Take a look again at that cover photo. That’s a man who enjoys his job. We’d all like to think that for the often obscene amounts of money these guys make that they would all enjoy it. And on some level surely almost all of them do. But few enjoy the game in the way that Willson Contreras does. If for no other reason, I hope Willson is traded next month. It’ll hurt and I’ll miss him terribly. I’d love for him to retire at the end of a long career wearing Cubbie blue throughout. But I’d also love to see him experience the joy of winning another championship. You hear pros say it all of the time when they win a championship in their first year. They didn’t really understand and have the perspective to soak it all in.
This organization has begun building talent again. By all accounts they are doing it well. Did they acquire a Rizzo or an Arrieta in the haul yet? That was the thing last time, they got at or near big league talent last time. This time, they are all further down. Where injuries or other problems could stop them from being all that they can be. Maybe it’ll all bubble up. It’ll all translate to big league success. Will that be two years from now? Three? Five?
Regardless, I have no confidence in this organization to manage talent at the big league level. They did a good job last time shepherding enormously gifted players to the big leagues. But they didn’t do a lot to sustain that talent and keep it going. There was one big crescendo and then it all just tailed off.
To be sure, there have been gains in the pitch lab and what not. But has this organization produced even a single elite pitcher? They seem to be doing an ever improving job of producing middle of the rotation and middle of the bullpen guys. But they’ve yet to put the cherry on top.
This is a lot of words to express how I’m feeling without any words about a putrid baseball game last night. Which is unfortunate, because last night was one of those tale of two games things. For five innings this was a flashback to the glory years. Kyle Hendricks bounced back nicely after missing nearly two weeks (and me declaring his career to be on the downfall). Willson Contreras went beast mode. Things were sailing along.
And then the bullpen had a meltdown of epic proportions. Hard to imagine that these were largely the same guys who went toe-to-toe with a fearsome Yankee lineup Friday night for almost 10 full innings before losing in the 13th.
I said it yesterday and I still mean it, you shouldn’t judge a team by how bad it looks when they are in the middle of a losing streak. Everything is blown up to epic proportions. That said, this team does look like it has a chance to reach some historic, and not in a good way, levels. I think that for two reasons. First is the ongoing poor health of the team. At some point a team well out of contention is going to shut down a guy like Wade Miley and let his shoulder have a chance to heal. Second is the lack of any noticeable home field advantage. Al has written a lot of words about how bad the Cubs have been at Wrigley. If it weren’t for some surprising wins against the Cardinals and Brewers, it would be a four-alarm fire.
I’m not yet saying that they will start chasing dubious franchise records. I’m just observing that those outcomes are less standard deviations away than they once were.
As I said, this was a split personality game, so despite the lopsided score, this one is easier than some for me to find three positives in.
- Kyle Hendricks. He didn’t have the best individual performance, but it was the most important one. If this Cubs group is going to challenge mediocrity rather than chase the worst record, Kyle almost has to be one of the leaders. Five innings, importantly six strikeouts, and no runs allowed. This was a Kyle that can be effective at a very high level.
- Willson Contreras. No question this was the best individual performance with two homers and three runs driven in on a three hit night. I suspect Willson will be the lone Cub at the All-Star game. There is no question he’ll deserve the honor.
- Frank Schwindel. The top two were simple. This one a bit more challenging, but I’ll give the nod to Frank for two hits and an RBI.
And now, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from last night’s eighth straight loss.
Game 61, June 14: Padres 12 at Cubs 5 (23-38)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.285). 3-4, 2HR, 2B, 3RBI, 3R
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.214). 5IP (20 batters), 4H, 6K
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.034). 1-4, 3B, RBI
- Billy Goat: Mychal Givens (-.432). 0IP (4 batters), H, 3B, 4R
- Goat: Scott Effross (-.238). ⅓ IP (4 batters), 3H, 2R, K, BK (L 1-2)
- Kid: Chris Martin (-.121). ⅔ IP (5 batters), 3H, 3R, WP
WPA Play of the Game: The Cubs were still leading 5-4 in the seventh inning, Mychal Givens on the mound facing Luke Voit with the bases loaded. Voit doubled and all three runs scored. (.245)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras batted with a runner on and two outs in the third inning, the Cubs leading 1-0. He homered. (.175)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- Nico Hoerner +12
- Willson Contreras +11.5
- Ian Happ +11
- Kyle Hendricks -7
- Patrick Wisdom -9.5
- Jason Heyward -10.5
Up Next: Game three of the four-game set between the Cubs and Padres. This one is set to be a battle of Triple-A pitchers. The Cubs will have Caleb Kilian make his second start. The Padres will have Ryan Weathers make his 2022 debut. He did pitch in 30 games (18 starts) with a 5.32 ERA last year.