Ray Renfield is still indisposed in London, where he is attending to some grave matters, so Cub Tracks will be conducting today’s interview and consulting the bottom of their whiskey glass for wisdom.
Brandon Palmer has the simCubs humming on all cylinders and he’s ready to talk some inside baseball.
CT — Good afternoon, Brandon. Your Cubs are 32-13, atop the NL Central, with the best record in the league, and your players are creeping up on the leaderboards. How do you keep this going?
BP — Man, I just keep feeding the fires. We have some people who are underachieving, and a few that are unhappy with their contracts or stations in life, and I have to keep them in mind also and keep my stars fresh.
I pencil in Anthony and KB and Javy every day, and Schwarber most of the time, and Happy most of the time, and everyone else earns their time.
And the front office — man, I can’t say enough about them. Truly the best at locating and capitalizing on market inefficiencies. I love all of my players, and I’ll miss the men who have departed, but at the same time I’m excited to see new faces and hear new voices and I’m pleased as hell to see everyone pulling together instead of having rows. It helps me keep it all on an even keel.
CT — Jose Quintana has been dealt to Tampa Bay. How do you feel about that?
BP — Well, you know Q got off to that rough start, and he’s been improving steadily, but he hasn’t been the Quintana that we needed, and it’ll be fun to see how Ryan Yarbrough, yes, another Ryan, comes up for us. He’s scheduled for the last game of this series and I like that idea, a low-pressure sort of start before he gets into the NL pennant chase.
The Rays, you know, had been in first for a while, and they’re still competitive in their division. Maybe Q just needs a change of scenery. In the meantime we got a solid groundball-type pitcher who has been pitching well and is still young and has plenty of upside. I’m excited!
CT — And the young shortstop isn’t going to hurt you either. He’s going to take Nico Hoerner’s spot at Iowa — you must be pretty sure that Nico is staying in Chicago...
BP — There’s no such thing as too much depth. Greg Jones is just 21 and swings from both sides of the plate, and carries a vacuum cleaner of a glove. Nico can play all over the infield and outfield and as you’ve seen, he has a knack for the big hit. It makes the regulars unhappy sometimes, because they expect to be in all the time, but they just have to accept that other people need at-bats too.
And Nico is friends with Ian, who is starting to assert himself as a team leader, having taken on assistant player rep duties, and that in turn helps him have a positive environment. It all fits together... plus Brett Phillips arrived the other day, and I’ll be pleased to see how he does. That was your classic change-of-scenery deal. Mark has done everything he was asked to, but he couldn’t crack the lineup even in Triple-A, where we have major leaguers like AA and Souza and Josh Phegley platooning and they’re 27-8 with Max Fried going for them. Mark is starting in right field for them and already has a few hits, and Brett is hitting .400 in a small sample, so odds are that the change will benefit everyone...
CT — In the end.
BP — Yes. In the end. The men on the field don’t always have the whole picture. I don’t either — there are a lot of bosses here. Theo makes the calls, Jed makes the actual moves, Al oversees everything, Duane runs the minor leagues and the scouting operation. I submit the lineup card. It all fits together.
CT — Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, Brandon. We look forward to another chat, next Thursday.
BP — I’ll be there with bells on.
Notes: James Norwood was picked up by the Pirates. The waiver was not withdrawn and he’ll play in a new town.