(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Apparently nothing in Chicago gets decided without a little overtime these days. In the bottom of the 14th inning, pinch-hitter Julio Borbon ripped a two-out, walk-off base hit to score Starlin Castro from third, propelling the Cubs to a 6-5 win over Cincinnati on Thursday. The victory snapped a 12-game home losing streak to the Reds.
(Photos by Aldrin Capulong/Daytona Cubs)
Hard-hitting Javier Baez is widely considered one of the Cubs organization’s top minor league prospects, and the shortstop hasn’t failed to live up to the hype this season. Though he struggled to find his stroke early, Baez is now hitting .291/.339/.570 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and is in the top four in home runs and RBI in the High-A Florida State League. But nobody could have predicted the near-perfect night the 2012 first-round pick had on Monday, when he went 4-for-4 with four homers and seven RBI, propelling Daytona to a 9-6 win over visiting Fort Myers.
Baez hit a two-run homer in the first, led off the third with a solo shot to center, ripped another two-run home run to left in the fifth, and wrapped up his night with a solo shot to left in the seventh. He now has 13 bombs on the year to go along with 44 RBI.
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty)
It was a lot of travel for a brief, two-game series, but Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo made the westward journey to Anaheim worthwhile Wednesday night. After Angels slugger Mark Trumbo tied the game with a solo homer (his first of two) in the eighth inning, Rizzo came through with two outs in the 10th, driving a bases-clearing, three-run double down the right-field line to boost the Cubs to an 8-6 victory over the Angels.
What would you do if you owned the Chicago Cubs?
Think about that for a second. The Cubs are yours. Wrigley Field is yours. You even own part of Comcast SportsNet, one of the networks that broadcasts the games. So what would you do with all that power?
Would you fade into the woodwork and quietly spend your money like Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, or would you be a Mark Cuban/George Steinbrenner-type boss, who fancies himself part of the team and is constantly making waves?
On its face, it sounds like a dream job. Obviously, you’d be fabulously wealthy, enormously powerful, and could stage a fully televised, 3 a.m. Wiffle Ball tournament with all your friends at the Friendly Confines if you felt like it.
I recently got close enough to sniff what it might really be like to own the team for a day. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to reveal the unspeakable horrors of owning a professional ballclub. But it’s one thing to be a fan, love the team and offer a snarky Twitter suggestion every once in awhile about what the Cubs should do with Carlos Marmol. It’s entirely another to be responsible for the fate of the franchise and the happiness of millions of fans around the globe.
“I feel a ton of pressure,” said Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts. “I literally wake up at three in the morning and feel like 15 million fans are standing on my chest. I feel a lot of responsibility. But we know what we’re doing is very important to a lot of people, and we have to get it done right.”
Almost every Cubs fan has an opinion about the Ricketts family and how they have managed the team since they took over in 2009. And we all know the three stated goals for their stewardship: bring a World Series championship to the organization, restore Wrigley Field, and be a good neighbor in the Wrigleyville community. But most people can’t really conceptualize what it would be like to walk in Tom Ricketts’ shoes.
For the June issue of Vine Line, I got the opportunity to hang out with the Cubs’ owner for a few days during the St. Louis series in mid-May. Now, this may surprise you, but I don’t get to hobnob with baseball owners all that often. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience.
In the interest of full disclosure, Vine Line is owned by the Cubs (and it therefore behooves me not to anger the man who signs the checks), but I still came away from my time with Ricketts impressed. He’s surprisingly relatable and a pretty fun guy to watch a game with (and that’s not just because we could go anywhere in Wrigley Field we wanted).
While Ricketts doesn’t exactly relish the attention he receives—“hopefully, once we get through the restorations, the stories have nothing to do with the owners,” he said—he does take time during every home game to walk the stadium and talk with the fans. What other owner does that, in any sport?
This month, we try to give you a sense of what it’s like to be the Cubs’ chairman for a day, and look at some of the things Ricketts has accomplished—and is still working to accomplish—with the Cubs.
