By Eugene McIntosh
These days, talking to Cubs fans is a lot like playing a game of "21 Questions'".
Does Christopher Morel stay put?
Is this team closer to the 2012 or 2014 Cubs team?
What's next for Jason Heyward?
Should the Cubs resign Willson Contreras?
How many first year players will see big league action this season?
And the number one question, Is this a rebuild? (If it looks like a duck...you know the rest.)
On Wednesday night as the Cubs beat the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 on a Christopher Morel walk-off sacrifice fly scoring Jason Heyward in the bottom of 10, I found myself pondering some of these same questions.
For 7 innings it looked like Brewers starter Jason Alexander was gonna be the star of the night. He picked up a quality start In his MLB debut throwing 21 of 24 first pitch strikes through 7 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits while striking out 3 batters on 97 pitches. Morel said not tonight...this is my show!
"It's infectious. The smile on his face everyday, it permeates through everyone in that clubhouse. U see how happy everyone was for him," said Cubs starter #PoetryInMotion Kyle Hendricks when talking about the affect Morel has had in his 15 games in The Bigs. (always pun intended)
Morel has started his MLB career by reaching safely in each of his first 16 games with a plate appearance which is a franchise record. #ILLWILL Willson Contreras held the previous record with 13 games in 2016. Morel's hitting streak ended at 11 as he went 0-3 but his final at-bat was all that mattered.
Now back to the questions...
Does Christopher Morel stay put? This is what we call, a no brainer. The energy, the effort, the charisma, the speed, the ability to play all over the diamond, the love of the game. Yes, it's a small sample size but he's looking like a key piece to building that "Next Great Cubs Team" Hoyer continues to mention.
"I love baseball. God gave me this moment so I need to give everything, everytime I go to the field. Inside or outside, I have to give everything for my team.Thank you God for this moment. My family, my country...I'm so happy," Morel said. Would Morel even be here if not for the early injury bug???
Morel "soaking" it all in after his first career walk-off as the Cubs beat the Brewers 4-3 (Photo by John L. Alexander)
Closer to 2012 or 2014?? Well the 2012 team was the first year of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime. They lost 101 games but sprinkled into that season was Anthony Rizzo making his debut June 26th. Kyle Hendricks was acquired from the Texas Rangers and that'd be the last full season for Alfonso Soriano (who at the time signed the largest contract in team history). The end and the beginning...
Another last place finish for the 2014 team that lost 89 games but there was hope! #ELMago Javier Baez saw his first MLB action August 5th and a number of guys who contributed to the 2016 championship were getting their feet wet including Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Justin Grimm, Kyle Hendricks, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Travis Wood. Rick Renteria was fired after the season and Joe Maddon was hired. (The 2015 team finished with the 3rd best record in baseball, beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game, knocked off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS but were swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS. The table was set)
Right now with this team on pace to lose closer to 101 games than 89, I'm gonna stick with 2012.
What's next for Jason Heyward? There's Morel, Seiya Suzuki, Clint Frazier, Rafael Ortega, Michael Hermosillo, Nelson Velazquez...and #JHey. With the emergence of Morel, the $85 million dollar Suzuki growing & developing on the fly, Frazier & Ortega trying to prove their worth, Hermosillo may be the odd man out and Velazquez seeing his first MLB action earlier this week, where does that leave the 13 year veteran? I know what most of the fan base would say here HOWEVER...does David Ross continue to trot Heyward out there while taking crucial at-bats away from guys whose MLB lives depend on them right now? Is there anything to gain by flat out DFA'ing him? Do they keep him around to show the younger guys how to go about their business? Do they try and package him in a deal before the trade deadline? We all know what Heyward has meant to the Cubs organization and he's adding to his legacy with the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy in the North Austin area. Regardless the Cubs are on the hook for a little over 40 million over the next two years.
#JHey has spent 7 of his 13 years in the league with the Chicago Cubs (Photo by John L. Alexander)
Should the Cubs resign Willson Contreras? With his arbitration case set for June 9th, Contreras has probably been soured by the business of baseball. "I understand this is business. It's not about the game of baseball anymore," he mentioned. The Cubs could get a lot in return for the elite catcher who is 30 years old...and the New York Mets need a catcher in the worst way. I know Cubs nation would be miserable with the departure of Contreras but with what happened at last years deadline with the core of Bryant, Rizzo and Baez....I'll just leave it there.
#ILLWILL leads all MLB catchers with eight homeruns (Photo by John L. Alexander)
How many first year players will see big league action this season? 24 players have already made their Cubs debut this season and at some point the Cubs will probably be able to field a starting lineup with all first year players (I'm including #FrankTheTank Schwindel and #PWizzy Patrick Wisdom). That is how we will soon find out how soon or how far away we are from witnessing the "Next Great Cubs Team" right??