Tag Archives: Kris Bryant

MLB17: Cubs Atop, Everything Old Is New Again, Even 19c. Championships, SABR-Snobs

9 Mar

Set to defend their first MLB title since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have stepped off cloud nine and back onto terra firma to begin their quest for a 2nd title-in-tandem (1907-08) by taking to spring training in their longtime Arizona locale.

Success has a way of opening passage ways in the mind heretofore unexplored and the Cubs brains must be booty-laden with new discoveries. Not likely, though, that franchise history is big on their brains, not since their World Series win over the Indians (4-3) and subsequent victory parade that wove its way through the Windy City last November.

What else is not on the Cubs’ brains is pre-season predictions.

Spring training will trigger in the mind of baseball writers a slew of topics to typically include new roster additions, departures and the all important pitching rotation with ancillary arms in relief included.

To those media who matriculate in the sabrmetric school, the last degrees of winter and early buds of spring will always lead to, ta-da, the ranking, i.e., ‘Who‘s #1?’ It’s click-bait and best served when the entrée has cooled down (all-time greats) and won’t burn the palate with rank predictions.

Almost any other March in any other year the question of who is baseball’s pre-season best would be a small curiosity.

But if you have to ask ‘who’ in this particular spring (See; Cubs), even in rhetoric, you may be better suited to the mock draft department, all leagues and associations, where the minutia of musings on the ephemeralia of college hopefuls never ends, if you can find a seat. Crowded in there.

It can’t be denied that the legion of Bruins fans numbering more than the ancient Roman and Yankees empires combined, coupled with story-driven media, will be, on regular occasion, reveling this season in that long, glorious Cubs chronicle of great teams and players, right up until the present version take to the post-season in hunt for that dynasty-affirming, fairly elusive, back-to-back World Series win (See; SF, LAA, LAD, KC, PIT, MIN, CHW, STL, BAL, etc.).

The Cubbies have hit, pitched, fielded and run those bases all the way back to elite status, making it entirely appropriate now to take those moth-balled memories, some sweet, some bitter, out of storage to put on display to keep reminding us from where we came and then where we hope to go.

William Hulbert

Feeling Western baseball was getting the high-hat treatment from Eastern snobs, Chicagoan William Hulbert (1832 – 82) founded and, after its initial campaign (1876), assumed presidency of both the White Stockings (Cubs) and the National League, holding the fledgling 8-team organization together through its toughest times in bravely tackling issues in game-fixing and scheduling indifference by banishing offenders, and corralling destabilizing players on the money chase in instituting movement restrictions, i.e., the first reserve clause.

1876 – 77 White Stockings: The first MLB championship

Al Spalding
Deacon White
Ross Barnes
Cal McVey

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson (1B – Mgr, 1876 – 96)

When recounting the history of the National League Chicago baseball club (1876), first known as the White Stockings, then Colts, Orphans and today’s Cubs, or for that matter the chronicle of major league baseball itself, it begins with Adrian “Cap” Anson, the profession’s early notable batsman, manager and personality. His numbers, no matter disingenuous efforts by contemporary sabrmetric tinkers & twiddlers to deplete, do remain, as his tenure (1871 – 1898), stellar benchmarks (1939 (HoF)) for baseball hopefuls.

Noteworthy in Anson’s career is having managed the Stocks to five (5) championships in seven seasons (1880-86), the major’s first dynasty. That’s championships, NOT pennants, for where there’s one pennant-winner in a season there necessarily must be an opposite organization with their own flag-waver, both of whom meet in an official, culminatory contest. And when a team does all that the schedule permits, even with no money-grab playoff or opposite League face-off (which is no perfect test, anyway (See; Cubs 1906 & Pats 2007-08)), and compiles the best record of the assemblage (8), THAT is a championship as worthy as any World Series won in 2017.

Those achievements would tarnish after his death (1922) as Cap’s role in setting the color barrier, in particular the ban of Fleet Walker, the first American black player to roster in the majors (Toledo 1883-84). Though his stance is of record, Anson’s impact is much debated. Of no debate is that no Caucasian of note, in sport or politics, called to break the ban until Mr. Rickey, testament that we are a product of our times. Do we then strike all names from MLB annals pre-1947? What thinkers had done since Gutenberg’s press was to balance the good against bad, expecting that Anson today would regret his greed. And given that the mass of sport media in 2017 would enshrine misdeeders Clemens & Bonds if given the chance, striking such a balance should come easy.

1880 – 86 Stocks: Five (5) championships, three in-a-row

Larry Corcoran
Fred Goldsmith
Michael “King” Kelly
Frank Gore
Abner Dalrymple
Tommy Burns –
Ned Williamson
John Clarkson

1890 – 1900 Colts – Orphans

Clark Griffith
Bill Hutchinson

Frank Selee (Mgr. 1902-05 (d.1909))

Former Braves championship manager (x5) shaped the Cubs’ roster that would, under Frank Chance’s leadership, gel into the greatest team in baseball history.

1906 – 1910 Cubs: Four pennants, back-to-back WS titles (1907-08), the Merkle Boner game (9.23.08), its resulting tie-breaker playoff at hostile Polo Grounds (10.8) taken by the Bruins (4-2) and “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon (Franklin P. Adams)” in Tinker to Evers to Chance (’10) 

Joe Tinker
Johnny Evers
Frank Chance
Jack Taylor
Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown
Orval Overall
Ed Ruelbach
Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (.994 outfield 1908)
Heinie Zimmerman (triple-crown winner)
Harry Steinfeldt (3B) & Jim Sheckard (46 sacrifices ’09)
Johnny Kling (catcher)
Carl Lundgren
Jack Pfiester, King Cole & outfielder Jack McCarthy who in facing the Pirates on 4.26.05, threw-out three baserunners at homeplate to set a major-league mark.

1914 – 15: Chas. Weeghman Park (Wrigley) opens – Whales (Federal)

1918 NL Pennant (L v. Boston (4-2))

Though falling to the Speaker – Ruth – Red Sox, the Bruins scored more runs and fashioned a lower team ERA than the Beaneaters.

Hippo Vaughn
Claude Hendrix
Lefty Tyler
Charlie Hollocher
Fred Merkle
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander (1918-25)

1921 – 22: Bill Wrigley acquires majority holding in the Cubs while in 1922 first-bagger Ray Grimes sets the consecutive-game RBI streak at 17 and selective batsman Charles Hollocher whiffs a mere five (5) times in 592 at-bats.

1929 – 1945: Pennants (5), Hack-Attack and Ruth’s called shot (‘32 WS)

Joe McCarthy (Mgr. 1929 WS)
Charlie Root
Kiki Cuyler
Rogers Hornsby
Hack Wilson (191 RBI in 1930)
Lon Warneke
Charlie Grimm (player-Mgr. 1932, 35, 38 (H) & 45; ashes on Wrigley (83))
Billy Herman
Dizzy Dean
Bill Lee
Claude Passeau
Stan Hack
Bill Nicholson
Phil Cavarretta
Andy Pafko

Gabby Hartnett
Mgr. – player 1938 World Series: “Homer in the Gloamin’”

With the 1938 season closing and Pirates clinging to 1st place, the leaders headed to neck-breather Chicago for a key 3-game clash where catcher Charles “Gabby” Hartnett won G2 on a thrill by clouting a 9th inning tator at twilight (gloaming (Scottish)), inspiring his Cubs to sweep that series and St. Louis to grab the flag. Sadly for the Faithful, inspiration waned as the Yanks swept Chicago in four.

1950s Lean Years

Hank Sauer (MVP 1952)
Ernie Banks (MVP 1958-59)

I met the great Ernie Banks in his baseball gloaming, aka, twilight (Are you paying attention?), in the summer of 1971, not long after he’d retired from the game and was holding a signing for his new book titled, Mr. Cub, on the sidewalk outside a store in my suburban Chicago town of Glencoe. My parents provided well for me and my five siblings, always top Christmas and birthday gifts, but getting a toy or $15 (?) book on short notice off-holiday was out of the question. I’d eventually get Ernie’s book, still have it, but not until the next year. So, I being 9 yrs old, wanting his autograph, a bit bold but lacking in full discretion, asked Banks for his signature on my Mickey Mantle Rawlings® ball glove. The legend obliged, sans that signature smile. But I, not satisfied (‘Hey, hey, let’s (get) two!’), put an ever-so-small piece of paper no bigger than a JFK 50 cent piece, onto the table for another mark. Well, Ernie Banks was not pleased, not pleased at all. But I was pleased as punch and skedaddled home. I lost that scrap signature but still will with regularity gaze and smile upon the Mantle glove with Banks name in green-felt pen. Thanks, Mr. Cub.

