Archive for the ‘General’ Category

A Case for the DH in the National League

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

I should begin by admitting that I have spent most of my life up until fairly recently adamantly opposed to the presence of the designated hitter ever coming to the National League. I prided myself in the way I loved the purity of the game and didn’t want it sullied by a half player, as I once viewed the DH. However, as opinions tend to do when you are willing, mine has changed. I’ll explain first where my long standing opposition came from, and then I’ll elaborate on why I have let go of that view.

I touch on it in my bio found below, but I grew up a Cubs fan because of accessibility. I lived in a very small farm town in Michigan, and WGN was one of the few channels I got. Naturally, that meant my growing up years were spent watching the Cubs and their National League counterparts. To me, pitchers batting was just the way it was. I’m not sure when I first became aware of the DH, but I suspect either a box score or a baseball card featuring Eddie Murray that did it. My initial reaction was simply that as a Cubs and National League fan, I saw no reason for their to be an extra position where the player didn’t even play defense. In time, my opposition to the DH came down to two things:

Baseball “purity”

I put the word in quotes now, because as I will explain later, this idea of being a purist to the game is one that doesn’t work very well upon close examination. However, for now, I’ll stick to what made sense to me for a long time. In my mind, pitchers had been a part of the batting order for the first century or so that the game was played, so therefore that was the right way to play the game. Let the pitchers hit. I enjoyed the strategy of pinch hitting and pitching changes in the late innings of games. I just made sense to me that all players should both play defense and take their turns at the plate.

A DH isn’t a full player

By this I usually meant that they were one dimensional, or they didn’t do the full job that I felt a baseball player should. If you can’t play defense or have become old enough that you no longer can, you should retire. The time has come to make your graceful exit. It isn’t right that one player on the roster can spend so much of his time sitting in the dugout when the rest are focusing on both hitting and playing in the field.

To be honest, this is really the extent that my thinking regarding the DH ever went. I’d like to be able to say that I gave it all greater thought than this, but I really didn’t. So what changed? The more baseball I watched, and the more I read about the history of the game, the more I realized that my reasons for opposing the DH just weren’t strong enough. What, then, is to be gained by embracing the DH in the National League?

Baseball “purity” revisited

This idea has become glaringly hogwash the further I have read about the history of the game. Really, to fixate on one aspect of the game and declare that a part of the pure version of baseball is pretty silly. Baseball is pretty dramatically different from what it was not that long ago, but especially what it was at its origins. If we subscribe to the notion of true purity based on the earliest versions of the game, no one would wear gloves, catchers wouldn’t wear masks, pitchers would pitch nearly every game (which makes me wonder, are we being overly soft with our pitchers now? But that’s another topic.), managers would often play as well, only one or two game balls were used, etc. Really, the game has been constantly changing ever since its origins, and the fact that the two leagues have had such a distinct difference between them for this long is pretty strange. No other professional league in the United States features such a huge difference within itself, like what we see with the DH in the American League and the absence of the DH in the National League.

“A DH isn’t a full player”

You don’t have to look very hard to see that there are several other types of players on the roster who the same could be said for. Take the relief pitcher, for instance. How often do they ever bat? What of the specialists who come in just to face one batter? They never hit. It’s extraordinarily rare. I could go on, but the point is, this idea that a DH is playing just half the game doesn’t hold up very well when you look around the roster. Even the so-called “full” players can spend ample time while on defense doing very little. Watch a single game during the regular season and you’ll see plenty of innings where all or most of the players on defense do almost nothing. Is standing in the field doing nothing somehow better than sitting in the dugout or taking practice swings in the clubhouse? I’m not trying to devalue the other position players, but really, the DH does just as much work as most of the guys on the team.

Interleague play has practically brought the DH to the National League anyway

This could ultimately be the strongest reason for embracing the DH. Especially lately, with interleague action taking place all the time. National League teams are using the DH during those games so regularly anyway, that a switch to a full time DH wouldn’t be a major change anymore. The ship has already kind of sailed.

It creates greater opportunity for National League teams

Watch Dan Vogelbach highlights for a minute. He can absolutely rake, and he’s already absolutely destroying the ball so far in AA Tennessee. The trouble is, his body type doesn’t hold up to being able to play first base long term, and he’s going to be perpetually blocked by Anthony Rizzo anyway. So what to do with him? Trade someone who could potentially provide ample offense in coming years simply because you can’t find a spot for him on defense? Imagine the possibilities if the Cubs could use a DH full time, and make Vogelbach that DH as early as 2016. I don’t expect the rule to change by then, but Vogelbach could be ready by then, so the problem is there.

