Cubs

Cubs think their resiliency could pay off in playoff race

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Cubs think their resiliency could pay off in playoff race

The Cubs believe they have the players to grow their early-season success into a legitimate playoff run. The first wave of talent is here, the roster is sprinkled with veterans and Jon Lester — despite his early-season mediocrity — is an established ace atop the rotation.

But it takes more than sheer talent to reach the playoffs, and the Cubs believe they have one of those inscrutable mental factors that should help them as the pressure builds in August and September. There’s a certain resilience the Cubs have captured through the season’s first two months, which showed up a few times on their recent road trip.

Before returning to Wrigley Field with a 6-3 win over Cincinnati Thursday night, the Cubs opened a lengthy road trip with a series loss to the lowly Marlins. That was followed by a series win over the stacked-on-paper Nationals, and after losing 6-0 to Detroit Tuesday, the Cubs followed with their biggest win (in terms of scoring margin) of the season.

“That’s what makes a difference between good teams and bad teams,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “Bad teams, it carries over about what happened yesterday, good teams eliminate it.”

[MORE: Cubs get back to normal with re-opening of RF bleachers]

The Cubs haven’t lost more than two games in a row in over a month, have six walk-off wins and 14 wins when trailing after six innings. That kind of resiliency, Montero said, can be fostered with come-from-behind and dramatic wins, which leads to few extended losing streaks.

Manager Joe Maddon said it’s a trait not every team he’s been a part of has had.

“I’ve been on teams where I thought have been negatively impacted just by that, the fact that you just couldn’t drop it, you could not take that rock and drop it in the nearest lake,” Maddon said. “Just leave it alone, you don’t need it. You often hear me talk about I want to see how high we bounce after the fall. We’ve done pretty good.”

First baseman Anthony Rizzo agreed.

“No one really lets too many things affect them, whether it’s giving up runs, not having a good week, not having a good game,” Rizzo said. “We just play together and have fun together. You don’t see anyone really pouting too much and if he is or if someone is, we pick him up as a team.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans]

That bounce-back ability has certainly played into the Cubs’ 32-26 record after Thursday’s win, a mark that puts them squarely in the way-too-early wild card discussion. But it’s a less-than-quantifiable measure that doesn’t guarantee anything, and sometimes isn’t necessary to reaching the playoffs. Montero said the 2007 Diamondbacks team he played on — which reached the NLCS — didn’t have that belief it’d win every game, even though it won 90 games and the National League West.

But the Cubs don’t have a large margin for error this year, not with most of its core players having never experienced a pennant race. But the hope is the resilient attitude possessed by all these young players and experienced veterans — and, perhaps most importantly, by the manager — will play an important role if every pitch begins to matter come the late summer and early fall.

“Just don’t be bringing bad vibes into the clubhouse because we had a bad day the day before,” Maddon said. “I think that’s where a lot of groups go wrong, when you want to carry something negative or a defeat from the day before into the next day.

“Leave it in the past, man. It serves no really good purpose.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: MLB and NFL Commotion

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: MLB and NFL Commotion

Anthony Herron, Scott King and Jason Goch join Kap on Tuesday's SportsTalk Live panel.

0:00 - Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame while Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens remain out. Will they get in next year? Do they deserve to get in at all?

12:00 - Yadier Molina is still mad that Kris Bryant called St. Louis "boring." Why can't The Best Fans in Baseball let it go?

15:00 - Yu Darvish posts a throwing video on Instagram. Who's excited?

16:30 - Saints fans are suing the NFL. But will they have to settle for the league changing its instant replay guidelines or is that too much video review?

22:30 - Patrick Mahomes watches from the bench as Tom Brady drives down the field in overtime. Does the league need to adopt college style OT?

29:00 - The Bears get two more players in the Pro Bowl pushing their total to 8. Is making the Pro Bowl still a big deal?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Searching for the next Cubs Hall of Famer

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AP

Searching for the next Cubs Hall of Famer

The 2019 BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results were released on Tuesday. No Cubs were elected, so why not take the time to look at the Hall of Fame cases of six former Cubs!

The criteria? Play for the Cubs in at least one game. The number of games played in a Cubs uniform among my six candidates ranges from three to 1,124. Hey, like I said – at least one game.

I avoided Sammy Sosa, who’s still on the BBWAA ballot. I also didn’t bother reviewing Rafael Palmeiro’s case. Both of those players’ cases depend heavily on what your stance is on alleged PED use. I chose to keep it limited to players who might be on a ballot (be it BBWAA or an Era Committee) in the next few years.

