The Rundown: Cubs Losing with Tedious Familiarity, Blame Hoyer for Failures, Honoring Sandberg, A’s Seeking Absurd Return for Miller

“We’ll lie and swear we’re through with the lonely, drunken déjà vu.” – Kane Brown, One Mississippi

Your 2024 Cubs feel like a glitch in the Matrix, and the tedious familiarity with which Chicago loses games has become downright unnerving. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Jed Hoyer built this wretched team and he continues to state that improvements must come from within, which makes him a candidate for the firing line if not institutionalization.

Evan put it a little more mildly earlier today in his column, but I’m flat-out calling for a front office overhaul.

Hoyer’s brand of boring baseball implodes on the daily, and last night’s devastating loss to the Giants in the bottom of the 9th inning extended what has become a seemingly unbreakable hex. The Cubs are difficult to watch, especially in the late innings of ball games, and it’s time for Tom Ricketts to replace Hoyer and Carter Hawkins. The two have failed in five areas of roster development and show no willingness to change their M.O. any time soon.

1. The Bullpen: The Cubs have blown 17 saves in 35 opportunities counting last night’s debacle. They blew 22 saves last year, 31 the year before, and 19 in 2021. You can point your finger at Chicago’s lack of offense all you want, but the Cubs have given away 17 games this season they could have won. That’s the difference between last place, where Chicago currently resides, and the nine-game cushion the Brewers hold over them. The Cubs have the most blown saves in the National League, four behind the MLB-worst White Sox (21).

Hoyer’s failure to sign impact arms to navigate high-leverage innings is his biggest flaw, and his continued stubbornness to piecemeal his relief corps is reason enough to fire him. I don’t know if Brandon Morrow left Hoyer feeling perpetually salty when it comes to free-agent closers, but the front office should be more concerned with Chicago’s lack of success in save situations since Morrow’s contract expired.

2. Plating Runners/SLG: The Cubs failed 11 times to plate runners in scoring position last night, continuing a disturbing downward trend under Hoyer’s watch. I understand that the stat is unquantifiable, but there are plenty of hitters who tend to thrive in similar situations. One, Alex Bregman, has been linked to Chicago this season via trade rumors.

The Cubs also lack a thumper or two to put the fear of God in opposing pitchers. Christopher Morel hits a majestic blast on occasion, but he’s far from being somebody managers will pitch around. Counsell doesn’t have anyone who forces opponents to alter a game plan, and the team’s putrid batting average with runners in scoring position is the damning evidence.

3. Free Agency: Bryce Harper is earning $27.5 million this year and the Cubs are paying Dansby Swanson $26 million. Hoyer continues to outsmart himself with his willingness to pay elevated AAVs on short-term deals. I can’t remember the term he uses and I’m not going to look it up, but common folk (like me) call it stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Swanson will be 35 years old when his contract expires, while Harper will be with the Phillies through his age-38 season unless he signs an extension. By the way, Swanson will earn more than Harper per season for the remainder of both contracts. Juan Soto would look great playing for the Cubs next season, but Seiya Suzuki and Ian Happ have no-trade clauses and there is no way Hoyer will give Soto a contract exceeding 10 years in length.

It also seems like a lock that Cody Bellinger will stick around next season at the same price Philadelphia is paying Harper. I’ve got no beef with Bellinger and applaud his efforts to resurrect his career, but I’d take Harp over Belli without thinking twice. In fact, I would trade Swanson and Bellinger for Harper in a heartbeat. Kevin Kiermaier is someone Hoyer will probably target this winter instead of Soto. Yawn. The executive may also try to convince us that Anthony Santander is every bit as good as Soto. That type of outside-the-box thinking once brought Clint Frazier to Chicago.

The Mets, Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox are the obvious suitors for Soto and the $500 million or more he is expected to get. The Cubs will be mentioned, but won’t be much more than an afterthought for the 25-year-old superstar, similar to Hoyer’s pursuit of Shohei Ohtani six months ago.

4. Lack of Star Power: The Cubs have had the financial means to sign any number of the game’s best free agents since Hoyer succeeded Theo Epstein. Hoyer deserves credit for spending approximately $220 million this year, but the Cubs are among baseball’s lightest-producing teams and there isn’t $220 million in value on this roster. Hoyer’s penchant for paying for equivalent statistical value makes Chicago a .500 team at best, but much worse if multiple players are failing to produce as expected. The front office should thank their lucky stars for Shōta Imanaga, because otherwise they’ve hunted donuts and gathered nothing but dandelions since Epstein walked away.