Ken Hubbs Cut Short

Were he alive today he’d be 75 (12.23.41), but promising young 2nd bagger Ken Hubbs, whose slick field and capable bat won him a gold glove and 1962 ROY honors, along with his small aircraft passenger Dennis Doyle, both tragically died in plane crash near Provo, Utah on February 13, 1964 enroute to Doyle’s home and wife who’d recently given birth, in Colton, California.

Durocher’s Revival (1965 – 72)

Leo “The Lip,” who’d rostered with Murderers’ Row (‘28-9), Gashouse Gang (34), guided the Bums to a flag (41), Giants to glory (54) and then returned the sorry Cubs back to respectability, takes most the flak for their late season swoon in 1969 when their All-Star laden squad appeared headed to their first World Series in almost a quarter century. And poppycock to that. Durocher gets his share, of course, but cry-babies and clueless vets must bear most the burden for the old man. Those of us who remember (I was just a gerbil then, but I do recall Gramps telling me, ‘Hey Steve, Kessinger went 4-for-4 yesterday!) point no fingers but form a half-smile at what might’ve been and the joy that was.

Ernie Banks
Billy Williams
Fergie Jenkins
Ron Santo
Don Kessinger
Glenn Beckert
Randy Hundley
Don Young
Bill Hands
Ken Holtzman
Phil Regan
Ted Abernathy
Jim Hickman
Dick Selma

1970s Malaise

Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: BA titles 1975-76
Rick “Bid Daddy” Reuschel: 1973-81, 83-84

1981: Tribune Company buys Cubs

Dallas Green Unstitches ‘Loser’ Tag

It seemed to come outta’ nowhere, the super and ultimately sad season of 1984. If ‘Big Brother’ was watching he must’ve had a good laugh on us Chicago Cubs fans, with unexpected help from corporate Commissioner and Evanston native, Peter Ueberroth who saw fit to give 2nd best NL record-holders but nite-game capable, the San Diego Padres, home field which proved decisive in the short series (3-2). The Cubs were sunshine supermen in G1 (13-0) and G2 (4-2), then should-be HOF’er Steve Garvey and electee (07), Tony Gwynn took control for San Diego, frustrating the Northsiders and their fans once more.

Jim Frey
Don Zimmer
Harry Caray & Steve Stone
Ryne Sandburg
Rick Sutcliffe
Leon Durham
Thad Bosley
Greg Maddux
Bob Dernier
Ron Cey
Henry Cotto
Gary Matthews
Lee Smith
Tim Stoddard
Steve Trout
Larry Bowa
Dennis Eckersley
Richie Hebner
Jody Davis, ♫ catcher without a peer (H.Caray) ♫

1989 NLCS (L 4-1 v. SF)

Don Zimmer
Ryne Sandberg
Andre Dawson
Shawon Dunston
Lloyd McClendon
Mark Grace
Greg Maddux
Jerome Walton
Dwight Smith
Mitch Webster
Rick Sutcliffe
Mike Bielecki
Scott Sanderson
Mitch Williams

1998 NLDS (L 3-0 v. ATL), Mgr. Jim Riggleman

2003 NLCS (L 4-3 v. FLA)

Call it reasonable fan interference, meaning, Steve Bartman wasn’t obliged to remain seated with 1) real chance of being hit by a foul ball, and 2) expectation no Cubs player could’ve snagged it. As such, no ejection. But because Alou did have a chance to grab the wall-straddling foul-ball, hence his protest, umpires were obliged to call fan interference yet cowered from their duty in not charging the out to eventual rally team, Florida. But Cubs were 88-74 in 2003, making fans unbridled expectations unreasonable and the outcome digestible.

Dusty Baker
Sammy Sosa
Moises Alou
Mark Grudzielanek
Corey Patterson
Alex Gonzalez
Kenny Lofton
Mark Prior
Kerry Wood
Carlos Zambrano
Matt Clement
Joe Borowski
Aramis Ramirez
Kyle Farnsworth
Mike Remlinger

The Piniella Years

2007 NLDS (L 3-0 v. AZ)
2008 NLDS (L 3-0 v. LA)

The Ricketts (09) – EpsteinMaddon Years

2015 NLCS (L 4-0 v. STL)
2016 WS (W 4-3 v. Indians)

Dallas had a certain touch in managing (PHI ‘80 WS) and generaling (CHC ‘84, 89), but Theo Epstein & Joe Maddon have a clobber between ‘em, like in that Weavers’ song ( If I had a hammer…), forging winners like a blacksmith did a wheel frame for proper strength and balance in the long journey. Yee-hah!

