The Contreras Brothers Are Here to Make You Smile, the Cubs’ Performance Less So, and Other Cubs Bullets

‘Better Call Saul’ is BACK TONIGHT. I am very ready to be in that world again. I am not ready for there to be only six more episodes ever.

  • Let’s start somewhere sweet, with William Contreras making the NL All-Star team as the DH, meaning that he and his brother Willson will start in the game together.
  • Brothers starting an All-Star Game together hasn’t happened in 30 years:
  • Now we can talk about the bad stuff, like how the Cubs lost yesterday’s game despite a grand slam and a three-run homer, something they haven’t done in a very long time:
  • The loss, of course, was the fourth straight in the series, and seventh straight this season to the Dodgers (aka, the season sweep). The Dodgers are good and the Cubs kept the games close, but it’s not like these two teams – or even organizations – are in a particularly “close” position right now.
  • To that end, I saw a lot of people talking about the Cubs in relation to what the Dodgers are now – how the Cubs should be that, or would be that if only they spent more money – and it led to a lengthy thread on Twitter. Something something follow BN on Twitter if you don’t already:
  • At least the Cubs now get to face the Orioles… who’ve won eight games in a row, their longest such streak in 17 years. Lol.
  • David Ross tries to stay positive (Cubs.com): “We have a really close group that roots for each other and fights tooth and nail; we’ve proven that with the best teams in the game, consistently. Are we where we want to be, and at the end of the day do wins and loses matter? Absolutely. But those guys understand that we’re going to be fighting for championships real soon.”
  • Nelson Velazquez hit his second big league homer yesterday to keep the Cubs in striking distance, though it notably came on a meatball fastball:
  • Like I’ve written before, now that Velazquez is starting more regularly (a very good and necessary part of the development process), the league is seeing how they can attack him: breaking balls in the strike zone. There’s just a lot of swing and miss there. Ultimately, I’m OK with the Cubs deciding either to keep giving him as many starts as possible even as he struggles – maybe he’s a guy who can learn/develop against big league breaking pitches by simply seeing a ton of ’em. And I’d also be OK with them taking the opportunity, if it comes naturally, to send him back to Iowa to continue the work – he played only 34 games there earlier this year, and it wasn’t all hugely successful. I can see the sense in both approaches.
  • I’m intentionally not going too deep on who should do what where right now, because in the coming three weeks, everything is going to change. There will be trades, there will be injured players returning, and there will be new injuries.
  • Speaking of which: No idea what’s about to happen with Nick Madrigal, or if he’ll even have a long stretch of being able to play at Iowa this year, much less in Chicago. He felt “tightness” in his groin yesterday after one at bat, was pulled, and then was sent to Chicago for more evaluation (which, to me, means it was worse than just mild tightness or whatever). If Madrigal continues to miss time, you will probably see more Christopher Morel and David Bote sharing second base from here on out. That’s fine in its own right, but it also leaves open the outfield spot that might otherwise be taken by Morel in the second half (if Madrigal were to return). In other words, the longer Madrigal is injured – which is bad, don’t get me wrong! – the more evaluation time there will be available, indirectly, in the big league outfield.
  • When people talk about Pirates youngster Oneil Cruz, the description is often about just what a unicorn he is in his size and strength and freakish skill. That’s easy enough to say, but it’s better when you can show examples – like the homer he hit yesterday against the Brewers, which looked off the bat like it might be a bloop over the second baseman’s head … and instead went 416 feet:
  • Wait. The Home Run Derby X thing happened this weekend? I missed it completely, which is probably not a great sign for how well it was promoted:

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