The Rundown: Hoerner Becoming Clubhouse Leader, Cubs Discussing Marquee Free Agent Pitchers, Pujols Joins 700 Club
“Follow and cruisin’, ain’t it amusin’, hair hardly moves in the breeze.” – Widespread Panic, Bear’s Gone Fishin’
Before I get started: Shanah tovah u’metuka to all of our Jewish readers celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Wishing all of you a sweet and happy new year.
I’ve been so excited to write about the Cubs that I almost dropped a weekend post. Things have just been a bit busy over at Bears Insider and even I have to walk away from my computer now and then, so today’s Rundown has been marinating inside my head for a good 48 hours. The subject of today’s daily is Nico Hoerner, who has quietly become Chicago’s leader. To be honest, I never pegged the shortstop as the strong, silent type.
Hoerner has always been a fan favorite, but as you remember, it took quite a bit to convince me of his potential. He’s matured and has enjoyed a breakout season. Hoerner is worth 4.0 fWAR this season and he’s been one of the few veteran bright spots on a team that is transitioning younger. It seems he has been following the success of Chicago’s minor league affiliates and is excited to play with the organization’s rising stars. South Bend recently won the Midwest League championship, something that impressed Chicago’s incumbent shortstop.
“I don’t think winning is something that you just happen upon,” Hoerner said Friday. “I think it is something that you’ve done before. Big situations, dealing with other people, building relationships with other people and then knowing that it’s possible. I mean, they won, they celebrated, they did the champagne.
“If that’s allowed. It’s really cool to see. I was super aware of that. I know we’ve got a lot of talent, especially at that lowest level there. It’s awesome to see and good for the organization.”
Nine of the Cubs’ top 30 players finished the season with South Bend, including Pete Crow-Armstrong, Owen Caissie, and Kevin Made. However, it’s not just the fanboy in Hoerner that makes him a team leader. For a guy who zipped through the minor leagues because the Cubs needed him for the playoff push in 2019, he fully understands the development process, which brings us to the money quote.
“You’re going to have the data, exit velocity, spin axis, whatever, going on,” Hoerner said. “And all that stuff’s important, but just as long as it’s still going toward winning, winning. Keep on talking about it. Make it redundant. That is the thing that matters most, and the other stuff falls in line with it. So, if that’s being emphasized at the Minor League level and guys are capitalizing on it, then that’s awesome.”
The Cubs are going to make a lot of changes this winter, and no matter who they sign or promote, the four-year veteran is going to be the face of the franchise and its unquestionable leader. He understands the importance of teamwork and relationship building. If Jed Hoyer can find a way to extend Willson Contreras, Chicago’s North Side baseballers will have their own version of fire and ice as they segue into their next competitive window.
Cubs News & Notes
- Marcus Stroman believes the Cubs can be competitive next year by “adding a few pieces.”
- According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, the front office is already discussing some of the big arms that will be available in free agency this winter ($). “We’ve started talking about names,” Tommy Hottovy said. “We’ve talked about things that we may want to do. But we really need to get through the season, evaluate where we feel like guys can go next year, and then how we can target guys that kind of fit into the mix.”
- The organization is starting to reap the early fruits of its pitching development. Hayden Wesneski and Justin Steele look like they can lead Chicago’s pitching staff as early as next year.
- Cubs starters have the majors’ third-best ERA since the All-Star break.
- The Cubs should not have to seek a first baseman in free agency or trade because Matt Mervis should supply plenty of power next season. Frank Schwindel and Alfonso Rivas have combined for 11 home runs and 61 RBI. Mervis has 35 big flies and 115 RBI with South Bend, Tennessee, and Iowa.
- Mervis has a real opportunity to carve out a long-term role with the Cubs.
Odds & Sods
I ran a Twitter poll over the weekend, and the results were a little surprising. I’m aware a few fans chose the Cubs because of the whole blue-blood-oath thing, but it seems most believe Hoyer is on the right path.
Which Chicago sports team do you think is nearest to a championship? We all know the Blackhawks are furthest away.
— Michael “Can Do” Canter ✨ (@MEdwardCanter) September 24, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“There’s a fire that’s been burning right outside my door. I can’t see but I feel it, and it helps to keep me warm.” – Phil Collins, Take Me Home
The Cubs won yesterday despite going 3-for-11 with RISP, striking out 15 times, and leaving a whopping 22 men on base. Patrick Wisdom belted his 25th home run of the year in the victory and also had one of three Chicago stolen bases. With nine games remaining, the Cubs are tied with the Angels for the 10th-worst record in baseball, but each club has a very different vibe heading into Hot Stove season.
