Jason Heyward Is Back

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Heyward (center) is greeted at home plate by his teammates following his first inning three-run home run Monday night in Pittsburgh.

After being labeled a free agent bust by pundits and fans alike one year ago, the J-Hey Kid is showing us all just what $184 million can buy. 

Let’s face it, Jason Heyward had a pretty bad season in 2016. After signing the biggest contract of his young career, the Cubs right fielder struggled to find success in his new home. Coming off of the 2015 season in which he had a career-high .293 batting average for the St. Louis Cardinals, armchair GM’s everywhere declared Jason Heyward to be the biggest bust of 2016.

In spite of his personal struggles, Heyward still won a Gold Glove and, more importantly, a World Series. But aside from his now legendary speech to his teammates during the rain delay of Game 7, Heyward failed to make a significant contribution to the Cubs’ stat line.

After the champagne showers and parades concluded, Heyward immediately got to work fixing his swing. Fans waited with bated breath for any signs of improvement for the once highly touted Braves rising star. Videos surfaced of Heyward taking batting practice, inspiring many think pieces from observers and insiders from ESPN to MLB Network alike. Then spring came and went, and Heyward still looked as though he would suffer similar issues at the plate going into 2017.

Well, it’s still early, but if his recent play is any indication, the kid’s alright.

That’s a nice sight, isn’t it?

If the one highlight doesn’t convince you, just look at the stats. The Cubs have played 18 games in this young season, and the difference is pretty obvious.

Here are Heyward’s numbers through his first 18 games in 2016:

.221/.338/.265, 0 HR’s, 9 RBI, 17 SO’s, 11 BB’s, 3 doubles.

And here’s Heyward’s stats through the same amount of games in 2017:

.294/.342/.456, 3 HR’s, 16 RBI, 11 SO’s, 4 BB’s, 0 doubles, 1 triple.

The strikeouts are a little high for comfort, but the drop in walks won’t matter if Heyward continues hitting. He currently leads the Cubs in batting average and RBI. Perhaps he won’t end the season as the team’s best hitter. But if Jason Heyward hits half as well the rest of this season, it’ll be more than enough for a Cubs lineup loaded with power.

The Cubs continue their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET/6:05 CT. Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 6.19 ERA) looks to get some revenge against Gerrit Cole (1-2, 4.70 ERA) in a rematch of their previous matchup two weeks ago at Wrigley Field. Hopefully, Jason Heyward continues his hot hitting and sends a ball or two into the Allegheny.

 

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Adam Cipinko @Cipinko5

 

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An Important Week for the Rockies

colorado-rockies-logoAs we near the end of the first month of the young MLB season, one of the biggest surprises has been the first place Colorado Rockies (13-6).  Of their 13 wins, 10 have come against division rivals San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles after winning the season opening series 3-1 while on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers.  Over the weekend, they completed a sweep of the Giants and have actually only lost one series this season against the fourth place Padres.  The good news for the Rockies is that they are winning divisional games early in the season and currently sit in first place, but the bad news is that they haven’t really played anyone that has been the least bit impressive, thus far.  The Dodgers have been floundering at the 500 mark while underachieving, the Giants are completely falling apart (including losing their ace to a dirt-biking accident last week) and only have six wins this season, while the Padres and Brewers are just bad baseball teams and both will likely meet low expectations this year.

