Cubs

'Badass' Cubs won't sit back at trade deadline

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'Badass' Cubs won't sit back at trade deadline

CLEVELAND — “I am a badass.”

That’s how Tsuyoshi Wada began his postgame media session, delivering a message in English while standing at his locker inside Progressive Field’s visiting clubhouse.

Wada didn’t really know what that means — Cubs manager Joe Maddon told him to say it — but it worked after throwing seven innings in a 17-0 win over the Cleveland Indians. The Japanese lefty knew he nailed the line when he saw the reporters burst into laughter.

Yes, the Cubs are feeling pretty good about themselves at 35-28. They wore out the Indians (30-34) with 18 hits, forcing Cleveland manager Terry Francona to use nine pitchers, including position players Ryan Raburn and David Murphy.

This is the time for Theo Epstein to keep following his killer instincts.

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The Cubs president of baseball operations has already shown what he thinks of this team by giving Jon Lester a $155 million contract, not playing Super Two games with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, signing former All-Star closer Rafael Soriano and fast-tracking Kyle Schwarber from Double-A Tennessee to The Show.

“I don’t believe in labels like necessarily ‘buyers’ or ‘sellers,’” Epstein said. “But I think we’re always looking for ways to improve this team. We’re clearly in contention, and you can’t take that for granted.

“So whether it’s a minor-league signing here, or putting a prospect in a certain role there in order to help the big-league team, those are things that you do when you’re in contention and have a relevant season.

“We definitely won’t sit back. We’re going to examine every possible opportunity and work hard to try to improve this team as we go.”

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While the Cubs have been connected to bigger names that would help their bullpen (Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon) and everyday lineup (Oakland A’s super-utility guy Ben Zobrist), the rotation should be a priority.

Wada — who’s now 1-for-6 in quality starts — understood what’s at stake after earning his first win this season and slicing his ERA from 4.84 down to 3.68.

“Step by step, every outing should be better each time,” Wada said through translator Nao Masamoto, the major-league video coordinator and Pacific liaison. “And then, hopefully, I will be able to say ‘badass’ again.”

Since Lester’s “dead arm” in spring training, the rotation has stayed relatively healthy, with the Cubs using only six starters through almost 40 percent of the season. But it’s not realistic to think this group will remain injury-free or become automatic for October.

“Often, pennant races can be won or lost based on who has the best starting depth,” Epstein said. “Frankly, that’s not an area of strength for us right now. So if you asked (what’s the) one single thing we’re spending most of our time on — besides urgent matters that come up — it’s sort of game-planning how to establish a little bit more starting depth right now. We’re going to need it.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

The Cubs are stuck in the middle of a top-heavy division and trailing the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates — combined 30-plus games over .500 — during a season where the National League’s two wild cards should be up for grabs.

The Cubs also have 30 games after the All-Star break against the Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, three teams that look like obvious sellers playing for the future.

“We stack up,” said veteran catcher David Ross, who’s been to the playoffs five times and won a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox. “I love our team.

“We come every day, and we expect to win. I think we got a good chance to do something special around here. I’ve seen us grow and get better in a lot of areas. It’s fun to see — as a veteran guy with such a young group — that we don’t give up.

“All you can do on a nightly basis is give yourself a chance to win, and I think we have done that more than not. I’m extremely excited about where this team is going.”

How long before Cubs players start wearing “I AM A BADASS” T-shirts?

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

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AP

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: