MLB Network to re-air Games 5-7 of 2016 World Series, Cubs documentary on Tuesday


MLB Network to re-air Games 5-7 of 2016 World Series, Cubs documentary on Tuesday

The 2020 MLB season won’t kick-off on Thursday as originally scheduled, but Cubs fans longing for baseball can still watch their favorite team this week.

Tuesday, MLB Network is re-airing Games 5-7 of the 2016 World Series, starting at noon CT.  A breakdown of the broadcast schedule:

Noon: Game 5 — Cubs 3, Indians 2

2 p.m.: Game 6 — Cubs 9, Indians 3

4 p.m.: Game 7 — Cubs 8, Indians 7

Following the marathon, MLB Network is airing an original documentary, “Joy in Wrigleyville,” at 6:30. The special highlights the Cubs' run to their first championship since 1908 — from the perspective of fans. 

RELATED: The Score to re-air entire Cubs 2016 postseason run, starting April 1

We all wish baseball was returning this week, but reliving the greatest moment in Cubs franchise history is a good secondary option, right?

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Why Scott Boras' comments on Cubs suggest optimism MLB, union can make deal

Why Scott Boras' comments on Cubs suggest optimism MLB, union can make deal

The rhetoric sounds harsh. The sides aren’t close. And the chances look bleak for baseball owners and players to reach an agreement to play baseball as the week closed without a counterproposal from the union since Tuesday’s "extremely disappointing" ownership proposal.

If this past week was the most important week for Major League Baseball in 25 years, as some said, what does that make the coming week as MLB tries to salvage a season during a pandemic with an early July start?

The edge of the abyss, maybe?

But as dire as the situation looked based on the massive gap left to close between the sides’ negotiating positions as of Friday, at least a few indications at week’s end pointed to reasons for optimism a season can be played.

RELATED: MLB's biggest problem in negotiations: 'I just don't trust those guys'

First, too much is at stake on both sides to let the season be scuttled over financial haggling, perhaps especially for the owners, who have at least hundreds of millions of dollars at stake short-term and billions long-term if an already shaky competitor for America’s entertainment attention goes dark for a full season.

Second, deadlines have a way of turning stalemates into serious dialogue.

MLB has internally discussed three weeks of “spring training” before starting a three-month season — up to four weeks for pitchers — and that makes a June 10 target date for assembling players especially important (3 1/2 weeks before July 4).

And while nobody on either side is willing to risk suggesting a hard deadline for an agreement with so much at stake, Monday has long been considered a soft deadline, and the planned ramp-up time makes every day beyond that a faster-ticking clock toward potentially catastrophic damage to the sport.

While the union is more amenable to pushing back the start of a season and playing longer if necessary, starting later than early July gets increasingly risky from the MLB standpoint — whose main financial incentive for playing a season without fans is the nearly $1 billion of national TV money to recoup, most of it for the postseason.

Every additional week the start is pushed back increases the risk of a coronavirus outbreak within the game (or a second wave nationwide in the fall) that abruptly ends the season — and shortening to less than half its normal size makes it almost impossible to justify calling it a legitimate season.

But even beyond the logical reasons surrounding timelines and motivation, maybe the rhetoric isn’t even as bad as it sounded at times last week as negotiating positions, details and even internal memos were leaked.

Even Scott Boras, the player agent who in a private email to clients used the Cubs as an example of teams financially stronger than they admit when talking about losses, emphasized Friday he was not criticizing the Cubs in the email that apparently was leaked by a player.

“They did a smart thing. I’m not saying they did anything wrong,” he said in a conversation with NBC Sports Chicago. “The truth is we want organizations like the Cubs to run their businesses effectively and efficiently as they are doing, and certainly their choice of investing their revenues rather than paying off the debt of purchase is their choice, and I’m sure it’s a good choice.

“But those choices do not reflect the profitability of the team and the value of the players to the club who support the dramatic revenue that they’re making from the players’ performances.”

RELATED: How the Cubs became unwilling symbols in union's fight against MLB owners

Boras certainly has his share of critics in the industry. Even a player, Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, strangely targeted him this week, tweeting at him to “keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”

But Boras, who has no direct involvement in negotiations, according to multiple sources, not only is right in this case, his agenda aligns with the union’s.

