The Jays start a three-game series against the Cubs tonight.
The Cubs are third in the NL Central at 55-72.
They are 12th in the NL in runs scored per game. And 11th in runs allowed per game. But they have been playing better of late (which seems to be a characteristic of teams the Jays will play). They are 20-15 since the All-Star break.
I sent some questions off to Al Yellon, long-time Manager of Bleeding Cubbie Blue, SB Nation’s Chicago Cubs blog and he was kind enough to answer them for us.
I have to ask about our old friend, and favourite of mine, Marcus Stroman (and he’s scheduled to start Tuesday). How has the Stroman experience been for you?
Marcus Stroman is a joy to have as a Cub. His attitude is so positive, his joy for the game infectious, and he regularly engages with Cubs fans on Twitter. This tweet sums up the lovefest:
There’s no better environment to play baseball in than Wrigley. No debate. Shout to the best fans in the league for bringing that positive energy each and every day. We can’t thank you enough! @Cubs pic.twitter.com/UZbdWnof6A— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) August 20, 2022
He’s struggled at Wrigley Field (6.92 ERA in eight starts) as opposed to on the road (2.08 ERA in 10 starts), so we hope that improves.
The Cubs didn’t do much at the deadline. Were you surprised? I would have preferred the Jays to trade for Happ over Merrifield.
I was a bit surprised, but I suspect the reason they didn’t trade Ian Happ or Willson Contreras is that they were asking for more than the actual value of those two players. Happ’s having a much better year than Merrifield, for example. The Cubs did trade several relievers and got some quality prospects.
The Cubs seem to be rebuilding or reloading. How long until you feel they can be a contender again?
Heh. Jed Hoyer refuses to call this rebuild an actual rebuild, but that’s what it is. Having said that, this team has played quite well since the All-Star break, and if you squint, you can see the makings of what Hoyer calls the “Next Great Cubs Team.” There have been strong hints by management and ownership that they will be big spenders this winter. If they do that, I can see them at least in wild-card contention, or maybe even NL Central contention (it’s a fairly weak division) as soon as 2023.
Seiya Suzuki was a guy I had hoped the Jays would go after. He’s not having a great season. What are your thoughts on him?
Suzuki had an impressive start and batted .372/.517/.721 with four home runs in his first 15 games. Then the league figured him out, and he went into a terrible slump, then injured a finger in late May and missed five weeks. He still doesn’t quite seem to have his timing down, and this year will have to be chalked up to a learning experience for him. He does play plus defense in right field, and I think in 2023, with a year of MLB play under his belt, he’ll start being the player the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him.
Who is your favourite Cub to watch?
It’s got to be Christopher Morel. His joy in playing the game is infectious. He’s got speed and power and can play several positions well, though his best is probably third base. He was not a heralded prospect, but he hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat and has continued to produce since then. It’s really great when a guy like that comes out of nowhere and establishes himself as a solid MLB player. He won’t win Rookie of the Year, but he should get some down-ballot votes.
What are your thoughts on the Field of Dreams game?
I made the 3.5-hour drive from Chicago to Dyersville for the game. It was everything I hoped it would be. The atmosphere was electric, the weather was perfect, there was lots and lots and LOTS of corn, and of course, the Cubs won, capping off a perfect day and evening.
Al wrote about his time at the Field of Dreams game here.
Anything else we should know about the Cubs?
This team is better than you think. The Cubs aren’t a playoff contender — yet — but they have played contending teams tough, and I think they will give the Jays a competitive series.