It sure sounds like Cole Hamels will be back in the Cubs rotation in 2019

It sure sounds like Cole Hamels will be back in the Cubs rotation in 2019

It’s safe to say Cubs fans can expect to see Cole Hamels in the “Cubbie blue” pinstripes again in 2019.

 

Hamels has a $20 million team option for next year and to this point, there’s been absolutely no gamesmanship from either side with both the veteran southpaw and the Cubs front office openly admitting they’d like things to continue next year.

 

From the second Hamels got to the North Side of Chicago, he’s been straightforward about how he’s always wanted to play for the Cubs, dating back even before he was linked to the Cubs at the 2015 trade deadline before he was ultimately dealt to the Texas Rangers.

 

When the Cubs picked up Hamels this season, the 34-year-old was everything the team was hoping for and more, going 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and racking up 2.5 WAR in only 12 starts.

 

Even when he wasn’t pitching, Hamels was a leader inside the clubhouse, helping lend advice to pitchers like Mike Montgomery while also serving as a respected veteran voice as a former World Series MVP who had pitched in seven different Octobers prior to 2018.

 

Oh yeah, and then there was that bold statement about the Cubs-Brewers “rivalry” that endeared Hamels to North Side fans and let the entire baseball world know he was not interested in simply being a three-month rental for the Cubs.

 

“The Cubs have always been one of the top teams I’ve always wanted to be a player for,” Hamels said after the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs last week. “And obviously it didn’t happen in ’15. Very fortunate to go to Texas, but the Chicago Cubs were always a team I would’ve loved an opportunity to play for in front of this crowd and this organization and to see those types of players.

 

“They have a tremendous clubhouse presence, tremendous talents and it was great to be able to toe the rubber and have those guys behind me.”

 

When Theo Epstein addressed the media about 16 hours or so after the Cubs’ season ended, he didn’t hesitate for even a split-second when asked if the front office hoped Hamels could return in 2019.

 

“Yeah, absolutely,” Epstein said emphatically. “I mean, Cole was such a breath of fresh air for us. He made an unbelievable impression. For a guy that’s only been here a couple months, he’s as universally respected in that room as anyone I’ve ever seen.

 

“He’s a pro’s pro and contributed tremendously on the field and off the field and with a great, engaged, accountable, positive presence in that clubhouse who really cares about his teammates and help make them better by example and by discussion, too. He’s absolutely someone we’d love to have part of the mix going forward.”

 

The Cubs already have a bunch of starting pitchers locked under contract for 2019, but that shouldn’t – and won’t – dissuade Epstein’s front office from paying Hamels that $20 million as rotation depth and a clubhouse presence. We should get a final determination on Hamels’ option a few days after the World Series ends this fall.

 

The old adage in baseball is there really is no such thing as a bad one-year deal and with the question marks surrounding Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, Hamels would give the Cubs a reliable fourth starter behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. The Cubs also have Montgomery as depth and they’ve already publicly stated they plan to stretch Drew Smyly out as a starter in 2019 after he did not pitch at all in 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

 

Many questioned how much Hamels had left in the tank after he posted a 4.42 ERA in 262.1 innings with the Rangers from 2017-18, but he silenced all doubters as he was rejuvenated joining a pennant race and pitching in front of the Cubs’ young, talented core.

 

Hamels has seen so much in his 13 years in the big leagues and truly believes the Cubs’ stunning early exit from this October can be a great learning experience for the team moving into next year and beyond.

 

And he really wants front-row seats for that in 2019.

 

“This was a fun experience to be a part of and hopefully this will be something I’ll be able to be a part of next year,” Hamels said. “…This is the right type of environment [for winning.] What Theo and the ownership have done and the players they have, they really look at that. They have the type of players that are capable of [getting back to the postseason year after year].

 

“Obviously, everybody getting healthy, that definitely turns the tide. So I think they’ve got quite a few more years to really put a dent in the National League and bring home a couple more World Series.”

 

5 questions about Cubs starting pitching

5 questions about Cubs starting pitching

This is the first in a series of a position-by-position analyses of the Cubs entering the offseason.

First up: Starting pitching.