One thing he has done is facilitate the hiring of an energetic new coaching staff that is committed to bringing a winner to the North Side sooner rather than later. We sat down with Cubs hitting coach James Rowson to talk about the team’s early offensive struggles and what he’s trying to do to help the hitters improve in his second year on staff.
We also look at versatile, new Cubs swingman Carlos Villanueva and what he brings to the team. In a profession in which ego often runs unchecked and hyperbole is the norm, the right-handed pitcher is disarmingly honest about his abilities and what he can—and can’t—do on a baseball field.
If you want to learn more about every aspect of the Cubs, from the rookie leagues to the owner’s suite, subscribe to Vine Line and follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.
And, for the record, the owner’s suite is quite comfortable.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Travis Wood’s 2013 campaign has been nothing short of incredible. On the mound this season, the 26-year-old southpaw is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 72 innings. But it’s what he’s done in the batter’s box that has really captured Cubs fans’ attention.
The right-handed hitter owns a .292/.320/.583 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line with a pair of homers and seven RBI. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s tilt with the White Sox, Wood ripped a Jake Peavy cutter into the left-field stands for a grand slam, propelling the North Siders to an 8-3 win.
The grand slam was the first by a Cubs pitcher at Wrigley Field since Burt Hooten accomplished the feat in 1972.
And Wood isn’t the only pitcher on the staff who’s having success at the plate. According to Elias, the 19 RBI by Cubs pitchers in May is the most in a calendar month since the 1940 Tigers drove in 20. Wood (7) and fellow starter Scott Feldman (6) alone each have more RBI than any other pitching staff. Also, the pitching staff has produced more RBI this month than the Cubs No. 3 hitters (17), and they have matched the total from the No. 4 spot (19).
(Click photos to enlarge)
The Crosstown Cup can bring out the best in players. Exhibit A: Dioner Navarro. The free-swinging backup catcher was locked in Wednesday afternoon, ripping home runs in each of his three official plate appearances to lead the Cubs to a 9-3 victory over the White Sox.
Batting right-handed in the second and fourth innings, the 29-year-old switch-hitter took a pair of John Danks change-ups into the left-field stands. Then batting left-handed in the bottom of the seventh, he launched a Brian Omogrosso fastball down the right-field line onto Sheffield Avenue for his third homer of the day. Navarro finished 3-for-3 with three home runs, six RBI, four runs and a walk.
It was the first multi-homer game of Navarro’s career, and he became the first Cubs catcher to hit three homers in a game since George Mitterwald in 1974. After yesterday’s win and Tuesday’s rainout, the North Siders lead the Crosstown series 2-0. Travis Wood will take the mound for the Cubs Thursday afternoon, opposite Sox veteran Jake Peavy.
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Jeff Samardzija brought his “A” game to the South Side in a 7-0 win against the White Sox Monday night. In the series opener, the Cubs’ ace pitched a two-hitter, earning the 28-year-old his first career shutout. He threw 108 pitches, allowing only two hits—both singles—while fanning eight and walking two.
Though last night’s victory is only the third win for the second-year starter, Samardzija has pitched well all season, owning a 2.85 ERA through 11 starts. The Shark’s Memorial Day win makes him the first Cubs pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout game in almost two years; the last North Sider to do so was Randy Wells on August 29, 2011. The Cubs play three more games against their intracity rivals before either team can claim bragging rights for capturing the Crosstown Classic.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, let’s take a moment to thank our troops for all they do—and all they have done—for our country. Prior to joining the North Siders in 1953, “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, spent two years in the United States Army during the Korean War. Former Cubs pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander also served in the Army during World War I.
The last few weeks have seen a dramatic increase in slugger Anthony Rizzo’s offensive statistics. Already the NL leader in extra-base hits with 19, including 10 doubles (tied for eighth in NL) and nine homers (tied for third), the first baseman’s batting average has soared from .173 on April 25 to .266 midway through Wednesday’s game. In his first at-bat against the Cardinals he doubled and added a single in his next plate appearance. The Cubs and their fans hope he continues on his recent run of success.
Above is a photo of him with a fan prior to Monday night’s contest with the Rangers.