Not only that, but I do believe that it has an effect on free agency. Many hitters know that they can still be productive at the plate in their waning years, provided that they can focus on just hitting. Maybe it’s a reach, but I think Alex Rodriguez is poised for a solid year at the plate in 2015, and largely because he’ll DH most of the season.

Pitchers are just awful hitters

Admit it, no one really ever wants to watch them at the plate do they? Just stop making us watch things like this anymore. Please. That, and the frustration that comes from seeing your pitcher taken out of a game before he needs to be because his spot in the order is coming up and a pinch hitter is needed in the last third of a game I’d gladly be rid of. Finally, it means more runs will be scored, and for the average fan, that’s always a good thing.

With this, I’ve embraced what seems like the inevitably of the DH in the National League. I just hope it comes sooner rather than later.

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Game 6 Notes – These Ain’t Your Daddy’s Cubs

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

BOX SCORE

I have a confession to make to you. I came home from work last night with a splitting headache. After putting the kids to bed, I took the dog for a walk and then settled in the bed with my iPad to watch the game, knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t make it the whole game. I made it till the 6th inning, which is a miracle and then turned off the iPad thinking to myself “there is no way they can come back and win again two nights in a row, so I might as well get some sleep.” When I woke up this morning, I checked Facebook at saw someone post “Your First Place Chicago Cubs”. I almost commented that they were confused, but pulled up the score and saw that I was pleasantly mistaken.

I mentioned it yesterday that I hoped the come from behind win would spark a swagger that this team, as young as they are and getting younger, can win and win quickly. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m still not saying this will be a playoff team. I predicted 85 wins and I’m sticking to that, but this is a team that is showing that it can be significantly better than we saw last season. They ran a stat last night that the Cubs were 0-79 last year when trailing into the 9th inning. While that wasn’t the case last night, you get the idea. Last year’s team just didn’t fight and claw for come from behind wins. This year we’ve seen two of them in the last two nights.

It could have gone south in the 1st inning as Jon Lester was less than an ace and gave up hit after hit and got back to the dugout down three runs. Instead, we answered with a three run inning of our own and it was a new game. It’s disappointing to watch two starts in a row from Lester and see him be less than what we paid for. I didn’t follow the #Cubs feed last night, but my guess is it was blowing up with people who were all over Theo and Jed for signing him and comparing him to Edwin Jackson, especially after his second throw over to 1st base. Yes, you read that correctly, Lester threw over to first.

We’re obligated to talk about it, since it happened, so let’s get it over with. Lester cannot be effective throwing over. There was a lot of hype around this game because of it. I feared that Billy Hamilton would simply run and never stop because Lester wouldn’t be able to stop him. Instead, Hamilton had the night off and Lester decided to try to clear up the mystery. He decided that the 2nd inning, with Zack Cozart on, it would be a good time to finally make his move and uncorked a passive throw to Rizzo. With that out of the way and the yips cleared up, for some reason he decided to try it again, this time seeing the ball fly into right field. Had Jorge Soler not been in RF, it would have been a stolen base and an error leading to Cozart on third. Instead, Soler flexed his arm and gunned down Cozart at third. Side Note: Soler is really fun to watch.

I’m not sure what prompted the second throw to first base, but it happened. Had he just been satisfied with throwing over once, showing people it could be done, and planting that seed in runners minds, we could have somewhat ended this media circus. Instead, now we’re going to continue to hear about it until he shows he can do it and do it consistently. Last night he did more harm than good for the hype.

Overall, we’re two starts into the Lester era and I’m disappointed. We need more from him and I think it will be there, but I’m an impatient little child and I want it now.

I mentioned Soler earlier and how he’s fun to watch. If you haven’t had the chance to watch many games that he’s played since coming up to the Majors, you really need to. He’s quickly becoming my favorite hitter in this lineup and I think he’s going to lead the team in home runs when all is said and done. Before you accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon of that prediction after last night’s two home run performance, note that it was part of my 10 bold predictions piece this year. The key to Soler is going to be his ability to keep those legs healthy. If he can do that, you’ll be watching the rookie of the year all season long.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Mike Olt was a late scratch for the game. He was originally in the starting lineup, but was scratched to give him another day of rest as he recovers from being hit in the wrist on Sunday.
  • Tommy LaStella may be headed to the DL if the soreness in his side doesn’t start to subside.
  • The Cubs will be raising money on Tuesday to help assist those damaged by the tornadoes. Donations will be taken at the gate.
  • Rumors are there that the Indians have inquired on the availability of Welington Castillo.