1. Was the rotation that good, based largely on how well it performed at the end of the season?

The addition of Cole Hamels on July 27 masked the disappointing seasons of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Kyle Hendricks got stronger after a rough June, and Jon Lester epitomized the role of ace with an All-Star season capped by a strong September, not to mention his blunt assessment of the 2018 season after the Cubs’ elimination in the National League wild-card game.

The rotation finished sixth in the league with a 3.84 ERA but ninth in innings pitched (888) and strikeouts (769). The lack of strikeouts put pressure on the defense, and the lack of innings by the starters was due in part to a lack of early run support. Manager Joe Maddon was criticized for his frequent use of the bullpen, but the Cubs managed 40 comeback wins due in part to Maddon stopping the midgame bleeding so his offense could remain within striking distance.

Maddon’s spring training declaration that this was the best rotation in his four seasons in terms of talent was too lofty, based on the fact that the 2016 staff remains underrated and because Darvish and Chatwood weren’t finished products.

The rotation was good, but it needs to be more consistent to make Maddon’s midgame decisions even harder in low-scoring games.

2. How important is it for the Cubs to retain Cole Hamels?

It’s essential for many reasons. First, There’s no guarantee Darvish will revert to top form after his injuries. Second, Chatwood has yet to prove he can throw strikes with any semblance of consistency. Third, Jose Quintana has suffered baffling bouts of wildness.

Hamels looked much more comfortable pitching at Wrigley Field and in the National League than he did pitching at Globe Life Park with the Rangers in the AL. Even at the plate, he never gave away an at-bat and fit in seamlessly with his teammates. The younger pitchers can learn from watching his sound mechanics.

Hamels expressed a desire to stay with the Cubs well before the season ended. It could take some minor adjustments to retain him, but the Cubs don’t have any top-of-the-rotation starting prospects ready to challenge for a starting job.

3. What must be done with Yu Darvish?

From the time he arrived at the spring training complex in mid-February to the final game, Darvish seemed in a rush. It appeared as if 2018 represented the perfect storm, from stomach issues that scratched his first spring training start to Darvish needing 102 pitches to throw only 4 1/3 innings in his regular-season debut March 31 in Miami to a late-August diagnosis that revealed a stress reaction in his right elbow.

Management and the coaching staff gave him a grace period through the end of April. At times, there seemed to be a disconnect between Darvish and the team regarding what pitches were preferred and the pitches he threw. Certain pitches likely suffered from his elbow problems, but there were glimpses of dominance, particularly with his slider.

Darvish’s elbow will have time to heal over the next four months. Management and the coaching staff will also have time to let him know that he remains an important part of the Cubs’ future, and that making direct eye contact with individuals other than his teammates isn’t a bad thing.

4. How do you fix Tyler Chatwood?

You can’t blame pitching coach Jim Hickey for a lack of trying. The Cubs tried having Chatwood work exclusively out of the stretch and take the ball out of his glove sooner, but those moves didn’t curb his wildness.

The Cubs cannot give up on Chatwood, who is owed $25.5 million over the next two seasons. He has swing-and-miss stuff that was on display throughout spring training.

President Theo Epstein wasn’t ready Wednesday to discuss what’s in store for Chatwood.

Minor-league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara and/or special assistant Jim Benedict could be called on to work with Chatwood. They were hired last season in an effort to improve the quality of the organization’s pitching.

At this point, any input can’t hurt. Here’s my two cents: Seek an independent pitching expert who can work with Chatwood for a few weeks this winter to at least find an approach he can carry into the spring.

5. Can the Cubs afford to trade Jose Quintana?

At this point, no way, not with the uncertainty surrounding Darvish and Chatwood. And despite Quintana’s inconsistent season, he still posted a 3.17 ERA against National League Central opponents, including a 4-1 record and 2.13 ERA against the division champion Brewers.

There were some interesting theories on Quintana’s up-and-down season. Longtime observers believe he threw too many high fastballs, which led to his wildness and ineffectiveness instead of keeping the ball down as he did throughout much of his career with the White Sox.

But Brewers manager Craig Counsell cited Quintana’s ability to throw to all quadrants of the strike zone, including the high-and-tight area to right-handed hitters, as one of his strengths against his team.

