CHICAGO – Even before Cubs reliever Pedro Strop made his feelings known about the Cincinnati Reds’ Yasiel Puig – saying Puig was “stupid” for taking exception to being hit – there were plenty of reasons to like and appreciate Strop.
The idea of some sort of Strop appreciation came to mind the other day, when Craig Kimbrel made his first appearance as the Cubs’ new closer.
When it’s all said and done, Strop will go down as one of the best relief pitchers in Cubs history.
Entering Monday night’s game at Pittsburgh, Strop ranked seventh on the team’s all-time list in appearances with 383. That’s one place ahead of Ryan Dempster and one place behind Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, who pitched in 401 games with the Cubs.
Strop, considered a possible closer of the future when the Cubs got him from Baltimore six years ago Tuesday, has been a setup man for the likes of Kevin Gregg, Hector Rondon, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Brandon Morrow.
When one of those closers was hurt or needed a breather, Strop stepped in as the closer, compiling 28 saves with the Cubs.
For his career entering Monday, Strop was 27-28 with a 3.10 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14 with 519 strikeouts and 211 walks in 478⅓ inning pitched.
The Cubs got Strop from the Orioles along with a guy named Jake Arrieta for pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger.
Let’s state Strop’s value another way: If the Cubs had traded Feldman and Clevenger for Strop alone, the deal would have been a steal.
So if you’re inclined, send positive vibes to Pittsburgh for a Happy Pedro Strop Trade Anniversary Day.
A nod to past management: Next week’s All-Star Game in Cleveland will be represented by Cubs and ex-Cubs.
For all the praise Theo Epstein and his crew have received for turning the Cubs into 2016 world champions, the previous regime headed by former general manager Jim Hendry can take a lot of pride in the players going to the Midsummer Classic.
Kris Bryant was added to the National League All-Star team Sunday, joining teammates Willson Contreras and Javy Báez. Both Contreras and Báez were brought in during Hendry’s time, and both were big keys to the 2016 title team.
Other “Hendry All-Stars” are the Yankees' DJ LeMahieu and the Mariners' Daniel Vogelbach.
Hendry’s scouting chief, Tim Wilken, drafted LeMahieu in 2009, and LeMahieu will be making his third All-Star appearance after having made the National League team twice with the Rockies. LeMahieu has won three Gold Gloves and a batting title.
Epstein erred badly in trading LeMahieu in December 2011 to Colorado as part of a deal for third baseman Ian Stewart.
Vogelbach was a second-round Cubs draft pick in 2011, the same year the Hendry/Wilken team drafted Báez in the first round.
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer traded Vogelbach to the Mariners in July 2016 in a deal that brought pitcher Mike Montgomery to Chicago.
Montgomery earned the save in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and Vogelbach’s path as a first baseman was blocked by Anthony Rizzo. Vogelbach is a first baseman/designated hitter, and the NL does not have the designated hitter, so it’s a trade that has worked out for both teams.
When Epstein was asked about the “Vogie Hoagie” sold at the Mariners’ ballpark, he replied that he liked the “Monty World Series ring.”
When London calls, say yes: The Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals will be headed to London next June to play a two-game series, and based on the past weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox series in England, it should be a trip of a lifetime.
Having been to Japan with the Cubs in 2000, I can say that these series provide a logistical headache or two, but those are far outweighed by the overall experience.
The Yankees and Red Sox combined for more than nine hours of baseball at the London Stadium, which may get a tweak or two for Cubs-Cardinals. But four-plus-hour, nine-inning games between the Yankees and Red Sox are not all that uncommon.
The hitting background at the soccer stadium may need some adjusting. The artificial surface, which was laid over the soccer pitch, seemed to play faster than the new artificial surface in Arizona.
But those are minor quibbles. The Cubs and Cardinals are likely to end up loving the experience in England.