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Free for all: The Cubs are now baseball's most offensive team
In a good way. And, Marquee's still dad and SNB obsessed.
If you missed it, and I really hope that you did, Cubs’ rookie catcher PJ Higgins got his first career start yesterday. It was during a Trevor Williams’ start, which as you know is always “Daddy Time” on the Marquee Sports Network.
Things were chugging along and just before the Cubs took the lead in the fourth, Googles McGregor wedged her way into the broadcast with an important announcement.
PJ’s mom and dad were at the game!
Seriously, what is Marquee’s obsession with players’ dads? Richard Williams practically has his own show on the network, despite the fact his son is one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Boog keeps giving Kris Bryant’s dad credit for the adjustments Kris made to his swing this off-season. And now, this?
There were two entertaining parts of this, though.
First, Taylor ran out of questions after the first one. “How proud are you?” And she started fumbling for anything to ask. So one of her questions was, “How long are you in town for?” Dad’s reaction was basically, “Well, if you could read a fucking schedule, lady, you’d know the team leaves town today, that’s why we drove 20 hours to get here for this one.”
Then, as PJ batted with runners on base Marquee used their weird picture in picture thing (the one they usually use to show an extra boner pill ad during game action) to show PJ bat with his family watching.
And he struck out, and they all cringed in unison. Finally, something fun on Marquee.
You do feel kind of bad for Richard and Trevor Williams. Trevor’s spot in the rotation is in obvious peril, and if Alec Mills wasn’t currently on the IL Trevor might very well have been designated for assignment in the fifth inning yesterday. And now, the Higgenses are after dad’s TV time.
Such a shame.
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Wednesday night over on Mediocre Sports Network’s coverage of the Cubs, Boog Sciambi dropped the nugget that the Cubs have scored the most runs in the National League since April 17. While it’s always fun to play with arbitrary end points, that’s more than a month which is fairly significant in a baseball season.
So who have been the key contributors to the Cubs offensive uh…explosion? (That seems a little strong for a team that just finally reached a positive run differential.
Going by OPS (which Marquee started doing early in the year when they showed the lineups to sort of mask that everybody but Kris Bryant was hitting .100-something), the most productive Cubs hitters over the last month are Bryant (well, duh) at 1.040 with five homers and 16 RBI, Jake Marisnick (remember him?) at 1.162 with four homers and 13 RBI in just 17 games, Javy Baez at .935 with six homers and 16 RBI, and…wait, is this right, Joc Pederson at .876? Joc has 20 hits in his last 13 games (17 singles, but we’ll take it). Ian Happ had his resurgence interrupted by some bruised ribs and a bruised brain (that’s basically what a concussion is) but he’s now homered in five of his last seven games and his OPS during the awakening of the offense is .879.
Rounding out the over-.800 OPS club is Nico Hoerner at .876 with eight RBI, six doubles and a dreamy smile.
Hoerner, you’ll remember was sent to the 1980 William Hurt movie Altered States to start the season.2 Whatever.
I was among those fine with Nico not starting the season with the big club, mostly because he was such a complete non-factor offensively during the Covid season simulation thing they did last year. (Was that a real season? Did the Dodgers get an actual full-sized trophy for that?)
What I wasn’t happy about was that the Cubs hadn’t gone out and signed a real second baseman, and were instead going with Matt Duffy who still buys his pants in the boys’ department and Eric Sogard who shops for eyeglass frames by asking the person trying to help him, “Do these make me look National Spelling Bee runner-up, enough?”
Duffy’s been getting a lot of credit lately, and it’s fine. He’s been a useful player, especially since the Cubs have needed to play Bryant at all of the outfield spots (sometimes all at once) because there’s no depth in this organization. Both Duffy and Sogard are hitting relatively well as of late. Duffy’s at .308 with a slugging average of .385 (Carlos Zambrano’s career slugging is .388 for reference—something Mike Donohue and I unearthed during our most recent Remember This Crap podcast), and Sogard has 12 hits in his last 40 at bats including an actual out of the park homer. I know, I didn’t believe it when I saw it, either.
So, am I willing to admit I was wrong about these two? Well, no. Duffy’s on a pace to catch Albert Pujols’ career grounded into double plays mark by end of the year (only a slight exaggeration) and Sogard is leading the anti-vaxx crusade in the clubhouse that leaves the Cubs short of the 85% mark they need to lift their Covid restrictions. This is something that Cubs VP of “You’re not my real Theo!” Jedward Hoyer finds very frustrating.
I’d just start DFAing the guys that won’t get the vaccine, but that’s just me.
