By Kevin Powell
It was never realistic to think the Cubs could replace both David Ross and Dexter Fowler in the offseason. Ross is a father-figure to Anthony Rizzo, and was the soon-to-be-retiree the team could rally around. Fowler has close relationships with many, including Rizzo. And, of course, Fowler was the driving force to the Cubs potent offense. But in some ways, Jon Jay has been able to fill a piece of the void left by each of them.
“Great, professional teammate,” Rizzo said after their 15-5 win over the Reds. “Great person, works hard, sets an example for everyone in here.”
This came after a huge night for Jay where he went 3-for-5 and was a homer shy of the cycle.
“Great job, he’s done a lot of other little things, talking to different younger players,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He really does a nice job of mentoring….he wants to play, he loves to play and he has definitely stirred our drink.”
As Jay adds the veteran leadership that was lost when Ross entered retirement, the 32-year-old outfielder could also be the answer at leadoff, a spot that’s featured a rotating cast without Dexter “you go, we go” Fowler in the lineup.
“He’s been playing a lot more lately, and he’s capitalizing on it and it’s fun to watch,” Rizzo added.
Jay says he’s just trying to earn the respect of his peers: “I just try to be somebody that when I go out there, they know what they’re going to get. Someone that’s going to have good at-bats, and try to play solid defense….I just want to be counted on, and it’s a good feeling when your teammates can count on you.”
The Jay signing wasn’t the biggest offseason splash from the Cubs. It’s not at the level of the Jorge Soler-Wade Davis deal, but the one-year contract worth $8 million dollars that he signed is paying off in a big way. Jay’s hitting .299 with a .388 on base percentage this season, and just as we saw Tuesday night, he can be an immediate spark to the lineup.
“I feel comfortable in every spot,” he said. “I just try to keep it simple. I’ve hit first, ninth, eighth. I’ve done it all. Just trying to be consistent.”
Cubs’ fans were hollering for management to bring a consistent leadoff man in at the trade deadline. But the answer has been on the roster all season. Whether Maddon does stick with the rotation at the top, or settles in on one guy, there’s more than enough talent to suffice. But it’s looking more and more like Jon Jay could be the man down the stretch, and potentially in the postseason.
NEWS & NOTES
-Kris Bryant is heating up…he’s reached base in 16-of-20 plate appearances over the last four games…Hitting three doubles, two homers, six RBI’s, four walks and one hit-by-pitch. He’s reached base at least three times in four-straight games for the second time in his career.
-Of the 45 games remaining for the Cubs, 31 are against teams at or below .500
-Cubs starting pitchers have gone 16-5 with a 3.12 ERA since the All-Star break
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720