Quintana didn’t allow a walk in his final three starts, and he allowed only three runs in his final two starts, so he should be given the benefit of the doubt heading into 2019. But Drew Smyly is determined to win a spot in the rotation, although his innings may be limited because he’s returning from Tommy John surgery. Quintana’s team options for the next two seasons are affordable, which could attract teams seeking starting pitching.

[email protected]

Twitter @MDGonzales

Cubs roster outlook for 2019: Who’s likely to return and who’s likely to depart »

Deep Dish Baseball podcast: What’s next for the Cubs? »

Cubs’ 2018 time capsule: From Tommy La Stella’s bounce house to Anthony Rizzo’s toothbrush »

5 offseason questions for the Cubs about their starting pitchers

5 offseason questions for the Cubs about their starting pitchers

This is the first in a series of a position-by-position analyses of the Cubs entering the offseason.

First up: Starting pitching.

1. Was the rotation that good, based largely on how well it performed at the end of the season?

The addition of Cole Hamels on July 27 masked the disappointing seasons of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Kyle Hendricks got stronger after a rough June, and Jon Lester epitomized the role of ace with an All-Star season capped by a strong September, not to mention his blunt assessment of the 2018 season after the Cubs’ elimination in the National League wild-card game.

“Maybe we needed to get knocked down a peg or two and realize nothing is going to be given to us,” Lester said.

The rotation finished sixth in the league with a 3.84 ERA but ninth in innings pitched (888) and strikeouts (769). The lack of strikeouts put pressure on the defense, and the lack of innings by the starters was due in part to a lack of early run support. Manager Joe Maddon was criticized for his frequent use of the bullpen, but the Cubs managed 40 comeback wins due in part to Maddon stopping the midgame bleeding so his offense could remain within striking distance.

Maddon’s spring training declaration that this was the best rotation in his four seasons in terms of talent was too lofty, based on the fact that the 2016 staff remains underrated and because Darvish and Chatwood weren’t finished products.

The rotation was good, but it needs to be more consistent to make Maddon’s midgame decisions even harder in low-scoring games.

2. How important is it for the Cubs to retain Cole Hamels?

It’s essential for many reasons. First, There’s no guarantee Darvish will revert to top form after his injuries. Second, Chatwood has yet to prove he can throw strikes with any semblance of consistency. Third, Jose Quintana has suffered baffling bouts of wildness.

Hamels looked much more comfortable pitching at Wrigley Field and in the National League than he did pitching at Globe Life Park with the Rangers in the AL. Even at the plate, he never gave away an at-bat and fit in seamlessly with his teammates. The younger pitchers can learn from watching his sound mechanics.

Hamels expressed a desire to stay with the Cubs well before the season ended. It could take some minor adjustments to retain him, but the Cubs don’t have any top-of-the-rotation starting prospects ready to challenge for a starting job.

3. What must be done with Yu Darvish?

From the time he arrived at the spring training complex in mid-February to the final game, Darvish seemed in a rush. It appeared as if 2018 represented the perfect storm, from stomach issues that scratched his first spring training start to Darvish needing 102 pitches to throw only 4 1/3 innings in his regular-season debut March 31 in Miami to a late-August diagnosis that revealed a stress reaction in his right elbow.

Management and the coaching staff gave him a grace period through the end of April. At times, there seemed to be a disconnect between Darvish and the team regarding what pitches were preferred and the pitches he threw. Certain pitches likely suffered from his elbow problems, but there were glimpses of dominance, particularly with his slider.

Darvish’s elbow will have time to heal over the next four months. Management and the coaching staff will also have time to let him know that he remains an important part of the Cubs’ future, and that making direct eye contact with individuals other than his teammates isn’t a bad thing.

4. How do you fix Tyler Chatwood?

You can’t blame pitching coach Jim Hickey for a lack of trying. The Cubs tried having Chatwood work exclusively out of the stretch and take the ball out of his glove sooner, but those moves didn’t curb his wildness.

The Cubs cannot give up on Chatwood, who is owed $25.5 million over the next two seasons. He has swing-and-miss stuff that was on display throughout spring training.

President Theo Epstein wasn’t ready Wednesday to discuss what’s in store for the 28-year-old Chatwood, whose 1.804 WHIP this season was the highest of his 7-year career in the majors.