Joe Maddon
Anthony Rizzo
Dexter Fowler
Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Travis Wood
Ben Zobrist
Hector Rondon
Addison Russell
Trevor Cahill
Javier Baez
Kris Bryant
Jason Hammel
Aroldis Chapman
John Lackey
Jake Arrieta

Play ball!

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credits: Cubs-logo,1914, Wjmummert, wc.cca; E.Banks, Bowman, 1955, wc; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas; W.Hulbert, NYPL, wc; Chicago-White-Stockings, 1885, wc; Cubs, 1906, wc, BPL; G.Hartnett, Goudey, 1933, wc; GlennBeckert, wc, 1967, TSN; H.Mason-D.Green, SABRO, wc, 8.1.09; can-of-corn
Posted: 3.9.17 @ 11:10am EST, adds 3.10, 6.20, 10.12; Copyright © 2017

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MLB16 Chin Music: What If Cubs Do Win a World Series, Again?

19 Feb

These are different days in the land of bruins, “big shoulders” and manually-operated scoreboards.

If you’d been pulling a Rip Van Winkle and just awoke from your Washington Irving-like slumber you might not recognize the goings on at Wrigley Field.

.....CubsLogo.1914.Wjmummert.wc.thmOh, the renovations at the century old structure (1914), originally named Weeghman Park and home to the Federal League champion Whales, haven’t changed it a whole lot. It still retains that certain brick & steel-beam charm but with more lights, seats, eats for the adults and bells & whistles for the Xbox® set.

And they best be careful what they do with that playing surface. It’s where Cubs’ great Charlie Grimm (d. 1983) had his ashes spread (Wikipedia). Hallowed ground, indeed.

The new mood amongst the faithful isn’t so much more upbeat as Cubs fans have always been the glass-half full sort, as it is more…expectant, an air of confidence they‘ve not had at the ‘friendly confines’ for quite some time.

...........Epstein.9.8.10.wc.S.Slingsby.thmEven the ivy, what’s left, looks more hopeful, if a bit nervy.

The hirings of wunderkind executive Theo Epstein (2011 (5y)) and then prized manager Joe Maddon (2015) were the table-setters to a hoped-for celebratory feast (WS win), marking the first major investments by the Ricketts family who purchased controlling share of World Cubs in 2009.

Ricketts tugged tight on those purse strings in early going to get team’s financial house in order in wake of Tribune’s economic plight (a prior ownership that had on occasion, like Wrigleys, made serious investments in winning) and some hefty contracts weighing on the books. But they’ve loosened those strings a bit with mind’s eye for pennants and championship banners. At least that’s the notion.

Though off-season signings of Jason Heyward (.268 (RF)) and ringholders Ben Zobrist (.265 (2d)) and moundsmen John Lackey (165-127) showed the Cubs are in a mood for winning now, the cultivation & keeping of young, homegrown (Bryant) or trade-acquired talent (Rondon / Rizzo), as opposed to free agency, seems the tack the Cubs’ braintrust favors.

..........Maddon.wc.4.14.14.MD.K.Allison.thmConfidence wasn’t always such a rare commodity in Chicago’s National League exchange. No sir-ee, Bob.

The Cubs today are butt of the longest running joke on championship futility. But because subject-history has been trampled flat by current trend-setters (See; the Prez, etc.) in favor of math, science, more math (sabrmetrics), most folks have no idea about Chicago’s glory days of yore.

The name Chicago had struck fear into the hearts of foes in the 1880s (White Stockings) when Cap Anson, John Clarkson and King “Hook-Slide” Kelly were busting balls, then again in the early 20th when the greatest pitching staff ever assembled was mowing ‘em down at West Side Park (Grounds) while the fielding exploits of Steinfeldt to “Tinker to Evers to Chance” were driving New Yorkers to despair and alternatively inspiring some to pen poems (F.P. Adams) in honor of the brawny & brainy Bruins.

That’s saying something in an age when players, managers, umpires, bowler-wearing fans, even kid vendors were tough as nails. ‘Put ‘em up, panty-waist!’

