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Cub Tracks’ midweek mutterings

Greg Gross inequities, mustard is superior, and other bullets

Here’s looking at you, kid
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

CUBS WIN! Split series with the Rays.

Tuesday, Cub Tracks went fourth. Now we’re back to our regular place in the order. Lots of Cubs History down below, as well as a rare Rick Morrissey piece and other nuggets. All-Star Final Vote balloting ends today. Vote for #17!

That Ian Happ kid is kinda good. Jon Jay wasn’t a half-bad pickup, either. There’s a little bit of a controversy about the leadoff spot...

Jon Jay's versatility makes him too valuable for manager Joe Maddon to consider him as the Cubs' full-time leadoff hitter.

At the same time, rookie switch-hitter Ian Happ's strike zone isn't completely polished — although Maddon hasn't completely eliminated the thought of moving him to the top of the order.

So while Maddon considers his leadoff options that included catcher Willson Contreras on Wednesday and the potential return of Kyle Schwarber from Triple-A Iowa in the near future, targeting a specific player isn't as crucial as maximizing the offense.” -- Mark Gonzales, Chicago Tribune

The punditry isn’t quite as down on the Cubs as they were a couple of columns ago.

The Cubs season has been waiting for that turning point. The game, the moment where the team flips the switch to become the world beaters it was for at least a season and a half. Today's game feels like one of those potential moments, but so have a number of other solid and thrilling wins so far. The matchup tomorrow might provide some evidence whether it was or wasn't. -- Mike Banghart, Cubs Den

And of course Joe Maddon believes. Stop me if you’ve heard this before:

“I do believe the second half of this season that we have a chance to really do something spectacular, and that’s what I’m anticipating.” — via Gordon Wittenmyer

We’re all in the best shape of our lives™, tanned, rested, and ready™. There’s time to read all about it -- as always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in Baseball History**:

  • 1919 - William Veeck, Sr., former sportswriter, replaces Fred Mitchell as Cubs president, but Mitchell remains manager for Chicago.
  • 1930 - Bill Veeck, Sr's very popular Ladies' Day promotion at Wrigley Field reaches new heights when more than 30,000 female fans attend the Cubs' doubleheader against Cincinnati. An over-capacity crowd packs the small ballpark with thousands of others, including late-arriving regular paying patrons, unable to gain admission into the North Side ballpark.
  • 1932 - Cubs shortstop Billy Jurges is shot twice in his Chicago hotel room by a spurned girlfriend, Violet Popovich Valli. In a scuffle for the gun, Jurges is hit in the shoulder and hand. Jurges fails to prosecute, and Valli will be signed to a 22-week contract to sing in local nightclubs.
  • 1933 - The first major-league All-Star Game is played at Comiskey Park, and Babe Ruth is the star. His two-run home run is the margin of victory in the American League's 4-2 win. John McGraw comes out of retirement to manage the National League.
  • 1938 - At Crosley Field, Yankees' hurler Lefty Gomez is defeated for the first time in four All-Star starts as the NL wins the All-Star game 4-1. National League shortstop Leo Durocher becomes the first Dodger to start in an All-Star Game and gets a 'bunt' home run.
  • 1949 - At Crosley Field, Walker Cooper goes 6-for-7, including three home runs and three singles, five runs scored, and ten RBIs, to power the Reds over the Cubs, 23-4.
  • 1956 - Ford Frick inaugurates the Cy Young Award, to honor one outstanding pitcher each year. The Baseball Writers’ Association will do the voting. Only one pitcher will be honored each year until 1967, when a pitcher in each league will be selected.
  • 1970 - Ron Santo drives in 10 runs, helping the Cubs sweep a doubleheader against Montreal at Wrigley Field. The third baseman's two-run homer in the opener gives the team a 3-2 victory, and his eight RBIs, which include another two round-trippers, contribute to the club's 14-2 rout in the nightcap.
  • 1977 - After 1,887 plate appearances without a home run from the start of his career, Cubs outfielder Greg Gross finally goes deep when he homers off Don Stanhouse, a three-run shot to left field with two outs in the sixth inning, in the team’s 8-6 victory over the Expos at Wrigley Field. The 24-year-old's homerless drought establishes a new major league record, far surpassing runner-up Duane Kuiper, who recorded his first round tripper needing 355 fewer trips to the plate to accomplish the feat.
  • 1992 - Using his 'in the best interest of baseball' power, commissioner Fay Vincent mandates the National League be realigned next season, forcing teams to be more geographically correct in their respective divisions. The realignment, which was approved by 12 of the 14 NL owners in March, but blocked by Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago franchise, would have sent the Cubs and the Cardinals to the West Division with the Braves and Reds moving to the East.
  • 2001 - Playing in the 101st different park since 1876, the Cubs beat the Tigers in Comerica Park, 15-8. The Cubs win for the first time in Detroit in 56 years dating back to Game 3 of the 1945 World Series, when Claude Passeau threw a 3-0 shutout in Briggs Stadium.

