If you’re thinking I posted this yesterday... no, this is different. Thursday’s article was a simple ranking of the most-read articles here. This is a more subjective list of my choices for the top 10 Cubs stories of 2018, those that I feel had the biggest impact on the team for the year (and possibly beyond).
Once again, I’ll rank them from least-important (at least among the 10) to most-important.
10) Anthony Rizzo and the “slide rule”
A dispute emerged May 28 in Pittsburgh on a Rizzo slide into the plate. Sara Sanchez covered this in detail in a Sara’s Snapshot on the incident, including a detailed look at the rule (6.01(j)) and comments from the players involved and managers Joe Maddon and Clint Hurdle.
9) David Bote’s walkoff ultimate grand slam
8) The disputes over players wearing non-standard gear, including Ben Zobrist’s cleats and Willson Contreras’ arm sleeve
Zobrist started wearing black cleats in an homage to the black P.F. Flyers sneakers he wore as a kid. Contreras wore an arm sleeve that looked like the Venezuelan flag in honor of his home country. Some players from other teams did this too, and MLB was not amused:
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Dear @mlb, I still like you but this is rediculous. For the last two years, I have worn black spikes exclusively at Wrigley Field for Day games to pay homage to the history of our great game, and now I am being told I will be fined and disciplined if I continue to wear them. When I was a kid, I was inspired by highlights of the greats such as Ernie Banks and Stan Musial in the 1950s-60s and was captured by the old uniforms and all black cleats with flaps. @newbalancebaseball made a kid’s dream come true by making some all black spikes with the special tongue as well as the “Benny the Jet” @pf_flyers cleats. I am curious as to why @mlb is spending time and money enforcing this now when they haven’t done it previously in the last year and beyond. I have heard nothing but compliments from fans that enjoy the “old school” look. Maybe there is some kid out there that will be inspired to look more into the history of the game by the “flexibility” that I prefer in the color of my shoes. Sincerely, Ben Zobrist
After the season, MLB and the Players Association reached an agreement that allows players more freedom in choosing special cleats to wear, though I think the flag arm sleeve is still not allowed.
7) The Cubs sign Yu Darvish
We’ve been over this deal many, many times, so there’s no need to rehash it all now. It seemed like a great thing at the time. It didn’t work out in 2018. It still has a chance to work out in 2019. Let’s hope so.
6) The Cubs trade for Cole Hamels
At the time of this deal, the team was struggling and only about a game in first place. Hamels immediately put together four outstanding starts in a row and seemed to help energize the pitching staff. His 12 starts produced 2.5 bWAR — third-best on the team even though he spent just two months in blue pinstripes. He’ll be back for a return engagement in 2019.
5) The Cubs make major coaching changes after the season
After Chili Davis didn’t seem to connect with Cubs hitters, he was dismissed after just one season. Same with pitching coach Jim Hickey, who departed due to unspecified “personal reasons.” The Cubs have gone younger in those positions, and as noted earlier today, still need to hire a bench coach.
4) The weather and the postponements
This seems like a good time to revisit this photo:
The Cubs had nine postponements in 2018 — five at Wrigley, four on the road — and wound up playing several games in April in frigid winter-like conditions. All the postponements forced the Cubs to play from August 21 through the end of the season with only one scheduled off day (September 20). Which leads us to...
3) Winning 95 games despite injuries, postponements and losing Kris Bryant for half a season
The list of things that went wrong for the Cubs in 2018 is much longer than the things that went right. Two members of the starting rotation (Darvish, Tyler Chatwood) were pretty much useless, KB missed 60 games, Brandon Morrow missed half the season, several players were way under their career norms... but still, 95 regular-season wins were posted, in my view a real credit to Joe Maddon’s managing.
2) Addison Russell’s suspension
This is another story that’s been covered in-depth here and this isn’t the place to re-hash it. And it’s still likely not over, as it’s possible the Cubs will decide to cut ties with Russell before the 2019 season begins. Even if they decide to keep him, he will be suspended for the first 29 games of the year. If he’s with the Cubs, he’ll be eligible to play May 3 vs. the Cardinals.
1) Javier Baez’ breakout season
There had been hints for Javy’s first few Cubs seasons of his tremendous talent on the basepaths and in the field. In 2018, he put that together with batting as he set career highs in runs, doubles, HR, RBI, SB, BA, OBP, SLG and OPS and finished second in MVP voting in the National League.
Because you can never have too much Javy, here are nine minutes’ worth of Javy highlights from 2018.
Here’s hoping for bigger and better things for Javy and the Cubs in 2019.