HBT Weekend Wrapup


Things you missed this weekend while you made checklists of all of the stuff you’re going to need to do to prepare for your ten-day trip to Arizona which begins on Wednesday:

  • Domonic Brown is probably going to be the Phillies’ starting right fielder, but Cholly would like him to sweat a bit before handing him the job;
  • Michael Young showed up to Rangers’ camp.  Sadly, everyone was professional about it (well, mostly). I had really been hoping that Young would throw crap all over the floor and knock over furniture, after which Vernon Wells would talk about how it’s such a shame that the Rangers don’t keep their clubhouse clean and tidy.
  • Miguel Cabrera needs a doctor’s signoff before he can start spring training. Apropos of his patient, the doctor came in, stinking of gin, and proceeded to lie on the table.
  • The Madoff bankruptcy is going after Tim Teufel too.  Quick! Someone tell me if Irving Picard is a righty or a lefty so we can see if Wally Backman can be of any use here.
  • Garrett Wittels’ 56-game hitting streak ended. Buy hey, look on the bright side Garrett: you still have that rape trial to look forward to.
  • Brett Tomko signed a deal.  So did Matt Belisle. The former broke into the bigs in 1997 and the latter in 2003, but if you asked me in an unguarded moment, I’d guess that each one of them has been pitching for approximately 124 years.
  • I hope you’re sitting down for this: Scott Boras is probably going to be the agent for the #1 overall pick this summer.
  • Mark Teixeira calls the Yankees underdogs. Fair enough: if you consider the AL East to be a two-team race, sure, they’re underdogs.  But if the Yankees go on to win the World Series, I will not tolerate any “no one believed in us” talk, because that’s a bridge too damn far.
  • Hunter Pence beat the Astros in his arbitration hearing. It was the last arbitration of the year.  Which is nice, because now I don’t have to listen to anyone talk nonsense about “midpoints” again. Sure, fine: most arbitrations that settle do so around the midpoint between the player and the team’s offers.  But just because one settles below or above the midpoint doesn’t mean a player “won” or “lost” when he settles, as I’ve seen some people say.  Knowing that most of these things settle and knowing that most settle around the midpoint, won’t the player attempt to come up with a higher number and the team lower than they might otherwise do?  As such, hearing that a player settled below or above the midpoint doesn’t mean anything. A below-the-midpoint settlement may be a win for the player who never figured he’d get what he asked for.  Oh well, who cares? Arbitration is kind of boring to me to be honest and I’m glad it’s over.
  • Jimmy Rollins predicted that the Phillies will win 100 games.  I sure hope no one made a big deal out of this. I mean, (a) the Phillies are good, so even if you are conservative and acknowledge that it’s hard to win 100 games, it’s not like 100 is an absurd number; and (b) it’s Jimmy Rollins and confidence is kind of his thing.  Someone wake me up when a meek player on a crappy team predicts 100 wins. Better yet, someone tell me when someone on the Pirates says “If we win 60, I’ll be shocked, because we’re really crappy.”
  • Kevin Millwood to the Yankees: Drop Dead.  Well, he didn’t really say that, but I’d like the Post to drag that one out again.
  • I don’t think there has been a time in history when more ink was spilled over a player showing up on his reporting date.  And who cares about early?  I used to work with a guy at the Ohio State bookstore who would come in early every day. He’d sit on the loading dock and smoke until everyone else got there. Didn’t really change the game any.
  • Alex Rodriguez lost ten pounds this winter.  Just like A-Rod to do something so selfish and embarrassing. God, when will he stop trying to be the center of attention?
  • Brandon Webb had two years of trouble with his shoulder. Then when he came back at the very end of last season, he couldn’t throw it anywhere near normal velocity. Now he’s having shoulder problems. I sure hope no one is surprised about this.  People freak when they hear about Tommy John surgery, but way more guys come back from that than serious shoulder problems.
  • Cliff Lee has a mild strain in his side. This is not a repeat from 2007 or 2010.

Sorry to rub it in about my trip to the desert. But press registration for the fabulous Cactus League is already underway, and I have to get there by Wednesday to claim my sound-proof suite. A fashionable sporting website in New York has taken care of the reservations … and I am, after all, a professional journalist; so I have an obligation to cover the story, for good or ill.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.