Cubs

Javier Baez breaks out water gun for Albert Almora Jr. after another comeback win for Cubs

Javier Baez breaks out water gun for Albert Almora Jr. after another comeback win for Cubs

Javier Baez ran out to the middle of Wrigley Field with a neon-colored Super Soaker, spraying Albert Almora Jr. and the camera capturing the celebration after Thursday's 5-4 walk-off win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the drops of water dotting the big video board.

If the Cubs felt a little delirious, well, this imperfect 13-inning game lasted four hours and 22 minutes and marked their 10th come-from-behind victory already this season. 

"I was looking to do something different," Baez said. "I had it ready since the ninth inning. It took a little bit, but I finally got to use it."

Baez brought a Party Room tradition out from the underground clubhouse and into the open, targeting Almora as a player of the game for his hustle double leading off the 13th and scoring when Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis threw away a potential inning-ending double-play ball. Ping-pong-style games and water guns are part of The Cubs Way.

"We got like four of 'em and we got some buckets to celebrate when we win," Baez said. "Sometimes we get the staff, so they know they're doing a great job."

This can’t be easy for the defending World Series champs, giving up 35 runs in the first inning so far this season, playing from behind so often and navigating 11 one-run games already. The Cubs are still a first-place team with a 16-12 record and all that muscle memory built up from six playoff rounds across the last two seasons.

"Maybe the baseball gods are on our side," Kris Bryant said. "We would prefer not to have to come back. But if we're going to be put in that situation, we have a good group of players that work counts when the game is on the line.

"Last year, we just went out and we hit it seemed like the whole year. We scored a ton of runs. Our pitchers shut everybody down, so the games weren't as stressful. But it's not going to be like that. That's kind of fairytale land."

The Cubs are going to have to tighten up their game on Friday against a New York Yankees lineup where Starlin Castro is hitting like a batting champion and Aaron Judge is looking like a home run king. That late-inning drama will be harder to manufacture against a deep, dynamic bullpen headlined by Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances.

Almora set the stage for another weekend on national TV after John Lackey had a five-inning start where his ERA crept up to 5.14. And Ben Zobrist got picked off second base in the ninth inning (Bryant lined a harmless single into left field moments later). And Willson Contreras grounded into a 6-9-3 double play against Philadelphia’s five-man infield to waste a bases-loaded opportunity, ending the 12th inning.

Even if the Cubs aren't clicking on all cylinders, backup catcher Miguel Montero lifted Joaquin Benoit's 96-mph fastball into the center-field basket for a game-tying homer in the eighth inning. The Cubs stayed in the picture with lefty Mike Montgomery working the 10th, 11th and 12th innings. The contributions are still coming from all over the roster.

Almora – who showed so much poise as a rookie last season – said he didn’t even notice that left fielder Ty Kelly was slow to grab the ball and gather himself because his instincts screamed double in the 13th inning.

"We never quit," Almora said. "It's on the World Series ring."

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. 

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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

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