Good morning, frents!
After today's issue, the regular Midway Minute email will take a patriotic break until next Tuesday. Paid members, however, will get the latest members mailbag in their inboxes on Friday morning.
Among the topics:
- Where does Jason Heyward's contract rank among the worst in Chicago sports history?
- What would the Bulls have done at No. 8?
- Is it OK to root for the Bucks?
- What's the best short baseball road trip from Chicago?
- My favorite expressway
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Brewers 15, Cubs 7
Sox 13, Twins 3
Sky 91, Wings 81
Twins at Sox (1:10, NBSCH)
The Cubs have cratered
Let's try and look on the bright side.
The 2021 Cubs could have teased us for another 3-4 weeks, leaving the front office in limbo around the deadline and masking the fact that the team wouldn't be capable of much in the postseason.
But their dismal play, a host of injuries and a long Brewers winning streak has opened a trap door on the Cubs this season.
Talk about an all-time June swoon.
Twelve games ago, the Cubs were nine games over .500 and owned a one-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central. They had plenty of questions, sure, but seemingly none that couldn't be softened by playing in a middling division.
About that: The Cubs are currently riding a six-game losing streak and sit six games back of the Brewers, who have won seven straight. We knew June's calendar would be the toughest test for the Cubs and they didn't prove us wrong, turning in a 12-16 mark after a 19-8 May that vaulted them back into contention.
Sure, you might have taken a 42-39 record at the season's midway point if you were offered it at the start of the season.
But as they say, timing is everything.
Wednesday's 15-7 loss to the Brewers was a sobering reset of expectations, even in the middle of a 1-6 road trip that still has three weekend games in Cincinnati remaining.
The series finale in Milwaukee started out well enough. The lineup torched rookie Aaron Ashby for seven runs in the first inning and left him the first pitcher since 1893 to leave his MLB debut having surrendered that many runs in that short of an appearance (0.2 IP).
But Jake Arrieta gave a run back in the first and another five in the second and the Brewers were on their way to scoring 15 unanswered runs and paving the way for plenty of Bears-Packers jokes.
(I personally liked mine about Matt LaFleur wanting the Cubs to go for a field goal once they were down eight.)
The season is far from over, particularly considering the quick way that both the Cubs and Cardinals have coughed up division leads this year.
But it feels like something has fundamentally shifted since the Cubs threw that eight-walk combined no-hitter last Thursday night.
The sixth inning remains just a rumor to most of the starting rotation, the position players can't stay healthy and the bullpen is busy fighting both regression and nosy umpires.
All of the shortcomings we conveniently overlooked have been laid bare and it'd be surprising if Hoyer decides over the next 2-3 weeks that he can fix them via trade.
Pretending that the Cubs might not have to go into seller mode this season and could stage a Last Dance of their own was fun while it lasted.
But reality is making us confront what we really thought this team was all along. The good news is that the front office won't be battling any illusions when it comes to making honest decisions about the future.
Mississippi State won the College World Series on Wednesday night. Name the White Sox pitcher who hit cleanup and saved seven games for the 1985 Bulldogs team that reached the CWS and was packed with future major leaguers.
News and results
Sox 13, Twins 3: Sox bats explode ahead of the 4th
The Sox got six homers, including two from Yasmani Grandal and the first big-league homer from rookie Gavin Sheets, as they shut up Josh Donaldson after an unhinged pregame press conference.
- The Sox improved to 47-32 and their AL Central lead extended to four games after Cleveland lost both games of a doubleheader against Detroit. Their lead over Minnesota sits at 13.5 games.
- Michael Kopech was activated from the IL before the game, but didn't see any action in the blowout.
Next: Carlos Rodon (6-3, 2.03) goes for the sweep against Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.41) in today's matinee.
Jonathan Toews returns to Chicago
Months of speculation and worry finally ended on Wednesday as Toews released a video saying that a battle with "chronic immune response syndrome" had left him exhausted and unable to play in the 2021 season. It's a somewhat vague diagnosis and he later did an interview with The Athletic's Mark Lazerus in which he acknowledged that the longhaul effects of COVID may also be at work.
It's great news when compared to some of the rumors that people were floating around town, but still a sobering reminder that we're much closer to the end of Toews' stellar career than the end. Toews was one of the greatest athletes on this planet before this battle and getting back in that neighborhood at 33 under his current condition is far from a given.
- Also not a given? Ever seeing Duncan Keith wearing a Hawks sweater again. The Hawks are reportedly working on a trade that would send him to a team in western Canada to finish out his career. We've actually been pretty lucky so far in that the weirdest sight of the championship era has been Patrick Sharp in a Stars uniform. Seeing Keith wearing a Canucks sweater? Perish the thought.
- Both headlines didn't stop the news in the Brad Aldrich case. TSN reported that a 27-year-old male filed a complaint against Aldrich with Miami University police in 2018, alleging a sexual assault against him six years earlier. The case was later dropped by the alleged victim.
- The NCAA approved an interim name, image and likeness bill, which means that college athletes can start profiting today. If you didn't read my conversation with Extra Points' Matt Brown on how this will affect Illinois schools, now's a good time to catch up. Midway Minute
- The Sky won again on Wednesday night, hours after learning that Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper will represent them at the WNBA All-Star Game on July 14. WGN-TV
- Three players the Sox could part with during trade season (and three untouchables). South Side Sox
- James Fegan catches up with former big leaguer Larry Sheets on watching his son Gavin achieve his own dream. The Athletic
- 28 essential Chicago bars. Eater Chicago
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Trivia answer: Bobby Thigpen, who played on the same Mississippi State team with Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Jeff Brantley. Thigpen blew the save that eliminated Mississippi State from the CWS ... and also hit a grand slam two innings earlier.