I am in Chicago to take in a couple games, and hopefully that starts with tonight’s going much better than last night’s. The Indians, despite their record, are a very good team, and splitting a two-game set – like the Cubs did in Cleveland – wouldn’t suck. Hey, the Cubs blew out the Indians 10-3 in their first game and then dropped the next one 4-1, so maybe that’ll repeat itself tonight in reverse! Hooray for blind, cosmic, synchronous optimism!
- Well, it’s not totally blind optimism, as the Cubs will have Jon Lester going tonight coming off of one of his best starts in a long time, and the Indians are shifting a youngster into their rotation to make the start tonight. Adam Plutko, 26, will be making his second big league start (he had one fill-in start earlier this year against the Blue Jays (he did quite well), and has otherwise been pitching quite well at AAA). Here’s hoping the big-ness of the moment at Wrigley Field will slightly overwhelm.
- Just as Manny Machado was understandably asked about his future when he arrived in Chicago this week to play the White Sox, it’s understandable that that the chatter and the rumors reached the Cubs’ clubhouse. Albert Almora, close enough with Machado that he calls him a cousin, conceded that of course it would be very special to play together, but also likes the team the Cubs have built (Cubs.com). Ditto Kris Bryant, who knows the front office will do what it can to improve the team when the time is right, but this is already a good team.
- And even as he says he doesn’t listen, Addison Russell is probably hearing those rumors and must be impacted in some way, Joe Maddon says. “I’m sure it affects him. He would be robotic if it did not.” He went on to tell NBC, “[T]he age that he’s at, the experience level that he’s at, I think it just can’t help but have an impact. So we just gotta continue to nurture him here. I talk to him all the time. There’s certain things you can’t control. You can’t control what’s being said, but you can control how you react to it. That’s about the best thing we could encourage him to do and he’ll get our support.”
- It certainly wouldn’t hurt any of this stuff if Russell went on a tear at the plate for the next two months, giving the Cubs plenty of confidence heading into the second half that they don’t need to add another bat – even one as herculean as Machado’s. I’ve made no secret about my position on this stuff: I like Machado a lot, but I’m not crazy about giving up Russell – at age 24, with three years of team control after this season – in a rental deal for him. I’d much rather the Cubs rode it out this season, and then re-evaluated BOTH players in the offseason. But I do recognize that if the market for Machado in trade collapses such that the Cubs cannot stay out, or if the Cubs suffer a serious injury, or if the Cubs have internally evaluated Russell in some way that tells them they want to move on no matter what, then that changes the calculus in a pretty fundamental way.
- “Foolish to doubt us”:
Kris Bryant was asked in pregame if he ever hears the concerns about the team from fans and he gave one of the more honest, level-headed responses I've heard from a player on the subject: pic.twitter.com/R8k7Rcqt67
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) May 22, 2018
- I reeeeeally want to dig more deeply into this, though I know I won’t be able to do it today, so I want to at least get it in front of you, given that it could be an explanation why a sophisticated team like the Cubs is suddenly the least-shifting team in baseball:
— Russell A. Carleton (@pizzacutter4) May 22, 2018
- The short version? The extreme shift is not working as you expect for guys who aren’t super-duper-extreme pull hitters, and that’s happening in strange ways (including an increase in walks(!) when those not-quite-super-duper-extreme pull hitters are shifted on). The Cubs seem to once again be ahead of the curve.
- Hey, looking beautiful, Wrigley:
— MBDChicago (@MBDChicago) May 22, 2018
- As noted by Arizona Phil, top Cubs pitching prospect Jose Albertos has been sent back to extended Spring Training after a disastrous start to his year at South Bend, which made Tyler Chatwood look like a command/control pitcher. The extremely talented 19-year-old must be working on some mechanical issues (right? RIGHT!?!?), as he posted a … gulp … 36.8% walk rate in his 13.0 innings of work.
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