Archive for March, 2010

The Grand Vizier speaks

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Today Milton Bradley violated his own gag rule and blamed his mediocre 2009 season on Chicago. Said Bradley: “…it was something with Chicago, not me…just no communication…I never hit more than 22 homers in my career, and all of a sudden I get to Chicago and they expect me to hit 30. It doesn’t make sense. History tells you I’m not going to hit that many. Just a lot of things that try to make me a player I’m not.”

Now pretty much everybody in baseball knows that Uncle Milty is missing a few cups in his cupboard; his statements are not worthy of response. That notwithstanding, the Cubs play the Mariners in an exhibition game on March 28th. Will the Mariners play him in that game? I seriously doubt it but one thing’s for sure – if he did play and I was a Cubs pitcher I’d make absolutely sure that he sat down gingerly after that game.

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In the News: Y’know there’s a game today, right?

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air!

OK, not as I’m writing this. But assuming you care enough about the team to follow them in March, and didn’t lose too many IQ points watching Olympic curling, you should know that today is the day that gen-u-ine Cubs beisbol returns. Well, at least, in its meaningless-but-good-practice spring training form.

The good news from a dramatic standpoint is this Cubs team isn’t like, say, the New York Yankees (who I watched play yesterday via mlb.tv). The Yanks have pretty much every position sewn up and not much to sort through besides ARod’s most recent legal woes and what the deal is with Derek Jeter. (What is his deal, anyway?) What I’m tryin’ to say here is there are a number of interesting subplots going on with the Cubs right now – second base, Starlin Castro, the bench, the bullpen, STARLIN CASTRO – that should make this one of the more involving spring trainings to date. That established, let’s get to the news*:

Cubs! Athletics! 2:05 CT today! Our lead story can be no other. Looks like I’ll be able to catch the first hour or so before a work meeting and my arduous commute cut off my ability to access. Some key details via Carrie Muskat’s Twitter page: Theriot will start at SS but Castro will replace him at some point. DLee, Aramis, Byrd and Geo will also see action. Oh, and Randy Wells gets the start, of course. The game will be available on WGN Radio 720 as well as on gameday audio via cubs.com or MLB.com.

Update:  Today’s starting lineups, courtesy of A’s great beat reporter Jane Lee:

Cubs:

Theriot SS

Kosuke RF

DLee 1B

Aramis 3B

Byrd CF

Colvin LF

Fontenot 2B

Soto C

Wells RHP

A’s:

Davis LF

Barton 1B

Sweeney RF

Fox 3B (← That would be Jake Fox.)

Gross CF

Rosales 2B

Powell C

Pennington SS

Cahill RHP

Soriano will make Saturday special. That’s when he’ll appear in his first game. I’ve read several quotes indicating Alfonso basically feels fine physically and that it’s more the mental adjustment to putting stress on his knee that he’s working through. And Lou seems to be sticking with his plan to use Soriano has a 6-hole hitter, which is fine with me. Just hit for power, my man. Forget the stolen bases. Hit the ball hard, hit the ball often – the rest will work itself out. We got five long years to go.

Cubs probably have tentative deal with young Cuban pitcher. His name is Juan Yasser Serrano and, though this deal is far from finished, all signs point to the 21-year-old right-hander starting the season in Single A ball. What with all the excitement over the Reds signing Cuban lefty fireballer Aroldis Chapman, this may seem like a savvy follow-up move by the Cubs. But this post by the ACB guys indicates this may turn out to be more of a WTF? move.

Several MLB teams boycott breakfast. Are you crazy?! That’s the most important meal of the day! Oh, wait – they’re upset about the Cubs’ plan to fund their new spring training facility with a Cactus League-wide ticket surcharge. You guys do know we had an omelet bar, right?

In other financial news, the Ricketts continue to say good things. This article in the Business Times, one of my favorite reads over a morning espresso at the highly exclusive country club in my head, quotes Tom as saying “it’s possible” the ownership group could kick in some cash for a difference-maker at the trade deadline – assuming the Cubs are in contention, of course. Let’s hope.

