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Cub Tracks goes fourth

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The Iron Horse retires, again with the hangover, The Schwarber-go-round, and other bullets

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds
Happ-y daze.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Cubs Did Not Play Monday.

Might have been a good thing. Who knows?

Last time through the order, Cub Tracks played Pepper with a plethora of pessimistic pundits as rumors of the Cubs’ demise were disseminated without permission of the Chicago National League Ball Club or anyone else, for that matter.

The Hot Grill League™ is heating up. Those same dour voices are now piping up to deliver hot takes on the Cubs’ rotation needs and position-player merry-go-round. The trade deadline is fast approaching, and they’re ready to rake Theo and the boys over the coals, should they fail to deliver the savior of this underwhelming season. Last year changed it all -- the Cubs are no longer the ‘boys of summer’. Now they’re the ‘men of fall’.

But just how far do they fall? The question at the beginning of the year was whether or not a World Series victory was required to make the current season a success. Is it? Let’s investigate -- as always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in Baseball History**:

  • 1911 - Armando Marsans and Rafael Almeida become the first Cuban natives to appear in a major league game as they both make their debut for the Reds. Appearing as pinch hitters in the eighth inning, Almeida strikes out and Marsans singles in the 8-3 loss to the Cubs at Chicago’s West Side Grounds.
  • 1939 - A tearful Lou Gehrig tells 61,808 fans at Yankee Stadium, 'I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.' Gehrig's uniform number 4 is retired, the first Major League player so honored.
  • 1966 - In his first game after being sidelined a week with a fractured cheekbone, Ron Santo sets a franchise record, hitting in his 28th consecutive game. The streak will come to an end when the Cubs' third baseman is held hitless in the nightcap of the twin bill against Pittsburgh.
  • 1967 - Opposing his younger brother, Joe, Phil Niekro goes the distance to get the victory when the Braves beat the Cubs in Atlanta, 8-3. Joining Jesse and Virgil Barnes, who face one another five times as starters in the 1920's, the Niekros become the second pair of siblings to start in the same major league game.
  • 2001 - The Brewers' new home, Miller Park, continues to be jinxed as a parachutist breaks his ankle when he misses the opening in the retractable roof and lands on a beam several hundred feet off the ground. Another member of the Sky Knights Sports Parachute Club missed the stadium completely.
  • 2004 - The selection of Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Sammy Sosa as starters in the NL All-Stars lineup marks the first time in baseball history in which three players with 500 career home runs have appeared on the same team. The trio will appear in the starting outfield in the 75th All-Star Game in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

Cubs News and Notes:

Ian Happ homered twice on Sunday to bring his season total to 12. Only four other rookies have reached that number of home runs by the All-Star break after not playing in the majors during April: Walt Dropo in 1950 (19 HR at the break), Frank Howard in 1960 (13), Dave Hostetler in 1982 (12) and Jason Bay in 2004 (12), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

If you don’t have it yet, remember that you can get MLB.TV for $20.17 today.

  • Yahoo Sports: Rays' Chris Archer to face former manager, Cubs' Joe Maddon. "(I) miss our conversations," Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times this week.
  • Jason Keidel (CBS Las Vegas): Cubs suffer through World Series hangover™. “Maybe it’s not about who plays the Cubs, but rather how the Cubs will play.”
  • Dayn Perry (CBS Sports): MLB Trade Deadline Rumors: Cubs reportedly eyeing Tigers' Justin Verlander, Alex Avila. “The Cubs need help™, and Justin Verlander and Alex Avila might be able to provide it.” Jon Morosi (MLB.com) backs up his tweet.
  • Tim Huwe (The Zygote 50): Justin Verlander/Kevin Gausman 7/3/2017. Gausman would be better, depending on the demand.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): More than Chris Archer, Mike Montgomery shows where Cubs might go at trade deadline. “Paying top dollar – and beating a team like the Houston Astros or Los Angeles Dodgers in the bidding war for a frontline starter – doesn’t seem realistic.”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): The Cubs may have shown interest in Denard Span, but he might not be the right route. “...if the Cubs offense is going to improve this season, it’s still more likely going to have to come from within.”
  • Keith Law (ESPN Insider {$}): DJ LeMahieu over Kris Bryant among All-Star mistakes. “If you don't have one of the game's best players, who also happens to be one of its biggest stars, why even bother to have the game?”
  • Kris Bryant, Xander Bogaerts teaming up to rock Final Vote. “Fans can cast ballots for the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com, Club sites and their mobile devices until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday.”
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Willson Contreras comfortable with Cubs' catching reins. "I feel comfortable in my position, and now that I'm going to be the starting catcher, it feels great," Contreras said. "I have no pressure, nothing to complain about. I have to keep doing what I've been doing since last year, keep learning my pitchers, make them comfortable with me, and keep battling this season."
  • Randy Holt (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Javier Baez: Slight mechanical adjustments a cause for hope. “...the signs are there and the growth is evident, however slowly it may progress.”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Kyle Schwarber in I-Cubs lineup Monday, ‘very likely’ back to Chicago Tuesday. He’d still have to wait til Wednesday to be eligible to play. Seems premature. Especially in view of the tweet below. Still...there are rumors and rumors.
  • James Neveau (NBC Chicago): Kyle Schwarber finding groove with Triple-A Iowa Cubs. And how!
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): How ex-Cubs prospects are faring elsewhere: Jeferson Mejia, Dan Vogelbach, more. Performance updates.

Food for thought:

  • Zahra Ahmad (Science): Why modern mortar crumbles, but Roman concrete lasts millennia. May not have been built in a day, but it doesn’t fall in a day, either.
  • Steph Yin (New York Times {$}): Strange mammals that stumped Darwin finally find a home. “Macrauchenia were distant relatives of horses, rhinos and tapirs...”
  • Jason Bittel (Smithsonian): Illuminating the secret language of lightning bugs. “Over 2,000 species of lightning bug sparkle and flicker on this Earth, with more than 125 species living in the United States. And each one speaks its own language.”

** baseball history information derived from The National Pastime and Today in Baseball History.

Thanks for reading. Happy Independence Day!