Note: rWAR is baseball-reference WAR, fWAR is Fangraphs WAR

Alfonso Soriano (BBWAA - 2020)

412 HR, 1,159 RBIs, .270/.319/.500, 28.2 rWAR, 39.1 fWAR, 111 wRC+

Alfonso Soriano is one of only 55 players in MLB history with 400 or more home runs, and his 412 rank 53rd all-time. He is the fourth (of four) players in MLB history to hit 40 HR and steal 40 bases in a season (2006). Soriano’s total of 54 leadoff home runs ranks second only to Rickey Henderson. He was a seven-time All-Star and a four-time Silver Slugger winner.

Will he get in? It’s doubtful. He had a late start; Soriano wasn’t a regular until he was 25, then once he joined the Cubs he tailed off considerably. In 889 games with Chicago, he was worth 8.1 rWAR (1.5 per 162 games) or 18.3 fWAR (3.3 per 162 games). His .319 career OBP was subpar, as was his defense.

Rick Reuschel (Modern Baseball Era Committee – possibly 2020)

214-191 W/L, 3.37 ERA, 3,548 1/3 IP, 2,015 K, 69.7 rWAR, 68.2 fWAR, 114 ERA+

Rick Reuschel had a sneaky-good career. He spent many years toiling for mediocre teams but had success because he was able to keep the ball in the park and was relatively stingy with the base on balls. Even without huge strikeout totals, “Big Daddy” was able to turn in a strong Major League career. There are 27 pitchers in MLB history with at least 214 wins, 2,015 strikeouts and 68 pitching WAR; 24 are in the Hall of Fame. The others are Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Rick Reuschel.

Will he get in? Likely not, but he’s probably better than you think.

Aramis Ramírez (BBWAA - 2021)

386 HR, 1,417 RBIs, .283/.341/.492, 32.6 rWAR, 38.7 fWAR, 115 wRC+

Ramírez is fifth all-time in career home runs as a third baseman, with 381 (the other five were either as DH or PH). In his first five full seasons with the Cubs, he averaged 32 HR and 105 RBI, hitting an excellent .302/.366/.554 (131 wRC+). With the third base position being considerably underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, Ramírez starts to look a little more interesting.

Will he get in? It’s doubtful. He put up big offensive numbers in an era where many players did the same. His defense was underwhelming and his high MVP finish was 9th (in 2012 with the Brewers).

Joe Nathan (BBWAA - 2022)

377 SV, 2.87 ERA, 923 1/3 IP, 26.7 rWAR, 19.4 fWAR, 151 ERA+

Nathan pitched three games for the 2016 Cubs. Did you forget already?  He’s 8th on the career saves list with 377 and he brought quality as well as quantity. Of the 50 pitchers with at least 200 career saves, he’s eighth with a 151 ERA+.

Nathan's peak run was 2004-09 – his first six seasons with the Twins. He put up a 1.87 ERA and 0.934 WHIP with 518 K to only 271 hits in 418 2/3 IP over that span.

Will he get in? Probably not. Billy Wagner was clearly better yet only managed 16.7 percent of the BBWAA vote in 2019.

Fred McGriff (Today’s Game Era Committee – possibly 2022)

493 HR, 1,550 RBIs, .284/.377/.509, 52.6 rWAR, 56.9 fWAR, 134 wRC+

McGriff received 39.8 percent of votes from the BBWAA in 2019 – his final year on the ballot. His case now goes to the Today’s Game Era Committee.

The Crime Dog’s case has had some recent momentum – with good reason. McGriff was consistent and he had a clean reputation, which will help him going forward. The work stoppage of 1994-95 likely cost him a shot at 500 career home runs, which would probably been enough to get him elected via BBWAA in the first place.

By the way, who was the last Cubs lefty prior to Anthony Rizzo to hit 30 HR in a season? It was Fred McGriff in 2002.

Will he get in? I think he’ll get elected the first time he goes on the Today’s Game Era ballot.

Kenny Lofton (Today’s Game Era Committee – possibly 2024)

Lofton played only 56 games with the Cubs – all in 2003 – after coming over from Pittsburgh along with Aramis Ramírez. When considering leadoff men from 1980-present, Rickey Henderson was the best. Then there’s Tim Raines. After that, it just might be Kenny Lofton.

  Games Runs HR RBIs SB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ rWAR fWAR
Player A 2,651     1,420 117 780 509 .311/.355/.402 104 59.3 57.6
Player B 2,103 1,528 130 781 622 .299/.372/.423 109 68.3 62.4
Player C 2,616 1,610 149 900 938 .293/.343/.410 109 45.3 43.2

Player B is Lofton. Player A is Ichiro. Player C is Lou Brock.

Lofton earned six All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards in his career. He’s one of five players in MLB history with 100 triples, 100 home runs and 600 stolen bases. The others are Tim Raines, Lou Brock, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. From 2002-07, Lofton played with nine different teams, which may hurt his case a bit.

Will he get in? I think Lofton will get in eventually through the Era Committee, though it might take a while.

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