Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

darwin barney smileI don’t find soccer to be particularly enjoyable to watch. It’s a touch better in person than on TV, but it can make baseball look like an action-packed zoom-fest. That said, the actual goals in soccer tend to be among the most amazing plays in all of sports.

  • Dale Sveum believes Darwin Barney, who went 3-4 last night with a double and a homer, can come out of his offensive funk with some subtle changes. “It was a combination of trying to be somebody you aren’t,” Sveum said of Barney’s problems, per ESPN. “He has pull-side ability of driving the ball [to left] and really numb to the right side. He just had to start hitting the ball hard and not trying to jam it into right field. He does not have the strength to hit over the center fielder’s or right fielder’s head.” I flinch just a tiny bit hearing that, because I remember the last time a Cubs manager said his small second baseman need to try and pull the ball more to take advantage of what power he had. That manager was Lou Piniella, and that second baseman was Ryan Theriot, who hit a few more home runs, but essentially was never the same patient, use-all-fields hitter again. In this case, however, Barney’s offensive success has been extremely limited, so there’s not much risk in changing his approach. On-base is never going to be his thing, so you might as well try to squeeze out a little more power, especially considering his contact skills.
  • It sounds like Carlos Villanueva, who was lit up by the Rockies last night, sees the writing on the wall with Matt Garza soon to return to the rotation. “Obviously, I have my own opinions,” Villanueva said of the rotation crunch, per “Obviously, a move will be made. A night like tonight didn’t help my cause. I’ll take the ball whenever they need me to. I’d like to contribute and to win as many ballgames as we can. In the end, it really doesn’t matter that much what I think. Whatever happens will happen and they’ll make their decisions. We’re professionals here and we’ll handle it like professionals.” At this point, barring a change, bumping Villanueva to the pen, for now, seems like the right move. It isn’t just about this season’s performance (though you’ll recall that many folks were projecting this regression from Villanueva based on his peripherals in April), it’s also about past performance (Villanueva has been a successful swing man before) and trade considerations.

  • Garza’s next rehab start is tomorrow at Iowa, and, if he goes at least six innings, it’s possible he’ll head up to the big team after that. If not, he could make another rehab start before returning.
  • Luis Valbuena, who’s missed a few games with a hurt pinkie, is expected back in the lineup tonight.
  • Dave Kaplan looks at the Cubs’ terrible performance at Wrigley Field sine 1945. Home-field advantage … not so much.
  • Theo Epstein’s annual Hot Stove Cool Music benefit will be June 21 at The Metro, and tickets go on sale Saturday at noon ($50). Details here.
  • A reminder for those who missed it: BN’er Oswego Chris wrote a book, which is awesome, and you should check it out. Details on the book (and my involvement) here. You can purchase it on Amazon here – it’s 10% off right now. If you’ve already gotten a copy and enjoyed it, I’m sure Chris would appreciate an honest review there on Amazon.

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