 11 batters in six innings of work.
- Alex Kirilloff – The second-year first baseman led the Twins to a victory over the White Sox with two homers and three RBI on a 3-for-4 evening.
- Kyle Schwarber – The hulking Phillies outfielder was 2-for-3 with two taters last night.
I love when players steal home, but just once I’d love to see it happen in person on a straight steal.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 25, 2021
Apropos of Nothing
Sorry for the earworm at the top of today’s article. I heard it walking into the stadium last night and it’s still stuck in my head, so I thought I’d pay it forward.
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
- A Maryland mom just won the state’s $100,000 lottery prize, the third time in five years she’s won at least that much.
- Not every industry is hurt by a recession and in fact, the travel and self-care businesses do quite well.
- That makes sense because global inflation is usually followed by a dip in foreign currencies, which increases the value of the U.S. dollar abroad.
- Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are very excited about the Bears’ new offense. Even Jay Cutler is impressed.
- Guitar legend Carlos Santana is recovering after he collapsed on stage during a concert near Detroit on Tuesday night.
- The father of a man who has been arrested in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Highland Park reportedly ran for mayor of the city in 2019 and was defeated by a pro-gun control Democrat.
They Said It
- “Uncomfortable, just not a good feeling. It’s one of those things where you can grind through it. It’s really uncomfortable, but you can just keep going. It’s not going to blow up on you or anything. I told [Ross] that it’s been a lot worse, nothing terrible, I can give you as much as you want here.” – Hendricks
- “We deal with this stuff a lot, a lot more than is presented to you guys, so we try to listen to the player. He tried to push through and it just didn’t look good. My gut was to take him out.” – Ross
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Sue never understood my fascination with Morrissey and The Smiths. Please allow me to warmly quote her.
“You know who probably loves the Smiths? Buffalo Bill from ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ Why not invite him over for some margaritas and fashion design?”
I think ol’ Bill is more of a Joy Division guy.