Dan's Dugout: Can kid Cubs reach the Playoffs? • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Can kid Cubs reach the Playoffs?


CHICAGO — Although Wrigley Field is more than a century old, its baseball team is getting younger by the minute.

Joe Maddon brought new energy from Tampa Bay

Joe Maddon brought new energy from Tampa Bay

In fact, white-haired manager Joe Maddon sometimes seems to be running a nursery.

Not counting pitchers, the Cubs have trotted out five freshmen so far this season: Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Schwarber, and Matt Szczur. In a combined 198 games, they have produced a .265 batting average, 41 doubles, 21 home runs, and 94 runs batted in.

That’s not just chopped liver, as the standings suggest. The once-moribund Cubs went 39-31 in their first 70 games, a pace that projects to 90 wins and a likely wild-card spot this fall. It’s the team’s best start since the 2008 Little Bears went 45-25 over the same span.

Chicago’s kiddie corps plays its best against the top teams, with a 16-8 mark through Wednesday, but stands only 8-8 against teams below .500. Logic says that will change.

All Maddon needs to guide the Cubs into the playoffs is to keep them steady as she does; the team’s .557 winning percentage entering Thursday’s day game against Los Angeles ranked third in the National League (behind division rivals St. Louis and Pittsburgh) and fifth in the big leagues. It would also put the Cubs into the playoffs.

Maddon believes Bryant, who surfaced after the season started, will soon start hitting home runs in clusters. He also believes his pitching will continue to produce after posting a 2.44 earned run average, best in the majors, from June 10-24.

That two-week span has been good for the starters (3.27 ERA) but sensational for the relievers (1.21 ERA).

New Cubs ace Jon Lester has been a bust so far

New Cubs ace Jon Lester has been a bust so far

Veteran lefthander Jon Lester, expected to serve as ace of the staff after signing a megabucks deal as a free agent, has yet to justify his deal, however. The former Boston ace has lost six of his first ten decisions, including a 4-0 loss Thursday against the Dodgers. He was brilliant in May (4-1, 1.76) but beastly in both April and June.

Jason Hammel, Jake Arietta, and Travis Wood have kept the rotation afloat while waiting for Lester to come around. The Dodgers scored all four of their runs Thursday in the first two innings — even though Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig were not in the Los Angeles lineup.

For the second half, much depends on the continued success of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, one of four NL players (along with Paul Goldschmidt, Justin Upton, and Starling Marte) to have double digits in both home runs and stolen bases.

Justin Upton delivers speed plus power to San Diego

Justin Upton delivers speed plus power to San Diego

Rizzo took a .417 on-base percentage, third in the league and fifth in the majors, into Thursday’s game at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are also getting good production from shortstop Starlin Castro, a three-time All-Star who has notched eight game-winning RBI this season. He also has more hits since 2010 than any other shortstop.

One goal for the second half is to clear the six Cubs who occupy the disabled list. Soler, the hot-hitting rookie outfielder, heads the list, along with Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella, a pair of infielders, plus pitchers Jacob Turner, Zac Rosscup, and Neil Ramirez.

Maddon, baseball’s most innovative manager, added much-needed leadership when he arrived from Tampa Bay during the off-season. He’s got the kids believing they can win and won’t settle for anything less.

Elsewhere in baseball:

At the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention at Chicago’s Palmer House Thursday, author Curt Smith said, “We can split the atom. We can put a man on the moon. Why can’t we shorten the time of a baseball game?” . . .

The Mets, continuing to stock up on young starting pitchers, have added 24-year-old Steven Matz, who was leading the Pacific Coast League in all three Triple Crown categories: wins (7), ERA (2.19), and strikeouts (94) . . .

Ex-Met Justin Turner has been a godsend to the Dodgers, who have turned the former utilityman into a hard-hitting third baseman (.323, fifth in the NL, when play began Thursday) . . .

Another Dodger, Joc Pederson, is staging a runaway for top rookie honors with 19 homers, most ever produced by a Dodger freshman before the All-Star break . . .

The Cards lost ace Adam Wainwright for the year

The Cards lost ace Adam Wainwright for the year

Even without injured ace Adam Wainwright, the St. Louis Cardinals lead the National League in earned run average . . .

No surprise here: the Colorado Rockies, playing in mile-high Coors Field, have scored the most runs in the NL but also yielded more than every other team except Philadelphia . . .

New names on the managerial hot seat include Robin Ventura (White Sox), John Farrell (Red Sox), and Ryne Sandberg (Philadelphia) . . .

After the hapless Phillies pounded the Yankees on consecutive nights in the Bronx, the Yanks showed their heavy-hitting attack cannot sustain a suspect pitching staff . . .

The disclosure that Pete Rose also bet on games as a player, despite

Pete Rose is in trouble again

Pete Rose is in trouble again

his previous denials, has triggered an online petition drive urging Major League Baseball to maintain its ban and prevent him from getting a potential plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame.




About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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