You got apps, I got apps. Heck, we all got apps. If you’re a smartphone user, MLB has got you covered with At Bat 2010.  The go-to software for monitoring games via your mobile device lets you, and I quote, “…listen live to every regular-season and postseason game, watch live out-of-market streaming games and get MLB.com Gameday, up-to-the-minute box scores and player stats, in-game highlights and Condensed Games, as well as push notifications.” Best of all, the app is now available for BlackBerry (w00t!) and Android users as well as you ubiquitous iPhone folks. I desperately tried to download At Bat yesterday for my Storm 2, but my lack of a PayPal account pretty much screwed me. Now I’m stuck waiting for said account to activate before I can partake of the digital goodness.

*Click on reddish text for hyperlinks. Check back for updates!

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Milton blames Chicago.  I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this because it’s becoming a pretty big story of the day. To sum up, in a couple relatively brief quotes to the New York Times today, Milton Bradley blamed Chicago (the city? the local government? the band?) for his poor performance last season. He apparently feels the team pressured him to produce home runs beyond his career norm. Gordon Wittenmyer reports via his Twitter page that Lou has denied that the team wanted anything out of Milton other than good production of any kind out of the No. 5 spot in the lineup.

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Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

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In the News: Is Cashner our set-up guy?

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Hello, Cubs fans. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm, but there really aren’t too many earth-shattering Cubs news stories at the moment. Everyone is in camp. A few guys (Guzman, Lilly, Gray, Soriano) are already struggling with various injuries or maladies of one sort or the other. But “Da Gooz” and Gray are still, reportedly, on track for Opening Day. We all pretty much knew that Ted was probably going to be out of action until May. And Soriano – well, he’s honest to a fault, so I see no reason to panic about his arguably slow-to-recuperate knee.

So where does that leave us? Right where we’ve been for the last couple/few weeks. Waiting for spring training games to begin (two more days! two more days!) and wondering how the bullpen and bench will work themselves out. To that end, here are a few stories* to consider:

Lou says Cubs may invest in Cashner. While the Bruce Levines of the world float otherworldly names such as Gregerson and Frasor, I ask again: Should the Cubs really spend valuable assets trading for a set-up guy with so many live young arms in camp? I know, I know…they want a “veteran.” A guy who’s been there and shows he can take the pressure. (Not sure if the Padres’ Luke Gregerson fits the bill: He has one season (75 IP) of big league experience.)

But, aside from the aged John Smoltz (who may not want to be anything other than a starter or closer), there really aren’t any worthy veterans out there. Kiko Calero is another wacky name that’s been floating around. But Carrie Muskat mentions off-handedly in her latest “Inbox” column that his shoulder issues are too risky and the Cubs have moved on.

So who will save us? Well, click on that Sun-Times link above and you’ll find Lou has made a tantalizing mention of the Cubs’ 2008 1st round pick Andrew Cashner. The Money Man was named the team’s fifth highest prospect by minor league guru John Sickels, and Cashner even made Baseball America’s prestigious Top 100 prospects list – slipping in at No. 95. Cashner throws a mid- to upper-90s fastball with a devastating power slider. He’s also reportedly been working on a change-up. Hard to say how the bullpen will configure itself, but this is something to keep an eye on. I’m rooting for Cashner big time.

Cubs to face Derek Lowe in season opener. Oh, it’s on. I’d guess that Braves series will go Lowe vs. Z, Jurrjens (assuming he’s healthy; he’s been ailing) vs. Demp, Hanson vs. Wells.

Today’s live BP, per Carrie Muskat. Seems a fairly safe bet that no one will get plunked – unless Z is in a bad mood.

Baseball is back! No, really. If you’re absolutely dying to see some games today (Tuesday), and you have MLB.TV Premium (a rather pricey proposition for new subscribers this year), you can apparently see some games. MLB Network (which I have sadly lost since switching to AT&T U-Verse) will also be airing the Mets-Braves game at 1 PM ET. More games will, obviously, be occuring throughout with the week with the Cubs, again, kicking things off on Thursday. (I’ll have more about that game in my Thursday morning post.)

Looking for something good to read that’s, y’know, tangible? Check out this year’s Maple Street Press Cubs 2010 Annual. Shameless plug: It includes my article “A Fresh Start: A Fan’s Hopes for the Ricketts Family.”

*Click on orange-reddish text for links. Check back for updates!

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