That brings us to this week where the Rockies will face two opponents that will test them and show the rest of the league if the Rockies are “for real”, or if they have just had a hot start to the season and will be brought back down to earth.  They host the first place Washington Nationals for four games at Coors Field starting later tonight, with a match-up of Jacob Turner for DC going up against Tyler Anderson for the Rockies.  Anderson is 1-3 this season and is off to a terrible start with 7.32 ERA, however, Turner is making his first start of the year tonight as he fills in for Stephen Strasburg who will miss the series while on paternity leave.  This is a good matchup for Colorado and a win tonight would be huge for the Rockies since they will likely be facing Joe Ross (1-0, 3.86 ERA), Tanner Roark (2-0, 3.65 ERA) and Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 1.35 ERA) to finish out the series.  The Rockies have yet to name a starter for Tuesday’s game, but it looks like they’ll have Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 4.10 ERA) on the mound Wednesday and Antonio Senzatela (3-0, 2.08 ERA) facing Gonzalez on Thursday to wrap up the series.  DC is the hottest team in MLB right now fueled by both stellar pitching along with a great lineup and are currently on a seven game win streak.  This will not only be the first real test for Colorado this season, but could also be a potential playoff preview if the Rockies are able to continue winning games and stay in first place.  Their week gets even more difficult after the Nationals series, though, when they travel to Arizona to face the 12-8 Diamondbacks.  Arizona starts a four game series against San Diego tonight and depending on how that plays out, The Rockies could be playing for first place in the NL West over the weekend.  Both these series will be a true measuring stick to see if the Rockies are in fact, “for real”.  Arizona is another team that many are questioning the legitimacy of due to their hot start, but on paper they appear to be built to contend after a disappointing 2016 season.  The diamondbacks certainly are a better team than both the Padres and Brewers but I can’t say the same about the Dodgers and Giants, so this week will be a test for them, as well.

 

It’s a little difficult to judge how good this Colorado team actually is right now because of the lack of talented opponents they have faced and the hot offensive starts to the season for Gerardo Parra, Tony Walters and 33 year old Mark Reynolds.  Speaking of Mark Reynolds, he is actually putting Colorado in a tough spot when Ian Desmond returns to the lineup in the near future.  Desmond was signed this off-season for $70 million over 5 years to play first base and he may have to shift to the outfield when he returns to the lineup due the hot start of Reynolds.  Desmond did prove last season that he can play outfield, but that would force the Rockies to move either Parra, Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez out of the lineup.  I suppose that could be a good problem to have for Colorado in regard to “too much talent”, but at the same time you don’t want to fix what isn’t broken and mess around with team chemistry that is currently working well enough to keep them in first place.  Nolan Arenado is also off to an amazing start while becoming the face of the franchise and even if the Rockies do simmer down, the silver lining is that the future is bright in the Mile High City.  Colorado needs to get through this week first, and with two formidable opponents in both the Nationals and Diamondbacks, the Rockies will face their first true test of the 2017 campaign.

Introducing the Cubs 2017 walk-up songs

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With the season now underway, most of the players have selected their walk-up and pitcher entrance music for the 2017 season. While some of the guys have the same song as last year (Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo) other players have gone new directions this year. Here’s a look at the music of each member on the 25-man roster and I will do my best to update this playlist/article as often as possible with new songs that the players come out to

NOTE: The only player that is missing is Brian Duensing as I have yet to hear his pitcher entrance music so he was replaced by Tommy La Stella

#5 Albert Almora Jr. – “Ahora Estoy en el Bombo” by Jacob Forever, “Bailar (Remix)” by Deorro & Pitbull, “Greenlight” by Pitbull & Flo-Rida

#37 Brett Anderson – “Seek and Destroy” by Metallica

#49 Jake Arrieta – “Just What I Am” by Kid Cudi, “Goosebumps” by Travis Scott, “Miss Primetime” by Big Gigantic

#9 Javier Baez – “Informer” by Snow, “Visionary” by Farrukko

#17 Kris Bryant – “Warm It Up Kriss” by Kriss Kross

#40 Willson Contreras – “El Amante” by Nicky Jam, “Shaky Shaky” by Daddy Yankee, “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee

#71 Wade Davis – “Ackrite” by Dr. Dre

#6 Carl Edwards Jr. – “Kelly Price” by Migos & Travis Scott

#52 Justin Grimm – “Baba O’Riley” by The Who, “Tush” by ZZ Top and “Take It Outside” by Brantley Gilbert

#28 Kyle Hendricks – “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith

#22 Jason Heyward – “Tunnel Vision” by Kodak Black, “This Girl” by Kungs vs. Cookin On 3 Burners

#30 Jon Jay – “Public Service Announcement” by Jay-Z, “Born N Raised” by DJ Khaled

#2 Tommy La Stella – “Booty Swing” by Parov Stellar

#41 John Lackey – “Friends In Low Places” by Garth Brooks

#34 Jon Lester – “Gonna Know We Were Here” by Jason Aldean, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” by Jake Owen, “Rebel Kids” by Justin Moore