.........Chance.wc.1909.ATC.LoC.thmThough their last World Series win (1908), 2d of the 1st back-to-back dynasty in modern history, was over a century ago, collecting pennants is no small achievement. From 1929 to 1945 the Cubs collected Senior circuit banners like nobody‘s business, appearing in 5 and taking Tigers to 7 in their last.

It’s that near 40-year period from 1946 to just before the magical season of 1984 as Ryno, Rick, Jim Frey, Don Zimmer, Harry Caray & Co. finally broke the post-season drought, when the seed for a weeping willow of woe was sown & cultivated by a succession of sorries.

Since that bittersweet ‘84 when Cubs were still ‘day-timers only’ and Ueberroth made the money-call to gave their playoff opponents the Padres (3-2) home-field even as Chicago had the top mark, the Northsiders have made the PS six times, including the NLCS in 2003 (FL 4-3). Not exactly a source for Midwest bragging rights but a far cry from the futility the bear Cubs had suffered for what seemed an eternity. It’s been moving in the right direction, anyway.

........Bryant.4.27.15.MBD.Chicago.thm.wcBut hold off on stocking that celebratory champagne just yet. These Cubs have a few burs in their fur that need attention.

Last season’s team BA (.244 – 13th NL (KC .269 (2d AL)) and strikeout totals (1518 – 15 (KC 973 – 1st)) are unacceptable lines for a championship caliber club. And no off-season acquisitions look likely to change that worrisome state.

Encouraging marks were the OB% (.321 – 5 (KC .322 – 7)) and favorable run production (689 – 6th (KC 724 – 6)) with Rizzo (94), Bryant (87) and Fowler (102), all mainstays who look to have a nose for the plate when they manage to get on base, not made easier with that woeful whiff total.

Some stern instruction in fundamentals seems in order for Chicago’s bat-control and the glove work, another necessity if Chicago seeks a place among MLB elite. Cubs sat in bottom bracket on team fielding (.982 – 12 (KC .985 – 3)) and errors (111 – 12th (KC 88 – 6)). The signing of 3-time gold glover Heyward will help.

.......Arrieta.wc.DSCN0048.thm..6.24.14As for the moundsmen, Bruins have their ace in re-signed 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (R) while both Jon Lester (L (10)) and newly acquired John Lackey (R (13)) will provide innings and a wealth of craft.

Jon had a disappointing first year in the Senior Circuit, posting 11-12, in opposite of king’s ransom he’d negotiated. Lackey pitched alike his first half-season with the Cards (3-3 / 4.30 (‘14)) and picked-it-up in 2015 (13-10 / 2.77). All three stars gave mixed performances in their post-season outings last October.

Jake’s 2-1 record is misleading. The Missouri native pitched a gem in WC win vs PIT but averaged a hefty 6.50 ERA (1-1) and 4 runs in limited outings vs STL [W] and NYM [L]. Jon, known for his playoff prowess from Beantown days (‘07-13) pitched pedestrian in his two starts (0-2 / 4.50) and served up 3 dingers in 13i.

Fourth starter Jason Hamel, also in his 2d decade, went 10-7 (3.74), faltered in the PS too (2g-7h-7r (3hr)) but figures back in the rotation as Kyle Hendricks (3.95) and Adam Warren (3.29 (NYY-Castro)) may duel for the fifth spot.

.......Wrigley.wc.Jblesage.5.28.08.thmCubs’ closer is Venezuela-born Héctor Rondón (30sv / 1.67). Indians signee at 16 (‘04), Cubs took Rondón in “2012 Rule 5 Draft.” He came with an injury-history, a TJS in 2010 and elbow bang the next year (Wikipedia) but has been tooling along fine for Chicago since 2014. His showing in last season’s PS was mixed as well, shutting the door on STL (NLDS) in G2 & 4 after a shaky outing in G3 and only one hit surrendered in two, non-lead closer stints vs Mets (NLCS (0-4)).

Returning for mid-relief are Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Clayton Richard & Travis Wood who in 2015 provided the bulk of innings for the Northsiders (100ip). “Sweet Trav (Overboard ’87)” was a 2013 All-Star but gave up 11 “tatters (G.Scott)” last year while Grimm posted a nifty 1.99e in just under 50i of work.

But a message to Wrigley regulars: Careful what you wish, you just might get it.

