I’m back in Chicago for the week of games, hoping that run extends THROUGH Thursday. I remember the last time I was in Chicago for a middle stretch of NLCS games, it was for the Mets series in 2015, which ended in the thuddiest way possible.
The last time I was here for an NLCS game at Wrigley overall, though, was of course just last year, when the Cubs closed out the Dodgers in Game Six, after having won three in a row. Kyle Hendricks was on the mound for that one, in what was one of the best pitching performances in Cubs history. Here’s hoping he’s the one who kicks off a three-game winning streak, starting tonight.
- Joe Posnanski is thoughtful and a fantastic writer, so when he offers a lengthy take on Joe Maddon’s decisions at the end of Game Two of the NLCS, I’ll read. Posnanski’s theory is more or less that Maddon was playing a long game with his decisions, not not wanting to win Game Two, but focusing much more on the games in Chicago, and aiming to get the series back to LA where the pressure will be on the Dodgers. It’s a bit more nuanced than that, but you’ve got the gist: Maddon chose rest for Game Three above an improved chance at winning Game Two. That’s Posnanski’s theory, and it obviously does square with the decision not to use Wade Davis for more than an inning (and ultimately, not at all). I have my issues with it, but you can’t go back, and at least as we sit here today, the Cubs should be very fresh and rested.
- I’m ready to move on from all that stuff, but I do have to share Maddon’s final comments on the matter when he was asked again about the decisions and the criticism he’s received. After pointing out that Davis never actually warmed up, and if people saw him throwing in the bullpen, it was probably just him testing out his arm, Maddon deflected the criticism (Cubs.com): “Listen, this guy just did yeoman’s kind of work – I love that word – in Washington, and was not prepared to go more than three outs,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand why that’s difficult to understand. And furthermore, you have to also understand it wasn’t the last game of the year or the second to the last game of the year. It was about winning eight more games. All these things are factors. So I really hope that you all understand that social media doesn’t count at all. Twitter doesn’t count at all. And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly.”
- I will set aside the shot at sportswriters and Twitter, since it is silly and almost certainly coming out of frustration (Maddon knows full well that sportswriters – and fans – don’t need Twitter to evaluate his in-game decisions). I’ll focus instead on the “I don’t understand why that’s so difficult to understand” part, because it speaks for me, too: I don’t understand why Maddon keeps focusing on the fact that Davis couldn’t go more than an inning. That’s not what people were asking for. They were asking for Davis to go LESS than an inning – just to finish off the 9th inning and extend the game. That’s it. If Davis was available for an inning of work, then he was available for an inning of work. Full stop. If you “save” him only for a save situation, then you risk losing the game before your best pitcher sees that inning of action he’s available for; and that’s exactly what happened. I said my peace yesterday, and I’ll leave it there. Moving on.
- Oh, wait, one more thing, because this cannot go un-shared (without comment):
Joe Maddon said it was important, in baseball terms, not to "dry hump" Wade Davis in the bullpen. Can't get him up and down in the bullpen.
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 16, 2017
- With a righty (Yu Darvish) on the mound for the Dodgers tonight, we might finally see a shake up in the Cubs’ batting order, which could hopefully spark the offense. Kyle Schwarber should be back in there, and maybe Ian Happ finally is, too. I know that would make Michael happy.
- Whatever happens, the Cubs really need the big bats – Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, in particular – to carry the weight, too. They remain disproportionately important to the offense, not only because of their offensive ability, but because of their spot in the lineup and the fact that they hit back-to-back. When both are going well, the damage they can do can carry the day.
- Let me put it this way: the Cubs had 816 weighted runs created this year by their offense. Kris Bryant accounted for 125 of those, and Anthony Rizzo accounted for 119. No one else accounted for more than 67. That’s 30% of the Cubs’ offense this year tied up in just those two players. Yes, getting Bryzzo on track is extremely important.
- (Those 67 wRC, by the way, were by Willson Contreras, followed by Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez with 64 each, and Ian Happ with 60.)
- This is good for the game and for the continued story about the Cubs’ ratings (in advance of their next TV deal), though I suppose it should be expected given the match-up:
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) October 16, 2017
- After the report discussed last night about MLB being on course to eventually expand to 32 teams, I tossed this question out to the Twitters:
Curious your thoughts: if there was dramatic realignment, would you want to see Cubs and White Sox in the same division?
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 17, 2017
- The responses did not surprise me, and they’re pretty much in alignment with my own thoughts: it’s not necessary to have the Cubs and White Sox facing each other all the time as division rivals because there’s enough acrimony in the city as it is. I just think it could get legitimately really ugly if the two teams were serious, heated, Cardinals-like division rivals.
- Over at TYL, among many other things, Luis notes a report that John Fox was open to switching to Mitch Trubisky much sooner, which is definitely not something I expected to be reading.
- The MLB Shop has a 25% off Nike gear sale going on, so it’s definitely worth checking out the Cubs collection if you’re into Nike. Basically half of my exercise shirts are Nike Cubs shirts, so I’m pretty about this.
- Also, the last time our partner Lids got this shirt in stock, it sadly lasted about 2 hours and was gone, because it’s freaking awesome. I have no idea how sufficient the supply is this time around, but here you go:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) October 16, 2017