The Olympics are finally underway, a year later and without even close to the same level of pomp, and it’s pretty hard to get into them. I want to, because the communal aspect of sharing in the international competition every four years (well, two sorta) can be so much fun. But given everything going on, both last year and at the present moment, it’s tough to feel that same energy.
• I suspect the reality of the situation is really hitting Cubs players right now, especially the guys who’ve been around for five, six, seven seasons, and haven’t ever been part of a seller. For example, I’m not sure how Javy Báez could feel any differently at the moment about his standing with the team (NBCSC):
Asked in St. Louis if he thinks he will still be a Cub on Aug. 1, Báez said, “Um, yeah, I believe so.”
He didn’t sound convinced as he said the words with a sheepish grin.
“I wish I could say 100-percent yes, but I don’t control that,” he said. “So we’ll see.”
• Báez has never played through this situation. Ever. And now there’s just a week to go before the Trade Deadline, and he’s being asked to put it out of his mind – the trade rumors, his teammates’ trade rumors, his extension talks, his impending free agency, his performance, and on and on. It’s gotta be so difficult! I’d imagine the games, themselves, are a nice reprieve. However he’s doing it, though, he’s doing it. Báez is up to .304/.371/.544 (145 wRC+) over the past month, looking as good at the plate as he’s looked since 2018.
• We’re scrutinizing everything he does and says extra closely right now – hey, it’s my job! – but I do have some empathy for the challenges of being a big league manager just before the Trade Deadline on a team that is selling, like David Ross. Understandably, he’s very ready for next week to be over (NBCSC): “This is my first year going through it. I am looking forward to that, just because I don’t have to answer any more questions [at that point]. There’s a sense of moving forward. Whatever it is, those are things that are out of our control. So once we get to that point, we’ve moved past [the departures] — we couldn’t affect those anyway.”
• We’ve talked about this idea before from a team and fan perspective, but I’m sure it’s true for the manager, too: Ross is probably excited to see what he’s got after the deadline, with the ability to turn the brain into future mode. Ross is going to be around in 2022, so – much like the controlled players on the roster – it’s going to be important for him to work with guys as they are developing for the future and/or showcasing who they could be for the team in the year(s) ahead. Ross knows that August and September are not meaningless months for this organization, but are hugely important months not only for next year, but also for the offseason. The Cubs need to know what they have, what they don’t, and what they think they should be doing before Spring Training (and I don’t just mean in terms of acquisitions and roster construction, I mean in terms of player development, too). Honestly I get pretty excited thinking about how those two month can be used, and I hope Ross feels the same way. We’ll get there when we get there.
• It’s been a rough stretch for Anthony Rizzo, who no doubt has a whole lot on his mind (including the extension that didn’t happen in Spring Training and hasn’t happened since, and now the Trade Deadline):
Anthony Rizzo is in the middle of a serious cold stretch and with a .191/.300/.348 slashline since June 16, the Cubs’ first baseman is having a tough time breaking out of it.
“Do you feel the frustration? Sure.”https://t.co/fL4PHeA8Ip
— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) July 23, 2021
• Everything’s been just a little off for Rizzo since June 16, with his walk rate a little down, his strikeout rate a little up, his hard contact a little down, his groundball rate a little up, his soft contact a little up, etc. Not one thing is egregiously different over the past month, but everything is just a little less good. Normally, you might not think much of that over a relatively short stretch, but this is a guy who’s dealt with back issues during that time (and a lot of other times, too), and who turns 32 next month. Every down stretch is magnified right now. THAT SAID, Rizzo is one of the streakiest hitters I can remember following closely, and this happens ALL THE TIME with him. A month of bad, followed by a month of dominance. We’ve seen it a dozen times before, and we can’t just assume it definitely won’t happen again. (Then, after the season, you take a hard evaluation of what you think he will be in the years ahead. I’m not ready for that yet.)
• Praise for, and the history of, one of the best of all-time:
Today, rookie relievers throwing heat with nasty breaking stuff is the norm, but back when Craig Kimbrel debuted in 2010, it was a rarity. 11 years later, he’s still going strong. A look at his dominant early years and how a Hall of Fame career started. https://t.co/CYDDzWR7jG
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) July 23, 2021
• Meanwhile, another historically good closer just got booed off the mound after blowing his second straight save. I didn’t realize really how ‘meh’ Kenley Jansen’s numbers have been for four years running now. They’re not bad, mind you! Just not elite closer numbers by any stretch. The 33-year-old is set to be a free agent again after this season, and I wonder if he’s going to have to transition into a set-up role on whatever new team he lands with.
• Pretty fun stuff:
Today, 2020 NL MVP vote-getter Ryan Tepera introduced himself to the man who sent a vote his way last year. This year, Commish joked, Tepera might be pitching himself into a non-accidental 10th-place vote. pic.twitter.com/3bL98KKt2r
— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) July 22, 2021
• Another Cubs prospects who is scorching hot lately – Ethan Hearn, who was considered the top prep catcher in the 2019 draft:
“Hearn HR x 2.”
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 23, 2021
• Big day on the farm overall:
Ian Miller. Last 35 games: 339/387/419, 6/6 SB.
Nelson Maldonado. Last 36 games: 331/408/523. 👀.
Cam Sanders. CAREER HIGH 10 strikeouts.
Danis Correa. Season numbers: 18 IP, 11 H, 2.50 ERA, 9 BB, 28 K, 0 HR-A.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) July 23, 2021
• Of note on the James Triantos signing, which Bryan discussed this morning: the Cubs gave him a $2.1M bonus, way over slot, to sign as the 56th overall pick. That bonus is the same as the slot for the 35th pick (Comp A, right after the first round). So the Cubs clearly viewed him as first round-caliber talent.
• This is a great way to wrap these Bullets. Enjoy:
“In the minor leagues I used to stand in the outfield, close my eyes and envision myself at Wrigley….Then when I started at Wrigley for the @Cubs I got to do it with my eyes open.”-Robinson Chirinos @WatchMarquee pic.twitter.com/Bd96T210Nv
— Taylor McGregor (@Taylor_McGregor) July 22, 2021