Cubs

Cubs will find out what they're made of

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Cubs will find out what they're made of

Thursday, April 7, 2011
Posted 7:27 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Tony La Russa has already gone viral in 2011, storming away from the podium after ranting about how: Its the first week of the season!

WATCH: La Russa quits his press conference

Each manager deals with the stress in his own way. La Russa has the juice to pull that off in St. Louis, and there is roughly 96 percent of the schedule left to play.

When Lou Piniella called you sir, you knew he was seething inside. Mike Quade still addresses reporters by their first name, and it doesnt take much effort for him to put a positive spin on the days news.

The Cubs have lost 40 percent of their rotation. Theyve so far scored 26 runs and allowed 26. They play in a city where every bullpen and pinch-hit decision is second-guessed. If that wears on the manager, he hasnt let it show yet.

I always say its about the process of giving yourself a chance to win every game. Quade said. Ive said all along: If we play intelligent baseball and we get a quality effort every game, the rest of its supposed to take care of itself. I certainly cant go back on that now (because) we had a 3-3 homestand.

The Cubs live in their own bubble and thats the only way to make it through 162 games. With pitchers Randy Wells (forearm) and Andrew Cashner (rotator cuff) heading to the disabled list, they will have to move on to a nine-game, three-city trip that begins on Friday in Milwaukee.

There are no negatives at all, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. Now its time to go on the road and see what were made of.

From here until April 17, the Cubs will have to go through the Brewers, a trendy pick in the National League Central. Theyll head to Houston, where on Tuesday night theyll need a new fifth starter. Then theyll have to deal with the Rockies and three games in Denvers thin mountain air.

By then, everyone will have forgotten that the Cubs were almost injury-free in spring training. The Cardinals had to put a brave face on Adam Wainwrights Tommy John surgery. The Brewers had to make excuses for Zack Greinke, who cracked a rib while playing pickup basketball.

When they heard about that, the Cubs didnt gloat. They knew that the injuries would balance out over the next six months they just didnt think it would happen this soon.

Unbelievable, thats the way this game is its become such a matter of health, general manager Jim Hendry said. Sooner or later, You have to overcome adversity to be in the hunt. ... Were going to get ours a little unexpectedly in April.

Through six games, the Cubs have committed five errors and stolen zero bases. Starlin Castro the youngest player in the majors shows his inexperience but still looks like an elite shortstop.

Alfonso Soriano has launched three homers and Aramis Ramirez is hitting .333. Yet that only added up to a split against the Pirates and Diamondbacks, two last-place teams in 2010.

We can be better, Soriano said.

It could be worse. Publicly, the Cubs are trying to be philosophical about the whole situation.

Wells was accommodating and patient with the media while laying out his timeline a little soreness after his final spring training start, but nothing through his side session or while warming up in the bullpen before Mondays game. But even he had trouble pinpointing a reason.

Its hard to explain, Wells said. I know you guys are looking for the answer, and I am, too, but its just one of those freak things. As disappointing as it is, I think were going to came away a lot stronger.

That means its time for the Cubs to raise their game. The front office has invested tons of capital in Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza, and theyll carry the rotation the first two nights at Miller Park.

This much is certain the answers will start coming quick. At a certain point, you cant say its still early in the season.

Were going to see what were made of, Wells said.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

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AP

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.