I imagine the average reader on Bleed Cubbie Blue has been following the Cubs a little longer and is more knowledgeable that the average fan. You aren’t the person who just happens to watch a little of the team when you move into a room where the game is playing. After all, you dug deeper to find this website. Perhaps, you were looking for details on some trade or other transaction and you happened upon Al’s front page analysis. You liked what you read, not only in what he wrote, but in what the often very smart commenters had to say in the comments. We seem to get a bit more of a blend in positive and negative and more on topic conversation in the comments than what I experienced when I searched around for other similar sites.
Where the heck am I going with this? I think sometimes being the knowledgeable and grounded one makes you the least fun guy at the party. I feel like it sometimes here. Life is hard enough. We deal with all kinds of struggles in our own lives and in baseball, we hope to find some fun and entertainment. We like to dream and hope about our favorite team and our favorite players. But the longer you’ve been around and the more you’ve seen it happen, you can become that wet blanket.
Yeah, probably still not clear, right? I think there have been two distinct “flavor of the day” Cubs so far in 2022. My life has gotten very busy and I’m not around the comments anywhere near as much as I was back in the day. But, I sense that Alfonso Rivas and then Christopher Morel became what I’d dub Flavor of the Day players. Was Keegan Thompson one and I missed it? If so, he’d be a fair counterpoint to the argument I’m making.
Heroes and Goats often captures the Flavor of the Day. A player will shoot up the season rankings. A commenter will point out that so and so player has reached the top in only a small number of games. And then I get to be that wet blanket guy at the party. That’s just kind of how it works when a guy just gets hot right from the start. But you just know they are going to calm down. And I’m always trying to find a nice way to suggest that gravity and inertia are going to drag them down.
The thing is, I’m a fan too. I want Alfonso and Christopher and everyone else to trample all expectations for them and just be that breakout star. Here’s a thought experiment for you, name a recent Cub who really did that. A guy who completely trampled all expectations and became way more than anyone ever projected. It seems like the Cardinals get one of those every five minutes, doesn’t it?
In this championship era, we are talking pretty much about Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras right? All of the other stars were hyped and the only question was how great they could be. But Kyle had to fight against the lack of top flight stuff and Willson was a late bloomer after a position change.
Keegan Thompson is fighting like heck to be one of those guys. And maybe Rivas and/or Morel can be. But you just know the league is going to figure them out. You did know, right? I can never decide if it would be better to go back to a time when you didn’t know. When we are learning and growing our fandom, every guy who bursts on the scene and hits the ground blazing is the next big thing. Our imagination soars. This guy. This guy is the one who is going to turn around all of the losing and be the conquering hero.
Invariably, he’s not. It’s not even much of a stretch to figure out when it’s going to happen. Baseball is a cruel sport. Failure is basically the norm. A small handful of stars over achieve the game and everyone else is a series of struggles through the length of their career with occasional periods of figuring everything out. One could pretty much always be wet blanket guy and be right almost every time.
Every now and then, you are wrong spectacularly. I’d love to be wrong just once the way I was once on Randy Johnson. It had to be about the second year where things had finally fallen into place for him. I declared it a mirage. He was too old and there were too many lingering issues and the league would catch back up to him. The only thing worse than having a friend who can remind you of your really bad hot takes is watching a guy who you dissed just crush your team every single time you match up.
So where does all of this Flavor of the Day and wet blanket stuff lead us? Man, it’s tough to watch Morel strike out four times. To watch a Flavor from a past season Rowan Wick allow a crushing three-run homer, right before your team scored three runs that maybe, could have given you the lead (if sequencing actually worked that way).
But you can’t ever know. Wick was one of those guys who came out of nowhere and it all clicked at once for him. But then injuries happened. What might have been? He certainly has the makeup and the demeanor. Not the least of which is that he’ll shake this off. He’s had a rough go lately. But he’ll get it back. These couple of rough outings won’t ruin him.
I use the word inertia a lot to describe baseball. Inertia pulls all but the best back down to earth. And so when we see that Flavor bursting onto the scene, it can be so much fun to take that ride to the top with them. But there is so much pain on the other side. We fall for them and then we watch them fall back to earth. Each failure, each struggle hurts a bit more. Every time I’m wet blanket guy in regards to a Cubs player I’m hoping and praying somewhere inside that he Randy Johnson’s me.
Let’s find the positives even in this defeat.
- Nico Hoerner gets the top spot. Three more hits for Nico. Scouts and analysts dig the longball and so love for Nico has been slow to build. But finally healthy and a guy who did have the pedigree, I’m buying Nico as a low- to mid-level star in this game.
- Willson Contreras appears to be coming out of a little bit of a dry spell. After his Sunday heroics, he came back and added two more hits and a walk. Willson is going to start the All-Star game. I’m now sending mental energy to his brother and hoping that they can experience playing on the same team for a night.
- Alfonso Rivas. 36 plate appearances since being recalled is still a small sample. But, he’s got a line of .344/.389/.438 (wRC+ 132) after two more hits and a walk last night. I’m betting that BABIP of .435 isn’t sustainable unfortunately. It’s hard not to wet blanket a guy. The bar is so high to be a major league first baseman. You do have to love his defense over there.
With that, let’s turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from Tuesday night’s loss.
Game 74, June 28: Reds 5 at Cubs 3 (28-46)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.143). 3-4, K
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.090). 1-3, 2B, BB, RBI, SB, K
Although an error is charged when a player reaches on catcher’s interference (as Ortega did in the first inning), by rule he’s not charged with an at-bat, so only three AB’s for Ortega in this game.
- Sidekick: Alfonso Rivas (.049). 2-3, BB, RBI, R, SB
- Billy Goat: Yan Gomes (-.272). 0-4, DP
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.250). 0-5, 2K
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.155). 0-4, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: in the sixth inning with a runner at first and no outs, the game still scoreless, Brandon Drury doubled scoring the game’s first run. (.178)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With runners on first and second and no outs, the Cubs down 5-0 in the eighth inning, Christopher Morel doubled, driving in the Cubs first run. (.101)
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 +21
- David Robertson +14.5
- Willson Contreras +13.5
- Daniel Norris/Patrick Wisdom -7.5
- Yan Gomes -12
- Jason Heyward -16.5
Up Next: Game two of the three-game set. The Cubs will look to even the series with Justin Steele (2-5, 4.59) on the mound. Justin is quietly having a very good June and will look to keep it going. Hunter Greene (3-8, 5.66) will start for the Reds. I think I’d describe Greene’s rookie season as an adventure, filled with ups and downs.