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Cub Tracks rides the lightning

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Secret Origins of the Midsummer Classic, the unthinkable BB rate, tiny, buzzing lab assistants, and other bullets

Pastors of Muppets.
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Cubs win!

Happy 27th birthday, Anthony Rizzo.

“Make defeat your fuel.” -- Gatorade.

“Keep it inside the park.” — most MLB pitchers. Javier Baez laughs at cliches.

Cub Tracks stayed up late to get the results. Cub Tracks is a good boy. Cub Tracks isn’t going to say anything about ESPN’s telecast. Cub Tracks caught up last episode (for the second time this summer). And the league caught up to Willson Contreras, the NL Player of the Week, for the first time this summer. Readers had these things to say about those things:

"Cub Tracks is one of the most valued resources for every Cub fan." -- still miss the old barn.

“The kid might have a future in this game.” — MN exile.

All hyperbole aside, the Cubs continue on their quest to make me wrong. And yes, I still miss the old barn, too. I miss Stan. I used to mow his lawn sometimes. He lived next door to my dad’s boss. He was my hero when I was a tiny Czech czild.

“We’re off to never-never land...” -- James Hetfield

Y’know what I really miss? The thing I most miss about living in the Chicago area? Wrigley Field. True story. I miss the good food and the cultural landmarks and the excellent libraries and the phantom traffic jams on 294 North but most of all, I miss the Friendly Confines. I’ve been to Sloan Park once and Chase Field once, and those were pretty underwhelming by comparison. I’m not even going to bring up the two largely inactive Tucson parks. Can’t beat fun at the old ballyard. Make mine ivy!

I may be going out on a limb, if not an actual ledge, but I’m going to say right here and now that I don’t think the Cubs are gonna make the post-season.

Actually, I said it last night, during a radio interview, but it’s true. I don’t think it’s gonna happen. I’d absolutely friggin’ ADORE to be wrong, but I’m afraid that I amn’t. — Me, from Cub Tracks’ freighty chat.

Hell, I was even sober when I wrote that. The Cubs have surged into first place and don’t appear ready to relinquish it, but it sure didn’t look like that was likely that day pre-- Jose Quintana, pre-- Justin Wilson, pre-- Alex Avila. Sometimes it still doesn’t look likely. There are hiccups, to understate the situation. Daniel Murphy’s career since the 2015 playoffs HAS to be a cosmic hiccup, an alternate reality of some sort...

But that isn’t news to you, faithful Bleed Cubbie Blue readers. You know the score. Most of you even know Herb Score. Let me gently remind you that my second first book is on sale, and let’s move on to the sports pages. As always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1903 - In the third inning of the 4-3 nightcap loss to New York at the Polo Grounds, Dodger starter Henry Schmidt is thrown out of the game after he throws the baseball out of the park. The Brooklyn hurler became very angry when opposing pitcher Joe McGinnity dashed home from third base while his infielders were arguing the close call at the bag.
  • 1913 - On April 25, the American Association minor league contest was stopped with the score tied 1-1 due to rain, and replayed on June 15, resulting in a 6-6 tie after nine innings, when the game is stopped because of darkness. The game is started again on August 7, and after the 13th, the 2-2 contest is halted once more due to darkness. After four attempts, Minneapolis finally beats Indianapolis today, 11-2.
  • 1933 - A series of Midsummer Classic games is proposed by William Veeck, Sr., president of the Cubs. Although the idea receives some support, it will be 64 years before a team from the American League plays a club from the National League during the regular season.
  • 1957 - Club President Walter O'Malley makes it official, announcing that the Dodgers will play in Los Angeles the following season. The club's departure from Brooklyn corresponds with the massive social shift taking place in the borough that finds many of its former residents leaving for the suburbs of Long Island.
  • 1976 - In the first game of a doubleheader against Kansas City at Comiskey Park, the White Sox take the field wearing shorts. Chicago, after a 5-2 comfortable win in the opener, dons long pants for the nightcap and comes out on the short end to the Royals, 7-1.
  • 1985 - Baseball, after a two-day strike, resumed with an 18-game schedule, including five doubleheaders.
  • 1988 - In the first scheduled night game ever at Wrigley Field, the Cubs play host to the Phillies. The game does not become official when the contest is rained out in the third inning.
  • 2000 - Cubs hurler Phil Norton becomes the 18th pitcher in major league history to give up four homers in one inning in the Dodgers' 7-5 victory at Chavez Ravine. Kevin Elster, Darren Dreifort, Gary Sheffield, and Shawn Green all take the 24-year-old southpaw deep in the bottom of the fourth inning.
  • 2000 - Darren Dreifort hits two home runs and gets the win in the Dodgers' 7-5 victory over the Cubs. The starting pitcher, who hurls 6.2 innings, goes deep in the bottom of the fourth and fifth frames.

