Cubs

Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks and all the ways the Cubs have to win

Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks and all the ways the Cubs have to win

MILWAUKEE – Kris Bryant, the National League's reigning MVP, notched three hits to raise his .063 average 119 points on Saturday night and drove in his first three runs this season. The All-Star third baseman ended the sixth inning by charging Nick Franklin's bunt and finishing the barehanded play with a strong throw across the field.
 
Yet Bryant still felt the need to apologize for making the first out in the eighth inning at home plate, because third base coach Gary Jones had told him to run only if Anthony Rizzo's groundball bounced past the Milwaukee Brewers' drawn-in infield.  
 
"KB actually made a mistake running the bases," manager Joe Maddon said after an 11-6 win at a Miller Park awash in Cubbie blue. "You know what, though, when he does, he comes right up and says: ‘I made a mistake.' It's so refreshing that they know when they screw up. You don't have to go get them. They know when they mess up and they're highly accountable.
 
"That's what I'm talking about when I'm talking about the core guys. Yeah, they're good, but they're more than good as baseball players. They're just solid. And that's why they've been able to accomplish what they have in a short period of time."
 
The Cubs have so much talent that Kyle Hendricks started last year's World Series Game 7 and began this season as the No. 5 starter. On a team with this much star power and personality, Hendricks can lead the majors in ERA and become a Cy Young Award finalist and still kind of blend into the background.

The defending World Series champs showed a sellout crowd of 43,080 how many different ways they have to win. Hendricks didn't have the usual feel for his fastballs – or the same sharpness with his changeup and curveball – in his first outing since March 31. It didn't really matter, either, because Hendricks could pitch like this all year and become a 20-game winner. 
 
The Cubs scored 800-plus runs last season and might have a more explosive offense with Kyle Schwarber hitting leadoff and all the other young guys being a year older and more experienced. The Cubs played defense at a historic level last season and might be better up the middle now with Javier Baez taking over at second base and Albert Almora Jr. flying in and out from center field. A full season of a healthy Wade Davis should change the entire complexion of the bullpen.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]
 
So Hendricks could take a deep breath when the Brewers scored two runs before he got his first out of the 2017 season. Hendricks could retire 10 in a row and exhale again after walking Kirk Nieuwenhuis and watching Franklin blast a game-tying, two-run homer onto a right-center field patio deck in the fourth inning.   
 
The Cubs generated 17 hits against a journeyman starter (Tommy Milone) and a rebuilding pitching staff. A "Let's go, Cubbies!" chant started in the eighth inning after Willson Contreras lined a bases-loaded double into left-center field, flipped his bat toward the Milwaukee dugout and sprinted to second base. 
 
"We knew it was a matter of time," said Hendricks, who chipped in with two hits, an RBI and a run scored while going six innings to earn the win (while four earned runs pushed his ERA to 6.00). "You can't hold this offense down for very long. It's good to see them get rolling, and now hopefully we can just go from here."
 
Team "D-Peat" believes defense should never go into slumps. On a nightly basis, the Cubs make highlight-reel plays look routine. Almora ended the fifth inning by racing in from center field to make a sliding catch, popping back up with a smile on his face and slapping Schwarber's hand after robbing Travis Shaw, Milwaukee's No. 3 hitter.
 
All this on a night that saw another World Series contender call up a spot fifth starter from Triple-A Syracuse. The Washington Nationals watched Jeremy Guthrie get two outs and give up 10 runs in a 17-3 football-score loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. 
 
After the final out here on Saturday night, the white W flags popped up all over Miller Park. One more game in Milwaukee and the Cubs will get to return home and hear the roar at Wrigley Field, see the World Series banner go up and get their championship rings. You might even see a reaction from the unflappable superstar who wants more.
 
"I realize that this is part of being a big-leaguer," Bryant said, "to deal with the 0-for-12s and the 0-for-13s and the bad stretches and just knowing that it's going to turn around, because it always does. It's part of a learning process. I'm planting the seeds to keep learning, and taking notes in the back of my head."

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."

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

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. 

SUBSCRIBE TO THE CUBS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

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.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

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

SUBSCRIBE TO THE CUBS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.