Minor-league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara and/or special assistant Jim Benedict could be called on to work with Chatwood. They were hired last season in an effort to improve the quality of the organization’s pitching.

At this point, any input can’t hurt. Here’s my two cents: Seek an independent pitching expert who can work with Chatwood for a few weeks this winter to at least find an approach he can carry into the spring.

5. Can the Cubs afford to trade Jose Quintana?

At this point, no way, not with the uncertainty surrounding Darvish and Chatwood. And despite Quintana’s inconsistent season, he still posted a 3.17 ERA against National League Central opponents, including a 4-1 record and 2.13 ERA against the division champion Brewers.

There were some interesting theories on Quintana’s up-and-down season. Longtime observers believe he threw too many high fastballs, which led to his wildness and ineffectiveness instead of keeping the ball down as he did throughout much of his career with the White Sox.

But Brewers manager Craig Counsell cited Quintana’s ability to throw to all quadrants of the strike zone, including the high-and-tight area to right-handed hitters, as one of his strengths against his team.

Quintana, who will turn 30 in January, didn’t allow a walk in his final three starts, and he allowed only three runs in his final two starts, so he should be given the benefit of the doubt heading into 2019. But veteran lefty Drew Smyly, 29, is determined to win a spot in the rotation, although his innings may be limited because he’s returning from Tommy John surgery. Quintana’s team options for the next two seasons are affordable, which could attract teams seeking starting pitching.

[email protected]

Twitter @MDGonzales

Cubs roster outlook for 2019: Who’s likely to return and who’s likely to depart »

Deep Dish Baseball podcast: What’s next for the Cubs? »

Cubs’ 2018 time capsule: From Tommy La Stella’s bounce house to Anthony Rizzo’s toothbrush »

Baseball history unpacked, October 8

Baseball history unpacked, October 8

A wildly popular Cubs-centric look at baseball’s past. Here’s a handy Cubs timeline, to help you follow along as we review select scenes from the rich tapestry of Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball history. It’s a beautiful day for a ball game — let’s get started!

Today in baseball history:

  • 1871 – A great fire rips through Chicago, IL, destroying the home ballpark of the White Stockings, as well as its uniforms, record books, equipment and cash, and clothing and personal property belonging to its players. The team is forced to release a number of its players and to finish its season on the road, and will only return to the National Association in 1874.
  • 1908 – In a make-up contest necessitated by Fred Merkle’s baserunning blunder on September 23, Three Finger Brown outduels Christy Mathewson, 4-2, as the Cubs win the National League pennant by one game over the Giants in one of the most dramatic pennant races of all time. (1)

Box score. Joe Tinker tripled. Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, and Frank Schulte all doubled.

  • 1929 – In front of 50,000 fans at Wrigley Field, surprise starter Howard Ehmke establishes a new World Series record, striking out 13 Cubs en route to a 3-1 A’s victory in Game 1 of the Fall Classic. The mark will last for 34 years until Dodger hurler Carl Erskine fans 14 Yankees in 1953. (1)

Box score. The Cubs had only one extra-base hit, a double by Woody English. Charlie Root took the loss. Jimmy Foxx homered for the A’s.

  • 1945 – Stan Hack’s double makes a tricky bounce over left fielder Hank Greenberg’s shoulder with two outs in the 12th inning to score runner Bill Schuster and give the Chicago Cubs an 8 – 7 win in Game 6 to even the World Series with Detroit.

Box score. Greenberg homered, but the Tigers still came up a run short. Hank Borowy got the win in relief, defeating Dizzy Trout.

  • 1956 – Don Larsen pitches the first perfect game in World Series history, defeating the Dodgers, 2-0 in Game 5 of the Fall Classic at Yankee Stadium. The 27 year-old right-hander, who had a poor start in Game 2 because of a lack of control, throws only 97 pitches, striking out pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell looking for the final out. (1)
  • 2008 – The Cubs exercise Rich Harden’s $7 million option for 2009, the day after tests reveal the 26-year-old hurler has a sound pitching shoulder. The hard-throwing right-hander, obtained from the A’s in a July deal, compiled a combined record of 10-2, posting a 2.07 ERA in 25 starts for his two teams. (1)
  • 2016 – The Cubs win Game 2 of the NLDS, 5 – 2, over the Giants at Wrigley Field by jumping on starter Jeff Samardzija for 4 runs over the first two innings. Starter Kyle Hendricks has to leave in the 4th after being hit on the forearm by a batted ball, but his successor, Travis Wood, becomes only the second relief pitcher in postseason history to hit a home run after Rosy Ryan in the 1924 World Series, going deep off George Kontos in the bottom of the 4th.

