“Oh, the heads that turn make my back burn.” – The Cult, She Sells Sanctuary
The Cubs swept the first-place Pirates, all the sorrow in Mudville (read: Twitter) has reversed course, and dare I say some icy-cold Cubs fans are sporting lukewarm hearts and looser collars this morning. David Ross and his minions sit just 3.5 games behind the Buccos and the two teams will meet again next week, this time in Pittsburgh. It seems wildly desperate to walk with heads held high sporting a 31-37 record, but such is life in baseball’s most mediocre and upside-down division.
Marcus Stroman now has 13 quality starts this year and he looks like a pitcher with purpose. Chicago’s North Side Baseballers have also re-learned the art of timely hitting and station-to-station baseball. Can they continue that against the white-hot Orioles this weekend? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The Cubs are usually outplayed when facing a bunch of first- and second-year players and relative unknowns. They’ve conquered their inability to sweep a team, so hopefully they’ll hit that next target. Kyle Hendricks takes the bump this afternoon and I’m expecting our boys in blue to continue streaking.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs activated outfielder Cody Bellinger from the IL, and Matt Mervis was unsurprisingly optioned to Iowa.
- Getting Bellinger’s bat back — and eventually his glove in center — can do nothing but help the Cubs as they try to gain traction in the division.
- The centerfielder/first baseman is ready to roll and also said that he believes that Mervis is talented enough to be an everyday starter.
- Bellinger has been linked to the Rangers in the most recent trade speculation.
- Mervis may have ultimately lost his roster spot to Mike Tauchman, who has emerged as an unlikely breakout star.
- MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal said that Bellinger, Stroman, and Hendricks “are all in play” as the front office approaches this year’s trade deadline.
- The sweep of the Pirates has most of Chicago’s roster thinking about the playoffs despite the Cubs’ anemic overall record.
- Jed Hoyer believes the division is most definitely “up for grabs.”
- Stroman believes maintaining current momentum is paramount in the fight to win the division.
- Stud pitching prospect Ben Brown could be fast-tracked to the majors as a starter.
- CBS Sports dropped its latest mock draft and projects the Cubs will select shortstop Matt Shaw of Maryland.
Odds & Sods
A starting pitcher leads all of baseball in home runs.
Shohei Ohtani: King of the Pitchers Who Rake Club. 👑 pic.twitter.com/jiPjnFUXsV
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 16, 2023
- St. Louis: Cardinals players are backing embattled manager Oliver Marmol despite one of their worst seasons in recent history.
- Milwaukee: Veteran starter Julio Teheran is experiencing a rebirth of sorts with the Brewers. If I had a dollar for every time Teheran was previously connected to the Cubs I wouldn’t have to write this column each morning.
- Cincinnati: Top prospect Noelvi Marte, who is next in line for a big league promotion, has been sidelined with a bad hamstring. Though the division is weak, the NL Central is chock full of jaw-dropping prospects.
- Pittsburgh: Pirates fans say they have seen enough of ex-Cub Rob Zastryzny.
Climbing the Ladder
“I’m breaking through, I’m bending spoons. I’m keeping flowers in full bloom.” – R.E.M., The Great Beyond
The Cubs are the only team in the NL Central with a positive run differential after last night’s 7-2 win. Chicago outscored the Pirates 28-11 in the three-game set despite a grand total of seven extra-base hits and only two home runs. Bellinger notched a double in his return from the IL and Christopher Morel hit a triple. Bellinger also played first base, as expected, and Morel served as the team’s DH. Mervis probably won’t return until after the trade deadline.
If the Cubs trade Bellinger, Stroman, and/or Hendricks as expected, they’ve got to get a third baseman in one of the return packages. Either that or give the job to Morel full-time, and then trade Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal for whatever they can get. I like both players, but not as regulars.
- Games Played: 68
- Record: 31-37 (.456)
- Total Plate Appearances: 2,598
- Total Strikeouts: 632
- Strikeout Rate: 24.32%
- Team Batting Average: .248
- Runs Scored: 302
- Runs Allowed: 298
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 35.5%, 1.1% to win the World Series
How About That!
The movie is partly based on the minor-league baseball experiences of writer and director Ron Shelton, who also had a teammate named Ronald Shelton. The latter was the real-life version of Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh.
The number of Black MLB players fell to a record low of 6.2% based on this season’s Opening Day rosters.
Rob Manfred prefers to let teams decide whether or not to take in Pride celebrations rather than making them a league mandate.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Shohei Ohtani – Baseball’s top talent earned his sixth win of the season and hit his major league-leading 22nd home run as the Angels topped the Rangers 5-3.
- Ian Happ – Chicago’s left fielder was 3-for-5 with a double, a triple, two runs scored, and two RBI.
- Julian Merryweather – Middle relievers rarely find a home here, but the Cubs’ setup man pitched a scoreless inning with three strikeouts to boost his already high trade value.
Give me an honorable mention, please. I play in an over-40 Wiffle Ball League here in Milwaukee twice a week, and last night I was 6-for-6 with three taters and 11 RBI. Tell Dan Kantrovitz to send a scout out this Tuesday.
It’s nice to see Bellinger back in the lineup, though I’d rather the Cubs extend him than trade him.
Lead taken! ✅ pic.twitter.com/ttDu2gaVGj
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 16, 2023
Friday Morning Six-Pack
- Joe Pesci is an underrated actor, and when he gets to truly practice his craft he genuinely steals the screen. We all know his role in “Goodfellas,” but you should also check out “With Honors,” “The Irishman,” “The Death Collector,” and of course, “My Cousin Vinnie.” You’ll find bits of economic and political prophecy in Pesci’s role as the vagrant Simon Wilder.
- A manager at the Harvard Medical School morgue has been charged with trafficking human body parts — including brains and faces — that were donated to the school for research purposes. It might be time to watch those insipid Re-Animator films from the mid-’80s.
- As long as we’re talking about body parts, I present for your perusal the world’s largest kidney stone. You can never say from this day forward that I do not love you.
- Yesterday, executives from Live Nation, Airbnb, SeatGeek, and other companies pledged to increase transparency around hidden fees in a roundtable meeting with President Biden. It won’t eliminate those $84.87 per-ticket fees, but at least we’ll know where the money goes. In other words, BFD. I can no longer afford the price of concert and sports tickets even without the excess costs. Could you imagine what Ali-Frazier would cost in today’s economy?
- We’ve waited a long time, but commercial spaceflights for tourists begin in two weeks thanks to Virgin Galactic. Cue “The Jetsons” theme.
- One man owns more than 3,200 copies of the Beatles’ White Album. That’s peak OCD, my friends.
They Said It
- “There’s a lot of young talent in this division. I think [the NL Central] is going really strong going forwardly right now in 2023, you know, nobody has really gotten very far away from .500 at all. I think [the Pirates] are three over and they’re in first and so that’s certainly unusual in the middle of June.” – Hoyer
- “I think that’s one of the challenges of evaluating your team, is that you’re evaluating where you are in the standings but you’re also evaluating how you’re performing, and some of that is, you know, component numbers. I think in a normal season we would be looking at a much steeper climb than we are right now. And obviously, that’s a fortunate thing.” – Hoyer
Friday Walk-Up Song
I get dizzy when the Cubs play like a competent team.