Cubs News and Notes:

  • Rick Morrissey (Chicago Sun-Times*): Baseball isn’t exactly taxing, so why do Cubs players need rest? Just wow. Morrissey needs rest, I think. Maybe he should rejoin the Smiths.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): No, Cubs don’t sound worried about Brewers: ‘It’s about how we play’. “...if we just get back to playing our game naturally and normally like we can…we’ll start winning the appropriate number of games to get us back to where we want and need to be,” opined Joe Maddon.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): John Lackey Being Lackey after Cubs win: ‘I’m 38 years old, I’m bothered by a lot of things’. “Whenever he retires and disappears to Texas, Lackey’s to-the-point responses and refreshing honesty will be missed.”
  • CBS Chicago*: Now with Blue Jays, Miguel Montero wants to put Cubs parting behind him. “It wasn’t the perfect departure, but it is what it was. I live the moment, and I just really don’t look back at the past right now,” he said Tuesday.
  • Anthony Rizzo on Kap and Co [AUDIO].
  • Madeleine Kenney (Chicago Sun-Times*): Cubs look to catch an All-Star break, but Kris Bryant adamant to play. “I would be more than happy to play in that game,” Bryant said.
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): The Rundown: Kyle Schwarber stays at AAA, Jon Lester says Cubs can ‘Use a Boost’ from trade. Baltimore might be the best place for Schwarber to rejoin the Cubs.
  • Carrie Muskat ( Kyle Schwarber could return to leadoff when back. Joe Maddon is agreeable to the notion. "I would not be concerned with putting him back there, it just depends on what he looks like when he gets back,” he said.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): Joe Maddon still thinking about Kyle Schwarber as Cubs' leadoff guy: 'Zero concern'. “I find no connection between his struggle and where he was hitting in the batting order,” he said.
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald* {$}): Could Kyle Schwarber be back with Cubs before all-star break? Jaron Madison, the Cubs' director of player development, thinks he’s pretty close. “I don't expect it to be too much longer, “ he said. “He still has some things to work on, get some at-bats.”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs content with Ian Happ in the middle of order. "Right now, based on what he’s doing and Jon Jay has ascended up there with the best on-base percentage, and I think Willie (Contreras) is OK against left-handers," Maddon said, though he ‘didn’t preclude’ Happ at leadoff.
  • Sam Fels (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Could Colonel Happ be superior to the Judge? The BABIP gods may decide.
  • Ryan Davis (FanRag Sports): Emergence of Ian Happ complicates Cubs search for pitching. “The team is left with plenty of difficult questions as it winds toward the trade deadline.”
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): After another loss, Cubs players ‘absolutely’ welcome help via trades. “You can always use a boost. That’s always a positive in the clubhouse,” Jon Lester said of embracing help before the deadline. “Obviously, you never want to see some of your own guys go the other way. But anytime that the front office believes, ‘Hey, this piece will help us get over the hump,’ that’s always a boost to the clubhouse.”
  • CBS Sports*: Chris Bosio would like the Cubs to add a veteran catcher. “When you throw a bunch of first-year guys out there, there’s going to be a learning curve, whether it’s in the pitching staff or multiple position players that we’ve brought up,” Bosio said.
  • Carrie Muskat ( Joe Maddon's influence remains with Rays. "He put a face to Rays baseball, along with some other people, but he was right there at the top and I can't wait to get out there and shake his hand," Kevin Cash said.
  • CBS Sports*: Joe Maddon insists expressing anger is no way to motivate Cubs. “I’ve only gotten to that point professionally when I thought a team didn’t care or was not putting forth the effort,” Maddon said.
  • Jared Wyllys (The Sporting News): The other side of a rebuild: Ex-Cubs reflect on 2016 and what might have been. DJ LeMahieu, Clayton Richard, and Adam Warren offer thoughts.
  • Todd Johnson (Cubs Insider): Cubs have some tough choices for Arizona Fall League, Rule 5 draft. Johnson makes his case, and convincingly.

Food for thought:

  • Tom Metcalfe (Live Science): 10 Solar Eclipses that changed science. “ eclipses have helped to shape human history...”
  • Emily Dreyfuss (Wired): Put down that ketchup and step away from the Hot Dog slowly. Science doesn’t necessarily agree, but mustard is superior.
  • Shayla Love (NY Magazine): Dogs with OCD are helping scientists understand the human version of the disorder. Honesty compels me to admit that I obsess over articles like this.

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

Thanks for reading. Cub Tracks will next land on your front stoop Sunday.