Cubs news and notes:

Say Hello to Mike Freeman -- MLB Trade Rumors.

“I’m not crazy. You aren’t crazy. The Cubs have actually grounded into an abnormally high number of double plays this year. In fact, the defending World Series champions’ GIDP rate ranks second worst in the National League and sixth worst in MLB.

The Cubs’ 2017 GIDP rate of 12.6 percent contrasts sharply with last year’s rate of 8.1 percent, which was the lowest in MLB. The 56 percent increase in double plays has undoubtedly contributed to some offensive woes, not to mention my own anxiety.” -- Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider)

  • Jesse Rogers (ESPN): Back at the scene in S.F.: Reliving the inning that changed Cubs history. "I thought we could come back, but three runs in the ninth inning? It's not realistic...” said Mike Montgomery. (Actually, it was four runs.)
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): How Cubs are positioned for a Giant run – right now and in the future. “Get into the playoffs, say, seven times in 10 seasons...”
  • Bob Nightengale (USA Today): As free agency approaches, Cubs All-Star Jake Arrieta trending upward: 'I like my chances'. “I haven’t had the year I would like, but it’s not over yet,’’ Arrieta said.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Market Watch: Jake Arrieta trending toward a big payday. “That’s hilarious to even think about,” Arrieta said. “You’re asking me if I would play on a one-year contract? Absolutely not. Why would I do that? Why?”
  • Dan Szymborski (ESPN-Insider {$}): Bullpen Rankings: Cubs among the best. “Here's a full list of the Cubs' relief pitchers that ZiPS projects to have an ERA worse than 4.00 the rest of the season: Rob Zastryzny. Period.” So there’s that.
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Carl Edwards Jr’s struggles, and the reason the bullpen played out like that yesterday. “Since his meltdown against the Nationals in Washington at the end of June, Edwards has posted an 8.78 ERA with an unthinkable 24.6% BB rate.”
  • Joe Maddon explains bullpen decisions after another late meltdown by Cubs. "CJ right there, I liked him on those two guys," Maddon said. "We just gotta get him back to being normal because he's a really big part of our success.”
  • Darius Austin (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Getting to know Justin Wilson. “...I’m here to tell you that he has changed in the last few years.”
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Maddon showing more trust in Hector Rondon again. “...the manager is perhaps hedging his bets by building Rondon back into that setup-type role.”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Wade Davis is perfect, also flawed. “...just like the “Pitcher Win” stat, simply converting 23 of 23 saves does not tell the whole story.”
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Wade Davis' value only increasing as Cubs closer options struggle. “There aren't many elite closers, and the price tag for the very best is not coming down soon.”
  • Frank Fernandez (Off the Bench): Willson Contreras is a freak of nature. “...catcher was not even his natural position...”
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Kyle Schwarber went deep, has big numbers since his return, and I say “but” a whole lot. “...this is still all part of the process of Schwarber finding the balance between power and contact.”
  • Tony Andracki (CSN Chicago*): Jon Jay: The underrated hero the Cubs need. "He's playing at a very high level right now," Joe Maddon said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Theo Epstein vows to restock Cubs' farm system as he did with Red Sox. "We're going to find ways to build the farm system back up," Epstein said.
  • George Castle (Chicago Baseball Museum): Don Baylor’s Cubs managerial days leave several still-unexplained threads. “Baylor was fated to have an uphill battle from the start.”
  • Madeleine Kenney (Chicago Sun-Times*): Bryant, Harper wives support Bryce Harper becoming a Cub. “Fans want it … & we are more than good with this idea.”

Food for thought:

  • Nell Greenfieldboyce (NPR): Scientists prepare for 'the most beautiful thing you can see in the sky’. ““The corona, I think, is the most beautiful thing you can see in the sky,” says Matt Penn, an astronomer the National Solar Observatory in Arizona.”
  • Signe Dean (Science Alert): Widespread loneliness is killing people and we need to start taking this seriously. "Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival," says psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad from Brigham Young University.
  • How fly guts are helping researchers catalog the rainforest. “These tiny, buzzing lab assistants provide scientists with a treasure trove of conservation data.”

NVRQT: In honor of John Arguello.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back Sunday with more of whatever this is.