In our last installment, we fished for meatloaf, and the getting was good. We still get meatloaf, but we get gravy, too as we learned how sweet it is to sweep a series again, Wednesday. Today’s a new day, an off-day for the team, and a good time to think about the future. The numbers say 66-41 and a sizable gap between first and second place. Connect the dots, Ben Frederickson...
The Cubs appear to have righted the ship (and I think that’ll be enough of the nautical metaphor, thank you) and are heading into turbulent waters with all hands on deck. This is shaping up to be the kind of year that Henry Kuttner and CL Moore would revisit, one for the annals. The World Series is the missing piece in my paint-by-number dreams, Jackson Browne. The Cubs are not pretenders.
We’re off two days out of the next seven, a week in which the Cubs will brush up against the Oakland A’s (away) and the Anaheim Angels (home), neither of which are particularly artful, before the Cardinals come in to try to paint the town red. I dunno why the powers-that-be have determined that the Cubs fly to California and back but whatever. Trying to get their picture has twisted better men than I....I can see them sometimes, in my mind’s eye, those gnarly men, with pasty faces and crossed eyes, scrawling lengthy screeds about what it all means and frantically Tweeting impossible trades to last season’s GMs and dummy accounts...putting on their pants both legs at once and mixing checks and stripes...they are probably #friendsofpuig and Ken Rosenthal, and into Mondrian.
Yeah. Instead of painting myself any further into the hot corner, I’ll move on to the news. As always * means autoplay on (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).
wise words, wise acres, and otherwise:
- Lauren Zumbach (Chicago Tribune): Paint your home like Wrigley: Benjamin Moore releases Cubs-themed paint. Color my world Cubbies Blue.
- Ariel Cheung (DNAinfo): Watch crews wreck Wrigley buildings ahead of Addison and Clark groundbreaking. The latest in an ongoing series of articles.
- John Sickels (Minor League Ball): Angels trade Joe Smith to Cubs for prospect Jesus Castillo. Sickels’ take on Castillo.
- Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Getting to know new Cubs reliever Joe Smith. “For his career, Smith has enjoyed his fair share of success, and has always out-pitched his peripherals.”
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Joe Smith happy to be in Chicago, closer to ailing mother. His mother lives in Cincinnati and is battling Huntington's disease.
- Bruce Levine (CSB Sports): Cubs increase bullpen to nine men. Right-handed specialist Joe Smith joins crowded and versatile group.
- Brendan Dwierzynski (ChiCity Sports): The sudden rise of Carl Edwards Jr. for the Chicago Cubs. He’ll be counted on to be a contributing piece in the bullpen. He’s earned the chance.
- Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Joe Smith brings the funk like your grandpa’s feet. Make my funk the Smithfunk.
- Marly Rivera (ESPN): Aroldis Chapman feels at home with the Cubs. “My new teammates have treated me so well," Chapman told ESPN.com in Spanish. "They have welcomed me, and that has helped me adapt better. Even before I joined the team, they sent me messages welcoming me. Strop was the first one to send me a message and also called me and offered me his support.”
- Ken Schultz (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Cubs give in, perhaps, to Chapman temptation. It’s PEOPLE, people!
- CBS Sports: Cubs call Kyle Hendricks “Karl” for some reason that doesn’t make sense except they’re the Cubs. Chad Noble, the bullpen catcher, added an ‘R’ to everybody’s name one time,” David Ross said.
- CBS Sports: Kyle Hendricks describes his stuff: “Why the heck can’t we hit this guy?” “...when I do have success, guys can’t really understand,” Hendricks said.
- Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): In Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell, Cubs boast pair of unlikely split leaders. Both thrive on home cooking.
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Willson Contreras gains chemistry with pitchers. "He's a great kid -- I love him," Jason Hammel said. "He basically has gotten better every start I've worked with him.”
- Bradford Doolittle (ESPN): Willson Contreras builds his case behind the plate. Kyle Hendricks said “We were grooving in the same mindset. When he came out to the mound a few times to tell me what pitch he wanted, it was the same one I wanted.”
- Bradford Doolittle (ESPN): Joe Maddon talks batting order philosophy. Almost as good as the Philosopher’s Song, the Maddon dialectic involves challenging the conventional wisdom. “Years ago, you wanted Dick Groat hitting in the 2-hole,” Maddon said. “Or possibly Dal Maxvill in a good season. Or let me go Glenn Beckert, I’ll go with the Cubs, I’m sorry. It’s changed now.”