5. Reliance on Prospects: It’s fair to say that Morel, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Miguel Amaya are struggling. It’s also nice to dream about players like Owen Caissie, Matt Shaw, Moises Ballesteros, and James Triantos, but too many prospects have failed to continue their development at the major league level during Hoyer’s 12 seasons with the Cubs. The Orioles are the current bell cow when it comes to prospect development, and as much as I like Chicago’s young stars, I have a hard time believing this regime will be able to replicate Baltimore’s success.

I also have a minor issue with Hoyer and that’s his failure to stick to a plan. He built a team that sacrifices power for contact and premium defense, then created instability within the infrastructure by sticking with Morel at third, Michael Busch at first, and Amaya behind the dish. It’s almost unfathomable that Chicago’s starting rotation is as good as it is with the team’s obvious defensive weaknesses. I’m done with Hoyer and I believe the Cubs will continue to be among baseball’s most disappointing teams until ownership makes a change.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

It’s fair to say the Cubs have nearly hit rock bottom when Mets fans are making fun of the team, though I blame Hoyer much more than I do Counsell. White Sox fans are probably licking their chops right now.

Central Intelligence

  • Milwaukee (46-33): Manager Pat Murphy might be the most interesting man in baseball. I wonder if he drinks Dos Equis?
  • St. Louis (40-37): The Cardinals activated catcher Willson Contreras off the injured list before yesterday’s game. St. Louis won 26 of the 44 games (.591) Contreras missed.
  • Pittsburgh (37-41): In one of the best headlines you’re likely to ever read, a man in Pittsburgh was arrested after allegedly stealing an 82-foot yacht in hopes of using it to meet Pirates players. I think he was just trying to get a close-up of Olivia Dunne.
  • Cincinnati (37-41): The Reds placed starter TJ Friedl on the injured list with a hamstring injury.

Climbing the Ladder

“I’m a rocket ship on my way to Mars on a collision course. I am a satellite, I’m out of control.” – Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now

The Cubs had 10 hits and seven walks last night, so they are capable of creating the necessary chances to win games. Their failure to execute when it counts is a neverending trip wire, and the bullpen has become the equivalent of several Mercury test missiles that NASA lost at Cape Canaveral before finally sending Al Shepard into orbit.

  • Games Played: 79
  • Record: 37-42 (.468), last place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 14-18 (.438)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 2,968
  • Total Strikeouts: 697
  • Strikeout Rate: 23.49%
  • Team Batting Average: .230
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 142-for-641 (.222)
  • Runs Scored: 330
  • Runs Allowed: 351
  • Pythagorean Record: 37-42
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 9.0%, 0.1% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

The Athletics’ asking price for closer Mason Miller at this year’s deadline will border on the absurd according to several sources.

The Phillies turned a rare 1-3-5 triple play last night, something that hasn’t been done since 1929.

The Yankees acquired first baseman J.D. Davis and cash considerations in a trade with the A’s. Oakland received infielder Jordan Groshans in the deal.

The argument for the greatest living ballplayer has been diminished by nostalgia according to Matt Snyder of CBS Sports.

John Smoltz believes the analytics revolution is to blame for the increase in pitching injuries.

The Rangers are the only MLB team without a Pride Night.

Monday’s Three Stars

  1. Elly De La Cruz – The Cincinnati phenom was 3-for-5 with a home run, three runs scored, and three RBI as the Reds basted the Pirates 11-5. Cincinnati was 8-for-12 with RISP.
  2. Rhys Hoskins – The Milwaukee first baseman had just one hit but it was a big one. His grand slam led the Brewers to a 6-3 win over the Rangers.
  3. Steele – He deserved the win last night. ‘Nuff said.

Extra Innings

Hoyer should be forced to stand in the batter’s box against Steele after last night’s game. The Cubs have won 265 games since Hoyer became president of baseball operations, but last night’s loss was the 300th of his regime.

They Said It

  • “They don’t hand out wins.” – Steele
  • “There’s a bunch of different things that each unit is going to battle over the course of the season. I feel like they’re doing a hell of a job down there [in the bullpen]. This game isn’t easy. Hitters always say pitchers drive nice cars, too. And pitchers all say hitters drive nice cars, too, because both sides are really talented. This is the big leagues. Any inch you give, teams are going to take a mile.” – Steele
  • “There’s no question we left runs on the bases. We could have had 5, 6, 7 [runs] on the board by just moving the ball forward, and didn’t do it. We’ve got to do better at that. That was a game that we should have broken open. That cost us.” – Counsell

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

The 2024 season is quickly getting away from the Cubs.


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