The Rundown: Addison Russell Doesn’t Look Right, Time to Free Cat, All-Star Voting

Whether it’s the inaccurate throws to first or the choppy swings, Addison Russell just seems…off. He’s gone through little periods of yips — if it’s fair to call them that — in the past and he’s no stranger to offensive valleys, but this is less about the results than it is how Russell has looked producing them.

At the risk of feeding more grist into the rumor mill, I can’t come up with any explanation other than injury. I suppose it could be the physical manifestation of inward struggles, body and mind fighting with one another and producing awkward-looking mechanics. It’s just that Russell’s moving, dare I say, gingerly. Or maybe that’s just a Freudian slip after watching Eddie Butler pitch last night.

If he’s really hurt, though, shouldn’t the Cubs put him on the DL for a while? That could be helpful for something more acute, but a chronic injury makes things a little more difficult. Russell delivers so much value on defense, even with erractic throws, that a dip in offensive production is acceptable. And if sitting out for a while won’t sufficiently alleviate the issue, there’s really no value in keeping him off the field for an extended period.

Although you’ve really got to wonder about his ability to contribute when a late-game move saw Ben Zobrist displace Russell when Ian Happ came in as a pinch hitter and stayed in to play second base. The four-run deficit the Cubs were facing at the time might as well have been 10 the way they’re playing, though, so it was probably just a chance to give Russell all the rest he can get.

I question that emotion

Maybe Joe Maddon wasn’t telling people to “freak out.” In fact, I think he was letting everyone know that the Cubs are a “free cat.” I don’t remember when I first saw this picture, only that I laughed hysterically when I did. And I still think it’s funny, which tells you all you need to know about my sense of humor.

Sorry if this all seems random and morbid, I haven’t had my covfefe yet this morning. I did, however, sleep quite soundly after the Cubs played the role of live-action ZzzQuil in San Diego last night. In fact, this whole road trip has been a never-ending somnambulant shuffle that we keep thinking they’ll wake up from and realize that they are, indeed, the defending World Series champs.

Losing games is one thing, but this team lacks the verve and spark of those that preceded it over the last two seasons or so. Whether you want to call it a hangover (too far into the season for that) or a refractory period (in which case they need a few of those pills being advertised during every break), there’s no doubt that the “We never quit” mantra can’t be repeated with sincerity at this point. I don’t question any of the individual players’ desire, but their collective drive seems stuck in neutral.

Now, could they pop the clutch and get this thing fired back up? Absolutely. Thing is, there’s no real consistency when it comes to the guys push-starting the bus (author’s note: I had originally typoed “sharting,” which I probably should have just kept). Albert Almora Jr., the kind of player who could provide that emotional spark, has languished on the bench behind Jon Jay and Ian Happ. Kyle Schwarber has been stifled by his own issues.

I don’t even know where I’m going with this, other than to say that I’d like to see more of Almora in center. I get the reasoning behind having him sit the way he has and I know he’s willing to do that for the sake of the team, but it’s an example of how having a roster that’s full of would-be starters might not always be for the best. You need role-players, guys who you understandably don’t want out there every day.

This is tough because I recognize what appears to be a lack of a certain emotional quotient, yet I have no idea what exactly it is or how to go about fixing it. Maybe a trade to alleviate some of the roster crunch or an event of some sort that wakes the Cubs up, whether that’s a walk-off win or something a bit less savory, like a fight or an ejection. I don’t know, just talking out of my…

As I was saying, this team just isn’t fun to watch.

All-Star voting thoughts

A topic that comes up every year has become even more salient given the juxtaposition of the Cubs’ popularity with the poor play of many of their stars. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Jason Heyward are all in position to start at their respective spots, while Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell lurk just outside. Huh. I mean, whatever, fan how you want to fan. Still, it kinda sucks for the more deserving players who’re being left out.

Then again, this stuff has to be good for baseball. As non-Cubs fans see the results, they’ll go online to vote for other players, thus increasing traffic to Then Cubs fans will continue voting for their guys just to troll everyone (or because they legitimately don’t know or care how their favorite players are performing). Rob Manfred gets to smile, comfortable in the knowledge that his attempts to reach a younger audience have worked.

How have they worked, exactly? Hmmm, maybe it’s because millennials love online voting. As much as I think the ASG voting is a big, fat farce, MLB loves it because of the fan engagement and the conversation it drives. And that’s all that really matters in the end.

More news and notes

  • Former Cubs target Tyson Ross is expected to make one more rehab start before being activated by the Rangers
    • The big righty is 1-0 with a 6.48 ERA in 8.1 AAA innings
  • Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper received suspensions of six and four games, respectively, and both are appealing
  • Jeb Bush has dropped out of the Marlins bidding race, but Derek Jeter is still in the hunt and reportedly heading the group
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