Quite the week for Chicago sports when Patrick Kane comes back for the playoffs a full five weeks early than the timetable set out, and Kris Bryant is called up the minute after he was basically eligible to be. You could almost get dizzy.
I almost shudder to think what will happen if he even goes 2-for-4 today, much less homers or drives in the winning run. Will all those who couldn’t comprehend what would happen if he wasn’t up for the beginning of the season (when the Cubs went 5-3 which is far above the top end of what we thought they could do all season, as that’s a 101-win pace) be excited? Or will they point out that this should have been happening all along and now they have proof it was a crime?
It shouldn’t matter. It’s yet another exciting day to be a Cubs fan, and there have already been a few and there are certainly many more on the way.
“It’s three outs. Just like the first inning.” This statement is thrown around every time the closer role is brought up. In reality, yes, those three outs in the first count just as much in the ninth. You don’t get bonus outs later in games. However, the confidence that comes with a closer that can “slam the door” permeates throughout the team.
Hector Rondon is not a household name. He doesn’t have the name recognition of a Kimbrel or Chapman (Still shocked by the Kimbrel trade and yes I do understand the argument that they traded away a one inning guy) but he can be just as good now that the Cubs are winning. At the age of 27 he’s got maturity on his side. He’s still young in service time but not a ripe youngster. He looks healthy and looks like he’s taking the role and running with it.
The game gets easy when you can spot up a 95-98 MPH fastball. Combine that with a swing and miss slider at 87 and you’ve got something special. He comes out of the pen with a “my head is on fire” look (but under control mentally) and hitters start to get a little uncomfortable in the box. If he keeps his walks down like last year and continues to keep hitters looking like they’re swinging wet newspapers I can see his name being thrown around the dinner table a little more often.
Sometimes players become closers because they’re thrown into the fire and managers keep their fingers crossed. Some make their way to the back of the bullpen because of injury. Some are born to be back there. Others are tossed back there because rules state you need a pitcher. Either way, you need a short memory, swing and miss stuff, and some dumb luck. Otherwise, Hector will be stuck getting those just as important outs in one of other eight innings.
As I sit a few rows behind Len Kasper on our flight home from Phoenix I wanted to touch base about Theo’s words earlier this week. He sounded like a schoolboy excited to go to his prom. The problem being he’s only a sophomore.
What I took from Theo was he’s pointing towards 2016. The locker room, training facility and other amenities that Wrigley will provide players will be second to none. He mentioned a few times that 2016 will be a great year for player’s overall experience. He was quick to point out that the distractions of having tarps flapping in the outfield will never be an excuse for this team. It is business as usual. Deal with the construction and next year will be the payoff.
I was in favor of sending Bryant to Iowa. No argument will change my mind. Baez has a lot to learn about major league pitching. Russell is going to be fun to watch but needs a bit more “hair on his chin.” All three moves were the right moves. It show the front office is not quite ready to say it’s go time.
If the Cubs start fast and look like contenders, Theo and Jed will make their moves to keep them in contention. If things start slow it won’t be the end of the world. They can still sell the future. Either way I cannot fathom them mortgaging the future for this season. I just hope Theo’s prom dates say yes for 2016.
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Not that it bothers me that much, because it’s a good place to be. But all the argle barge and foofaraw over Kris Bryant and his service time issues to me have masked that the Cubs have another monster in the opposite corner in the outfield. One who might turn out to be better than Bryant. Yeah, I said it.
While we all are agog at Bryant’s nine homers in spring training, it seems we’ve forgotten that Soler has five n 24 major league games. Those count. It seems we forget that Soler came up and had 12 hits in his first six games, six of them for extra-bases. We’ve lost track that Soler has Bryant’s and Baez’s power, as that ball that was turned into plasma in St. Louis will attest.
Even the best major leaguers cannot help but let their minds wander during a 9 inning marathon affair. Players take their at bats to the field. Hitters take their errors with them to the plate. Pitchers have all the time in the world to let their minds roam. Coaches have nothing to do but think.
Hearing that Starlin Castro wants to play 162 games is a good start. He has been widely criticized for his lapses in his defensive play. The media made him an easy target when his mind started to wander in the field. People started to question his drive, want, and mental makeup. Some even wanted him to be on the trading block.
Starlin just celebrated his 25th birthday and will be playing in his first season with the expectation of winning. This will be his sixth season manning the shortstop position and the first that he will be expected to show leadership. Everyone around him with the exception of Rizzo could very well be a player with less than 200 major league at bats. Even Mike Olt, who I really hope is not at third as his strikeouts are piling up, is pretty raw at this level.
Hearing he “wants to get better everyday” and “play through bad days” shows the maturity level is growing. Baseball is a game of failures and it looks like he is only breaking the surface between the ears. If this maturation means a better player we are in store for a treat.
You’d think these days, what with me attempting to be something of an actual baseball blogger, and an intelligent one at that, and with the amount of data at all of our disposals that we could be rational about any signing or player the Cubs have. But I am not a rational being.
I still hate Jason Motte and hope he never takes the mound at Wrigley.
Oh, I understand the reasoning. Here is a veteran reliever, a fall-back plan as Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, and Hector Rondon don’t have long track records of success. We don’t know that any one on or combination of them could take a step back this year, and suddenly the last three inning which we thought were locked down become the same kindergarten recess we suffered through under Dale Sveum. Motte could at least come in and pump fastballs over the plate enough to not turn into Salem, MA. circa 1700 or something.