#47 Miguel Montero – “Subeme La Radio” by Enrique Iglesias

#38 Mike Montgomery – “The Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco, “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes

#44 Anthony Rizzo – “Intoxicated” by Martin Solveig, “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift and “It Ain’t Me” by Kygo & Selena Gomez

#56 Hector Rondon – “Tu Me Quemas Remix” by Chino y Nacho

#27 Addison Russell – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West

#12 Kyle Schwarber – “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, “Bombtrack” by Rage Against The Machine, “Slam” by Onyx

#20 Matt Szczur – “Renegades” by X Ambassadors, “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil Troy

#46 Pedro Strop – “Dame Banda De Camion” by El Alfa El Jefe, “Ella Me Dice” by Diol

#19 Koji Uehara – “Sandstorm” by Darude

#18 Ben Zobrist – “Bennie And The Jets (Cover)” by Julianna Zobrist, “Alive” by Julianna Zobrist

Raise the Banner

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Monday night was a special night for the reigning World Series Champions. Rain delayed the banner ceremony nearly two hours — which seemed fitting since the Cubs took advantage of a rain delay in Game 7 to regroup and beat the Indians — but once it stopped, the players went out to the bleachers in their gold-trimmed jerseys and raised banners to commemorate winning the 2016 National League pennant and the World Series, as well as the 1907 and ’08 World Series. “You must enjoy the celebration,” Maddon said. “You should celebrate achievement always.” The game also ended in celebration as the Cubs walked off on Anthony Rizzo’s ninth-inning single. Wrigley Field was filled with fans singing “Go Cubs Go” even though the game ended right before 1 A.M. CT. The Cubs will receive their diamond-studded championship rings on Wednesday, which Maddon said should be the point when the team officially turns the page. But he’s also enjoying the hangover from winning the franchise’s first World Series in 108 years. “I want [the players] to take the mental snapshots,” Maddon said. “It’s possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so don’t miss out.”

There was a moment of silence before the game for Major League Baseball executive Katy Feeney and former Cubs general manager Dallas Green, who both recently passed away. The flags will flank the center-field scoreboard, and Hall of Famers Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams took part. Sandberg and Jenkins each raised flags to signify the 1907 and ’08 World Series championships, respectively, and Williams raised the flag for the 2016 NL pennant. The Cubs players, who had gone into the bleachers, then took turns raising the flag to celebrate the 2016 World Series, beginning with Rizzo.

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Rizzo led the players back on the field while holding the World Series trophy, which he passed to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts. Tom, Todd and Laura Ricketts then each threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Wrigley Field didn’t exist, so Monday was a first. In 1909, the Cubs waited until June 3 to raise the NL pennant, doing so before a game against the Phillies at West Side Park, according to historian Ed Hartig. Both teams walked out to center field to raise the flag. The Cubs players then went to home plate and manager Frank Chance was given an envelope containing $10,000 in playoff bonus money, which was to be split among the entire team. The Cubs didn’t raise the World Series flag until June 16, 1909, doing so against the Dodgers. However, the pulley snapped and the flag broke off and sailed into the left-field bleachers. The grounds crew was able to get the flag up during the game. Hartig said it was common for teams to wait to celebrate rather than do so on Opening Day. However, the Cubs did raise the NL pennant flag on April 20, 1946, the home opener, rather than wait.

Maddon likes the rings but prefers the banners because they will be a permanent part of Wrigley Field. “I know it’s wonderful, but I’ve never been that much into jewelry and I do like banners,” Maddon said. “They’re seen on a daily basis, and I like that kids get to see that and they hear about it.”

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On Monday night, Ben Zobrist’s wife, Julianna, sang “God Bless America,” Wayne Messmer sang the national anthem, and the Cubs’ owners, the Ricketts family, threw out ceremonial first pitches. Jenkins, Sandberg and Williams led the crowd in the seventh-inning stretch. “It’s a special moment in Cubs history,” said Zobrist. When the Cubs were in St. Louis, a Chicago police officer approached Zobrist after he had lunch, and started to talk about how much the Cubs winning the World Series meant to his family. “He just bear-hugged me and started crying on my shoulder,” Zobrist said. Maddon has gotten the same response. “It’s a lot of gratitude, that’s what I hear more than anything, and it’s pretty much the same refrain from everybody we meet,” Maddon said. “Nobody wants anything, which I love; everybody just wants to say ‘Thank you.’”