While the power hasn’t really emerged from Anthony Rizzo yet, he’s been much better of late. He’s got a .375 on base over the last 30 days and 10 extra base hits (six doubles, two homers and a triple).
The guys who still aren’t hitting include David Bote (but his EXIT VELOCITY!) with a sad .542 OPS and Jason Heyward who just went on the IL. Wait, I need to cut Jason some slack. His overall average is just .183 but he’s been a lot better than that the last month—.186.
Heyward left Wednesday’s game with a hamstring problem, and it sounds weird, but I really hope it’s been bothering him for a while. His range has noticeably decreased in right field this year, and if it’s because of an injury, you at least can hold out hope it’ll return when he’s healthy. Otherwise? They still owe him $55 million between now and the end of the 2023 season to not be able to hit or field? Oof.
One player who will be missed is the great Tony Wolters. The Cubs signed Wolters right before the season started after he’d been released by the Pirates.3 They did it to avoid having to use Higgins as the backup catcher to Willson Contreras with Austin Romine hurt (and he’s since gotten hurt again). Wolters was just as good as advertised. He hit a whopping .125 with no homers, and no RBI. And behind the dish he was a whiz. He put on quite a show over the weekend in Detroit as the Tigers ran all over him. It wasn’t Miguel Montero in DC bad, but the throws all had majestic hang time.
The Cubs finally came to grips with the fact that he’s not going to hit and if his defense is shit, they might as well just waste the at bats on Higgins.
Congrats, PJ! Say hi to your parents for us!
With the PGA Championship upon us (did you forget it’s not in the fall anymore?), the start of the NBA Playoffs, and with a big Cubs-Cardinals series, there’s plenty of things upon which intelligent folks like you can bet on. We all think about how great it was once Illinois legalized sports betting, but many of you live in the Hoosier state and here’s a fact that will amaze your friends, Indiana is a top five market leader.
Keep up the good work.
The Cubs mic’d up Nico Wednesday night and things went really well until some of the guys got him join in on their criticism of his mom.
ESPN and Major League Baseball agreed on a new deal that is actually a reduction per season of $150 million. The old deal was for $700 million a year and included not just the always terrible Sunday Night Baseball, but also weeknight games. The new deal only has Sunday night games, plus the playoffs, and presumably a few special things like Opening Day and the Home Run Derby.
The deal also includes a clause that if the playoffs don’t expand in the next CBA it drops another $100 million.
Basically, ESPN just wants playoff games since that’s the only inventory that gets ratings. This just means that the playoffs starting next season will feature 28 of the 304 big league teams.
Does this mean no more Star Wars night?
Honestly, Karl Ravech’s toupee was a better special effect than anything in the sequel trilogy.
The Cubs are on Sunday Night Baseball this weekend which is always the worst. Perhaps ARod will revisit smelling closed jars of Matt Carpenter’s salsa?
And when you watch Sunday, try no to remember that the Rockies would have given the Cubs the same deal they gave St. Louis for Nolan Arenado, but instead the Cubs are paying Duffy to play third and the Cardinals aren’t paying Arenado a cent this season. Arenado preferred going to the Cubs, and the Rockies wanted to do it, but the Cubs weren’t interested. Also, don’t think about how far ahead the Cubs would be in the division if they’d just kept Yu Darvish.
Anyway, when you are watching the broadcast another thing will jump out at you. (Hopefully not Tim Kurkjian in a Yoda mask.) This is the production Marquee is trying to emulate. Sunday Night Baseball has always kinda sucked, and that feel is what the suits at Marquee think we want every night.
I think they’ve finally accomplished something.
Check out the Movie Deep Dive that Mike Pusateri and I did on The Big Lebowski. It’s a very fun look at a great movie.
And, if you haven’t checked out our other Deep Dives, you can find them all here. So far we’ve done The Right Stuff, Moneyball, Major League, Rounders, Draft Day, and The Big Lebowski. Just subscribe to the podcast feed and you’ll get those, the Cubs podcast and Remember This Crap.
There’s also a brand new Remember This Crap, this one on the 2005 Cubs. You probably remember that as the season that Neifi saved.
Or maybe not.
Hey, don’t forget to claim your free trial.
Six time winner of the “Newsletter that Exists Award.”
Is that right? How do you send a guy to a movie? Oh, wait, it was the “Alternate Site” in South Bend. I always get those two things confused.
That’s red flag right there. If Pissburgh doesn’t think you can help them. You probably should just hang ‘em up.
A previous version of this post said 30 of 32, because I don’t count so good.