Box score. You can watch it again if you like:

Sources:

Thanks for reading.

The 5 best Cubs games of 2018

The 5 best Cubs games of 2018

While we are disappointed that the Cubs aren’t playing on in the 2018 postseason, we can look back and acknowledge that the 2018 regular season contained some outstanding Cubs baseball.

How could it not? They won 95 games, which is more than last year and in most years, would have been enough to win the N.L. Central. That included some tremendously exciting games.

I present to you my five top Cubs games of 2018, in chronological order. Perhaps you have a different choice, but these were my favorites.

April 14: Cubs 14, Braves 10

This game was played in absolutely the most miserable conditions I have ever seen for a game that they intended to start on time and play without interruption unless there had been a torrential downpour. It was cold (38 degrees at gametime, and that might be generous, and it dropped as the afternoon went on), windy (24 miles per hour sustained winds, and gusts higher), foggy, with unrelenting precipitation that ranged from mist to drizzle to steady light rain.

Joe Maddon, who managed in one of the worst weather games ever, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, said this one was worse:

“I thought the 2008 World Series was the worst weather game I ever participated in,” he said. “I think it just got surpassed. That’s not baseball weather. The elements were horrific to play baseball. It’s not conducive.

“We’ll do what we’re asked or told to, but those were the worst elements I’ve ever experienced in a game. Ever. And I’ve been in some pretty bad stuff.”

The Cubs got some awful pitching from Jose Quintana and Eddie Butler and were down 9-1 going into the bottom of the third. Truth be told, when it was 10-3 going into the seventh I thought about leaving, but figured, “I’m already this cold and wet, how much worse could it get?”

And that’s when the Cubs started rallying. They made it 10-5 on a walk, triple and groundout in the seventh, then put together a nine-run eighth off four Braves relievers to complete an incredible comeback:

Al Yellon

(Note that shown on that board were games postponed in Detroit and Minnesota that day. Yet at Wrigley, they played on in abysmal conditions.)

You can see just how cold it was in this clip [VIDEO] of Javier Baez’ game-tying double.

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The comeback included the following accomplishments:

  • The eight-run comeback was the Cubs’ largest since wiping out an eight-run deficit July 7, 2011 at the Nationals (down 8-0, won 10-9).
  • The eighth inning marked the first time the team recorded nine runs on three hits in an inning since May 19, 1954 at the Dodgers (scored nine on three hits, four walks and three errors in the eighth to win 9-3).
  • The Cubs became the first team to win by 4+ runs after trailing by 8+ runs since the Blue Jays came back from an eight-run deficit to win 14-9 over the Reds on June 20, 2014. (H/T: STATS Inc.)

June 2: Cubs 7, Mets 1 (14 innings)

The Cubs and Mike Montgomery battled the Mets and Jacob deGrom to a standstill in regulation. MiMo threw six innings, allowing one run; deGrom pitched seven innings, giving up three runs with 13 strikeouts.

Then the battle of attrition began. The Cubs got eight shutout innings from the bullpen (Cory Mazzoni, Justin Wilson, Luke Farrell and Brandon Morrow), with five hits and two walks allowed, and 11 strikeouts. Five of those innings came from Farrell, who struck out seven. Cubs hitters struck out 24 times in the 14 innings.

Albert Almora Jr. broke the tie with a two-run double in the 14th; after a couple of walks loaded the bases, Ben Zobrist drove in two more and then Javier Baez came to the plate [VIDEO].

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Fun fact:

The bad thing about this game was the appearance by Morrow, an unnecessary outing in his third straight game. It’s been thought that this might have helped lead to the elbow issue that kept him away from pitching after the All-Star break.

June 6: Cubs 7, Phillies 5

The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead when Aaron Altherr, who came into the game hitting .184, hit a three-run homer off Steve Cishek in the sixth inning. Cishek had not allowed a homer in his 28 previous appearances with the Cubs.