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the team split the banner and ring ceremonies so fans could enjoy each celebration on its own. “I think it will prove to be a benefit to the fans,” Epstein said. “More people can say they were there for one of the ceremonies. Hopefully, there will be special moments, and by the first pitch on Wednesday we can truly turn the page.”

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Gabriella Garcia @gabybabyyy

Northside Mailbag 

Connor is back answering your questions in this years first Northside Mailbag. 
 

Q. It’s early so far but how impressed are you by Jason Hayward’s changes at the plate?

Heyward had 3 RBIs on Sunday

Let’s marvel at the work the man’s done first, completely reworking a swing, that fully dropped off in 2016, in the offseason. So far in 2017, Heyward looks more confident in the plate approach, finding his pitch and connecting. Struggling throughout spring training, Heyward didn’t take long in the regular season to start connecting, having his best game of the young season on Sunday against the Brewers.

 

Q. What are some main things the Cubs need to work on in order to try and defend their Championship Title?

New Cubs pitcher Brett Anderson

I think it’s focusing on the little things. Easiest thing people point out is that a champion becomes the most hunted the next season. No opponents are pulling any punches, so truly “no days off” is the mantra. Brett Anderson looked alright in his first outing, that’s going to be something to key on, having that back portion of the rotation find rhythm. You know the three-headed monster will produce, but it’s important that those last two get comfortable. Other than that, it’ll be about across the board consistency, starting at the leadoff with Schwarber, who’s been red-hot to start the season. Hitting, defense, pitching, starting and relief, it’s all about those meshing. A lot of teams can hang; Cubs have to win the small battles.

 

Q. Which player will have a breakout season?

 

Young star Albert Almora Jr

A. Defensively, Almora has been outstanding. I think it’s a big year for him, with Jay being there to really I guess “ease” him into that starting role. I think these early couple months are a good chance to get into his rhythm in the offense, with such power around him. I like Almora to put up really nice numbers throughout the year.

 

Q. What are your thoughts on the new change of pace rules? I.E. no more 4 pitch intentional walk

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

As a baseball fan, you want to like the changes because of the pace of play being better. Not having an intentional walk anymore is a big step for the league in making the game easier to take on I suppose, with maybe only one drawback. You see a lot of teams make those intentional walks to get to a certain hitter, but the process itself seemingly helps. You think of it like icing the kicker. The time it takes making those four pitches should, key word should, help calm the pitcher’s nerves. Without that, we may see a small shift in getting out of those jams and teams at the plate coming through with a hit.

 

Q. Do you think David Ross has a good chance of winning Dancing with the Stars?

David Ross and partner Lindsay Arnold

Grandpa Rossy and a Crystal Ball, a match made in heaven right. Let’s be honest about DWTS, it’s a popularity contest. You have to be somewhat of a decent dancer, and the choreography has to be top notch, but if your following is big enough, they’ll carry you. Ross has been a showstopper, in more ways than one, so far and Cubs fans are supporting in full force. I could easily see him winning, but there’s a lot of popularity to go around. I see him at least making it deep into the season.

@ConnorUlrey

Wrigleyville North

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The Chicago Cubs take on the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend at Miller Park. There should be plenty of Cubbie blue in the stands, as fans of the defending World Series champions always make the trip up north. The Brew Crew limp into this series losing three out of four games against the Colorado Rockies to start the season.The Brewers have  a .248 batting average with five home runs and 17 runs scored through the first four games. Compare that to the Cubs they have a .223 batting average with two home runs and 11 runs batted in through three games.

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New comer Brett Anderson who the Cubs signed in the off season will get the ball in game one of the series. He didn’t have a particular good spring training with one win and one loss through four starts. His earn run average ended at 5.31 but he remained healthy which was a positive sign. Edging out Mike Montgomery for the final spot in the starting rotation Anderson looks to prove his worth. The Cubs were very cautious only signing him to a one year deal because of his past heath issues. He has made one career start verse the Brewers going seven innings giving up three runs in that outing.

