One player sets a Major League record for hits to open the season. One player retires. A ballpark is christened with its 100th Opening Day even though none of the 99 previous ones led to a championship. True to form, the team that calls the said ballpark home storms out of the starting gate with a 2-4 record. Just another opening week of baseball for the Chicago Cubs. The Lovable Losers once again lived up to their name as the 2014 season kicked off this week.
One of the few positives for the Cubs this week was Emilio Bonifacio. A little-known utility player from the Dominican Republic, Bonifacio, set the modern MLB record by scratching out nine hits over the first two games to open the season. The 28-year-old speedster also notched his 10th and 11th hits in the third game of the season, becoming just the third player in 114 years to accomplish that feat. Bonifacio, who recorded his best season back in 2009 with the Blue Jays when he hit .296 and hacked out 167 hits over the course of the year, is actually just a .266 career hitter. Currently, though, he ranks 2nd in the National League with a .542 batting average while leading the league in hits with 13 and stolen bases with four. If he is going to keep his hot stick at the plate, however, Cubs Manager Rick Renteria will have to find a permanent home for him in the field. Bonifacio has seen time in center field, second base and at short stop so far this season, which, by the way, is only six games old.
Not getting nearly the fanfare of Bonifacio’s work at the plate is the sudden retirement of Cubs outfielder Darnell McDonald. The 35-year-old journeyman actually broke the news of his retirement on Instagram, displaying a flippable selection of highlights from his seven years in the Big Leagues. He broke into the league with Baltimore back in 2004 and played in parts of seven seasons with the Orioles, Twins, Reds, Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs. The career .250 hitter had 20 career home runs in 331 games.
Despite McDonald’s retirement and the Cubs .333 winning percentage, the team’s brass wants to make this year have even more of a party feel at Wrigley Field than it has in years past. The beautiful Friendly Confines, where baseball fans have congregated the last four years to experience the stadium much more than to actually pay attention to what is going on in the field, is turning 100 this year. Cubs management is doing everything possible to celebrate this milestone and keep fans’ minds off of what the Cubs are actually doing in the standings. The team is hosting special give-a-ways, discounted tickets and even concerts to commemorate Wrigley, which first opened its gates in 1914.
The old ball yard finally hosted the Cubs first home victory on Sunday, an 8-3 drubbing of the Phillies. The Cubs are now 1-2 at home and will continue their home stand Tuesday night when the Pirates come to town. As is often the case for the Cubs in April, the problem has been offense. Even with Bonifacio’s .542 average, the club is still hitting just .216. Run production has been the biggest problem for the Northsiders. Before exploding for eight on Sunday, the team had scored just eight runs the entire season. That is an average of 1.3 runs per game.
For what it is worth, Cubs pitching has been very solid so far this season, posting a spectacular 2.45 earned run average. Chicago’s ace, Jeff Samardzija, has struck out 11 in 14 innings of work and only allowed 2 runs. That is good for a 1.29 earned run average, and unfortunately for Samardzija, an 0-1 record. Jason Hammel and Carlos Villenueva posted the two victories for the Cubs, against the Pirates and Phillies respectively. Hammel gave up just one run in just under seven innings while striking out five and Villanueva also allowed just one run in five innings of work for Sunday’s victory.
Commentary by Jeremy Mika
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer Covering the Chicago Cubs