Maybe the players will have a compromise to offer in the coming week, beyond the prorated salaries already negotiated in March. But the economic future of the game and ability to sustain what has been a golden financial age for owners is in their owns hands right now.

It starts with the critical second step of staging a 2020 season. The first step? Back off the cries of billionaire poverty during an economic crisis that has crushed American workers and run the business with the same level of responsibility during a time of losses as the level of aggressive self-investment demonstrated during times of record revenues.

If nothing else, more transparency might be a good starting point for a week that has a real possibility of altering the course of the baseball in this country for a generation.

“The general principle of negotiating is really about good faith,” Boras said. “But when they open the door of the car for you and they know there’s no gas in the tank, you understand the invitation is pyrrhic.”

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Cubs' 15 best hitting pitchers since 1900, from Hippo to Zambrano

Cubs' 15 best hitting pitchers since 1900, from Hippo to Zambrano

Seven years ago Saturday, Travis Wood crushed a grand slam in a start against the White Sox, the first by a pitcher at Wrigley Field since 1972. But with the universal DH likely coming to MLB in 2020, the days of seeing Cubs pitchers rake might be gone, at least this season.

Thus, we looked back at some of the Cubs best hitting pitchers since 1900. To qualify, players had to have at least 100 at bats with the Cubs and had to have played at least 90 percent of their games as a pitcher.

15. Rick Sutcliffe — 3 HR, 29 OPS+, .173 BA

Sutcliffe has the second-lowest batting average of any pitcher on this list but he made up for the lack of consistency with a few big moments at the plate. In Game 1 of the 1984 NLCS, he led off the bottom of the third inning with a home run off Eric Show. Sutcliffe also hit three regular season home runs with the Cubs, despite hitting just one in his previous 124 major league at bats.

Sutcliffe’s final home run came in 1988 against the Houston Astros. The pitcher that day? Future Cubs broadcaster Jim Deshaies.

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14. Hippo Vaughn — 3 HR, 39 OPS+, .180 BA

Vaughn won 20 games five times with the Cubs but he could also swing the bat a little bit. He homered three times with the Cubs, and his third and final long ball came off Hall of Fame Cardinals pitcher Jesse Haines in 1921. Vaughn also hit an impressive 21 doubles and posted an OPS+ of 39.

13. Tex Carleton — 3 HR, 40 OPS+, .190 BA

All three of Carleton’s home runs with the Cubs came against the Boston Bees in 1936. Before he joined the Cubs, Carleton (then with the Cardinals) hit a home run off Charlie Root at Wrigley Field in 1933. Carleton hit .190 with a 40 OPS+ during his tenure with Chicago.

12. Lon Warneke — 3 HR, 42 OPS+, .219 BA

Warneke pitched on some very good Cubs teams from 1930-36, reaching the World Series twice (1932 and '35.) He was the only pitcher to win a game for the Cubs in the ‘35 Fall Classic, going 2-0. He also collected a hit on a second inning single in his Game 5 win. He hit three home runs and had a 42 OPS+ in his Cubs career.

11. Jim Bullinger — 3 HR, 54 OPS+, .180 BA

All three of Bullinger’s home runs with the Cubs came on the road, but the first one was special. On June 8, 1992 (in the first game of a doubleheader) Bullinger homered on the first pitch he faced, in his first career major league at bat. Those are the types of moments that earn you a reputation as a good hitting pitcher, and Bullinger lived up to those expectations with a career OPS+ of 54.

10. Pat Malone — 9 HR, 28 OPS+, .200 BA

Malone was a key piece of the Cubs starting rotation from 1928-34 before being traded to the Cardinals. He helped pitch the Cubs to the 1929 World Series but wound up on the losing end of the clinching game, despite doubling to right field in his first at-bat. Four of his nine career home runs came in 1930, when he posted a league-high 20 wins.