- Adam Nissen (Sports Mockery): Here’s why Joe Maddon keeps changing the batting order. Mostly explained above — the key spot is the 2-spot.
- Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Dexter Fowler ignites Cubs as offensive nuisance. "Dexter got the whole thing rolling," Joe Maddon said. "When he plays at that level, he picks everybody else up and it accelerates everybody's confidence, hitting-wise. He's a nuisance to the other team."
- Bruce Levine (CBS Sports): Javier Baez coming of age. “I play my game and have fun out there,” he said.
- Jesse Rogers (ESPN): Joe Maddon on Javier Baez: “He’s a game-changer on defense.” Yes.
- Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times): Could Cubs’ Bryant and Rizzo become the next Kent-Bonds MVP duo? Preferably without the fighting and obnoxious personalities. “We’ll feign a fight in the dugout,” Joe Maddon joked.
- Sean Sears (Sports Mockery): Cubs pissed off key bench player. Tommy La Stella wasn’t happy when sent to Iowa.
- Sports Mockery: Jorge Soler is healthy but struggling in the minors. Soler is batting .118 in 34 minor-league at-bats with Triple-A Iowa and Tennessee. That explains why he’s still there.
- Paul Skrbina (Chicago Tribune): Jorge Soler struggling to find his groove, not sure when he’ll return to the Cubs. "He needs to continue his rehab. The results haven’t been there yet, but it seems like he’s getting better,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “The at-bats are getting better and better and he keeps getting closer. We’ll keep monitoring him and hopefully he gets here soon."
- Jim Bowden (ESPN — INSIDER ($)]: Grading all 30 GMs at deadline. Cubs are above the paywall fold. A+.
- Aldo Soto (Sports Mockery): Jed Hoyer confirms hilarious rumor about MLB GMs. These guys aren’t dummies.
- Tom Hitchner (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): The Cubs’ curse in the day of the auteur GM. “To fans without a strong connection to the Cubs franchise, it may seem as though it’s not Chicago steaming towards a championship, but Theo Epstein. “
- Jeff Sullivan (ESPN — INSIDER ($)]: Crown the Cubs? Not so fast. Five teams that could keep the curse alive. Three AL teams, two NL teams.
- Matt Snyder (CBS Sports): MLB Power rankings. The Cubs are #1. The Tigers are roaring.
- Odds Shark ( SB Nation): World Series 2016 odds: Cubs, Giants, Rangers lead updated betting lines to win championship. The Cubs look poised for a deep playoff run as the current favorites to win the World Series.
- Nate Greabe (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Young Cubs: Taking stock. Still ‘waving’ in the minors.
- Luke Blaize (Bleacher Nation): Eloy Jimenez is somehow hotter than he was already. Confidence breeds success. Jimenez has both. Alex Kraft (MiLB.com) weighs in.
- Aldo Soto (Sports Mockery): This 19-year-old prospect reminds Cubs of Kris Bryant. Eloy Jimenez, that is. ‘A little bit’, they say.
- Carlos Portocarrero (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Jack Leathersich: The human pitching machine. His delivery brings the funk from the other side.
- Caitlin Gleason (Villager): From Bruin to Cub. Story of Cubs draft pick Nate Sweeney. The U of A’s loss is the Cubs’ gain.
- Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune): Jake Arrieta pleased with reinstatement of baseball in 2020 Olympics. “As they should," said Arrieta, a member of the last U.S. team to participate before the sport was eliminated by the International Olympic Committee after the 2008 Games.
Food for thought:
- Jessica Boddy (Science): Nicer neighborhoods get creepier crawlies. The “Luxury Effect”. I never promised you a rose garden. Big-ass spiders, maybe.
- Roger Pielke, Jr. (The Guardian): Get ready for the coming wave of technologically-enhanced athletes. Way past the Six-Million Dollar man.
- G. Clay Whittaker (Popular Science): Powerful new bar freezer can make ice cubes out of whiskey. Or whisky, or vodka, or...a dangerously cool idea.
And tomorrow will be a better day, Josh. At least the Cubs will be playing.