2016 World Series

The Home Opener: It’s Time to Appreciate What Was Done and What Could Happen Again

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Flags will rise and tears will fall tonight. In ceremonies to be held before the game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs will raise two flags for the NL Pennant and the World Series Championship. It will be a special night for all Cubs fans.

The Cubs came home from a week long road trip where they went 4-2. Jon Lester quipped that it feels like they had been gone for 2 1/2 months. That’s not that far from the truth.

The road trip ended well with the Cubs exploding on offense for the last two games. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I don’t think it should be either. Here is a list of complaints I saw in comments that I should not have seen.

  • Bryant can’t hit
  • Rizzo can’t either
  • Why is Zobrist playing second base?
  • Why is Zobrist playing right field?
  • Heyward would’ve had that
  • Baez would’ve had that
  • Wilson should hold his frames a little longer

And there were many others…many others.

There are 156 games still on the schedule. Not every game is going to go perfect and not every decision by Joe Maddon will either. There is no panic button that is going to reset any wrong you think you see. The banners that will fly tonight do so because mistakes were overcome in obtaining them.

I understand the need to obsess over every little detail in a Cubs game. I’ve been there, but it’s not necessary anymore. Good teams overcome their mistakes. Don’t obsess over every single one. This Cubs team is a good team, a very good team. I don’t know if everyone really appreciates how good it is. Yes, they do have some things they need to fix, but so does every team.

Tonight, I am going to enjoy those flags being raised, and on Wednesday, I am going to enjoy the players getting their rings. And I’m going to enjoy the next 156 games. If I don’t enjoy the game, I’m going to turn it off for a little bit and go pet a dog, which I enjoy just as much.

It’s opening night for the defending champions! I don’t think the Cubs are done putting up flags just yet. I am hoping this becomes an annual thing.

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Cubs Central’s Preseason 1st Half All-Star Team Has Some Powerful Names

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Today is a fun day! It’s opening day for four of the Cubs’ minor-league affiliates! Weather permitting, Iowa, Tennessee, Myrtle Beach, and South Bend will take the field for the first time in 2017. It is not looking good for South Bend today as three to six inches are called for in West Michigan. As usual, I will be watching all the happenings. Then, starting this Sunday, “The Weekly” will have the players of the week. But today, it’s our annual preseason All-Star team for the first half.

What is happening today is I am picking out several players who I think will be the best at their position in the Cubs’ system through the middle of June. 

  

Catcher
I think that Victor Caratini is locked and loaded and has his eyes set on Chicago. He will be at AAA this year and more than likely, come 2018, he will be the backup catcher to Wilson Contreras. He might even see some time this summer depending on his defense.

First Base
Even though he is currently on the DL, I think Yasiel Balaguert has this position sewn up. Last year, he had 19 home run the 96 RBIs and I think he will improve upon that this year as he has been working on hitting up the middle and to the right.

Second Base
There is some stiff competition for this position with Carlos Sepulveda and Yeiler Peguero competing to get their name on the Internet. However, Ian Happ wins in a landslide. It is so self-evident, that I’m not even going to explain my thinking process for selecting him.

 

Shortstop
At the age of 17, Isaac Paredes made his class A debut at South Bend in late August of 2017. This year, the Cubs will get the full effect of what this man-child can do. He earned the starting spot and hopefully some power will go along with an outstanding batting average and on-base percentage… I’ll from an 18-year-old kid.

Third Base
I am going to break the mold, and tradition, and go with Wladimir Galindo who I think will do extremely well as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League. Normally, I would pick Jeimer Candelario for the spot, but I think Wladimir is determined to succeed and show his worth.

  

Outfield
I think this was the toughest category to pick just three players. I think the deciding factor is how I project them to perform in the first half and the excitement that they will bring to the game. As a result, I am selecting DJ Wilson of South Bend, Eloy Jimenez of Tennessee, and I’m going to stun everybody and go with Bijan Rademacher of Iowa. I know I am leaving out Eddy Martinez and Mark Zagunis, but I think Bijan is going to hit more home runs than both the next two months.

  

Starting Pitchers
I found it hard to just pick six because the Cubs development of pitchers is becoming more and more pronounced. I am going with Dylan Cease, Trevor Clifton, Eddie Butler, Erling Moreno, Oscar de la Cruz, Thomas Hatch, and I am picking Kyle Miller as a Darkhorse. I also thought about including Ryan Williams, Rob Zastryzny, and Zach Hedges. What used to be the weakness of the organization is now turning into a strength. I would not be surprised to see a couple of these pitchers make it to Chicago this year.

Relief Pitchers
Last year, relievers were the strength of the organization. They helped out the big league club down the stretch and Rob Zastryzny even made it to the World Series. This year, Pierce Johnson leads a group of arms who are still a ways off from helping the big league club. Ryan McNeil, Jordan Mnch, Wyatt Short, Dakota Mekkes, and Chad Hockin are just a few of the names who will be excellent bullpen arms the spring. I know there are other bullpen arms, especially in South Bend, who could’ve been added to this list.