9. Charlie Root —11 HR, 28 OPS+, .182 BA

Root played for the Cubs for a long time (1926-41), so it comes as no surprise that no Cubs pitcher since 1900 has more RBIs than him (93). Only three players on this list have more home runs than Root, and he’s one of two players on this list to homer off of another player on this list (Carleton in 1934.) Root also leads all Cubs pitcher with 46 doubles.

8. Jake Arrieta — 5 HR, 30 OPS+, .178 BA

Arrieta homered five times in just 259 career at bats with the Cubs. Only Travis Wood has more home runs in fewer at bats among Cubs pitchers. Arrieta helped himself out at the plate in both of his no-hitters, going 1-for-4 against the Dodgers in 2015 and 2-for-4 against the Reds in 2016. He also famously hit a three-run homer off Madison Bumgarner in the second inning of Game 3 of the 2016 NLDS.

7. Claude Passeau — 12 HR, 36 OPS+, .185 BA

Only two Cubs pitchers (Carlos Zambrano and Fergie Jenkins) have more home runs than Passeau. He was a five-time All-Star with the Cubs, winning 20 games in 1940 and finishing in the top-10 in MVP voting in 1942. Passeau had four seasons with at least two home runs from the plate. He also hit 20 doubles and three triples during his time with the Cubs.

MORE: How the Cubs became unwilling symbols in union's fight against MLB owners

6. Pete Alexander — 6 HR, 53 OPS+, .230 BA

Alexander is a Hall of Fame pitcher with 373 wins and five ERA titles to his name, but he was also a solid hitter. He homered 11 times in his MLB career, six times as a Cub. He’s one of two pitchers on this list to hit a walk-off homer. Alexander finished his MLB career with 378 hits and a .209 average.

5. Paul Minner — 6 HR, 58 OPS+, .221 BA

Minner was a consistent member of the Cubs starting rotation from 1950-56. The left-hander finished his Cubs career with 64 complete games, but he could also swing the bat. He hit six home runs and posted a 58 OPS+ with the Cubs. The Cubs didn't post a winning season during his tenure, but Minner hit at least one home run in every season from 1950-54.

4. Travis Wood — 7 HR, 50 OPS+, .197 BA

Wood is the only player on this list with a grand slam on his resume. He’s also one of just three players listed here to hit a home run in the playoffs (2016). Considering Wood pitched 200 innings just once during his Cubs career, it’s astounding he wound up with seven homers. Just imagine the long ball totals he would have if he were a consistent member of the starting rotation. Wood is also easily the best left fielder of this bunch.

3. Tony Kaufmann — 8 HR, 70 OPS+, .243 BA

Kaufmann was a Chicago native who pitched for the Cubs from 1921-27. He has the highest OPS+ of any Cubs pitcher in franchise history (70) and also hit eight home runs with 20 additional extra-base hits in his career. His .243 average is the second-best among Cubs pitchers with at least 100 at-bats since 1900. He homered twice in the same game on the Fourth of July in 1925 against the Cardinals.

2. Fergie Jenkins — 13 HR, 23 OPS+, .165 BA

Jenkins is one of just five Cubs pitchers ever to homer twice in the same game, which he pulled off on Sept. 1, 1971 against Montreal. His first career home run actually came in his Cubs debut against Don Sutton and the Dodgers on April 23, 1966. Fergie notched his first Cubs win, first Cubs strikeout, first career hit and first career home run all in the same day (and it was a relief appearance.)

Jenkins is the only player on this list to take two Hall of Famers deep (Sutton and Tom Seaver.) His 13 home runs and 85 RBIs both rank second in franchise history among pitchers since 1900.

1. Carlos Zambrano — 23 HR, 64 OPS+, .241 BA

Zambrano has more home runs than any pitcher in Cubs franchise history (23) and finished with a career OPS+ of 64. The list of pitchers Big Z took deep is impressive by any hitter’s standards: Tom Glavine, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buerhle, Johnny Cueto and Aaron Harang, just to name a few.

In 2006, the same season he finished fifth in Cy Young voting, Zambrano smashed six home runs and earned his first of three Silver Slugger awards. His .395 slugging percentage is the highest of any Cubs pitcher since 1900 (with a minimum of 100 at bats.) Zambrano finished his career with a .718 OPS against lefties. That’ll play.

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