Cubs

Reds fan on catching back-to-back homers

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Reds fan on catching back-to-back homers

Reds fan Caleb Lloyd called into "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday to talk about catching back-to-back home run balls at a game earlier in the week.

Watch the video below to see what he had to say:

Why the Cubs are on the brink

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USA TODAY

Why the Cubs are on the brink

With wide scale panic now fully embracing the Cubs massive fan base as their once firm grip on the NL Central division race has dwindled to a mere 0.5 game we need to look at why this may be happening.

Is their roster not as talented as we all thought? No, that would be an inaccurate assessment because the roster put together by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer is deep and talented and boasts star power that should carry the club through any rough patch.

Have they been overly affected by injuries? Not enough that it should knock them from their perch atop the division. Yes, they lost pitcher Yu Darvish and closer Brandon Morrow which would sap any pitching staff when robbed of two of its best arms. However, Darvish has been sidelined since May with an arm injury that eventually required surgery. And the Cubs starting rotation over the past 6 weeks has been among the best in baseball.

The bullpen has certainly been affected by the loss of Morrow as well as his replacement in the closer's role, Pedro Strop but that is not why this team is watching their lead melt down in the season's final days. There are enough quality arms in the Cubs bullpen to get the job done to get to the postseason.

The reason this team is struggling is because their offense has been wildly inconsistent all season long and there doesn't seem to be a sure fire remedy to cure them. The change in hitting coaches from John Mallee to Chili Davis will get a lot of scrutiny from fans and media but these are professional hitters with several years of experience who should know how to fix their swing themselves. Chili Davis isn't walking up and taking the at bats for the players. Can his philosophy be discussed in the off season? Certainly. But, when players such as Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber perform far below expectations it hamstrings an offense that should be light years better than it has shown. 

Contreras was in the MVP discussions before the season started but his output this season has be incredibly mediocre. Where has his power gone? Contreras is hitting .205 since the All Star break with an abysmal .298 on base percentage and he is hitting just .213 this season with runners in scoring position. And Schwarber is not much better. The player that stole the show in the 2016 World Series is hitting .224 since the All Star break and he is hitting just .200 with men in scoring position for the season.

However, at this critical juncture the only way the Cubs are going to pull this team up out of their nose dive is for someone to step up and put this team on their back and do it themselves. Is that person accomplished slugger Anthony Rizzo? How about MVP candidate Javier Baez? Veteran hitter Daniel Murphy? He is hitting .250 over the last 30 days but his on base percentage is a woeful .298. 

It is probably a safe bet to say that it won't be 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant who has been beset by injuries most of the season and has missed more than 70 games with a combination of a shoulder injury (that could require some type of cleanup procedure in the offseason), the effects of getting hit in the head with a fastball early in the season and a wrist injury suffered last night when he was hit by a pitch.

So, with five games left to play the questions are few and the answers are unknown. Who will step up and play the role of savior for the struggling Cubs offense? Will the starting pitching answer the bell and pitch the Cubs to a division title? And does the talent filled roster have enough left in the tank to hold off the Milwaukee Brewers?

When the Cubs were down 3-1 in the 2016 World Series I knew deep down that team was coming back to battle and that they had a great shot to win the World Series. They did just that with dominant starting pitching and some clutch offense.

However, I'm not sure I have that same feeling right now with this 2018 team. I don't see someone locked in offensively and ready to have one of those nights that carries a team to a much needed victory. So, is someone ready to step up and provide a team and a fan base the shot in the arm they so desperately need? Jose Quintana gets the ball on Wednesday. He has a chance to dominate and lead his team. This is why he was acquired at a very high price. For moments like these. Can he pitch like a Ferrari? His team is counting on it as a fan base panics.

James Shields wraps impressive 2018 campaign, but is it last he'll pitch in White Sox uniform?

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USA TODAY

James Shields wraps impressive 2018 campaign, but is it last he'll pitch in White Sox uniform?

James Shields is unlikely to go down as one of White Sox fans’ most beloved pitchers.

It was always going to be hard to erase the memories of his first two seasons on the South Side, which saw him post a 5.99 ERA and give up 58 home runs.

But Shields, a 36-year-old veteran who doesn’t figures to have much of a place in this rebuilding franchise’s long-term plans, made a heck of an impact and did a heck of a job during this losing season, one that could end up being felt when the team does transition to contention mode.

Shields capped his 2018 season with another six innings Tuesday night. It didn’t end up his 20th quality start of the season, with him giving up four runs, but he reached the 200-inning mark for the 10th time in his 13-year major league career, as good an example as any of how reliable and how steady a veteran presence he’s been this season.

As of this writing, baseball’s 200-inning club in 2018 looked like this: Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Zack Greinke, Dallas Keuchel and Shields.

“Going into this season, I was really taking pride in being able to get to that 200 mark again,” Shields said. “It’s my 10th time I’ve done it in my career, so that was kind of looming over my head a little bit, and to be able to get that, it’s just all the hard work I’ve put in this year and I’m really really proud of that.”

The other numbers might not scream “overwhelming success” of a season, even if it was by far his best year in a White Sox uniform. Shields finished with a 4.54 ERA and 154 strikeouts. The 34 home runs he gave up are the second most in baseball. His 78 walks put him in the top five in the game in that category.

But Shields’ impact has been as much about what he’s done off the mound as what he’s done on it. He’s served as a mentor to this team of young players, one that keeps getting younger with every highly touted prospect that gets his call to the big leagues. He’s been a particularly strong influence on Lucas Giolito, with the two set up next to each other in the clubhouse all season — that is until Michael Kopech arrived and Shields requested Kopech slide in between him and Giolito, again for mentoring purposes.

That’s a valuable thing on a team that figures to stay young as this rebuilding process moves along toward planned contention.

“I think more than anything, when you see how he’s continued to pitch and work through all of the things he’s done over the course of his career, I think he’s been a big factor by example,” manager Rick Renteria said prior to Tuesday’s game. “He goes out there and shows you how to get through innings, grind through some rough outings and continue to eat up outs. I think these guys are seeing it. He’s been someone that’s shown them why he’s been around for so many years.

“I think these guys have taken on some of his personality, some of his traits. Hopefully it’s something they can cling to and continue to help each other with. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone that’s something like that. He’s done everything he could to help with both between the lines and being in the clubhouse.”

“I’ve done it my whole career,” Shields said of that leadership, mentorship role. “Ever since I was in Tampa, I’ve prided myself in being a leader in this clubhouse and just helping the guys out and being a good teammate. Hopefully these guys take all of the advice and the experience that I’ve had over the years and take it to heart.”

Shields’ 2018 season is over, but is his time on the South Side?

He is expected to hit the free-agent market this winter, though given how impressive he was as a reliable arm and as a team leader in 2018, perhaps the White Sox opt to bring him back. Not only do they have a recent track record of making similar additions — see Hector Santiago and Miguel Gonzalez this past offseason — but they have a need in the starting rotation, two holes to fill in Shields’ spot and that of Kopech, who will miss the 2019 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

It’s an option, if it’s something Shields and the White Sox both want to do. Certainly he’s given them reason to consider it with what he did this season.

“We’ll see where life takes me after this season’s over,” Shields said. “I’ve loved my time here, the guys are great, the coaching staff’s a great coaching staff, and the training staff, I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for me over the last three years. And just the organization itself has been an amazing organization to be a part of. So we’ll see where it goes this offseason.”