......Inherit.Tracy.wc.1960.UA.thmWith progress comes a cost, a quid pro quo of sorts. When you gain something you also lose something. For the Cubs and their followers, if they do hoist the World Series trophy, that price may be the ‘lovable’ they’ve been serving up since 1945. Spencer Tracy (“Henry Drummond”) spoke to this yin-yang thing in Stanley Kramer’s highly acclaimed Scopes Monkey Trial movie, Inherit the Wind (‘60):

Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it.
Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, ‘All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.
Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. And Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.’”

The faithful, the Ricketts, sports media, all may’ve failed to give enough thought to exactly what it will mean to the Cozy World of Confine if the Cubs actually do get to and then win a World Series, this year or any for that matter.

............whatIf.maryeoriginals.wc.5.4.14.thmRed, white & blue Bruins have built so much out of “nothing” it’s become the “cool(est) hand” in all of sport. Everybody likes the Cubs. The undying love they engender in their fans nationwide is admired on par with Yankees’ prowess. And the nobody’s, who cares what they think? What do titles get you anyway? A run-o-the-mill championship package from Sports Illustrated and higher ticket prices, that’s what.

Cubbies are cool to a ♫ tune ♫ of a $1.8 billion valuation (Forbes). Near chicken-feed to what your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical draws in a fiscal year but not too shabby for so-called ‘losers,’ eh?

If “Cubs win” in the WS they become just like all the other champions today: Fairly forgettable. Pop Quiz: Who won the Series in 2014? Yeah, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Balderdash.

Fenway faithful understand of what I write, how winning changes things.

Finally breaking the drought (2004 (1918 (v Cubs))) to take a World Series title again can be cathartic for those who still hold the pain from the good chances that got away (‘67, ‘75, ‘86).

....Chicago.MI.Ave.wc.4.9.11.L.Fuss.thmBut it’s a different mood in Boston these days. Success is sweet but it can be a pretty girl with a fickle heart once the winning becomes an expectant: Warm in clover, cold when the chips are down.

And that’s hyperbole. A ticker-tape parade on Michigan Ave. in October, so thick with confetti “The Fugitive” could elude the coppers for days would be a beautiful sight. Even the lordly Cardinals’ fans, those who love the game, might nod in grudging appreciation, as long as it‘s not the Cubs who again bump ‘em from the PS (See; 2015 DS) on their way to the Series. Ouch.

Ready to rain on those parade preparations are other baseball clubs with their own aspirations to glory.

For starters, there’s the reigning champ Royals, newer version of Miami’s “No-name” NFL bunch back in the 70s. Joe got the loot but Ned Yost got the hoot (ring). These guys just might want a dynasty for the KC-side of Missouri.

Then there’s the Giants, winners of three Series the past six seasons, staggered every even-numbered year which means they’re due in 2016.

....FDR.wc.cca.E.Goldensky.1933.thumbAdd in the usual contenders like the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, new-comers in the Pirates, Astros, Blue Jays and last year’s NL pennant takers the Mets and there are Seven Ways from Sundown (‘60) that could keep the Cubs frustrated.

Progress, like time, marches on. If Cubs don’t win the World Series sometime soon it’s just proof the Sporting Gods are stark, raving lunatics, or they simply know better. That’s why they’re deities.

A man who knew a thing or two about progress was at the Allied controls when the spring Cubs were about to embark on a season that’d take them to what was to be their last fall classic (‘45), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945 (Warm Springs, GA)):

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much (Yankees & Cardinals), but whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Royals (2015) and Cubs (?)).”

Hooray for progress! Play ball!

...canned cornSteven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credit: Cubs, wc-cca, 1957-78, Sportslogo; CubsLogo, wc, Wjmummert, 1914; Epstein, wc, 9.8.10, S.Slingsby; Maddon, 4.14.14, wc, K.Allison, MD; Chance, wc, ATC, 1909, LoC; Bryant, 4.27.15, MBD, wc, Chicago; Arrieta, wc, DSCN0048, 6.24.14, Wrigley, wc, Jblesage, 5.28.08; InherittheWind, Tracy, UA, 1960, wc; WhatIf, wc, maryoriginals, 5.4.14; Chicago-street-sign-MI-CHI-Ave, wc, 4.9.11, L.Fuss; FDR-girl, wc, 02-41, top college; FDR, wc, E.Goldensky, 1933; Canned-corn.
Posted: 2.19.16 @ 12:10p, edit (title) 10.22.16 @ 2:34p ET; Copyright © 2016
Stat / bio sources: Baseball-reference, Rotoworld & Wikipedia

Chin Music: Cubs’ Bryant Call-up Coming to Roost?

