Cubs

Cubs finally starting to see ‘wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up’

Cubs finally starting to see ‘wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up’

WASHINGTON – If the Cubs hadn’t just won the World Series less than eight months ago – and Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon didn’t already have Hall of Fame resumes – this indictment would sound a lot like the team president putting the manager on the hot seat.

“I don’t think we’ve found our edge yet that we’ll need to play with to win games,” Epstein said after dumping veteran catcher Miguel Montero. “Wins don’t just happen because you’re talented and you show up.

“You have to come to the park with an edge every day and come together as a team every day and play to win. You have to play with a certain edge that we’re striving for as a group.”

It would look a lot like this 5-4 comeback win on Thursday at Nationals Park: Jon Lester delivering as the $155 million ace, a B lineup scraping together a two-out, three-run, ninth-inning rally against an awful Washington bullpen and Wade Davis slamming the door on a first-place team.

There are only so many buttons left to push and Epstein clearly wanted to rattle the clubhouse, because Jake Arrieta isn’t the sensitive type and didn’t really care about or disagree with Montero’s scathing comments about his inability to control the running game.

But for all the drama so far, the Cubs are 4-4 on a road trip that began with the Kyle Schwarber-to-Iowa news and now a game over .500 as the season nears the halfway point this weekend in Cincinnati.

“We’ve never been able to get on a roll, and with that comes that edgy kind of a feeling,” Maddon said. “We’ve underachieved offensively. And our starting pitching has not been as good as we thought. So we’ve been playing from behind a lot. It’s hard to create edginess under those circumstances.

“We’re missing some folks from last year, and we’ve been injured a little bit. So, again, I understand the comment. And to a certain extent I totally agree with it. But it’s not for a lack of effort or lack of caring.”

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

With reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant resting a sprained right ankle, Jeimer Candelario launched his first big-league homer in the seventh inning off Joe Ross and started the ninth-inning comeback when Blake Treinen’s 99-mph fastball smashed into his left knee (the X-rays were negative).

“We got some underclassmen playing right now,” Maddon said. “We’re breaking in that group, so it’s different. It’s hard to accuse these guys of not quite getting it, because they’re still trying to figure some stuff out.

“There’s a difference from last year to this year, I think. And, again, in spite of all the maladies to this point, thank God we’re in this division right now."

The Cubs are running out of shock-value moves – and not playing like a team that will force the front office to pick up rental players or win an insane bidding war for a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Whatever that “edge” is, the Cubs will either find it and have Wrigleyville rocking in October or slowly turn this into a developmental season.

“We’re right there,” said Lester, who gave up one run in six innings and got the no-decision. “The record and the way we’ve been playing is not ideal. We all can admit to that here in this clubhouse.

“But at the end of the day, we’re one (Milwaukee) loss away from being in first place. That’s what you’re playing for during the season – to make the playoffs – no matter how you get in.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers 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 is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

maddon_stl.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: