John Lackey will push Cubs to be ‘100 percent’ focused on World Series


John Lackey will push Cubs to be ‘100 percent’ focused on World Series

John Lackey has seen it all before.

A century-plus between championships won't intimidate a guy who won a World Series Game 7 as an Anaheim Angels rookie. The Chicago market shouldn’t bother someone who restored his reputation and helped the Boston Red Sox win a title only two years after the fried-chicken-and-beer expose.

Lackey has a lot of connections after 14 years in the big leagues and wanted to join the same rotation as good friend Jon Lester. But beyond just the people, a sense of history helped lure him here, taking a two-year, $32 million deal when he could have scored a bigger contract somewhere else.  

"The chance to win a world championship in this city [was why I chose the Cubs]," Lackey said. "At this point in my career, I'm trying to win. Winning is the biggest thing for me.

"These are my last couple years in the big leagues. To go out [with a championship] would be pretty dang cool."

[RELATED - Jon Lester ready for Year 2 after taking leap of faith with Cubs]

There will be great expectations next week when Cubs pitchers and catchers formally report to Arizona. The last game Lackey pitched was in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform - when he served up a three-run shot to Javier Baez as the Cubs clinched the National League Division Series at Wrigley Field.

To say Lackey was thinking about his free-agency tour at that point in October would be too much of a stretch. But he did admit Lester - his best friend in the game - has been in his ear for some time.

Lester accelerated the rebuilding process for the Cubs when he signed a $155 million megadeal last offseason and helped change the culture in the clubhouse.

Now, Lester has reinforcements in the form of a 37-year-old pitcher with almost 2,500 big-league innings under his belt.

"When [Lackey] walks into a room, he commands the room," Lester said. "Not only because of his size and stature and all that stuff, but because of what he's done in this game. He's a two-time World Series champ. He's made an All-Star team (and had) some Cy Young runs.

"That immediately commands guys' attention. The big thing about Lack is you'll definitely know how he feels when he feels it. You need guys like that on your team.

"You need guys that keep their mouths shut and go about their business. And you need guys that aren't afraid to say what needs to be said at that time. And he's definitely that guy.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Lackey helped fill a major offseason need for the Cubs, providing another reliable, battle-tested arm for manager Joe Maddon when October rolls around.

Maddon was the bench coach on the Angels team that won it all in 2002. Lackey acknowledged familiarity with Maddon, Lester and backup catcher David Ross helped entice him to take less money to sign with the Cubs.

But at the end of the day, it all comes back to the opportunity to end the longest championship drought in sports history.

"There's no bigger factor than a chance to win and do something special in this city," Lackey said. "You're seeing guys take less money to come here...and be a part of something special."

While Jason Heyward, the team's biggest offseason signing, said he hasn't really dreamed about what it would be like to win it all in Chicago, Lackey has no reservations about thinking World Series.

"One-hundred percent," he said. "That's the only reason I came."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs have enough to trade for Machado?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs have enough to trade for Machado?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Shae Peppler (Fox 32) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado is in town but still an Oriole. Do the Cubs have enough to trade for him? Plus, did Yu Darvish or Jose Quintana have the more important start over the weekend?

And where does Marian Hossa rank among the greatest Blackhawks of all time?

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

Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball


Who knew? Statistical oddities from Ian Happ, Daniel Palka and others from the past week in Chicago baseball

This past weekend Ian Happ rocked Cincinnati harder than anyone since Dr. Johnny Fever, and the White Sox from last Sunday to yesterday posted a winning 4-3 record.

It’s Monday, so let’s examine the box scores from the previous seven days for another edition of Who Knew?

Leading off

Tim Anderson started this season 5-for-5 in plate appearances leading off games: double, single, single, home run, single.

He finally made a leadoff out on Sunday.

Déjà Vu

On Monday, Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run off José Quintana for the second time this season. 

It was rare enough that a batter had multiple leadoff home runs against the Cubs in the same season. The last batter to do that was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio in 2006 (one each off Greg Maddux and then-starter Carlos Marmol).

But multiple leadoff home runs against the same Cubs PITCHER in the same season? Quite rare. At first, I believed it to be the first such occurrence since at least the 1880’s, but there was one other time since that I initially missed.

Prior to Ozzie Albies (off Quintana), the last batter with multiple leadoff home runs against a single Cubs pitcher in a season was Heinie Sand of the Phillies, who led off two games in 1924 with home runs off Cubs right-hander Vic Keen.

Before Sand, you DO have to go back to the 1880s. Hall of Famer Buck Ewing hit two leadoff home runs off Fred Goldsmith (who claimed to have invented the curveball, but likely did not) in 1883.  It may have happened in 1884, but there are some missing details in the home run database and I can’t be certain. But it’s rare!

Saves without Strikeouts

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow has 10 saves this season. In half of them (including his latest save Tuesday), he did not record a strikeout.

Only Wade Davis, who closed out games for the Cubs last season, has more strikeout-less saves in 2018 (no punchouts in seven of his 16 saves). Davis, for the record, saved 32 games for the Cubs last season, but in only nine of those 32 did he not strike anyone out.

Meanwhile, up in the Pacific Northwest, Edwin Díaz of the Mariners has 15 saves this season and has at least one strikeout in all 15.

National Treasure

Leury García took Jameson Taillon deep Wednesday in Pittsburgh, giving him 13 career home runs, all in a White Sox uniform.

The thing is, seven of those 13 home runs have been against National League teams!  Check out his career splits with the Sox:

Versus NL 26 games .325/.373/.636 7 home runs
Versus AL 225 games .227/.267/.306 6 home runs


Hit Bonanza

The Cubs started Friday’s game in Cincinnati like this:

Zobrist single, Bryant double, Rizzo single, Contreras single, Russell single.

It was the first time the Cubs started a game with five straight hits since Sept. 8, 2009 when they had EIGHT straight hits to start a game. They started that game as follows:

Ryan Theriot single, Milton Bradley single, Derrek Lee single, Aramis Ramírez single, Jeff Baker single, Geovany Soto double, Kosuke Fukudome double, Bobby Scales single. A Ryan Dempster sacrifice bunt snapped the streak, giving up an out in the first inning with a 6-0 lead.

Palka Dots

Sox slugger Daniel Palka has made an impact so far in the Majors. Half of his 16 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

In only 18 career games, Palka already has multiple doubles (three), triples (two) and home runs (three). Through 18 career games, Frank Thomas could check off two of those three boxes, although maybe not the two that you think.

The Big Hurt had six doubles and THREE TRIPLES in his initial dozen-and-a-half career games, but no home runs! The last White Sox player who had at least two of each type of extra-base hit through his first 18 career Major League contests?

Go back to Greg Walker, who collected two doubles, two triples and three home runs in an 11-game taste of the Majors in 1982 and his first seven games of 1983.

Ace of On-Base

Ian Happ returned to his old stomping grounds (kind of… he attended the University of Cincinnati) over the weekend and had quite a four-game series:

Friday 1 hit 3 walks
Saturday (Game 1) 3 hits 1 walk
Saturday (Game 2) 1 hit 2 walks
Sunday 0 hits 3 walks

Now granted, there aren’t as many four-game series as there used to be, but Happ was the first Cub to reach base at least three times in each game of a four-game series since Mark Grace during a four-game set versus Mets at Wrigley Field Aug. 9-12, 1991.Five hits and nine walks; Happ reached base at least three times in all four games!

Happ’s season slashline was boosted from .233/.301/.417 to .254/.361/.509 in those four games alone. His nine walks (five intentional, four unintentional) in the series is better than Javier Báez (six walks: four intentional, two unintentional) has for the entire season.

Happ on Friday became the first Cub to be walked three times intentionally in a game since Andre Dawson (FIVE times) on May 22, 1990. Back then, it actually required pitches to intentionally walk a batter.

Happ was also the first Cub to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Chris Coghlan July 8, 2014 – also at Cincinnati. But Happ was able to do something Coghlan didn’t: in both games, Happ hit the lone Cubs home run! That’s something no Cub had done since Alfonso Soriano hit the lone Cubs' home run in each game of a doubleheader in St. Louis on Sept. 15, 2007.

Extra Extra!

José Abreu continues to produce. He doubled and homered Saturday night, making him the 23rd player in White Sox history to reach 300 career extra-base hits. He reached 300 extra-base hits in only 655 career Major League games, a number surpassed in White Sox history only by Frank Thomas (626). 

It was also Abreu’s 222nd career multi-hit game in a White Sox uniform, matching our “Beltin’” Bill Melton.