Good Off-Day for the Cubs, Vaccine Mandate for Players in the AFL, Lester’s Big Win, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Wife is leading the charge on a clothing purge in the house, and although my wardrobe was already pretty much down to t-shirts and gym shorts, I didn’t realize that I did have one herd that merited thinning: my underwear. It just gathers over the years, I guess, and unless you soil ’em or tear ’em, why get rid of any, right? But she’s right. Forty+ pairs is … nuts.

•   The Royals hooked the Cubs up yesterday by sweeping the Indians in a double-header, giving the Cubs 1.5 games of clearance from the number nine spot in the Reverse Standings. The Tigers also won (more clearance from the dreaded 11th spot), as did the Marlins (a shot at the six spot). Good off-day for the Cubs. And tonight, the all-important series with the Twins begins. The Cubs are two games behind the Twins for the seven spot.

•   Most of the minor league seasons are now over, which means it’s about time for the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. When the league begins on October 13, it’s going to come with a major playing requirement, per the Arizona Republic: all players who want to participate will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Because the AFL features minor leaguers who aren’t in the MLBPA, the league can mandate vaccines (as it has for non-player personnel this coming postseason). At this point, we know that the vaccines are safe and effective both at managing the spread of the virus and also at greatly reducing the risk of serious illness. Given MLB organizations’ interests in pulling off a safe and complete AFL campaign, there’s a fairly obvious connection here.

•   One question: since getting vaccinated is a multi-week process, does that mean we’ll be seeing AFL rosters drop very soon, since some of the guys might have to go ahead and get started on the vaccination process ASAP? The Cubs have SO MANY prospects who missed considerable time this year, and you’d love to see some of them make up games in the fall. The Cubs also have SO MANY fringe 40-man prospects who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year. It’s going to be a fascinating mix.

•   On the one hand, congrats to Jon Lester. On the other hand, this looks so wrong. On the third hand, pitcher “wins” and “losses” is a terrible statistic, so let the Cardinals be the team to celebrate it:

•   Although Lester had a rough start to the year with the Nationals, and his addition to the Cardinals seemed like an annoying non-move at the deadline, the 37-year-old lefty has been extremely useful for St. Louis. Including last night’s six-inning, two-run affair against the Brewers, Lester is at a 4.02 ERA over 10 Cardinal starts (exactly league average). And four of his last five starts have been Quality Starts (and the fifth was a 5.1 IP, 1 ER game). Basically, as the Cardinals have turned the corner and sprinted out to a sizable WC2 lead, Lester has been a critical performer. Again, good for him, but …. PUKE.

•   Speaking of old friends on NL Central teams, catcher Taylor Davis is back in the big leagues, this time with the Pirates. Davis, 31, has been at Triple-A for the Orioles and Pirates this year, and it’s nice that he’ll get a little more big league run. You may remember him as the guy who hilariously stared at the camera whenever given a chance, and also hit one of the best grand slams in recent memory.

•   Carlos Rodon left another start early with “soreness,” and his manager admitted concern. It seems understandable for a guy who had pitched so little the last four years due to various arm injuries (and is up to nearly 130 innings this year), but I have no idea how you plan around it for the postseason if you’re the White Sox. And of far more interest around here, how do you project Rodon as a free agent? He’ll be just 29 and coming off a stellar season, but could you really consider giving him 4 or 5 or 6 years, knowing full well that he might pitch a half or a third of the available innings during that time? Or he might get completely derailed? Some team is going to take a huge risk – because that’s what it’ll take to sign him – and they might get a huge reward, or a huge bust. The Cubs are going to be heavy into the market for starting pitching this offseason, so I watch all these stories closely. But I don’t know that Rodon – with a qualifying offer, too – is going to be the right risk.

•   One of the rare times when those “best shape of my life” type preseason stories is actually really smile-making. It’s about Jonathan Toews.

•   Patrick Williams as a top-5 breakout candidate this year in the NBA, which is pretty awesome given all the talent he’s now surrounded by. The Bulls: they could actually be decent!

•   The Bears D is back baby. Maybe.

•   One more day to get entered:

https://twitter.com/obvious_shirts/status/1439372204056195074

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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