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The Brewers counter with Jimmy Nelson in game one, his career numbers verse the Cubs are bleak. In 10 starts he has one win and six losses also he served up nine home runs in those starts. Game two starter for the brew crew is Tommie Milone , this will be his first career start against the Cubs. For the Cubs in game two Kyle Hendricks takes the mound, he’s made 10 career starts with a five and three win loss record. Hendricks had a 2.11 era last season which was the best in the majors. Game three will feature both teams aces Jake Arrieta for the Cubs and Zach Davies for the Brewers. Arrieta has made 12 career starts verse Milwaukee winning six of those starts and losing four. In his first start of the season against St. Louis he went six innings giving up one unearned run. Davies against the Cubs has made five career starts winning three games and losing two. In his first start verse the Colorado Rockies he couldn’t get out of the fourth inning giving up six earned runs in the process.

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Jayson Heyward is leading the cubs with four hits, both Wilson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber lead the Cubs with one home run and three rbi’s. 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant is scuffling at the plate to start the season with six strike outs and zero hits. The Cubs bullpen has thrown 9.2 thus far and has been locked in, the only blemishes are Pedro strop and Mike Montgomery both gave up runs in the opener. The Brewers pen has been taxed throwing 15.2 innings, Craig Counsell their coach will hope for the starters to go deeper into the games.

Friday and Saturday’s games will be on Comcast Sports Net plus and 670 The Score first pitch at 7:10. The series finale will be on WGN and 670 The Score first pitch at 1:10.

 

 

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Cubs Win Series In St. Louis

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Can you believe three games are already in the books for the 2017 season. The first series of the year didn’t disappoint. Javier Baez didn’t see a ball because he lost it in the white of the Mlb sign behind home plate. For the first time in Major League Baseball history a free pass to first base was issued with out a four pitch sequence. Late inning heroics from both teams, the first rain out of the season, Poor  Stephen Piscotty was hit three times rounding the bases one time. Yadier Molina had a ball stuck to his chest protector, and most important the Cubs won the series two games to one on the road.

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At the plate as a team the Cubs went four for twenty with runners in scoring position, and also left 24 runs on the base pads and managed 11 runs in the three games. They compiled  23 hits two of them left the yard. Something they should work on is their patience with 23 strike outs and only seven walks, the Cubs will need more men on base for the big hitter’s to score more runs. Defensively it’s been a little shaky with four errors in three games, Joe Maddon will surly have the team taking grounders to correct this problem.

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The starter’s Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey have combined for four earned runs in the first three games of the season. Getting to the sixth inning hasn’t been a problem so far for the starters, but the free passes have to come down all three have walked two batters in their starts. The strike out numbers have been about equal between the three, with 20 total The Cubs are getting about seven per starter. Last year proved how important starting pitching is, and all three starters did a good job mixing and matching in their first starts.

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The pen has given up three earned runs in the three games however all those runs came in the first game of the season. Since the first game the pen has thrown six shut out innings. New closer Wade Davis has given up one walk and one hit with zero earned runs in two innings and has notched two saves in a row. He is still in search of that clean one two three inning but the results are positive for the time being.  Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio should be pleased with his pitching staff’s production thus far.

Today’s game was just what the Cubs needed after falling behind early three to nothing in the first. Schwarber’s home run came at the perfect time and he knew it was gone after the ball left his bat, the only question was will it stay fair which it did. Grabbing the last two games of the series is a big momentum builder headed to Miller Stadium to play the Milwaukee Brewers. They play this weekend series then it’s onto Wrigley Field for opening night. For the first time the Cubs will play at Wrigley as defending World Series champions.

Cubs Cardinals Rundown

April 2, 2017  St Louis 4 – Cubs 3 (WP) Seung Hwan Oh (1-0)   (LP) Mike Montgomery (0-1)

April 4, 2017  Cubs 2- St Louis 1  (WP) Arrieta (1-0)  (LP) Wainwright (0-1) Save Wade Davis (1)

April 6, 2017 Cubs 6- St Louis 4 (WP) Lackey (1-0) (LP) Brett Cecil (0-1)  Save Wade Davis

 

 

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