Last year’s preseason All-Star team played a significant role in two ways. Some of them wound up on the major-league roster and were key players in the World Series victory. Other prospects were parts of packages used to acquire Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery who helped to win the World Series.

I don’t quite know what will happen this year with some of these prospects, but that’s the fun of it. In four weeks, the April All-Star team should give us a glimpse into how well this package of players listed above did on the road to Wrigley.

Up Next Series – Albert Almora, Jr. Takes His Dream Position

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almora 74 2016 chiWhen Albert Almora steps on the field next year at the Cubs opening day centerfielder, he will still be just 22 years old. With Almora in center and Jason Heyward in right, the Cubs will have two gold glove caliber outfielders improving on what may have been the greatest defense of team ever.

Almora tore up AAA to begin 2016 and made his way to Chicago when Dexter Fowler went down with an injury in the middle of summer. He saw action in 47 games and was an integral part of the Cubs’ World Series playoff run. His ability to tag from first base and advanced to second on Kris Bryant’s deep flyball in the 12th was a key part of the Cubs rally.

This year, things will be different.

The Cubs let Dexter Fowler walk in free agency after the World Series. In his stead, Almora was at first given the key to the position. However, the Cubs signed veteran John Jay to provide competition and leadership for Almora.

Current Info
Albert Almora, Jr.
6’2” and 195 lbs.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Strengths
Baseball Acumen
Mental Makeup
Great Read on batted balls off the bat
Aggressive fielder
Smart base runner
Burgeoning power
Only 22 years old
Will hit for average

Areas of Concern
Pitch selection
Hitting approach/OBP

Next Up in 2017
Albert turns 23 in April. I find that hard to believe as it seems he has been around forever. He will make the 25 man roster out of spring training and should see action in 120-140 games. He will likely hit in the #8 or #9 spot to take pressure off his bat.

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Photo by Dylan Heuer/Iowa Cubs

What I would like to see
I would love to see him get on base more. That’s pretty much it. I’d prefer it would be by walks but I’m not picky. I love the way he plays as a defender, like a panther, although he could let up on the gas near the bricks once in awhile.

Albert should be in most every game in some capacity. He can start in center or in right if needed. He also is the Cubs best option as a defender off the bench in late innings.

Albert’s main issue has always been that he can hit every pitch with his bat when he shouldn’t. When he was in the minors, a walk used to be major news. Things changed, though. Last year was a major breakthrough for him. I’m sure that playing in the World Series will give him a confidence that all things are possible.

In 2017, I think he knows his role better than anyone. It will be fun to watch him mature as an everyday player. To be honest, if he hits .260, I will take that. The way he plays defense will outdo any issues with his offensive output.

Thanksgiving Day and Some Light Reading

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this post finds you well and with those you love this morning. It is my first holiday without my father. He was the first thing I thought of this morning. I hope today will be a joyous one of remembrance.

I do not have a new post for you. But what I do have are some links to posts that have been pretty popular this year here at Cubs Central. If you need a fix of Cubs this morning, then you came to the right place.

I never know which posts are going to get the biggest hits, but these were this year.

1. The Eugene Emeralds Preview of their Preview

2. Donnie Dewees Exceeding Expectations

3. Jake Arrieta’s Post Season Mastery

4. The recent “Top Pitching Storylines for 2017”

5. Preston Morrison Making the Jump

6. Trevor Clifton Making the Jump Little by Little

7. Bailey Clark: Better, Faster, Stronger

8. Seven Prospects Getting Their Name in the Paper

9. How Well Have the Cubs Done in the Draft Lately?

10. Kyle Schwarber Is Out for the Year

Special Thanks to the Eugene Emeralds, Deborah Dewees, Tim Clark, Mr. Morrison, Clark Lorensen, and Duane Pesice who helped spread the word.

Ten Days Later – Gaining a Greater Appreciation of Arrieta

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By Todd Johnson

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It’s been ten days since the Cubs won the World Series. It took a few days to truly sink in. Last Friday (November 4), I taught all day. In three of my classes, we watched the ceremony for a little bit. I watched it on my lunch and again in my last class of the day. When I left school, I had to run to Rockford, back to my house, then to DeKalb for my wife, and finally, two errands in Sycamore. Around 6 o’clock, I began the final trek home. So, I was in the car for three hours listening to 670 The Score and letting the ceremony sink in. Finally, it began starting to hit me. I don’t think I fully realized it until I figured out in my mind that there wasn’t any more baseball left to be played and the Cubs won the last game of the year!

jake 71 2015When I begin to look back at the World Series, I think one player needs to get more credit than he’s received in the press. That is Jake Arrieta. He pitched like it was nobody’s business in the Series. He took it to the Indians game two and then again in game six, BOTH ON THE ROAD. Despite what some saw as a regression in the second half of the regular 2016 season, he manned up big time in the World Series and became Mr. November. He was 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 IP where he also struck out 15. 