Morrow entered to throw the ninth with that 3-3 tie intact, but he allowed a single to Altherr and a home run to Dylan Cozens. Stop me if you’ve heard this before… it was the first home run allowed by Morrow in the 2018 season after 23 previous homerless outings. It was Cozens’ first major-league home run in his third major-league game.

Ugh. Down 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single sandwiched around a strikeout, but Ben Zobrist hit into a force play at the plate.

Up stepped Jason Heyward. Most of us were just hoping Heyward, who was on a hot streak (13-for-31, .419 over his previous seven games), might hit a single to tie the game.

On a 2-2 pitch, he did just a little bit better than that. [VIDEO]

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And that hadn’t happened for a Cub for a long time. Heyward became the first Cub in nearly 50 years to hit a walkoff grand slam with the team trailing since Ron Santo did so September 25, 1968 vs. the Dodgers. Besides Heyward and Santo, at this time the only other Cub to hit a walkoff grand slam to overcome a deficit at Wrigley Field was Ellis Burton, who did so August 31, 1963 vs. Houston (H/T: Ed Hartig)

The latter fact would come into play again later in the season.

July 26: Cubs 7, Diamondbacks 6

The Cubs had lost the first two of a four-game set to Arizona at Wrigley, narrowly won the third game 2-1 and were trailing 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth in this one.

Ben Zobrist walked to lead off the inning, and after a fly ball to center field by Javier Baez, David Bote came to bat. He went down 0-2 to Brad Boxberger and then… [VIDEO]

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Not one person at Wrigley Field or watching this game on TV at that moment could possibly know that this would turn out to be Bote’s second-most exciting home run of the season. It tied the game.

Two pitches later, Anthony Rizzo won it [VIDEO].

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That ball went a long, long way (despite game day reports, it did not go onto Sheffield, you can see a fan on the right field porch holding it up):

Fun fact:

August 12: Cubs 4, Nationals 3

What a game. It began as a masterful pitchers’ duel between Cole Hamels (making just his third Cubs start, throwing seven innings, allowing one hit, striking out nine) and Max Scherzer (seven shutout innings, 11 strikeouts).

The game went 1-0 Nats into the ninth, but the Nats scored two off their former teammate Brandon Kintzler.

Ryan Madson came in to try to close it for Washington. He allowed a single and hit two batters to load the bases with two out, and Bote stepped in to pinch hit for Justin Wilson, who had replaced Kintzler.

You all know what happened on a 2-2 pitch [VIDEO].

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All of these things were accomplished with Bote’s slam:

  • Bote was the first Cub to belt a pinch-hit walkoff grand slam since Earl Averill, May 12, 1959 vs. Milwaukee.
  • it marked the Cubs’ first walkoff grand slam when trailing by three runs since the aforementioned Ellis Burton, August 31, 1963 vs. Houston (down 5-2, won 6-5).
  • Bote became the first player to hit a walkoff grand slam down three runs with two outs and two strikes on the batter (known as an “ultimate grand slam”) since Baltimore’s Chris Hoiles did it on May 17, 1996 vs. the Mariners. (Check out the score of that game, too!)
  • ESPN noted that Bote is the second player in MLB history to hit a walkoff slam with his team trailing 3-0 at the time. The other was Samuel Byrd for the Reds vs. the Pirates on May 23, 1936.
  • Bote’s blast was the Cubs first pinch-hit slam since David DeJesus did it May 11, 2012 in Milwaukee, and the first at Wrigley since Derrek Lee, May 19, 2007 vs. the White Sox.

I can’t ever watch that Bote slam enough. You too, probably. It was one of the best regular-season moments ever at Wrigley Field.

