Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez could face off in the Home Run Derby

Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez could face off in the Home Run Derby

It’s official.

For the first time since Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant in 2015, the Cubs will have representatives in the Home Run Derby.

The Cubs announced Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez will participate in this year’s contest next Monday in Washington, D.C.

The two have shown special power throughout their young major-league careers that has made fans and players excited to see them take part.

Baez has hit a team-leading 18 home runs this year, giving him the seventh best total in the National League, while Schwarber trails with 17 homers of his own. Both are also on pace to notch career highs in 2018, topping the 30 (Schwarber) and 23 (Baez) they hit last season.

They will each attempt to be the first Cubs player to win the Home Run Derby since Sammy Sosa, who hit 26 home runs in 2000. Bryant and Rizzo had a tough time in 2015, the first year of the newer head-to-head format, when they were both eliminated in the first round.

In this year's opening round, the fifth-seeded Schwarber will face the Astros' fourth-seeded Alex Bregman, and the sixth-seeded Baez will square up against the Dodgers' Max Muncy, a three seed. The bracket also includes the Brewers' first-seeded Jesus Aguilar, the Nationals' second-seeded Bryce Harper, the Braves' seventh-seeded Freddie Freeman, and the Phillies' eighth-seeded Rhys Hoskins.

With the way the bracket is formatted, Schwarber and Baez could face each other in the final round.

The Home Run Derby is a chance for both the Cubs’ second baseman and leftfielder to showcase their talents on one of the most exciting stages in baseball. It’s an opportunity Schwarber has always wanted.

“It’s on the bucket list, being in the Home Run Derby,” Schwarber, who was not selected to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, said. “… it’s definitely a thing that I want to do and at least try once.”

Some players in the past have said the Derby negatively affects hitters’ swings, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon isn’t worried about having his 25-year-old sluggers in the home run hitting event. In fact, he thinks it will be a good thing for their careers.

“I’m more worried about fatigue, but I also believe the benefit’s gonna be that they did it,” Maddon said. “I would never want to restrict ‘em from that and, like I said, at their age, it’s kind of perfect.”

The Cubs have been one of the best teams in the major leagues as of late, so having one of the team’s players win in this Monday’s competition would be even sweeter for the organization.

All-Star Game festivities come at a good time for the red-hot Baez, who has shined all season in Chicago with a team-leading 66 RBIs (second in the NL) and 95 hits. Those marks have earned him a starting spot in the All-Star Game at second base. He will try to bring the Home Run Derby title back into the hands of the National League after Aaron Judge’s 47-dinger win for the American League in 2017.

“A lot of people got the question mark on their mind how I’m going to do I guess,” Baez said. “It’s all about putting on a show and having fun. We’ll see what happens.”

The list of Cubs players eligible for the Hall of Fame this year will make you feel so old

The list of Cubs players eligible for the Hall of Fame this year will make you feel so old

This morning, Major League Baseball announced the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot, and that sound you hear is the overwhelming rush of Cubs fans nostalgia:

Juan Pierre! Ted Lilly! Pierre spent three of his 14 seasons in Chicago, spending one season (2006) with the Cubs and two (2010-2011) with the White Sox. Lilly pitched for the Cubs from 2007-2010. The two join Sammy Sosa, Fred McGrith (a stretch) and Manny Ramirez (a STRETCH) as the Cubs' representation on the ballot. 

Speaking of Ted Lilly, former Cubs GM Jim Hendry was recently on the Cubs Talk podcast, where he talked about signing Lily from his hospital bed. It's worth checking out! 

Jim Hendry recounts the time the Cubs nearly signed Jim Thome in free agency


Jim Hendry recounts the time the Cubs nearly signed Jim Thome in free agency

Could you imagine Jim Thome wearing a Cubs uniform?

What about Raul Ibanez? Pudge Rodriguez?

Former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry stopped by the CubsTalk Podcast recently with David Kaplan and Luke Stuckmeyer and the current New York Yankees executive dropped a couple of big names when asked who he wished he could've signed.

The most notable player was Jim Thome, a Hall of Famer revered by White Sox fans for his time on the South Side.

Thome was a free agent in the winter before the 2003 season and according to Hendry, the Cubs would've signed him if not for Hee Seop Choi.

"Oh yeah," Hendry said. "Well Jim and I were old friends — for how well you could be. I mean, he grew up in Illinois and I had gotten to know him over the years. Love Jim Thome. And Jim Thome, I'm convinced today, if we didn't have [Choi], would've been a Cub. ... I remember having a couple chats with Jim over the years and I know part of him would've really wanted to."

Hindsight is 20-20 so it's funny to look back and think Choi — a failed prospect who was out of the majors before his 27th birthday — was the reason the Cubs couldn't get one of the greatest sluggers of the decade. But at the time, Choi was looked at as a potential star — a 23-year-old ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in the game.

And like Hendry said, neither Choi nor Thome could play anywhere else.

Thome ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and would've made a major difference on the 2003 Cubs (he led the NL with 47 homers and drove in 131 runs with a .958 OPS), but it all worked out pretty OK for the Cubs. The next offseason, Hendry traded Choi to the Marlins for Derrek Lee and the big first baseman wound up having a fantastic career with the Cubs.

"Obviously Derrek played great for us and if it weren't for Albert Pujols, Derrek would've been MVP once or twice," Hendry said. "But yeah, who wouldn't have wanted Jimmy? If it was an American League team, I would feel comfortable saying that could've happened."

Thome played for the Phillies for three years before being traded to the White Sox, where he became an instant fan favorite. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Among the other moves that he wished he could've pulled off, Hendry — who served as the Cubs GM from July 2002 until August 2011 (shortly before Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over) — threw out a 2008 trade for Raul Ibanez that fell through.

The veteran outfielder/DH was already 36 in 2008, but hit .293 with an .837 OPS, 23 homers and 110 RBI in 162 games for the Mariners. Part of the issue, Hendry said, was the crowded outfield the Cubs already had at the time — including Alfonso Soriano, Jim Edmonds and Kosuke Fukudome.

The Cubs led the league in runs scored that year en route to 97 wins but they failed to win a single postseason game, scoring only 6 runs against the Dodgers in a three-game NLDS sweep. L.A. needed only 7 pitchers in that series - all of whom were right-handed - while the Cubs' top 6 hitters were all right-handed as well, illustrating the major problem in Hendry's eyes.

Hendry also confirmed the Cubs were never close to signing Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez prior to the 2003 season, but did say the Hall of Fame catcher came to Wrigley Field for lunch and a meeting (though the two sides never even exchanged numbers).

Rodriguez ultimately signed with the Florida Marlins...who came within five outs of being eliminated by the Cubs in the NLCS only to rally back to win the series and then claim a championship over the Yankees.

But you knew that already...