"There's a mental difference that goes on in your brain." -- John Smoltz, in the first inning of Saturday's Fox telecast.
This just in: Laz Diaz is awful. Tough to win when you have to beat the home team and the umpire. Enough Mets already. I'm having trouble containing my not-very-latent Met-hate. The only team I dog with more relish than the Mets are the Yankees, similarly from New York City. You may by now be detecting a pattern...A lot of my distaste stems from having lived there briefly. I lived near Buffalo for a while, too, and while my antipathy doesn't limit itself to the five boroughs, that animus isn't on the menu today.
I suspect that the Met-loathing beast could only be skewered in the playoffs. But every Cubs victory is a building block in the path to the playoffs and potential baseball glory. A win and a ticket outta town would suit me fine.
Let's be honest: The Cubs need help right now. This isn't a rotisserie league, but the current management group has the ability to make that happen, whether via trade, roster jenga, or chaos magick. We'll keep a positive spin on things: We have updates on the progress of injured players, the exploits of Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant, the always-entertaining Joe Maddon, how Jake Arrieta can reassert his dominance, and several other juicy tidbits for your Chicago Cubs infotainment needs.
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School of base knocks.
- Jess Spector (Sporting News): Cubs know they aren't invincible, and that might make them scarier than ever. Every play is a learning experience for the Cubs' young players.
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Willson Contreras has 'shown he belongs'. The rookie catcher has impressed his manager, and likely his team-mates. He's certainly made an impression on the fans.
- Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): Willson Contreras showing why he's a big part of Cubs' plans. He has had a few learning moments and appears to be learning from them.
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Kris Bryant's tear continues with homer in 1st off Steven Matz. The likely All-Star third baseman again autographed a ball in the Cub's loss.
- John Parotto (Today's Knuckleball): Kris Bryant remains grounded in second MLB season. He's been under house arrest for two years. Joe Maddon won't let him go outside except to autograph baseballs. Really he's a low-key guy who conducts himself professionally and appears to be defying the idea of a sophomore slump.
- Corey Francis (Cubbies Crib): Kris Bryant: NL MVP? He's put himself into the conversation.
- Matthew Trueblood (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Overrated or not, Kris Bryant remains misunderstood. Strikeouts in the zone remain a problem.
- Rick Morrissey (Chicago Sun-Times): Javy Baez deserves to start at one position for the Cubs. I don't think the time is now. Morrissey does.
- Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Albert Almora Jr. not jumping to conclusions on defense. He's still acclimating himself to the dimensions of the various ballparks, and is happy to listen to advice.
Between the dotted lines.
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Theo Epstein says Cubs trade to boost 'pen not imminent. "It's pretty rare that you rebuild a bullpen midseason through big-ticket items," Epstein said.
- Carlos Portocarrero (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Stuck in the middle with Dan Vogelbach: Three ideas out of left field. Vogelbach is most likely headed to another organization. Who and when remains undetermined. Pitching and catching are probably not part of his future. But it's interesting to speculate.
- Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): The 2016-17 IFA period opened Saturday, which could spark trade activity. The Cubs are subject to a few limitations, but this could still be interesting as far as prospect value.
- Grey Papke (Larry Brown Sports): Bovada no longer accepting bets on the NL Central winner due to Cubs lead. Vegas has already called the division race.
- Lewis Lazare (Chicago Business Journal): How the Cubs plan to celebrate the Fourth of July. A look at the special uniforms worn for the occasion.
- Ariel Cheung (DNAinfo): Cubs tickets top MLB in July 4 resale prices. To no one's real surprise, the Cubs are the hottest ticket in any town.
- Tyler Kepner (New York Times): Joe Maddon's zaniness keeps the game fun for the Cubs. Even during the course of the game. The players enjoy Maddon's creativity -- it keeps things fresh for them. "They told me, ‘No, you’re in left field,’" Pedro Strop said. "I said, ‘Oh, O.K.’"
- Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Convalescence watch: Tommy La Stella back soon, Dexter Fowler not back soon, Jorge Soler status quo. Hammies are troublesome injuries, and the team is being careful. La Stella's bat will help.
- Jesse Rogers (ESPN): Chicago Cubs' Jake Arrieta searching for turnaround: "Beating yourself can't happen". "I was my own worst enemy," Arrieta said Friday. "It could be worse. I wasn’t happy about it."
- Ken Woolums (ESPN): Stats support a more aggressive approach for Jake Arrieta. Fastballs. The league has adjusted to his slider. Jake can locate.
- Ryan Davis (Today's Knuckleball): 155 million Cubs starter Jon Lester has outperformed expectations. Media bias partly to blame for perception. Article tilts antispinward.
- Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times): Adam Warren on the spot for a start, and Cubs injury updates. Warren might start Tuesday or Wednesday, Wittenmyer reports.
- (CSN Chicago*): Joe Maddon defends Cubs bullpen. [VIDEO]
- Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago): Cubs seeing issues Mets exposed in NLCS. Inability to make contact is certainly a culprit.
- Rice Cube (World Series Dreaming): The one-run game. Clearly explained reasons not to worry.
Food for thought:
- (Science): Plants can gamble, according to study. Sure. I've seen lots of vegetables at the OTB parlor.
- Coby McDonald (Popular Science): The end of root canals. What if your teeth could regenerate?
- (Alternet): How social media can distort and misinform when communicating science. The premise is extensible to virtually any subject. The spin is in.