- Games Played: 153
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,749
- Total Strikeouts: 1,373
- Strikeout Rate: 23.88%
- Team Batting Average: .240
- Runs Scored: 615
- Runs Allowed: 717
MLB News & Notes
The Guardians beat the Rangers 10-4 to clinch the AL Central. It’s their first division title since 2018.
The White Sox are on life support after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Tigers. They cannot win the AL Central and they’re 7.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot with nine games to go.
Due to health reasons, White Sox manager Tony La Russa will not be returning to the bench this season, and one would assume he won’t be back next season either. GM Rick Hahn said he will cover everything in his post-mortem once the season ends.
Joel Sherman of the NY Post said the White Sox are the biggest disappointment of the 2022 season.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is still stuck on 60 home runs after last night’s rain-shortened win over the Red Sox.
The Pirates claimed third baseman Miguel Andujar off waivers from the Yankees.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell wants baseball stadiums to age-restrict fans who bring baseball gloves to games.
The Royals trailed the Mariners by nine runs yesterday and then exploded for 11 runs in the 6th inning on their way to a wild 13-12 win. Seattle still has a four-game lead over the Orioles for the final AL Wild Card spot.
The Rockies have announced that Kris Bryant will not play again this season. Bryant has a no-trade clause, but I hope he finds his way to a better team. Colorado treads water better than any franchise in the league.
Atlanta starter Kyle Wright became baseball’s first 20-game winner of the season, after not winning a single game last year. The Braves are 1.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East.
Don Mattingly announced he will not return to manage the Marlins in 2023.
Rays starter Shane Baz will have Tommy John surgery and will miss all of next season.
Clayton Kershaw said he is leaning toward returning next year. I wonder if he’ll feel the same if the Dodgers win the World Series.
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Pete Alonso – The slugging Mets first baseman plated five runners on a 4-for-5 afternoon that included his 39th home run of the year.
- Kyle Schwarber – The ex-Cub hit two more home runs on Sunday and leads the National League with 42.
- George Springer – His two home runs led the Blue Jays to a 7-1 win over the Rays. Both teams are fighting to be the top AL Wild Card seed, and Toronto holds a two-game advantage after yesterday’s victory.
Albert Pujols. Mad respect.
7️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ #Pujols700 pic.twitter.com/XyddSFPpcQ
— MLB (@MLB) September 24, 2022
Monday Morning Six-Pack
- Pujols won’t be breaking the heart of Cubs fans anymore, but it’s an almost bittersweet farewell. I’m glad he came back to the National League for his final season and this fall will be the only time I actually root for the Cardinals in the postseason.
- The Bears beat the Texans 23-20 yesterday in a game that seemed destined to be a loss. Roquan Smith and Khalil Herbert had career-best games.
- On the other hand, Justin Fields had his worst game as a pro and looks like he may have a crisis of confidence. To borrow from baseball parlance, “development isn’t always linear.” The second-year quarterback still has the full faith of his coaches and teammates.
- Dead & Company announced that their 2023 summer tour will be this iteration of the band’s final lap around the sun. I’m hoping for One More Saturday Night at Wrigley Field.
- Amazon is excited to announce that they are going to kick off the holiday shopping season with a two-day sale that mirrors Prime Days. The behemoth online retailer is calling it the “Prime Early Access Sale” and it will take place October 11-12. Shit, I need to pull out the Christmas decorations this weekend.
- Wedding gifts evolve with the times. And in this era of unaffordable housing prices, more couples are using their registries to ask their guests to help finance their mortgages. I suppose I should start looking for a wife, yes? Hard pass.
They Said It
- “[Mervis] is definitely on the radar. There’s a big hole, for me, at first base [next season] and the production we’re getting [this year] out of that. From my knowledge, he’s having one of the better minor-league seasons of any player. When you do that, the next step is the big leagues. There’s no doubt he’ll have a great opportunity in front of him moving forward unless something transpires in the offseason that would negate that.” – David Ross
- “Chicago gave me this opportunity and you know, I can’t waste it. Even if I’m not hitting, I want to be that guy that shows everybody, every time, I’m trying to make an adjustment. And I know myself. And everybody here, if they give me this opportunity, it’s because they know who I am.” – Franmil Reyes
- “When we start getting into the free-agent information, the digging, the talking through what we want to do, obviously all the things that we’ve done with these guys is going to play a factor into what we try to do. And hopefully [free agents] will see that we’re heading in the direction that we want to go and that they would want to go.” – Hottovy
Monday Walk-Up Song
I’m not sure why, but I’ve suddenly become a Dave Matthews fan. I’ve always liked this song, however.