9 Jun

Just to pose the idea would send shockwaves throughout the sport fantasy world and probably elicit more than a few bellows of ‘bonehead’ directed at the poser, had they a megaphone of any sizable make.

‘(No) hell a fury like a (groupie) scorned,’ eh (Congreve)?

But when you’re a blogger, bonafide variety (unpaid), the reads are measurable, i.e., small in number. The tremors I make would barely wake a mouse.

.....Bryant.7.9.14.wc.M.Haas.thmb.2

Chicago Cubs top prospect, outfielder – 3rd baseman Kris Bryant was given call-up to the parent club about two weeks into MLB 2015 after a massive campaign by young fans and media in what looked to be a cave to pressure by Northsider‘s well-credentialed wheeler-dealer, General Manager, Theo Epstein.

Now, after 45+ days of getting a look-see at the 6’5” Las Vegas native, it’s appearing that Bryant and Cubs might be best served if he were sent back down, that’s right, back down to Triple A Iowa for some re-calibration to find better command of the strike zone.

Nobody likes to admit they’re wrong, a sign of weakness to some.

But stubbornly staying a course that’s not moving forward as was hoped, an assumption on this writer’s part, is more anemic and just may run that ship aground if some steps aren’t undertaken forthwith.

As of this posting, Bryant’s at 62 strikeouts, double+ his walks and it’s early June. The OB% is fine (.389) and he’s shown a little pop in his bat (7hr) which we knew he had but is displayed by nearly everyone who swings for fences.

Kris will likely make it in the ‘show,’ even if he stays put (CHI), but remaining in majors to work out the kinks may not be the most prudent course.

Some lose their confidence, make mal-adjustments and alter the natural minor-league course of things, so to speak. The last thing Cubs want is a whiff king, the All-or-Nothing kind of batsman (See; Kingman (‘86), Dunn, Carter (HOU, also Vegan), Souza (TB)).

.......Epstein,T.wc.S.Slingsby.9.8.10.thmb

The free-swingers are fine for those clubs who’re bottom-feeders or treading water, but for any team with serious championship aspirations, that kinda’ guy is not a playoff enhancer. Why? Because in the clutch, with big arms on the mound and clever cabezas in the dugout, the AON invariably comes up short. Big surprise.

And contrary to what sabrmaticians would have you believe, sometimes the issue is real simple. On the Kris Bryant question (and there should be a question), it’s contact, not the movie (terrific flick), but ball & bat variety.

You can’t press GMs too hard. They must be allowed to groom their prospects their own way, at their own pace or the kiddie krowd of klammer is gonna’ mess…it…up. The suits and field scouts generally know what they’re doing. Missteps? Surely, but start second-guessing and you’re just a mounted weather-vane.

A GM must also have the wherewithal to withstand criticism, even waves of it and even it flows in force from the most-favored marketing sector, fantasy fans.

Case in point: Epstein & Co seemingly caving to pressure and calling up KB when they did, as they did, letting an atypical topicality on what’s normally SOP on team-player contract dictate dialogue, appeared to push the brass to bring up Bryant earlier than initially planned, before their ready.

Now it looks like the top prospect is having a contact issue.

But he wouldn’t be the first young hopeful to experience growing pains. Other greats have and been sent back down to the minor leagues for some readjusting.

Mickey Mantle made the big club after Yankees’ spring “exhibition” in 1951.

.......Mantle.wc.cca.1953.Bowman.thmb

He played 96 games with the New York City club, then in July was “shifted” to their AAA Kansas City affiliate for some fine tuning rest of the regular season, only to be retrieved for a few plate appearances in the Yankees’ post-season which back then consisted of one playoff, the World Series.

The numbers in comparison:

Mantle: 96g, 341ab, 61r, 13hr, 65rbi, 8sb-15a, 43w, 74so, .349ob%, .267ba
Bryant: 46g, 170ab, 29r, 7hr, 34rbi, 5sb, 28w, 62so, .379ob%, .271ba

Kris’ performance is not dissimilar to the Mick’s. In some notable regards the Nevada native is trending better, as in on-base % and stolen bases (4-5a). But in the all-important contact department (SOs) the ‘tall drink of water’ is out-pacing the Oklahoma kid who was no stranger himself to the swing & miss.