Poll

The best regular-season Cubs game of 2018 was…

  • 0%
    April 14: Comeback from 8-run deficit vs. Braves

    (0 votes)

  • 0%
    June 2: Monster 14th-inning rally vs. Mets

    (0 votes)

  • 0%
    June 6: Jason Heyward walkoff grand slam

    (0 votes)

  • 0%
    July 26: Back-to-back homers by David Bote and Anthony Rizzo walk it off

    (0 votes)

  • 0%
    August 12: David Bote ultimate grand slam

    (0 votes)

  • 0%
    A different game (leave in comments)

    (0 votes)

0 votes total Vote Now

Cubs' 2018 time capsule: From Tommy La Stella's bounce house to Anthony Rizzo's toothbrush

Cubs' 2018 time capsule: From Tommy La Stella's bounce house to Anthony Rizzo's toothbrush

The Cubs’ epic fall this week ended the season in a heartbeat and provided a lasting impression.

Instead of going down as one of the wildest, most unpredictable rides in years, 2018 will be remembered as just another year a talented Cubs team blew it, like 1969 and 2004.

But along the way it was fun to watch and provided some special moments that shouldn’t be forgotten.

We can’t save them all for posterity, but thanks to modern technology we can provide a virtual time capsule to store some of the things that made you smile in 2018.

Here are some of the keepers:

Tommy La Stella’s bounce house

After La Stella pranked President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer by swiping their parking spots in spring training, the Cubs executives issued a polo shirt and pair of Hoyer’s khakis for La Stella to wear during a workout. After a ceasefire, La Stella had a bounce house placed on their parking spots. La Stella said the bounce house was for kids, but the executives were invited too. “Of course, anybody,” he said. “All sizes as well.”

Stoneman Douglas patch

The Cubs wore Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School patches on their uniforms for the season opener in Miami to honor victims of the February school shooting in nearby Parkland. Anthony Rizzo, who attended the school, tapped the patch on his chest after homering, calling it a tribute to “those kids up there and adults that lost their lives” in the shooting. “I’ve hit a lot of home runs,” Rizzo said. “That was probably the most out-of-body experience I’ve had hitting a home run in my life. Just felt really good obviously.”

Javier Baez’s flipped bat

After Javier Baez flipped his bat after a popup in an April game at Wrigley Field, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hit the roof. “Where’s the respect for the game?” Hurdle barked. “The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means you can take your bat and throw it 15, 20 feet in the air when you pop up like you should have hit your fifth home run?” Baez apologized for “the way I looked in front of the kids and anyone who follows me.” But the Cubs had his back. “Four homers in two days and he doesn’t respect the game; you should have hit five, Javy,” Rizzo yelled. Baez went on to have an MVP-caliber season, while Hurdle’s Pirates turned out to be also-rans.

Joe Namath’s Cubs “guarantee”

Jason Heyward’s walk-off grand slam on June 6 against the Phillies was the first by a Cub since July 27, 2009, when Alfonso Soriano hit one to beat the Astros. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, a boyhood hero of manager Joe Maddon, was at the game that night and had visited the Cubs clubhouse beforehand. “Joe guaranteed the win before the game,” Maddon joked, referring to Namath’s “guarantee” the Jets would upset the Colts in Super Bowl III. “The ball was on our own 45, no timeouts left, trips right, Hail Mary and we got the touchdown. It’s all appropriate Joe Willie was here to witness that game.”

David Bote’s shredded jersey

Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning of a “Sunday Night Baseball” game against the Nationals on Aug. 12, rookie David Bote hit a walk-off grand slam to give the Cubs a 4-3 victory and turn Wrigley upside down. Bote smoked Ryan Madson’s pitch into the batter’s eye in center field, flipped his bat and tossed his helmet sky high while rounding third base. During the postgame celebration, Bote’s teammates tore his jersey off his back. “My jersey got shredded,” he said with a grin.

Brandon Morrow’s pants

Cubs closer Brandon Morrow suffered one of the year’s weirdest injuries when he was sidelined after incurring back spasms taking off his pants after a road trip. “People pin me up on Twitter, kind of making fun of me,” Morrow said. “And also people are like, ‘Hey, I sneezed last week and haven’t been able to move since. I feel your pain.’ ” It was just another Cubbie Occurrence, but no one was laughing in July when Morrow suffered a bone bruise in his right forearm, causing him to miss the rest of the season.

Cubs fan’s buckethead

Sitting in the bleachers during a game in July, Cubs fan Kyle McAleer put a plastic bubble gum container on his head in hopes of starting a rally, a tribute to the 2015 Cubs, who did likewise. During the inning, a 6-8-inch metal pin that holds scoreboard tiles in place fell on his head, causing a cut that sent him to the hospital. McAleer survived and was able to laugh about it, saying the bucket head may have saved his life. “If the Cubs weren’t losing, I would not have been wearing that bucket,” he said. “It might have fractured my skull. It definitely could have been fatal. I am extremely lucky.”