What he did in the second half of 2015 was unfathomable. However, it was just not sustainable. No one is going to pitch like that over an entire season and it was ridiculous for people to expect that from him in 2016. The man still had a great year in 2016, comparatively. He went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 197.1 IP with 190 Ks. I don’t care who you are, that’s still a very good season.

I don’t think that his agent Scott Boris is going to let him sign an extension with the Cubs this offseason unless it’s for nine figures and six years. More than likely, Arrieta will test free agency next year. Someone is going to offer him anywhere between $125-$150 million on a six-year deal. I think that’s the set market. I think his end price will truly be determined by how he does next year.

I don’t know how much pressure he’s gonna put on himself in 2017, but he looked extremely relaxed and determined in the post season. 

But after two years and 200 innings per year (including the postseason), Arrieta really solidified himself in the market with his World Series performance. His play this postseason was spectacular (except for one start in the NLCS). The fact that he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of game six of the World Series is something I find to be one of the most amazing but yet not talked about aspects of the Cubs championship run.

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New Legends Are Born

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As soon as the final out was made and I’d hugged and kissed my wife. Still in disbelief, I looked at her and strangely said, “Those guys will never have to buy another meal as long as they live!” I know it’s the strangest thing to say, but they won’t. Their names will go down in the annals of history with names like Tinkers to Evers to Chance, Ernie Banks, Three Finger Mordecai Brown, Orval Overall, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, and Derek Lee, to name a just a few Cubs.

But these Cubs, Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Contreras, Baez, Fowler, etc., are going to be even more special. They are the new Cubs legends whose names will be hallowed through the ages and synonymous with winning a World Series Championship in 2016.

That still seems so surreal to type.

As I began writing this post at 6:15 in the morning, I’m both extremely excited, and exhausted. I got about 4 1/2 hours of sleep and it was foggy outside on my 12 mile drive through the corn fields. I’m hoping I can stay awake today while I teach. I think all it will take to get me going is to think of that last little dribbler to Bryant and that should wake me up pretty quick.

There were many times throughout the night that I talked to my father. I wish he could have lived on Earth to see this. I can still see his smile as if it really happened. Although, the intense nature of the game might have been his undoing. I will stop off at his grave on Saturday and leave him a little present.

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I don’t know where to begin talking today about the legendary game last night. I thought the Cubs had it in hand with Kyle Hendricks pitching with a 5 to 1 lead. And then things started to slowly unravel a bit, but they hung on. It was 6-3 before a disastrous eighth inning. A rain delay followed after the ninth and then the spectacular tenth inning comeback was just astounding as the Cubs then held on for the win and the championship. What a roller coaster ride it was! How I did not have a heart attack, I don’t know.

Right now, I’m a bit sad that I’m not going to get to watch them play baseball for five more months.

I can’t wait to see the parade, whenever it is, and love that the energy is going to be stupendous. It’s hard to know what I think right now. I feel like I’m just rambling, and I probably am, but this just feels so good as I think back about the game, It is still one of the greatest games of all time despite the eighth inning meltdown. And, maybe, that meltdown is what made the 10th inning so great!

This next year is going to be so awesome! From the convention to spring training to raising the World Series banner in April to defending the title. Putting on a T-shirt, sweatshirt, or hat will harken back to the series knowing these Cubs got it done they are World Series champions! That just sounds so strange and so freaking unbelievably amazing.

I can’t wait to do it all again.

One Down, Two to Go

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By Todd Johnson

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Cubs Manager Joe Maddon finally rode his big horses to the finish line last night. A 3 run inning began with a Kris Bryant home run and ended with a dribbler to score a run. Aroldis Chapman pitched over 2+ IP to seal the victory and the Cubs are headed to Cleveland for Game 6 and hopefully Game 7.

Up until last night, Maddon had been out managed by Francona for most of the series. Maddon’s moves were a little peculiar but they turned out alright. I wasn’t sure about going to Edwards in the 7th or removing Lester and Ross or even not hitting Schwarber. My view doesn’t really matter. It worked out with a win and that is all that matters.

I like the Cubs chances tomorrow to get to Game 7.

Here’s why

618475622-15561. Arrieta – I think that with regular rest he will dominate the Cleveland lineup again. This is his time, his moment, and he will be the man all of Chicago thinks he is.

2. Tomlin – I think Tomlin might be a little gassed and probably will only make it through 4 or 5 innings. If the Cubs have a lead by then, it negates Francona from using Miller. That’s a “Win-Win” situation for the Cubs.

3. Schwarber and Soler – I think they both get in the game and they both do some damage against Tomlin. Tomlin, who struggles vs. righties, will have his work cut out for him.

4. The Cubs look a little relaxed after Game 5 and they might play a little looser in Game 6.

5. Gibbs – I love NCIS and I love the main character of Jethro Gibbs. That character often goes against the grain and makes decisions based on his own internal intuition, or gut. I just have a gut feeling the Cubs will get it done in Game 6.