Cubs

Should Cubs expect payback from Cardinals after Matt Holliday’s injury?

Should Cubs expect payback from Cardinals after Matt Holliday’s injury?

Should the Cubs expect payback from the St. Louis Cardinals after a Mike Montgomery fastball broke Matt Holliday’s right thumb? 

It’s the fuse waiting to be lit, given the history between these two teams and the escalating tensions within the rivalry, the Cardinals no longer being “the big brother,” as Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has said, or big fans of Joe Maddon’s “Try Not To Suck” act.

That might have been Holliday’s last at-bat in a St. Louis uniform on Thursday night at Wrigley Field, depending on the treatment plan and whether or not the Cardinals pick up the All-Star outfielder’s $17 million option for 2017 or pay the $1 million buyout.

“That’s an absolute accident,” Maddon said Friday. “It just depends on your philosophy within, how you’ve been raised, what you think is the right way to do things. We’ve all had different parents, so some people react to situations one way.

“Truthfully, if that had happened to us, there’s no reason to (respond). It’s purely an accident. You know when something’s intentionally done or not. It really comes down to parenting.”

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With the best record in baseball and a double-digit lead in the division, Maddon took a more measured tone than last year’s calculated “Sopranos” rant, comparing the Cardinals to a crime family and saying he never read the franchise’s book on how to play the game.

“Was that a rant?” Maddon said. “It was a mini-rant. I don’t know. We’ll wait and see. I’d like to believe that the other side would determine, obviously, that it was an accident. But, again, it always comes down to parenting.”

Montgomery hadn’t pitched in a game since July 31, or really established himself at all since getting traded from the Seattle Mariners three weeks ago. The lefty swingman drilled Holliday, the third batter he faced, with two outs in the 10th inning of a tie game.

“It was just a pitch that got away,” Montgomery said after earning the win in a 4-3 walk-off victory that took 11 innings. “I never want to hurt anybody. I feel bad. It’s a part of baseball and it’s unfortunate. I was just trying to go in right there and it kind of went away from me a little bit.

“I would never want to see (that happen) to anybody. Your intent is never to do that. I definitely feel for him. It wasn’t on purpose. It was just one of those pitches in a big part of the game.”

Ex-Cub Andrew Cashner recently called retaliation part of “The Cardinal Way” after St. Louis hit Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, echoing Maddon’s vigilante message from last September.

“It happens,” Maddon said. “It’s just like ‘Stropy’ (Pedro Strop) sliding to pick up a ball and hurts his knee. It’s an accident. Montgomery is definitely not trying to hit (Holliday). At the end of the day, man, it does come down to parenting and what you’re taught and what you believe is the right way to do things.”

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

You saw this one coming, right?

As the Cubs’ longest tenure player, Anthony Rizzo was a shoo-in for this group. He hasn’t relinquished his starting first baseman job since making his Cubs debut in June 2012. The guy’s longevity alone is impressive.

But besides that, Rizzo has been a model of consistency during his time on the North Side. Since 2012, he’s hit 217 home runs (averaging 27 per season) and hit 32 three times from 2014-17. The lone exception? 2015, when he hit 31. So close…

As a Cub, Rizzo is a .277/.376/.496 hitter with a 132 OPS+. He produces at a high clip each season, whether he’s hitting third, cleanup or leadoff, all while simultaneously playing stellar defense. The 30-year-old is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2016, 2018-19).

Rizzo is the guy who comes up huge in key moments but will be there to address the media after tough losses. He’s the de facto captain of the Cubs, the guy who suffered a nasty ankle sprain in September that could have ended his regular season. Instead, he returned four days later for a key series against the rival Cardinals, as the Cubs were fighting to keep their October dreams alive.

When he’s not leading his team on the field, Rizzo is giving back to the community off of it. He’s one of the most charitable athletes in the world and recently raised $1.3 million for children’s cancer research at his “8th annual Walk-off for Cancer” in his home state of Florida.

Rizzo was the first building block of the Cubs core which snapped their infamous 108-year championship drought, but he’ll be remembered for more than that. He’s a leader on and off the field, the clear choice for starting first baseman on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Derrek Lee, Bryan LaHair