Ian Happ’s waffle iron

After Baez homered in Philadelphia on Aug. 31, he returned to the dugout and was presented with a waffle iron from Ian Happ. Baez held it up and yelled “Waffles!” while playing with the lid. “When a guy hits a ball hard, it’s considered waffling a baseball,” Happ explained. “So Tommy (La Stella) and I talked about it in April, and we should put a waffle maker in the dugout.” The Cubs lost the waffle iron in Milwaukee, and Happ soon received three new waffle makers from fans. The next day Happ hit a three-run homer against the Reds. “Waffles!”

“Breathe Deep” T-shirt

After the July 8 death of Ken Ravizza, the team’s sports psychologist, Maddon had T-shirts made with the slogan “Breathe Deep,” one of Ravizza’s favorite sayings. “I had these T-shirts designed for that moment,” Maddon said. “Also on the back is ‘Attitude is a decision,’ which also leads into what you’re doing. Come out here with a bad attitude, you get your butt kicked. Come out here with the right attitude, you have a chance to win. I wanted the players to see this every day. It’s good advice for anybody, not just baseball players. I wear this every day since Kenny has passed.”

Art of Baseball paintings

Instead of his usual T-shirt slogans, Maddon went in another direction and commissioned an artist to deliver works for his “Art of Baseball” collection. One painting was a rendering of Michelangelo’s David standing in front of the center-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field while wearing a jockstrap. “David is the dude who went after Goliath,” Maddon said in his Cliffs Notes version of the biblical tale. “And the actual statue of David is supposed to be prior to the affair, and he’s standing there kind of tense, like he’s on a pitching mound.” Maddon hoped his players would be inspired by the works, which had some of his favorite Maddonisms scribbled on them. He called it the “silver hammer approach” to teaching, leaving everyone with his own interpretation of what the artwork means.

“Dress Like Pedro Strop Day” accessories

The Cubs held the first annual “Dress Like Pedro Strop Day” in August, a theme trip based on the flashy clothes the popular reliever wears. What does it take to dress like Pedro Strop? “Some gold chains, obviously,” Kris Bryant said. “Tight jeans. Sunglasses. He has his hats he’s passing out, and everyone’s (wearing) bright shoes. I think overall just looking good.”

Jesse Chavez’s sunglasses

When the Cubs acquired reliever Jesse Chavez from the Rangers, it went virtually unnoticed. The 34-year-old Chavez, the 1,252nd pick of the 2002 draft, had pitched for six major-league teams and never was a star. But he turned into a valuable piece of the bullpen, and wore sunglasses while pitching, even at night. Chavez said he simply was tired of changing his contacts.

Anthony Rizzo’s toothbrush

When the Cubs were forced to extend their stretch of consecutive games without an off day and play a makeup game in Washington on Sept. 13, Rizzo decided to make the trip wearing his full uniform. “I do not have a change of clothes,” he said. The only thing Rizzo brought with him was a T-shirt and a toothbrush. “We can sit here and complain about it or we can joke around about it,” he said. “The joking around part is a lot more fun.” After the Cubs beat the Nationals, Rizzo wore his uniform on the flight home to Chicago.

DVD of JD’s called shot

Kris Bryant was homerless in his return from a prolonged stint on the disabled list when he came to the plate at Chase Field in Phoenix on Sept. 18 and had not homered since July 20. Cubs analyst Jim Deshaies told play-by-play man Len Kasper that Bryant would end the drought. “Calling it,” Deshaies said. “He’s going deep. Right here. This at-bat.” Bryant hit the next pitch over the right-center-field wall and into the swimming pool. “Been a pleasure knowing you all,” Deshaies said. “My career is over.”

Celebratory shot glasses

The Cubs didn’t celebrate after clinching a postseason berth on Sept. 26 because they had bigger fish to fry. But after winning the next night, Maddon and the team had postgame shots to toast their fourth straight playoff berth. It turned out to be their last celebration.

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