Cubs role players stepping up when needed
When you have a team full of such youth and talent like the Chicago Cubs, it’s easy as an outsider to question certain things. “Why would you sign this guy? We have better prospects ready to go.” But role players–especially veteran role players–are critical to the success of a team. The Cubs have gotten a taste of that importance this year.
Chris Denorfia came up with a clutch sacrifice fly in last night’s game to give the Cubs a 1-0 win over the Dodgers. It’s easy to say with the bases loaded that anyone could have gotten the job done. But he did it against Kenley Jansen, who has struck out over half the batter’s he’s faced. But being a veteran guy, Denorfia knew to look for the cutter that Jansen loves to throw and put a good swing on it.
It’s just another in the line of key plays by guys that some people didn’t understand the reason for signing them.
David Ross is the “elder statesman” of the group. Many felt he was signed just to catch Jon Lester. But he’s been part of two walk-off’s this season. One with his bat, another with his arm–which is still very good if you hadn’t noticed. That marks three wins–at least noticeable ones that these role players were responsible for.
What about Edwin Jackson? Our Jacob Misener recently pointed out his effectiveness, and the possibility he’s rebuilding his trade value. But for the time being, Jackson has kept the Cubs in several games by holding opponents–giving way to opportunities for late-game heroics. There’s no walk-off stats for Jackson, but he’s done a more than admirable job in the role he’s been given.
When the 2015 season was nearing, most of these signings were questioned, or in Jackson’s case people were calling for his release. We had Junior Lake and Arismendy Alcantara, what was the point of Denorfia’s signing? Fast forward to now, and both are down in Triple-A.
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Welington Castillo may still be a solid MLB catcher when it all is said and done, but he wasn’t the leader that Ross is. For all the work you see on the field by Ross, it’s what happens behind the scenes that he makes him so valuable. What he and Miguel Montero provided for Kyle Schwarber while he was up is an immeasurable experience for the young prospect.
The stars won’t always shine. They’re human. Kris Brant and Anthony Rizzo can go 0-for-5. It does happen. And when they do, it’s these guys that will be there to pick them up. I no longer question anything of “the plan”. Clearly it’s working.