The Rundown: Cubs Potion Number None, Heyward in His Own Reality, NL Central is Garbage

You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking. As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death – if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.

That’s an excerpt from Joe Maddon’s postgame address to his team following their sixth straight loss Wednesday afternoon. Or was it Professor Snape’s introduction to Harry Potter and his fellow First Years? At this point, a Cubs’ turnaround seems only slightly less fantastical than J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

Professor Maddon was a bit more pragmatic and slightly less angry than Snape in addressing the press corps, though.

“There’s no magic potion,” Maddon admitted to members of the media. “We just got to keep going out there and playing. I believe in our guys, which I do 100 percent, wholeheartedly. These are good, young players, they’ve shown it in the past, they’re going to show it to you again.”

Listen, Joe, I’m about as level-headed as they come, but I starting to get all antsy in the pantsies at this point when it comes to the Cubs not showing it to me. Seriously, it’s starting to feel like my high school social agenda. Wow, that was probably more than you needed to hear, I hope my editor will take it out. Anywho, on with the complaining.

The last time I wrote that the Cubs were not playing well at that moment, my words were met with some pretty staunch resistance, which is funny because it was really impossible to argue otherwise. And that’s before they stumbled drunkenly through a six-pack of games in SoCal against the Dodgers and Padres.

The first three you kind of get, they make sense given the opponent and the matchups. But the most recent set made about as much sense as playing Edward Fortyhands and then chasing that with another bottle of St. Ides High Gravity. While that particular potion might have worked well for Ice Cube, the Cubs haven’t had a good day in a week now.

This is the kind of suckiness we expected to see when the Cubs really did suck, which sucks because they aren’t supposed to suck now. Embrace it, my ass, I want nothing to do with the suck.

Whew, that felt better. Shake it out and move on. This is still the same team that opened the season as the favorite to return to the World Series. I just hope they stole some of Matt Szczur’s bats before they left Petco.

J-Hey not negative…or realistic

From explaining his individual struggles to justifying his team’s overall poor play, Jason Heyward hasn’t often been faced with the most lighthearted questions. To his credit, though, he’s maintained a positive outlook. Or at least a non-negative one.

“It’s part of baseball, so, you know, all of it becomes a part of the game,” Heyward said in the locker room after the game. “So I’m not gonna say anything negative. If you’re tying to get me to say anything negative, I’m not gonna say it.

“Just keep playing, keep grinding, keep having fun, keep repeating, keep pushing, look at the positive of Jake throwing really well today. That one ball, one pitch, he was trying to bury it, guy put a swing on it…hit a home run. Other than that, we lose 2-1. If you’re gonna lose a game, I feel like that’s not giving it away.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, shut the front door and back the truck up. When you score one run against a mediocre staff on a bad team after having already dropped two against said team while only scoring two runs in each of those games, there’s no “not giving it away” about it. That was a brutally bad game, series, and road trip all the way around.

So Heyward might not want to say anything negative about it, but I’ve got no such qualms. The Cubs’ offense is downright offensive, there’s no defending the defense, and you can’t pitch me a story about how the staff is as good as it was last year. Now, there are all kinds of indicators telling us the Cubs should be better, even that they’re better than what their record shows. And I dig that stuff, I really do. We’ve written several pieces in that vein, as a matter of fact.

Perhaps it’s hypocritical of me to be calling out a player for polishing a turd the way J-Hey did Wednesday. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll change tack here. I’m positive that the Cubs have been playing some really bad baseball and also that they’re in such a bad division that it might not really matter.

The NL Central is a joke

Only the Brewers (28-25) are over .500 and even a six-game skid has the Cubs only 2.5 games out of first place. All five teams are either 3-7 or 4-6 in their last 10 games and the Cubs are actually second in run differential with an even mark (Brewers +28).

Of all the things that have gone wrong for the Northsiders this season, the paucity of competitive teams in the Central is as heartening as anything when it comes to turning things around. I guess you could actually say that all the teams in the division are competitive, separated as they are by only 4.5 games. Which means a hot streak could put the Cubs right back on top in no time.

More news and notes

  • Bryce Harper appealed a four-game suspension for his role in that brawl the other day and got it reduced to three games
    • Hunter Strickland, clearly the instigator here, is awaiting the result of his own appeal of a six-game
    • Here’s where I have a serious problem with these suspensions, particularly for relievers
      • Harper, one of the best players in baseball, will miss at least 27 innings
      • Even if it’s upheld, Strickland’s six-game suspension will mean, at the most, 4.1 innings of lost time (based on usage thus far)
      • Outside of suspending him 40 games, there’s no way to make this equitable
    • In short, Harper’s suspension is actually far worse than Strickland’s, which is a joke
  • The White Sox announced that 2018 will be Hawk Harrelson’s last
    • He gone!
  • Welington Castillo is on the 10-day DL after a deflected ball caused a hematoma in his groin
    • Ouch
    • Beef Castle spent several hours in the ER, but the injury isn’t as bad as that makes it seem
  • Pittsburgh has optioned Gift Ngoepe, the first African-born player in MLB history, back to AAA Indianapolis
  • Mike Trout had surgery to repair the UCL and dorsal capsule in his left thumb and is expected to miss six to eight weeks
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