Cubs

As Yankees consider selling, 'no question' Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as part of their 2017 plans

As Yankees consider selling, 'no question' Cubs see Kyle Schwarber as part of their 2017 plans

As the national media keeps driving the speculation about Kyle Schwarber and the New York Yankees, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer echoed Theo Epstein’s essentially untouchable comments. The president of baseball operations went out of his way on June 30 to tell reporters that he expects Schwarber to hit a big home run in a Cubs uniform early next season. It’s extremely difficult to see that fundamentally changing between now and the Aug. 1 trade deadline.  

“No question,” Hoyer said before Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. “That’s how we feel about it.”

The Cubs are still 19 games over .500, even with Schwarber only getting five plate appearances before shredding his left knee during an outfield collision in early April. As he recovers from the surgery that reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL, the Yankees have quietly pushed Schwarber’s name out there as they try to gauge the market and potentially start a bidding war for All-Star reliever Andrew Miller.

USA Today also floated the concept of the Yankees packaging Miller and 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman – who’s positioned to become a free agent this winter – in a blockbuster deal for Schwarber.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]     

“You guys know how we feel about Kyle, and he knows how we feel about him,” Hoyer said. “It’s a shame (with the injury). We’ve had a lot of guys play really well in his stead that have really helped. But, yeah, I think we all miss writing his name in the lineup every day and seeing that kind of left-handed power. 

“We look forward to seeing that next year.”

As much as Epstein’s front office treats players like assets and tries to stay emotionally detached, the Cubs feel a personal connection with Schwarber, drafting him fourth overall out of Indiana University in 2014, believing in his ability to catch at the big-league level and seeing his potential as a dynamic clubhouse leader.  

Plus, the Cubs built a first-place team and their future around young, offensive players like Schwarber, who hit 21 homers (including the playoffs) in less than 80 games last season, believing that pitching health is too unpredictable to long-term plan for and staffs can be patched together from one year to the next.   

“This guy’s an elite middle-of-the-order bat with the kind of makeup we look for,” Hoyer said. “We kind of let that stand for itself.”  

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

It looks like rough times are ahead for Brewers relief ace Josh Hader

The Brewers' best pitcher is in some serious hot water before the second half of the MLB season gets underway.

As he was serving up a 3-run homer in the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Josh Hader's Tweets from 2011 were aired publicly and the result was...not good.

Hader's Tweets as a 17-year-old reflected racist and homophobic remarks, among other issues. (A summary of his Tweets can be found at Deadspin.)

After the All-Star Game, Hader was immediately put in front of reporters to respond to the Tweets and admitted he will accept any punishment that comes his way — including any possible suspension:

He won't be suspended by the league and will instead under go sensitivity training, but this absolutely could affect Hader mentally moving forward. 

Case in point:

He can ask teammate Ryan Braun how to deal when fans turn on you, but it's going to be a lot more difficult for a 24-year-old in his first full big-league season to deal with any hate that comes down. 

Hader has been the Brewers' most valuable pitcher all season, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and a ridiculous 16.7 K/9. 

But over the last month-plus, he's been...human.

Ever since Jason Heyward turned on a 98 mph Hader fastball to tie the game in Milwaukee on June 11, the Brewers' relief ace has a 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.

Still great numbers, to be sure, but not the Superman-esque line baseball fans came to expect from Hader after the first couple months of 2018. (Plus, the All-Star Game homer he served up to Jean Segura, but that obviously doesn't count for anything.)

With the Brewers already chasing the Cubs by 2.5 games in the division in the second half, they can't afford Hader's slump to worsen.

Though Cubs fans may be rooting for that...

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

It might have been just another dinger in homer-happy All-Star Game, but Willson Contreras will remember it forever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Willson Contreras’ third-inning home run might not have ended up standing out too much in an All-Star Game featuring a jaw-dropping and record-shattering 10 dingers.

But, obviously, it will always stand out to the guy who hit it.

“I enjoyed every single second that I spent out there.”

Remarkably, Contreras repeated his feat from two seasons ago, when he hit his first big league homer on the first big league pitch he ever saw. Ditto on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, when he launched the first pitch he saw as an All Star out over the wall in left field.

“When I hit the ball and thought it was gone, I went back to 2016, playing in Chicago. It was the same thing, first pitch for a homer,” Contreras, all smiles, said following the American League’s 8-6 victory. “I’m really blessed with these kinds of situations. Those moments, they’re going to be history and they’re going to be in my mind and my heart.”

Contreras’ long ball was the highlight of the evening for fans watching back home in Chicago. Javy Baez got a hit in his first All-Star at-bat but was outdone by his teammate. White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu was hitless in his two trips to the plate.

And while it will be a highlight on this night for Cubs fans, it will be a highlight forever for Contreras, who enjoyed the heck out of his first All-Star experience.

“‘I did it, I did it,’” he said when asked what was going through his head. “I knew it was something special. And I wasn’t trying to do too much because these guys are nasty, throwing 98 in the first inning. I just tried to get the hit out.”

The nasty guy he went deep against was Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell, whose 2.27 ERA on the season made him a very worthy inclusion on the AL roster. But Contreras was more impressed with the guy who started the game for the National League, raving about Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer after the game.

“He was great, man. Great stuff, he gets so into the game,” Contreras said. “I would like to have him one day on my team or play with him for a few years. That guy is amazing.”

That’s not the current Nationals star Cubs fans are dreaming about, Willy, but point taken.

But it wasn’t Snell or Scherzer or even Baez or Jon Lester, also in the NL dugout, who Contreras was thinking about the most during his home run trot. Instead, Contreras was thinking about his grandfather, Ernesto, who passed away a few years ago.

“My grandpa, he died in 2015,” Contreras said. “I grew up with him.

“He didn’t play ball. But I feel like every time I go out there and step into the box, he’s at my back. It just feels amazing when you hit a homer or do something special, look at the sky and you know that he’s there smiling somewhere.”

It all made for a pretty incredible night for Contreras, who has officially and loudly taken his place among baseball’s best on the game’s biggest stage.

The only thing that was missing? The ball.

Yeah, Contreras didn’t get the ball, not that he really expected to. But if you’ve got it, he wants it.

“I don’t think they’re giving it back,” he said with a grin.

We’ll see. Social media’s a powerful tool. So reach out.