Anthony Rizzo insists 'We got urgency' after Cubs fall to .500: 'It’s not all peachy right now'

Anthony Rizzo insists 'We got urgency' after Cubs fall to .500: 'It’s not all peachy right now'

SAN DIEGO – There’s a fine line between staying calm and not overreacting and assuming this will happen again for the Cubs just because they’ve done it before. 

This appeared to be the perfect setting for a team coming off a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium where they had been completely dominated and looked nothing like the defending World Series champs.   

The Padres have an Opening Day payroll around $68 million (with more than $30 million going to guys no longer on the team), three Rule 5 picks on their active roster, two players who’ve been DFA’d by the Cubs within the last 10 months (Clayton Richard and Matt Szczur) and the No. 3 overall pick in the June draft. San Diego’s best starting pitcher – Trevor Cahill – is on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder and didn’t make any of the three playoff rosters last year as a Cubs reliever. 

After flying cross-country from Washington the night before, the Padres had to wake up for a 1:40 p.m. first pitch on Memorial Day. And yet there was All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo standing in Petco Park’s visiting clubhouse trying to make sense of a 5-2 loss that dropped the Cubs back down to .500 after 50 games.  

“It’s not all peachy right now,” Rizzo said. “We got urgency. We’re grinding. We got a lot of guys that grind and will continue to – no matter what. We’ll keep playing hard…that’s really all you can do.”

This became a microcosm of the season so far, Kyle Hendricks racking up five strikeouts through three innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and working with a 2-0 lead that should have meant cruise control for a National League Cy Young Award finalist and the major-league ERA leader last season.

[MORE: How Kris Bryant became the face of the never-panic Cubs]

The perfect game vanished when Hendricks gave up back-to-back singles and hit cleanup hitter Ryan Schimpf (.167 average) with a pitch. Hunter Renfroe then launched an 87-mph Hendricks fastball into the left-field seats for a grand slam in front of a sellout crowd (41,414) that didn’t come to see the Padres (20-33). 

“I don’t think anybody expected us to be .500, but it doesn’t matter,” Hendricks said. “We’re at where we’re at. The only way we can go from here is focusing pitch to pitch. We got to get back to the basics, just playing the game of baseball. 

“All the attention – all that – we just got to forget about it. Focus on the game and simplifying as much as we can.” 

While the postgame focus became the 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and the 11 men left on base, Hendricks knows the Cubs won’t feel any sense of momentum when the rotation has a 4.58 ERA and 19 quality starts through 50 games.    

“It’s got to start with us on the mound,” said Hendricks (4-3, 3.75 ERA), who gave up five runs in five innings but has been the most reliable Cubs starter next to Jon Lester. “We’re the ones with the ball in our hands, so we’re the ones that have to stop it. Regardless of how the offense is going, if we throw up zeroes, we got a good chance of winning.” 

Rizzo couldn’t believe it – “Did we walk 10 times?” – when a reporter mentioned another part of the box score. “That’s a formula that usually shoots out more than two runs.”  

But the “Anchorman” theme trip has already been stranger than fiction, going through a 19-inning scoreless streak and then getting 11 hits off Clayton Kershaw in another loss to the Dodgers. The Cubs have obviously been there and done that and come back from much worse. But will that be enough? 

“You just keep playing, that’s all you can do,” Rizzo said. “We just all need to take a deep breath, exhale a little bit and relax. It is what it is. It’s the grind of the season.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: 'We weren’t going to play more than 60 games'

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred: 'We weren’t going to play more than 60 games'

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred made an interesting revelation Wednesday about negotiations between MLB and the players union. In an interview with Dan Patrick, Manfred said the 2020 season was never going to be more than 60 games given the spread of the coronavirus — at least by the time they got to serious negotiations two weeks ago.

“The reality is we weren’t going to play more than 60 games, no matter how the negotiation with the players went, or any other factor," Manfred said on The Dan Patrick Show. "Sixty games is outside the envelope given the realities of the virus. I think this is the one thing that we come back to every single day: We’re trying to manage something that has proven to be unpredictable and unmanageable.

"I know it hasn’t looked particularly pretty in spots, but having said that, if we can pull off this 60-game season, I think it was the best we were gonna do for our fans given the course of the virus."

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Manfred unilaterally imposed a 60-game season after the two sides couldn't come to terms. The union rejected the owners' final proposal, retaining the right to file a grievance against the owners for not negotiating in good faith.

Whether Manfred's comments become a point of contention in any grievance the players might file is unclear. The league would likely argue Manfred was referring to negotiations after his face-to-face meeting with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark on June 16. Manfred's comments to Patrick's follow up question — if the league would have been willing to go to 80 games, had the players agreed to all their terms — also points to this.

"It’s the calendar, Dan. We’re playing 60 games in 63 days. I don’t see — given the reality of the health situation over the past few weeks — how we were gonna get going any faster than the calendar we’re on right now, no matter what the state of those negotiations were.

"Look, we did get a sub-optimal result from the negotiation in some ways. The fans aren’t gonna get an expanded postseason, which I think would have been good with the shortened season. The players left real money on the table. But that’s what happens when you have a negotiation that instead of being collaborative, gets into sort of a conflict situation.”

The players' final proposal called for a 70-game season. At this point in the calendar, 60 games in 69 days (Sept. 27 is the reported end date for the regular season) leaves room for a couple more games, not 70 (or more).

So, Manfred's right that 60 games on the current timetable was probably the most MLB can fit in amid the pandemic. But you have to wonder if the union will use those comments in a potential grievance. 


Cubs fan base named second most loyal in MLB, only trailing Red Sox

Cubs fan base named second most loyal in MLB, only trailing Red Sox

When you wait more than 100 years for a championship, you must maintain a strong sense of loyalty to your favorite team. 

Cubs fans have done that, supporting the club through thick and thin, from the mediocre years to the curse-breaking 2016 World Series season. They pack the Wrigley Field stands, consistently ranking in the top 10 in attendance season after season.

That devotion led to Forbes naming Cubs fans the second most loyal fan base in Major League Baseball, second to only the Red Sox.

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Per Forbes, the rankings are based on "local television ratings (per Nielsen), stadium attendance based on capacity reached, secondary ticket demand (per StubHub), merchandise sales (per Fanatics), social media reach (Facebook and Twitter followers based on the team’s metro area population) and hometown crowd reach (defined by Nielsen as a percentage of the metropolitan area population that watched, attended and/or listened to a game in the last year)."

All that science aside, does the 108-year wait for a championship warrant the Cubs being first on this list? In fairness, the Red Sox waited 86 years before winning the 2004 World Series, their first since 1918. Plus, in terms of attendance, the Cubs have only out-drawn the Red Sox in six of the past 10 seasons, a near-equal split.

Two historic clubs. Two historic ballparks. Two historic championships. In a loyalty ranking, you can't go wrong with either franchise. Here's how the list's top 10 panned out:

10. Braves
9. Phillies
8. Indians
7. Giants
6. Brewers
5. Dodgers
4. Yankees
3. Cardinals
2. Cubs
1. Red Sox