The Chicago Cubs outfield did something that had never been done before by hitting two home runs apiece on Sunday.
Over the past few seasons, the Chicago Cubs outfield and the decisions surrounding who to play in that outfield have come under fire daily. Whether it’s the controversy over who would be handling centerfield, Jason Heyward’s mega-contract, or Kyle Schwarber’s defense, the group has been much-maligned and trashed by Cubs twitter at numerous points since the historic 2016 season.
Isn’t it nice to have one day when not even the surliest of fans can complain about who should be playing and where?
You got your chance on “Cubs Outfield Day” when Ian Happ, Heyward, and Schwarber did something that has never been done before in Major League Baseball history. When Schwarber blasted a massive 444 foot Grand Slam in the top of the ninth inning, it gave each one of the Cubs starting outfielders two home runs on the day.
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Understandably, this feat had never been accomplished before in the annals of MLB’s storied existence. To think that it was the Cubs and this particular group is almost mind-boggling, especially given the angst that has surrounded these guys amongst fans and the media alike.
To be fair, it’s not that you couldn’t expect these guys to hit home runs. Schwarber and Happ especially have been noted for their power even when struggling to get on the field or stick in the majors. For their careers, Happ has 59 home runs in 1000 ABs, Schwarber has 119 in 1729 ABs, and even Heyward has 149 in 5004 ABs.
The hitting of home runs may not have been the issue for these guys, but getting into the lineup and staying there had been a monumental task under former manager Joe Maddon. It certainly helped that the Reds used five right-handed pitchers on the day, making it possible for all three to start and finish their full slate of at-bats for the game.
It also helps that all three seem to be coming into their own now that none of them are being forced to look over their shoulder regarding playing time. While Heyward’s deal with the Cubs made it a necessity to keep him out in right field every day, Schwarber has firmly entrenched himself as the guy in left field the past two seasons. And Happ has finally been able to supplant Albert Almora as the starting centerfielder fully.
Whether it was the journey he took to get here, the adjustments he’s made along the way or the fact that he now has a manager who is feeding him the time and confidence he has been looking for? Happ, in particular, has more than just taken away the drama in who’s going on the lineup card in center. He has seized his moment and thrust himself into the NL MVP discussion with his breakout performance so far.
With six home runs and 10 RBI on Sunday afternoon, it looks like all three finally decided to seize the day together. With an off-day on Monday, I guess cantankerous fans might even get two days off from complaining about who’s playing where.
Let’s hope “Cubs Outfield Day” becomes a regular thing in much the same way that Schwarber’s monster game against the Brewers last July propelled him to a sizzling August and September in 2019. Or, you know, we could be back to calling for DFA’s and demotions by next week!