Sunday Rundown: Happy Mother’s Day, Give Me Hoyer Over Epstein, Stro’ Wants to Stay

Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Cubs Insider to all those celebrating. If you want to do something nice, send your mom, wife, or girlfriend to the spa/salon. I know it’s a bit old-fashioned, but I promise the consideration will be appreciated. By the way, a M*A*S*H Mervis t-shirt makes a great gift, too.

Speaking of mashing…

The Cubs got hammered in Minnesota on Saturday and I’d rather not discuss it. I woke up to see the homerun that Joey Gallo hit flying past my apartment. Perhaps he saw the Glenallen Hill post on Friday and simply told Hayden Wesneski to “hold my beer.”

It looks like Kyle Hendricks could take Wesneski’s spot in the rotation. The rookie hurler might need a Triple-A reality check for the time being.

Midwest Farm Report

I know I’ve been preaching Ben Brown for nearly a year, but I’m telling you the Cubs finally have their long-awaited ace in the pipeline. I think he’s ready for the bigs, and if there was a spot available in the rotation, he’d probably be up. Brown, Cade Horton, Jordan Wicks, and Justin Steele are going to give Chicago one of the best rotations in baseball as soon as next year. You can add Jackson Ferris once we hit 2025.

That said, prospects are never a guarantee, and Cub fans know that better than anybody. Jim Hendry destroyed our confidence in overhyped minor league players, but we’re two front offices and more than a decade removed from Hendry’s hooliganism. Putting faith in the future isn’t as painful as it once was. Look no further than Matt Mervis, who came out of nowhere to become a fan favorite in 18 short months. The talent that is making its way to Clark & Addison is as stupefyingly good as it is underrated by the national pundits. Perhaps they’re equally tainted by Hendry’s missteps, and Theo Epstein’s too.

Jed Hoyer, however, is fulfilling the promises that eluded Hendry and Epstein. The Cubs have a wave of good-to-great players heading to Chicago who will keep the team in contention for at least the next decade. There are more reinforcements coming from outside the organization, too. The Cubs have the No. 13 pick in this year’s draft and could add another gaggle of talented prospects at the deadline. Cody Bellinger will garner a haul and because pitchers are always in demand come July, Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly could, too. It’s just too bad Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer are pedestrian relievers at best.

A lot of my blogger brethren prefer Epstein over Hoyer. I was once among that crew, but no more. Hoyer is building a potential juggernaut and he didn’t tank as desperately as Epstein did. There are some exciting times coming. Sure, it was painful waiting for the Cubs to put the “win” in Frank Schwindel or feign excitement over Greg Deichmann, but it was worth it in hindsight. I was a big believer in Schwindel.

Sunday Six-Pack

It’s music discovery week, so please dig deep into these outstanding records. I really didn’t want to write today because I was too consumed by the thought of a potential $300 million contract for Bellinger. Then I decided I wanted to share these fine examples of musicianship.

  1. The Very Best of Mick Jagger – It’s hard to believe that Jagger as a solo artist has enough good stuff for a greatest hits album, but here we are. The first song I want to point out is “Checkin’ Up on My Baby,” which takes the arrangement of “In Spite of All the Danger” and adds a couple of hundred bumps of blow to it. That’s how you remake a Beatles Quarrymen song. By the way, Jagger singlehandedly created the rock-n-roll rebel, apologies to Elvis Presley. Keith Richards says Jagger as a soloist is “dogshit in the doorway” but he’s so wrong. “Memo from Turner” is the star track here, and yes, that’s a nod to the next album.
  2. Has Been by William Shatner – Do not deny until you try. Shatner is the king of smug sincerity, and there is no finer example than his cover of “Common People.” Frankly speaking (and Shatner does a lot of spoken word, I mean, the guy can’t carry a tune), “You’ll Have Time” and “That’s Me Trying” are fantastic in a very creepy sort of way, too. The Shat collaborates with Henry Rollins, Ben Folds, Joe Jackson, and King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, and if they dig his vibe, you should, too. Incidentally, I do admit that one strong song carries Shatner’s entire, er, package.
  3. Gets Loaded by Hollis Brown – Yes, this is a band that loves The Velvet Underground so much that they remade Loaded in tribute. It’s not as good, but the newer version of “Oh Sweet Nuthin'” is pretty freaking good, as are “Rock & Roll” and “Sweet Jane.” Mind open, heart enlarged, soul receptive. Hollis Brown did this as a tribute to Reed after he passed.
  4. Sun Records All-American Vintage Rhythm & Blues – I don’t know if this album is available for purchase. I’ve got a bootleg, and I’m starting to think it was burned from a streaming service like Spotify. It’s still one of my favorite compilations of all time. Betty LaVette, Jo Jo Benson, Little Junior Parker, and Big Al Downing are the notable inclusions. For my money, “Downhome Girl” by Alvin Robinson is straight fire. The Stones covered it 30 years later.
  5. Encore by Anderson East – I take notice anytime an under-the-radar artist pays homage to rock’s roots. This LP is soothing and comforting, and if you only listen to “This Too Shall Last” you’d completely agree. Don’t give up there, though. You’ll find everything from Stax Soul to Chess Records rhythm and blues on this output. East is the male counterpoint to Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. There is not a bad song on this album, and “Cabinet Door” is phenomenal.
  6. There Is a Bomb in Gilead by Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Lee Bains III sings about Walker Percy and Ramones t-shirts on “Everything You Took” and it’s a keeper. Like East and Howard, Bains is from Alabama, and you’ll find similar influences here. “Righteous Ragged Songs” and “The Red, Red Dirt of Home” are exemplary singles.

Big League Chew

It appears Stroman loves it here in Chicago, so much in fact, that he’s seeking a contract extension. It’s been a minute since Wrigley Field was considered a marquee destination, but Dansby Swanson changed that. Remember when we all thought Hoyer burned too many bridges when he dumped Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Kyle Schwarber? Times have changed pretty quickly. Or, as Hoyer once said, “Life moves at you pretty fast.” How right he was.

Is there room for Stroman in a rotation that’s about to get an influx of high-level talent? You bet there is. He’s a very successful big-league starter and he deserves a spot if a deal can be worked out. Hendricks is in the same boat. As mentioned above, prospects are never sure things, no matter how well they perform in the minor leagues. Wesneski is struggling this year, and he’s not going to be the only young starter trying to figure out major league hitters.

Stroman and Steele are Chicago’s best starters this season. The veteran is also an amplified voice in a locker room that is embracing a new brand of leadership. The former core was mostly quiet, preferring to let their play do the talking. Rizzo, of course, was the exception. Personality traits are not quantifiable, but we know there are guys who are labeled as winners. Stroman and Swanson are perfect examples. Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner belong in that discussion, too.

You can never have too much pitching. The Cubs should extend Stroman if the terms are right.

This Week’s Money Quote

  • “We had those consecutive years where we were selling, so [Brown] was a guy we’ve kind of had our eye on for a while. He was a pretty obvious target for us. The biggest thing that stood out for us is the makeup. He believes in himself. The way he’s pitching in Iowa, he believes he’s a big-league pitcher. That’s the confidence that’s going to serve him really well.” – Hoyer
  • “I’ve been open with the front office here, been very vocal that I want to be here and I want an extension, that I don’t want to honestly make it to free agency. But I’m also very confident in my abilities in free agency. I’ve always bet on myself.” – Stroman

Sunday Funnies

Billy Williams once asked Lee Smith for his autograph. Smith, who could never outwork Williams, took naps between innings when he played for the Cubs.

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