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Scenes from Wrigley Field: Astros shut out Cubs

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Scenes from Wrigley Field: Astros shut out Cubs

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010
11:58 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade has been recognized waiting for the L, and people wonder what the Cubs manager is doing taking public transportation. From the night of Aug. 21, when he found out that he would be taking over for Lou Piniella, he vowed to do it his way.

Quade grew up in Mount Prospect, so it figured that he wouldnt be blindsided by all the attention his new job would generate. He knows the city, follows its politics and planned to spend part of Thursdays off day catching up on the coverage of Mayor Richard M. Daleys decision not to run again.

The Cubs (60-80) realize how valuable it can be to get away from the distractions of Wrigley Field. This season Carlos Zambrano made his first bullpen appearance in almost eight years in Milwaukee, returned to the rotation in Houston and apologized to his teammates in Colorado.

Starlin Castro had his big-league debut in Cincinnati. And when Piniella talked about starting Tyler Colvin at first base an idea abandoned for now he promised it would be down the road.

So it was for Quade, who managed his first game in the majors 15 days ago in Washington before 17,921 fans at Nationals Park.

Quades first homestand ended with Wednesdays 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros. The Cubs went 5-4 and won two of three series during that time. The 51st manager in franchise history has been calling it a process and said, So far, so good.

Here are a few snapshots of what goes on around the man standing on the top step of the dugout:

Now that Triple-A Iowas season is over, Ryne Sandberg is free to have his formal interview with general manager Jim Hendry. Sandberg has earned the respect of his players, but theyre simply answering questions from reporters, not lobbying for him to get the job. This weeks September call-ups brought another wave.

Rynos awesome, plain and simple, Brad Snyder said. Every day hes the exact same and you know what youre going to get from him. (He) doesnt say a whole lot, but he gets his point across and we know what he expects out of us and we get the job done for him.

There will be inconsistency. One night the Cubs won a game 14-2 with Zambrano, the player they suspended two months earlier in part because of his perceived selfishness. The next they lost 14-7 behind starter Ryan Dempster, who deferred part of his 2010 salary so the front office could have payroll flexibility and add a piece to the roster. Both games came against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the worst team in baseball.

Wrigley Field isnt just an office, and its not only about baseball. During this homestand alone: its smallest crowd in nearly four years came out for Andre Dawson night; Harry Carays statue was rededicated; Billy Williams statue was unveiled; and board member Todd Ricketts filmed an episode of Undercover Boss, a CBS reality show.

The 33,623 fans said to be there on a 61-degree Wednesday night saw Brett Myers retire the first 14 Cubs and give up only three hits across seven scoreless innings. Myers has accounted for at least six innings in 29 consecutive starts, the longest streak to start a season in the majors since 2002, when Curt Schilling did it through 35 for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Randy Wells gave himself mixed reviews after allowing four runs in six innings. Quade indicated that there are no immediate plans to move Wells to the bullpen so the organization can take a look at some other potential starters.

If anything, Quade said, We might end up with a six- or seven-man rotation.

If given the choice of ending the season now and starting over again with 2011 spring training, Wells (6-13, 4.61) wouldnt take it.

You got to try to finish on some kind of positive note, he said. The four days between starts are the worst for me right now. No matter what happens out on the mound or the outcome of the game by far the worst part about it is sitting there waiting. So Im anxious to get the ball again.

Some of the same people that are evaluating Wells are studying Quade, who survived his first homestand as manager surrounded by family, and almost everyone speculating about his future.

(Im) more relaxed, Quade said. Im more comfortable in my surroundings here at home, thats for sure.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why Cubs GM Jed Hoyer thinks a playoff bubble could be in MLB's 'best interest'

Why Cubs GM Jed Hoyer thinks a playoff bubble could be in MLB's 'best interest'

Instituting an MLB “bubble” for the postseason would make sense to Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer.

“The first round this year, you would just travel once,” he said Monday. “But once you get into later rounds and sometimes, you're traveling multiple times a week. And I think what we've learned so far is that travel is a difficult part of this.”

Less than three weeks into the regular season, MLB has dealt with outbreaks on two different teams. The first positive COVID-19 tests in both the Marlins’ and Cardinals’ outbreaks were taken on the road. MLB has already committed to an expanded 16-team postseason. So, the question becomes, if Major League Baseball can make it to the postseason, how can it increase its chances of finishing the playoffs?

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Other leagues have had success with quarantined bubbles. Last week, the NHL announced zero positive COVID-19 tests since its teams reported to the league's two hub cities. 

Both the National Women's Soccer League and Major League Soccer had teams drop out of their tournaments before competition began, due to team outbreaks. But the NWSL completed a month-long tournament without a COVID-19 case in its Utah bubble, and MLS' participating teams have produced all negative tests since July 10. 

The WNBA has not had a positive COVID-19 test since the initial round of testing, as players arrived at the clean site. Last week, the NBA reported its third consecutive batch of weekly tests without a new positive.

"We're only as good as our weakest link," Hoyer said. "And this thing spreads."

Even just this weekend there were examples of players and teams violating health and safety protocols.

Cleveland pitcher Zach Plesac  left the team hotel to go out in Chicago during the team’s series against the White Sox.

