The Rundown: Freak of the Week, Do or Do Not

Well, if you want to freak out, freak out
And if you want to be free, be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are

Perhaps Joe Maddon has been listening to a little Cat Stevens in his office. Can you blame him? It’s been a wild world around Cubdom lately and every time it seems morning has broken, we get another moonshadow.

“Please, go ahead and freak out,” Maddon joked after a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. “If you want to freak out, freak out.”

There’s perhaps a tinge of Marie Antoinette flippantly saying that the starving peasants should just eat cake, though I don’t think that’s necessarily at the heart of Maddon’s instructions. Whether the frustration is born of his team’s play or the unrelenting questions about said play, there is absolutely a little derision evident in what the skipper relayed to the fanbase through the media.

Of course, that was was all said in the wake of three losses to a good team. Getting worked over by the lowly Padres is a different story, and one that no one involved hopes to either read or write. Not that people would have believed it at the start of the season. Take Monday, for instance, a game in which the Cubs walked 10 times and eeked out only two runs. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Like the fact that they got only three hits, none of which were recorded after the 3rd inning? Or how Addison Russell tripled to lead off the 2nd and remained stranded at third despite two walks that loaded the bases behind him? Or that of three total bases-loaded situations — one of which came with only one out — the Cubs managed to push runs across once?

I’m not here to tell you how to fan, so I’m not going to be upset about anyone else being upset. But I’ll implore you not to tell everyone else why they too should be sharing your anxiety. Is this team good right now? No. Is the pitching worse than we’d expected? Yes. What the hell’s going on with the offense? Who knows. What I do know is that no amount of worry or concern on my part or your part is going to impact the Cubs’ performance.

There is no try

The Cubs are pressing, that much is clear. It’s like they’ve imbued each swing with added meaning, believing that each cut they take is the one capable of lifting the team from the muck of mediocrity. Except that’s just as true as the idea that Tony Campana was an everyday outfielder.

“Everybody’s proverbially trying way too hard,” Maddon said following Monday’s frustrating loss. “It’s just…to not try to hit homers, and really [makes spreading motion with hands], again, take what they give you, play with the middle. You gotta convince them to do it, they gotta do it. It’s not complicated. You can see the big swings coming out of our zone when just a single will do.”

I think he’s talking to you, Javy Baez. Batting at the bottom of the order Monday, Javy was very clearly in a 2015 mindset and cared little for trying to put together solid at-bats. Even Anthony Rizzo looked to be forcing the issue, though he put it a different way after the game.

“It’s not all peachy right now,” the first baseman said. “We got urgency. We’re grinding.”

Oh, they’re definitely grinding. There’s plenty of time in the season — not to mention between Monday’s and Tuesday’s games — for the Cubs to spray a little WD-40 on this thing and get it moving a little more smoothly, but that’s not easy when you’ve got several different squeaky wheels. It’s not just the pitching or the offense or the defense, it’s all of the above. And it seems like they’re all going wrong at once, rather than having one facet lift the others.

Therein lies both the fear and the hope, though it’s the latter on which I’ll end this section. This team is too good to see the struggles continue across the board for a full season, which means we’re going to see a turnaround at some point. In order for that to happen, though, the players have got to relax a little. They’ve got to do or do not, there is no try.

Shark fight

Okay, so Jeff Samardzija’s involvement in the brawl between the Nationals and Giants was ancillary at best. But I laughed out loud when I saw him rush into the fray as one of the first on the scene outside of the main combatants — Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland — only to be clocked by Mike Morse, his own teammate.

Baseball fights are kinda funny in that guys are throwing these exaggerated haymakers that never land. Watching Harper and Strickland in that initial exchange was actually a lot like watching Javy’s at-bats against the Padres, come to think of it. There’s a whole lot more to the background and both the necessity and propriety of this particular donnybrook, but I’ll stick to just a few very brief thoughts.

  1. Strickland firing a 98 mph fastball at Harper is the height of douchery, regardless of motivation. Doing so because Harper took him deep three years ago is dumber than…well, it’s just really dumb.
  2. Buster Posey not moving from behind the plate in defense of his teammate was rather telling, though what exactly it said is still in question. Posey said afterwards that his discretion was a matter of self-preservation, which makes sense when you consider that he’s the guy whose injury on a play at the plate resulted in rules to lessen contact there. At the same time, he’s got on more gear than anyone on the field and could have played the role of peacekeeper. Unless he felt Strickland had it coming, which he did (Strickland, that is, not Posey).
  3. Harper was right to defend himself. I’m not big on the whole machismo thing, but it’s not as though Harper had done something blatant for which a beaning was an obvious retaliatory gesture. Nor was this a curveball bending his way with relative softness. Strickland was looking to exact revenge, and I don’t begrudge a batter for doing what he feels he needs to do at that point. A fist isn’t as immediately dangerous as a baseball, particularly when you throw the former like Harper did. He might want to take up boxing lessens in the offseason.

More news and notes

  • Mike Trout has a torn UCL in his left thumb and will be out six to eight weeks following surgery to repair it
  • Jeurys Familia could resume throwing in two weeks
  • The Cardinals have optioned Randal Grichuk…to advanced-A ball
    • Whoa
    • I guess they’ve got their reasons, but that sounds like a bit much
    • Gonna be fun to hear how Cubs fans apply this is Schwarber
  • After slashing .357/.455/.786 with two homers and nine strikeouts in his first 33 plate appearances, Ian Happ is hitting .091/.200/.091 with no homers and 13 strikeouts over his last 25 PA’s
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