Didn’t Cubs wave the white flag (no, not a ‘W’ one) when they traded Yu Darvish?
Being in a four-team division race doesn’t change the reality that backbreaking trades might still be coming.
With about 100 games to go this season, have the Cubs really abandoned the idea of blowing things up and starting over?
That’s what some national baseball columnists are writing, the narrative being that this group of players — led by the resurgent Kris Bryant — has too good a shot to win a division title for general manager Jed Hoyer to start aggressively shopping Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and others before the July 30 trade deadline.
But we believe what we want to believe, don’t we?
The Cubs wrap up a rough West Coast swing Wednesday — against Padres starter Yu Darvish — and will return to Wrigley Field having been replaced by the Brewers as the hottest team in the National League. The Cubs’ subpar rotation — their fatal flaw? — keeps taking on leaks, the latest being a blister that derailed Adbert Alzolay in Monday’s start. It’s now a four-team race in the NL Central, the struggling Cardinals and surging Reds also very much in it, and first place might not be any likelier a destination for the Cubs than fourth.
So just know that the white flag waving in the distance isn’t necessarily one of those adorable ones with a bold, blue “W” in the middle of it. It might be one of those sad, pathetic ones that simply means surrender.
The end could be near.
Or did it arrive already? Because it sure seemed to me that Hoyer and the salary-dumping Cubs were capitulating in December when they traded Darvish, who had three years and $62 million left on his contract, to San Diego. What a great deal that wasn’t, folks. The Cubs included Darvish’s catcher, Victor Caratini, and got back veteran starter Zach Davies along with four prospects who all were ranked, according to MLB Pipeline, outside the Padres’ top 10.
Maybe infielder Reginald Preciado and/or outfielder Owen Caissie — teenagers ranked 10th and 11th among Cubs prospects — will blow up down the line. Maybe Darvish, 34, will break down. But here’s what we know: Darvish is better than ever, and Davies isn’t coming close to plugging that hole.
The Padres are 11-1 in Darvish’s starts as the 2020 Cy Young runner-up continues down the elite path he has lived on since the 2019 All-Star break. Eighteen earned runs is all Darvish has allowed in those 12 starts. His only loss came in April — against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw — when the defending World Series champs touched him for a single run in seven innings.
In 13 post-break starts in 2019, Darvish was 4-4 with a 2.76 ERA and 0.81 WHIP. In 12 starts last year, the numbers were 8-3, 2.01 and 0.96. This year: 6-1, 2.25 and 0.93. It’s just who he is — confident, consistent and on the short list of the best starters in the game.
Entering Tuesday’s start, Davies was lasting about an inning and a half less per outing than Darvish. But we won’t get into the rest of his run-of-the-mill numbers because it wouldn’t even be fair. Comparing him with Darvish is like comparing David Bote and Nico Hoerner with Bryant and Baez. Or a sad surrender flag with a bold “W” one.
Tony La Russa — the real Mr. 3,000?
With all due respect to hit machine Nick Madrigal (come on, those gag T-shirts at spring training didn’t create themselves), La Russa actually is close enough to a 3,000 milestone that we can at least start entertaining the possibility he’ll get there. After moving into second on the all-time list Sunday with his 2,764th managerial victory, might La Russa — believed to be on a three-year deal with the White Sox — join Connie Mack in the 3,000s someday?
If he were to pick up another 150 or so the rest of this season and all next season, he’d have a real shot at it in 2023.
Admit it: You love contemplating two more whole years for La Russa on the South Side.
• Seldom mentioned: Mack, who managed the Philadelphia Athletics for half a century, lost more games (3,948) than he won (3,731). His winning percentage of .486 was a far cry from La Russa’s .536.
Even La Russa’s terrific winning percentage trails those of the next four on the wins list — John McGraw (.586), Bobby Cox (.556), Joe Torre (.538) and Sparky Anderson (.545) — as well as 20 others among the 65 managers with at least 1,000 wins. Sixteen of the 65 had losing records.
• First the Yermin Mercedes story, now the Patrick Wisdom story?
What did Chicago baseball fans do to be so lucky?
And how long until the next raker we’ve never heard of gets here?
• OK, it’s settled: Giannis Antetokounmpo is never winning a title in Milwaukee.
I know it. You know it. Even your Cousin Earl up in Wauwatosa knows it, and he’s usually the last one to pick up on anything.
• Speaking of Wisconsin, all Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did Tuesday was blow off the first day of mandatory minicamp. Who’s left on the depth chart, anyway, after Jordan Love and Jake from State Farm?