Following are some quotes from a 1951 November edition of Sport Stars magazine which featured Jackie Robinson on its post-Series cover and highlighted the “Yankees New Golden Boy (66-68)).”

Tommy Heinrich: “Don’t have any worries about Mickey, he has a great baseball instinct. You tell him something once and that’s it. Just remember, he never played the outfield before (SS). It’s quite a rough deal for anybody to break into the majors and master a new position at the same time.”

Mantle’s rapid rise in the pros was nearly unprecedented.

Having played briefly in “Ban Johnson” league while in high school, after graduation in 1950 he’d begun in Class D ball (Independence, MO (KOM)), quickly moved up to C level for New York’s “Western Association” team in Joplin, MO and then impressed with the parent club the next spring. At the time, only “three other players had advanced so rapidly,” a trio which included “peerless Rogers Hornsby (Cards ‘15) (“(NAPBL)”).

.......Mantle.wc.cca.Gem.ASR.1953.thmb

All this meaning, the Yankees were very high on Mantle (“brightest prospect in a decade (SS)”) and the expected short-lived demotion of Mickey to KC was simply a small detour that afforded the budding star the necessary time in the proper place to bring his game up to the high major league standards of what was baseball’s standard-bearer ball-club.

Should the Cubs be planning on a similar re-designation of Kris Bryant in 2015? Did brass make the wrong call on Kris, timing wise?

Bryant has a tad more pro-play under his belt than did Mickey before the big call-up, with three stops in single A ball (‘13) and moved up to AA – AAA in 2014. In a Sunday win over the Nationals, Bryant went 3-4 with 2 runs, a walk and a solo strikeout (62), raising his BA ten pts (.282).

Fielding, base-running, a smart arm, they all matter, but the hit tally, or better yet, the contact points, i.e., command of the strike zone, is a maker or a breaker. And strikeouts are a key indicator of your future. The good news is that a high rate of whiff can be corrected, if someone seeks to do so.

Were Bryant hitting .243 with half the SOs he’s tallied he’d look the better. But in today’s baseball, a rookie who bats above .260, and with Minor stats and build-up of Mr. Bryant, is likely to stay in the show for season’s duration.

The importance of batter’s making contact is not lost on the Northsiders (See; J.Baez (Iowa ‘15)), but don’t expect the salt & savvy that Casey Stengel and general manager George Weiss exhibited in ‘51’s mid-season Mantle demotion to duplicate w/Bryant at Wrigley.

Yes, the ’51 Yankees were loaded with talent & trophies and could afford to farm Mantle’s might for a spell, but then the Series starved Cubs who hope to turn the corner onto championship row can ill afford to stall or even retard development of what they hope is a key piece to that pennant puzzle in Bryant.

In hindsight, the value of the Mick’s brief sojourn in Kansas City is debatable.

In a near-full season with the Yankees in 1952 (142g), Mantle scored 94 runs, stroked 171 hits, clouted 23 ‘tatters (See; George Scott (d.2013)), knocked in 87 RBIs and lead the AL in SOs with 111 and would do so four more times in his career. A high strikeout total in that era, for sure, but imagine the free-swingin’ pathway Mickey might’ve embarked upon had he not been demoted in ‘51.

......canned corn

Maybe Sunday’s fine showing is harbinger of better things to come for Kris, sign of a plate adjustment that’s been in the works and is starting to pay dividends. We’ll see (6.9, CHI (Lester) @ DET (Sanchez) 7:08 EST).

There’s no disputing his popularity has generated great expectations which may bring on him a degree of over-scrutiny, if that’s possible in this ditzy for digits era.

And maybe it was an aberration, a temporary respite that changes the narrative from ‘strike-outs’ to star-in-the-making. If so, Cubs should remember this, that if designing demotion was good enough for Mr. Mantle, it can be good enough for Kris Bryant, too. FFT.

Steven Keys
Can o’ Corn
Photo credits: K.Bryant, wc.cca, 7.9.14, M.Haas; K.Bryant, wc, 7.9.14, M.Haas, thmb; T.Epstein, wc, S.Slingsby, 8.9.10; M.Mantle, wc, Bowman, 1953; M.Mantle, wc, Gem-ASR, 1953; K.Bryant, wc, M.Haas, 7.9.14; canned-corn.
Posted: 6.9.15 @ 6:14pm; edit 6.10 @ 12:45am, 6.11 @ 5:23pm EST