Two weeks ago I was in Chicago to see the Detroit Tigers, my hometown team, face the Chicago Cubs. I’ve been wanting to share this experience but unfortunately I’ve been a busy college freshman. I still thought the experience and what I saw was worth sharing, so here goes.
I started off by picking up the first day tickets at will call at Wrigley Field and decided to tour the outside of the stadium. I had been there in 2012, but obviously the renovations took place this year. I ended up going all the way around, and after seeing the inside of the stadium, I must say that the Cubs did a pretty good job of making Wrigley Field feel more modern while taking little away from the things that make it a classic park. There’s also really not even a bad seat in the place unless you’re behind a pole with obstructed view. The scoreboards are both really nice too. The field still has the classic feel to it. I love Comerica Park, but Wrigley is certainly the crown jewel of baseball parks.
Now the Tigers destroyed the Cubs in both games really, despite the Cubs’ comeback effort in the first game. It started with a big bang off Jason Hammel, as the Tigers missed hitting three straight homers by mere inches. The hit parade continued as guys with minimal power like Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose both hit homers in the series, and Nick Castellanos had a career day and a grand slam at Wrigley. Daniel Norris stole the show with his homer, though. Oddly enough, I watched him take BP both days and I told my family that I thought he had a lot of power and joked that he would go deep. He ended up proving me right on his huge swing and homer that went to dead center.
The Tigers didn’t stop hitting the whole series. If they played at Wrigley they might score 1,000 runs. Also, Tiger fans were there in herds. The Tigers fans have really solidified themselves as some of the best in baseball with that showing and a strong attendance despite the disappointing year. It felt good to be surrounded by Tigers fans in enemy territory.
I told myself I wouldn’t recap the games too much because most of you know what happened or could easily find a box score and highlights. I just wanted to share my experience of the beautiful stadium and games first and also some observations I made after being in the stadium and seeing the Cubs in action.
The Cubs are under great management in Joe Maddon. I wholly believe that he is one of the best managers in baseball at handling players. The Cubs were always clawing back in these games, even when it looked grim for them. They basically had two of their worst starts of the season from two great pitchers in these games too. Their young hitters could make a postseason run as soon as this year. They are a little bit streaky, but if they get hot I could see this Cubs team making a huge run as a Wild Card.
Kris Bryant is going to be one of the best hitters of this generation. If you get the chance, seriously go watch him hit in the spirit of baseball. He could become an even bigger name this October. Anthony Rizzo is one of the best hitters in baseball too, and he is the veteran of the group of hitters, which is crazy considering that he’s only 26. Kyle Schwarber is a hidden gem in this group. He’s going to be a great hitter for average and power. I think these three could all be top-ten National League position players for years to come. Not to mention, I haven’t even brought up Addison Russell, who despite a slower MLB start, has the tools to be an All-Star, and Dexter Fowler, who is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball.
The bullpen also struggled but the weather conditions were just not favorable to pitchers, and I could see how a guy like Pedro Strop can be huge with his nasty stuff. If the Cubs make a run, it’ll be because their hitters catch on fire, because I think the pitching is there. They have a well-rounded team and they are the type of young team that could take advantage of the short sample size that is the MLB playoffs.
I’ve had the whole year to watch the Tigers up close. I’ve been to 31 games now and have gotten to see the highs and lows, but it really occurred to me that the offense is not the issue during this series. They are going to want to replace Rajai and maybe add a bat this offseason, but the team can flat out hit. Pitching is the real issue. I know a two-game sample is bad, but when a team has J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Castellanos, and Victor Martinez (who should almost surely return to form in 2016), and you see them at their best, you realize that they just need pitching. I think Norris will really step up after getting to watch him in Chicago before he got hurt he only had one shaky inning that he rebounded from nicely. It will be all about the men on the mound if the Tigers hope to challenge the Kansas City Royals in 2016.