First thing’s first: As Brett continues to be a good father and husband to his family, I will be your spiritual advisor for the day – your guru, your swami, your internet Cubs blogger …
… and what a day for a takeover!
As I’m sure you know by now, the Chicago Cubs clinched the NL Central late last night, when the Cardinals dropped their series opener against the Giants.
The Cubs are now guaranteed to avoid the dangerous one-game Wild Card playoff and will instead advance directly the NLDS – where, if there record holds up, they will play the winner of the Wild Card game in a five-game set, three of which would be at Wrigley Field! Woohoo!
- Of course, by losing last night’s game against the Brewers, the Cubs (and their fans) were unable to celebrate the postseason berth on the field/at the stadium. That celebration, it seems, will be reserved for today. According to Patrick Mooney, the players decided that – should they lose – they would not wait around for the result of the Cardinals-Giants game and instead celebrate on the field following today’s game against the Brewers (1:20 CT start). I think that’s probably the right call, especially considering how late the Cardinals game ended, the early game today, and the anti-climactic manner of clinching via another team’s loss.
- But just because the Cubs have clinched the division doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to play for (before the post season). Now the Cubs will battle to win home field advantage throughout the NL half of the playoffs (the American League will have home field advantage in the World Series, because of the All-Star Game). The way to do that is by finishing the season with the best record in the National League. Considering the next closest team in the standings is the Nationals (87-59), the Cubs Magic Number for best record in the NL is 10 – completely manageable.
- Let’s jump back into last night’s game, though, because there were some performances of note. Mike Montgomery, for one example, continues to impress as a swing-starter for the Cubs. Last night, he went 6.0 innings, while giving up just three runs (one earned) on four hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts. I’ll have much more on his start later, because there was a heck of a lot to like (including an RBI single up the middle!), but I wanted to give him some well-deserved love upfront.
- Despite going just 1-5 with runners in scoring position (and stranding 15 batters total), the Cubs offense did produce four runs last night (including two runs on a 114 MPH rocket-shot home run from Jorge Soler). Big nights from Jason Heyward (2-4, 2 2Bs, RBI) and Miguel Montero (2-3, BB) were especially nice to see, and you just won’t often watch a team score only four runs, after recording ten hits and five walks. Sequencing, man: happen things.
- Lastly, don’t be too mad at Justin Grimm. Before last night’s 0.2 IP, 2 earned run performance, Grimm had allowed just one earned run since June 28 … so like, yeah.
- At the Athletic, Sahadev Sharma has an excellent take on Kyle Hendricks’ bid for the 2016 NL Cy Young award, including some spot-on quotes from the boss-man, Joe Maddon. When prompted on the idea that the Cubs’ historically good defense (more on that later) is disproportionately contributing to Hendricks success, Maddon had this to say: “I mean you’re looking for reasons to vote for somebody else,” Maddon said. “That’s what I’m hearing right there. It’s like anything else, everything’s relative, you’re always going to seek the information that applies to your way of thinking.” While I don’t necessarily think that Hendricks is a no-brainer for the award, I do agree with Maddon that there seems to be a whole lot of (unfair) seat-wiggling when his candidacy is brought up.
- Yesterday, word dropped that Major League Baseball would be suspending Padres General Manager A.J. Preller for 30 days without pay, following an investigation into the deadline Drew Pomeranz trade with the Red Sox. According to Mike Axisa (CBS Sports), the Padres (basically) did not log all of the medical treatment provided to players (like Drew Pomeranz) with the league’s central medical information bank. As a result, they were effectively hiding injury information from competitors … or trade partners. But the punishments might not stop with Preller. According to Buster Olney (ESPN), Major League Baseball might yet hand down more disciplinary actions against both individuals and the organization as a whole. On the surface, you might not understand the severity of MLB’s response, but after learning that team officials instructed athletic trainers to keep separate flies on players specifically to gain leverage in future trade considerations, things start to add up.
- ESPN’s Doug Glanville spoke with Adam Jones about the challenges MLB players face when considering whether or not to speak out on any given issue. I know this story (and Colin Kaepernick’s) can be a potentially divisive issue among fans, but I’ll urge you to continue hearing out every side of every argument, before lobbing your own position into the ring. You might be surprised by what you learn.”I think we as athletes always want to make an impact,” Jones said. “In our communities and between the lines of course. But what comes with this job is leadership and responsibility that you didn’t know you had. Little kids, future ballers and adults envy what we do. That’s why stadiums are packed.” In addition to Jones, Glanville reached out to a number of current and former Major Leaguers (Torii Hunter, Chris Archer, Jimmy Rollins, Sean Doolittle, Curtis Granderson, David Ortiz, Latroy Hawkis and others) to get their thoughts on the challenges of speaking out against social injustice. Worth a read.
- A few days ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks did something … completely different for the ceremonial first pitch. I don’t know why.