The Little Girl’s class is taking a field trip of the best kind today: to a minor league baseball game. The Columbus Clippers game, to be specific, so I’m going to tag along and chaperone. With an off-day today, and everyone probably still steaming about yesterday’s losses, it felt like an appropriate day to step out with the kiddo and just watch baseball for fun.
Speaking of the steaming, sorry about mentioning yesterday in this space that it would be so baseball for the Cubs’ only two series losses on the year to be against the two worst teams in the NL West. Sure enough, it happened. And that really is so baseball. Like I said in the EBS last night, I genuinely believe there’s some long-term emotional good for fans after a day like that. Delicious strawberries don’t taste especially sweet if you’re eating cake every day. Take a day. Be frustrated about the Cubs’ losses, both of which came to a bad team and were highly winnable. Wins against the Pirates this weekend, should the Cubs be fortunate enough to secure some, will be all the more satisfying.
- About the losses. Jorge Soler had a bad day, and a particularly bad night, with four strikeouts, including a critical one with the bases loaded in the 8th inning. And there’s no sugarcoating that strikeout (like you could with a couple of the earlier ones, which featured “strike” calls that were nowhere near actually being strikes). It was ugly. Soler seemed to be amped up by the moment, and flailed wildly and uncomfortably at offspeed pitches. In general, there’s no denying the reality that Soler is struggling right now. Sure, I do think some of his slash line crumminess is the product of bad luck, but also think we’re all sophisticated enough to recognize that two things can be true at once: Soler’s had some bad luck, but Soler’s also really struggling at the plate right now. Maybe some of it is the erratic play he’s receiving. Maybe some of it is the early part of the season. Maybe some of it is just the natural ebb and flow of a player’s performance. But it doesn’t do anyone any good to deny that the pitch-recognition issues we’ve talked about for a long time now with Soler are manifesting themselves regularly these days.
- So, then, you want me to talk about what is to be done about it. You want me to say that Soler should head back to AAA Iowa to get regular playing time. I just … I still don’t know about that. The difference between AAA pitching and big league pitching is utterly enormous, and I’m not convinced that Soler gets much of anything by facing AAA pitching at this point. I think he can recognize and appropriately react to AAA pitching, and I think if you gave him a month there, he’d just be destroying the ball. And not developing. What Soler needs is to become better at recognizing big league offspeed pitches, and adjusting his trigger appropriately. The only way to do that is by facing lots and lots and lots of big league pitching (it’s why really good young players tend to get better as they spend more time in the big leagues – simple enough, eh?). But Soler is playing on a team that cannot be primarily focused on development right now, so he necessarily bounces back and forth between starting, pinch-hitting, and not playing at all. This is about a rock-and-hard-place-y as it gets, and I can’t tell you I have a great answer right now. I think sending Soler to AAA right now is not the answer. I think playing him every day is not realistic*. I think treading the current middle ground is not great either. What can I say? I’m not a “hot take” guy. I can see an analyze the issues at play here, but I don’t really have a great answer for you. Because I don’t think there is a great answer here.
- *(Though I’ll reiterate that I think committing to playing Soler every day probably should have been the plan from the word go when Kyle Schwarber was injured – it wasn’t, and so here we are (which is not to say the Cubs were wrong on that front – they kinda won a lot of games during that stretch!).)
- Joe Maddon was quick to defend Soler after the games, as he should, and David Ross did, too (CSN).
- Speaking of struggling outfielders – but it’s a topic for another day – you can read some thoughts from Jason Heyward on his slow start here at CSN and here at ESPN.
- If you’re someone who felt like the world wasn’t on axis if the Cubs and Alderman Tom Tunney weren’t fighting about something, I have good news: they’re fighting again. This time, it’s all about the plaza and the service of alcohol there. As we discussed this past weekend, the Cubs are trying to go around Tunney to get a liquor license for the plaza after negotiations stalled, but Tunney isn’t happy about it. In short, the Cubs don’t want to be dramatically limited in the times at which they can serve alcohol (not more than the other vendors in the area), but Tunney doesn’t want thousands of people drinking at all times and all hours in a giant outdoor beer garden. We’ll hear more about this in the coming weeks, I have no doubt.
- The kids version of Amazon’s Fire tablet (I didn’t know this: if your kids break it, Amazon will replace it – bold, as you have not met my kids) is 33% off today.
- Pretty cool, indeed:
— #VoteCubs (@Cubs) May 11, 2016
- If you didn’t catch it last night, some history out of Washington, as Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers batters and tied the big league record held by Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens (twice), and, of course, Kerry Wood:
— Kerry Wood (@KerryWood) May 12, 2016
Thanks man! I loved watching ur game as a kid dreaming of doing the same. It's crazy to me we now share that feat https://t.co/hZoSgzU1el
— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) May 12, 2016
— Baseball Is Fun (@flippingbats) May 12, 2016
- Michael with the latest Series Review for that bummer of a Padres series: