Tony Campana may be on pace for something special


Tony Campana may be on pace for something special

Tony Campana's blazing speed has endeared him to Cubs fans over the past year or so. He didn't get a chance to showcase his best asset in the majors to start the season, but once Marlon Byrd was traded a month into the season, "Campy" got his chance.

And he's taken that opportunity and run with it. Quite literally, in fact.

Campana stole three bases in Tuesday night's win over the Tigers and now has 21, which led MLB entering play Wednesday:

1. Tony Campana, CHC -- 21
2. Emilio Bonifacio, MIA -- 20
3. Dee Gordon, LAD -- 20
4. Michael Bourn, ATL -- 17
5. Starlin Castro, CHC -- 16
6. Jose Reyes, MIA -- 16

If things stay that way, which is unlikely, but possible, Campana would be the first Cubs player to lead the NL in stolen bases since Stan Hack tied the Pirates' Lee Handley with just 17 in 1939 (ht to CSN stat guru Chris Kamka for the info).

No Cub has led the Majors in SBs since Kiki Cuyler swiped 37 bags in 1930.

Entering play Wednesday, Campana is on pace for 56 steals while Castro is on pace for 42.

According to research done by Kamka, only three Cubs duos have each had 40 steals in a season since 1900:

-- 1985: Ryne Sandberg (54) & Davey Lopes (47)
-- 1906: Frank Chance (57) & Johnny Evers (49)
-- 1904: Frank Chance (42) & Joe Tinker (41)

That's all amazing considering Campana didn't even get an at-bat in the big leagues until April 21 and is not an everyday player. In fact, he's only on pace for 308 at-bats.

If he stays in the big leagues, the 26-year-old speedster doesn't have guaranteed playing time the rest of the year, as top prospect Brett Jackson is waiting in the wings. On top of that, slugger Bryan LaHair may move to the outfield if Anthony Rizzo gets the call-up.

Of course, veterans like David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano and Reed Johnson would all have value to a contender before the trade deadline, which would open up more playing time. However, the same could be said for Campana. What contender wouldn't want a guy with that kind of speed covering ground in the outfield or coming in as a pinch-runnerspot starter during a pennant chase?

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North


Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.