Imrem: Schwarber's a dilemma the Cubs are willing to live with

  • Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) tracks down a ball off the bat of Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) in the sixth inning during Game 3 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Schwarber was charged with an error after failing to catch the ball.

    Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) tracks down a ball off the bat of Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) in the sixth inning during Game 3 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill. on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Schwarber was charged with an error after failing to catch the ball. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/9/2017 8:32 PM

What a dilemma Kyle Schwarber is for Joe Maddon.

Right, sir?

 

"Of course (he is)," the Cubs manager said Monday evening.

The Cubs had just defeated the Nationals 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NLDS.

Nobody could have been happier about the outcome than Schwarber. He raised his arms in the air after the Cubs tied the game, after they took the lead and after they finally won it.

"I have such faith in the fellow, for the guy and his work ethic and how much he cares," said Maddon, who gave Schwarber a mighty hug after the final out.

Schwarber almost cost the Cubs this game, and possibly the series, when he looked in left field like your dog playing with a tennis ball in the backyard.

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With the score tied 0-0, Schwarber dropped a flyball, then kicked it, then fetched it, then finally threw it back into the infield.

"That's a routine play," Maddon conceded, and the error led to the game's first run.

The game could have ended with Washington winning 1-0, but the Cubs rescued Schwarber with a run in the seventh inning and another in the eighth.

"He came into the dugout and there wasn't much of anything said (after the outfield flub)," Anthony Rizzo said. "We pick each other up. No one wants to give up a run and make an error."

So there you have Kyle Schwarber: Some days the Cubs win in spite of his fielding; other days they win because of his hitting.

Maddon has to balance these two sides of Schwarber, who hit 30 home runs this season.

As hard as Schwarber tries in left field, he isn't a left fielder. Nor is he a catcher, where he played as an amateur. Nor is he a first baseman or third baseman, even if the Cubs didn't have Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So what does a team in the National League -- which doesn't have the designated hitter like the American League does -- do with a slugger like Schwarber?

It's heartwarming to say the NL does what teams did before some goofball concocted the DH rule: Put him someplace on the field and hope the ball doesn't find him.

Some of the greatest hitters in baseball history had to play defense when they weren't suited for it, though mostly late in their careers rather than early like Schwarber.

Ted Williams, considered by many the best hitter ever, played left field for the Red Sox into his 40s. He has been dead for a long time now but still could hit over .300 as a designated hitter.

Other Hall of Famers like Stan Musial, Yogi Berra and Ernie Banks switched positions at some point so their bats could stay in the lineup and they could stay in the major leagues.

That's the way baseball is supposed to be played. Hitters are supposed to be full-service players, including on defense.

As much as Schwarber struggles in the outfield, he is admired for how hard he's working to improve out there.

"He's going to get better," Maddon said. "You've got to love his heart, man."

The Cubs might trade Schwarber to the other league some day so he can settle in as a DH. After all, they have a few good, young, eager outfielders -- Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. among them -- who can play both sides of the ball.

For now, though, Maddon sounds content to live with the good hitting-no fielding dilemma that is Kyle Schwarber.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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