Cubs

Cubs, Brett Anderson start May on wrong foot with blowout loss to Phillies: 'A colossal failure'

Cubs, Brett Anderson start May on wrong foot with blowout loss to Phillies: 'A colossal failure'

Joe Maddon thought Brett Anderson spent the first month of the 2017 season a little uneasy about his position with the defending world champion Cubs.

Most of that, Maddon thought, was due to Anderson pressing in an effort to make sure he didn't let down his new team.

As the calendar rolled over to May Monday night (though it didn't feel like it with the temperature at a soggy 49 degrees at first pitch), Anderson is still in search of peace of mind.

The veteran left-hander survived for just four outs, getting lit up for seven runs on seven hits and a walk as the Philadelphia Phillies (12-12) cruised to a 10-2 victory over the Cubs (13-12).

The Cubs were already behind two hitters into the game as Cesar Hernandez singled and Aaron Altherr doubled him home. Anderson was one pitch away from getting out of the inning, but Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph lifted a ball into the 14mph winds blowing straight out for a two-out, three-run homer.

"It was kinda a colossal failure from the get-go," Anderson said. "Make a decent pitch to the first batter, bloop single and it's all downhill from there. You see Jon [Lester] or Jake [Arrieta] or whoever at least give your team a chance to win without their A+ stuff. You try to do your part, but today was just a battle from the first pitch and obviously wasn't very successful."

Anderson also had to endure a rain delay that pushed opening pitch back an hour and 25 minutes.

"The delay wasn't so much a factor," Anderson said. "But the first inning when the pseudo-Forrest Gump torrential downpour and then it kinda clears off and the bottom of the first is weird. Ideally, we could've waited 10, 15 more minutes. I still have to go out there and get people out and I wasn't able to do that tonight.

The Cubs have now allowed 32 runs in the first inning this season, by far their worst total by frame:

Beyond the albatross weather, the Cubs didn't get into Chicago until almost 5 a.m. Monday morning after playing the primetime game in Boston Sunday night.

"Andy had a tough night," Maddon said. "There's no other way to slice it. We've been having to come from behind often over the last week to two weeks. It's not easy to continually do, especially when you're getting to bed at five in the morning. No excuses, 'cause Andy came in a night in advance. When you have a tough pitching night like that, it makes it difficult for the team."

On the season, Anderson has given up 15 earned runs on 28 hits and 12 walks in 21.2 innings, good for a 6.23 ERA and 1.85 WHIP. But 13 of those 15 runs have come in two bad starts (Monday and April 18 when he gave up six earned to the Milwaukee Brewers). In the other three outings, Anderson has worked around jams to surrender two earned runs in 16.2 innings despite 11 walks and 13 hits in that span.

"There are no positives to gain from this outing," Anderson said. "With the game starting late yesterday and then the team getting in late, you wanna go out there and give your team a chance to win. I have five starts [this season] now and I'm averaging [a little more than four innings] a start, which is embarrassing from my perspective. Hopefully going forward, I can pitch better and give us a chance."

Mike Montgomery did his part as the long man out of the bullpen, spinning 3.2 scoreless innings of relief. Justin Grimm followed and retired the first five batters he faced before giving up a pair of homers — and three runs total — as the Phillies poured it on.

"Our bullpen did a great job," Anderson said. "I have to pitch better. I haven't gotten in a groove for the most part. It's kinda been hit-or-miss. Hopefully going forward, you can pitch in five-to-six-day rotation, hit that stride and hopefully get some consistent weather, consistent circumstances and pitch better, do better going forward."

Javy Baez scored the only two runs for the Cubs — first on a solo homer on an 0-2 count in the fifth and then on Matt Szczur's sacrifice fly in the seventh — and also had two of the team's four hits.

Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras collected the only two other Cubs hits — both singles.

As the game turned into a blowout, the Cubs got Kyle Schwarber some time behind the plate, letting the slugger catch the last two innings. It was his first action as a backstop in a regular-season game since September 2015.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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