The A’s and Astros had a benches-clearing brawl after Houston pitcher Humberto Castellanos hit Oakland’s Roman Laureano with a pitch. It was the third time that Laureano had been hit in the series and second time in that game.

From the Astros dugout, hitting coach Alex Cintrón began jawing back and forth with Laureano, until Laureano charged. The benches cleared.

“Frustrations are going to boil over,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “… As a coach, we have to contain our emotions, a little more than probably the players. Players do the best they can, but as coaches we have to stay professional in every aspect.”

Both incidents happened after Major League Baseball tightened health and safety protocols and postponed the Cubs’ weekend series at St. Louis in response to more positive COVID-19 tests from the Cardinals. The Cardinals have played an MLB-low five games due to their coronavirus outbreak. At least 16 St. Louis players and staff members have tested positive.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he believed there was still time for the Cardinals to play enough games to be considered a “credible competitor.” Whether they can fit a whole 60-game schedule in remains in question.

“I think there's going to be real decisions about how to reschedule those games and what to do,” Hoyer said. “But at this point I think that the focus is on making sure that those guys are all healthy, the staff and players, and stopping the spread. And who knows how long it’s going to take.

“I think we all expected to play this weekend, and now, I don't know if they'll be able to play Thursday, Friday or until after the weekend. So, at this point there's no point in speculating (on if the league would shut down a team) because we just don't know when they're going to be able to take the field.”

A few hours later, MLB announced that the Cardinals' Thursday doubleheader against the Tigers had been postponed.

The regular season hurdles continue, even without the kind of back-and forth travel that comes with the playoffs.

“With buses and planes and hotel rooms and smaller club houses, things like that,” Hoyer said of travel, “I think it's that that's been a challenge. And a challenge the league is trying to address, but still a challenge nonetheless. And so I think a bubble situation for the playoffs could be in the best interest to make sure that those games are played and that the right players are on the field deciding it.”

 

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Cubs’ Ian Happ claimed center field after AAA detour: 'He's the real deal'

Cubs’ Ian Happ claimed center field after AAA detour: 'He's the real deal'

Ian Happ paused before answering, the moment of silence punctuating his matter-of-fact response.

“No,” he said. “I don’t feel that way.”

Looking back, he doesn’t feel like he rose to the Major Leagues too quickly.

Happ has had to field that question since spending 2/3 of last season in Triple-A. But already this year, Happ has hit three home runs, tied for the most on the team, while also maintain a top-three batting average (.297). Not only is he performing on the field, Happ has also embraced a leadership role and taken over for Kris Bryant as the team’s MLBPA representative.

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“He’s the real deal,” Ross said Sunday, after Happ went 3-for-3 with two doubles in the Cubs’ intrasquad scrimmage.

The club’s decision to send Happ to Triple-A Iowa at the beginning of last season came as a surprise. Much of Happ’s conviction that he was ready for the major leagues when he debuted came from his standout rookie season.

Happ hit 24 home runs as a rookie – still his career high – and finished eighth in rookie of the year voting in 2017. His batting average regressed the next year (from .253 to .233), and his strikeout number rose (from 129 to 167). But he joined the .350 club in on-base percentage.

“We believed then and we believe now that he’s going to be a really good player,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said this week. “We thought it was the right move and something that was necessary even though it was really unpleasant to send him back there. To his credit, he made the absolute most of it, took personal responsibility.”

When Happ returned to the big leagues, his progress showed. He won NL player of the week in the final week of the season. But he’s made even more of a splash this year, from Spring Training through the first two weeks of the regular season.

Entering the year, center field was one of the main position battles to monitor for first-time manager Ross.

“Right now, the job is Ian Happ’s,” Ross said Sunday.

Ross’ lineup choices had suggested as much already. Happ has appeared in all 13 of the Cubs games, at least pinch hitting in the three he didn’t start.

“It’s hard to take Ian Happ out of the lineup,” Ross said of the switch-hitter. “The guy’s swinging the bat really well, and his right-handed at-bats have gotten tremendously better. He’s been a staple.”

Happ started his season off with a two-run home run in his first plate appearance. He was batting ninth, and through all of Ross’ reshuffling of the bottom third of the batting order, Happ has been the Cubs’ most frequent nine-hole hitter.

With the Cubs’ No. 7 and 8 hitters consistently getting on base, in the nine-hole has showcased Happ’s ability to drive in runs (he’s tied for second on the team with six RBI) or set the table for the Cubs’ unconventional top of the order.

“I feel great about where I'm at right now,” Happ said, “my ability to help the team and get on base for those guys that are hitting behind me.”

Just as he set the tone in the batter’s box early, with an Opening Day home run, Happ flashed some leather in the opening series against the Brewers. Three days into the season, Happ tracked a long fly ball back to the wall. He leaped and caught it just before his back slammed into the ivy, which barely cushioned the brick behind it.

Happ slid down the wall into a crouch, his body no doubt feeling the results of the impact. But it wasn’t long before he stood back up.

“I think he absolutely took advantage of his time down (in Iowa),” Epstein said, “and is in a different and better phase in his career now because of what he went through.”

 

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