Cubs

Meanwhile, Jered Weaver continues to dominate

837567.jpg

Meanwhile, Jered Weaver continues to dominate

From Comcast SportsNet
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jered Weaver gave the Los Angeles Angels all the relief they needed. Weaver pitched a four-hitter for his major-league leading 15th victory, and the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 4-0 on Monday night to overtake the final spot in the crowded AL wild card standings. After a burned-out bullpen was taxed while losing four of the previous five, the Angels ace gave the staff a much-needed night off. "He's one of the best," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "And that's what the best do." Weaver (15-1) struck out nine, walked none and faced the minimum through 4 1-3 innings. The right-hander has won nine straight and a career-best 10 consecutive decisions since his only loss of the season May 13 against Texas, ranking second in franchise history to Jarrod Washburn, who won 12 consecutive decisions in 2002. "There's really no answer," Weaver said about his impressive run. "Things have been going my way." Erick Aybar singled three times and scored twice in his first game back from the disabled list to move Los Angeles (59-51) ahead of Oakland (58-51) and Baltimore (58-51) by one victory. Detroit (59-50) is in line for the other wild card spot. Jarrod Parker (7-6) allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked one in Oakland's third straight loss and major-league leading 13th shutout this season. "Jered did his job on the other side and I just needed to be better," Parker said. "When I start to aim that's when I get into trouble." All the offense Weaver wanted came in typical Angels fashion. Kendrys Morales doubled leading off the second and scored on a two-out single by Aybar, who had been on the disabled list since July 22 with a broken big toe on his right foot. Mike Trout singled home Aybar two batters later to give the Angels a 2-0 lead. Trout also stole second in the first, second and eighth innings to extend his franchise record to 27 straight steals without being caught. He leads the majors with 36 stolen bases. "He wreaks havoc out there," Parker said. The Angels center fielder also singled to open the fifth but was called out sliding head-first into second on right fielder Josh Reddick's 13th assist. Trout immediately hopped up, furiously waving his hands and screaming at second base umpire Bill Miller in protest. Trout had to be restrained by both base coaches and manager Mike Scioscia. In the end, the only motions that mattered came on the mound. Weaver worked his way through the A's lineup with relative ease, facing the minimum through 4 1-3 innings. The right-hander erased the only base runner during that time -- a single by Brandon Inge leading off the bottom of the third -- when he got Eric Sogard to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Angels ace struck out the side in the fifth despite allowing a one-out single to Brandon Moss and didn't allow a runner on second until the sixth, when Eric Sogard reached on a groundout to second and advanced on Coco Crisp's ground out. Jemile Weeks popped up too short to end the inning. "You always want that lead dog," Scioscia said of Weaver. "And Weave is that lead dog." After consecutive singles by Aybar and Chris Iannetta in the seventh, Torii Hunter lined a two-run single up the middle to extend the Angels' lead to 4-0 and give Weaver more than enough room for error. Weaver now 11 career complete games and three this season, including a no-hitter against Minnesota on May 2. "He's extremely frustrating," A's catcher Derek Norris said. The one hitter Weaver never had to face has made all the difference for Oakland this season. Yoenis Cespedes did not start for the second time in three games as he recovers from a right wrist sprain. After sitting out Saturday, he went 0 for 4 on Sunday, and A's manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes' wrist bothered the outfielder in his final two at-bats. Cespedes is day to day. The A's are 46-29 when Cespedes starts and 12-22 when he doesn't. NOTES: The Angels optioned SS Andrew Romine to Triple-A Salt Lake to clear space for Aybar on the roster. ... Oakland SS Cliff Pennington (left elbow) was scheduled to play three more games with Triple-A Sacramento and could rejoin the A's by the weekend. ... Oakland RHP Bartolo Colon (8-8, 3.55 ERA) takes the mound opposite against Angels lefty C.J. Wilson (9-7, 3.27 ERA) on Tuesday.

Should the Cubs bring Daniel Murphy back in 2019?

Should the Cubs bring Daniel Murphy back in 2019?

With MLB Hot Stove season about 10 days away, Cubs fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how Theo Epstein's front office will reshape an underperforming lineup this winter.

The first step in that will be determining if there is a future with Daniel Murphy in Chicago and if so, what that future might entail. 

Murphy's introduction to the North Side fanbase was rocky, but he drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches for how he conducted himself in the month-and-a-half he wore a Cubs uniform. 

He also filled a serious hole in the Cubs lineup, hitting .297 with an .800 OPS in 35 games (138 at-bats) while spending most of his time in the leadoff spot, helping to set the tone. Extrapolating Murphy's Cubs tenure over 550 plate appearances, it would be good for 23 homers, 86 runs, 49 RBI and 23 doubles over a full season. That would be worth 3.4 WAR by FanGraphs' measure, which would've ranked third on the Cubs among position players in 2018 behind only Javy Baez (5.3 WAR) and Ben Zobrist (3.6). (By comparison, Baseball Reference rated Murphy a -0.2 WAR player with the Cubs due to a much worse rating on defense.) 

Murphy's performance defensively at second base left quite a bit to be desired, but it's also worth pointing out he had major surgery on his right knee last fall. The procedure wasn't just a cleanup — he had microfracture surgery and cartilage debridement and wasn't able to return to the field until the middle of June this summer despite an Oct. 20, 2017 surgery.

The Cubs will begin the 2019 season without a clear, everyday choice at second base and the lineup can use a guy like Murphy, who has a great approach each time up and leads baseball with a .362 batting average with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2016 season.

So could a reunion be in the cards?

"I wouldn't rule anything out," Epstein said the day after the Cubs' 2018 campaign ended prematurely. "It was a pleasure having Daniel here. He did a lot to right our offense right after he got here and contribute while being asked to play a bigger role than we envisioned when we got him because of some other injuries, because of our lack of performance offensively and then because of the schedule. He was asked to play a lot more than expected, than probably he was ready to based on the proximity to his knee surgery.

"So I think he's gonna have a real beneficial offseason, get even stronger and be ready to contribute next year. Which league that's in and for what team remains to be seen. But I certainly think he acquitted himself well here, was REALLY respected by his teammates. Our guys loved talking hitting with him. It was a daily occurrence. Long discussions about hitting with him, picking his brain. 

"We look a lot better with him than without him, so I wouldn't rule anything out."

There's a lot to unpack here. Epstein was refreshingly honest throughout his whole press conference and that continued with regards to Murphy.

For starters, notice how Epstein first said he wasn't sure "what league" Murphy will be playing in. The Cubs president of baseball operations is typically extremely measured when speaking with the public and he almost never says anything by accident.

Murphy will turn 34 April 1 and was never renowned as an elite fielder even before that major knee surgery. Meaning: The writing has been on the wall for over a year that the veteran may be best suited for a designated hitter role with his new contract and Epstein is clearly well aware of that perception/narrative.

The other aspect of Epstein's comments is how he began and ended his statement on Murphy — that he wouldn't rule anything out and the Cubs obviously thought it was a successful pairing.

It's hard to argue with that on the offensive side of things and his impact was also felt off the field, where he was praised often by his teammates and coaches for talking hitting with younger players like Ian Happ and David Bote. 

Imagine how the final 6 weeks of the season would've looked had the Cubs not acquired Murphy in the middle of August to agument the lineup. The Brewers would've probably nabbed the division lead well before a Game 163.

Still, Murphy's hitting prowess both on and off the field wasn't enough to help the Cubs lineup avoid a slide that led to a date with the couch before the NLDS even began. Epstein's statement about how the Cubs "look a lot better" with Murphy than without is probably more about how fresh the sting was from the inept offense that managed just 2 runs scored in 22 innings in the final two games of the season.

Given his consistency the last few years, his advanced approach at the plate and his (recent) unrivaled ability to come through in key spots, Murphy's bat would be a welcome addition to any Cubs lineup moving forward. 

But it would still be tough to fit Murphy on the Cubs' 2019 roster for a variety of reasons. 

For starters, if the Cubs truly have a desire to write out a more consistent lineup next year, it's tough to add another aging veteran to a mix that already includes Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 next year), especially when they both spend a majority of their time at the same position (second base) and shouldn't be considered everyday players at this stage in their respective careers.

Murphy's defense/range also doesn't figure to get much better as he ages — even with an offseason to get his knee back up to 100 percent health — and second base is a key spot for run prevention, especially in turning double plays with a pitching staff that induces a lot of contact and groundballs.

Offensively, Murphy isn't perfect, either. He's never walked much, but in 2018, he posted his lowest walk rate since 2013. He also struck out 15.7 percent of the time in a Cubs uniform and while that's a small sample size, it still represents his highest K% since his rookie 2008 season (18.5 percent). 

Then there's the splits — the left-handed Murphy hit just .238 with a .564 OPS vs. southpaws in 2018, a far cry from the .319 average and .864 OPS he posted against right-handed pitchers. That was a steep drop-off from the previous three seasons (2015-17), in which he put up a .296 average and .810 OPS against lefties.

Add it all up and Murphy's potential fit with the 2019 Cubs is questionable at best, especially if an American League team hands him more money and years to come DH for them and hit near the top of their order.

But like Epstein said, don't rule anything out.

Let's listen to the Bears-Patriots' wild finish in other languages, because it's way better that way

bearspatsfinish.jpg
@thecheckdown

Let's listen to the Bears-Patriots' wild finish in other languages, because it's way better that way

Remember Sunday's Bears-Patriots finish? The one where the Bears (and Kevin White -- shouts to Kevin White!) were one-yard away from tying the game on a hail mary? 

Here was the call that most viewers heard, which was Extremely Meh: 

Now here's the call that viewers in Germany and Portugal heard, which is SO MUCH BETTER: 

Turns out that being excited for an exciting play makes for good television, who woulda thought.