 

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MLB Week 1 Recap – Break Up The Royals

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Baseball season is finally back in full swing, and games actually have meaning again. Not only do they matter in terms of the regular season being underway, but games actually matter for the Cubs in the division race. The first week has had no shortage of memorable moments, and so let’s recap.

Kansas City Quieting Doubters

It’s been a bad week if you thought the Royals were a fluke last year, and would subsequently be dethroned at the top of the American League with the loss of James Shields. Kansas City is off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 2003. Reports recently surfaced that Royals players are taking it quite personally that their 2014 club was viewed as a fluke, and they are showing that chip on the shoulder in their play. Another AL Central squad, the Detroit Tigers, is off to a perfect start as well, winning their first six games. For a division that many expected regression from, this is quite the start.

Fall Classic Favorites Slow Out of the Gate

The three consensus World Series favorites combined for a whopping four wins through Saturday, though each won on Sunday. Seattle, who added Nelson Cruz in the offseason, is now sits at 3-3. Washington, another big spender in free agency, has started 2-4, as have the Los Angeles Dodgers.

New Rule in Effect

The first player to receive a warning pertaining to stepping out of the batter’s box was…Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz. Maybe not the person that gamblers put prop bets on, but regardless, Buchholz will be fined if he does this again. The rule was put into place to remove some of the wasted time from the game, and so far it seems to have removed about 10 minutes of dead time (per a Forbes report). The fines might not be particularly substantial, though one needs to look no further than Adrian Beltre’s panic/dance move to see that some players are taking this new rule quite seriously.

What’s Wrong With the Claw?

One of the early season head scratchers is what is wrong with Clayton Kershaw. Last year’s MVP struggled in his season debut on Opening Night, though pitched well enough to earn a quality start. Kershaw surrendered five earned runs over 6 1/3 on Saturday against the Diamondbacks, and now has an ERA sitting at 5.84 through two starts. According to True Blue LA, his is the fourth time in Clayton Kershaw’s career that he has allowed double digit hits in a game, which is frankly, unbelievable.

Injuries Not Yet a Factor

Fortunately, injuries have not been a huge story so far across the league. Andrew McCutchen sat out Saturday with knee discomfort, after leaving Friday’s Pirates game early. McCutchen battled the same discomfort in Spring Training, which could be cause for concern. Pirates’ Manager Clint Hurdle seems to believe that this notion is ridiculous, though. Felix Hernandez was pulled from his Sunday start after five innings due to forearm tightness, though the Mariners aer saying that it was a precautionary move. One significant injury early on has been Indians catcher Yan Gomes, who will be on the shelf for around six weeks with and MCL sprain. Gomes busted out in 2014 for the Tribe, and Brett Hayes, the replacement for Gomes, will have big shoes to fill.

Rookie of the Year Race

Diamondbacks’ top prospect Archie Bradley made his long awaited Major League debut, and lived up to his billing. Bradley tossed six shutout innings, and only allowed one hit. Bradley’s name was on the shortlist for Rookie of the Year honor predictions coming into the year, and he’s off to a good start. Dodgers’ center fielder Joc Pederson is six for his first 21, and Cubs’ right fielder Jorge Soler is four for 18 after one week.

The Cubs are Winning

Finally, the Cubs have a winning record after one week, and everything is right in the world. Despite some fan skepticism, the Cubs have managed to own a winning record without the services of Kris Bryant. The three wins have not come easy per se, and everyone (including Len Kasper) has voiced their opinion on the club’s lack of success with runners in scoring position, but they are wins regardless. Everyone is now aware of Jon Lester’s disdain for throwing to first, and varying amounts of panic have flared up about the new long-term investment. Focus on the positives, though. Jake Arrieta seems to have picked up where he left off last year, and the bullpen looks as strong as ever. And most importantly, only a few more days we presume until Bryant gets the call.


Oddity of the week: Bartolo Colon had his first run batted in since 2005. Colon lost his helmet in the process of swinging, though his single gave the Mets the lead.

MVP of the Week: Adrian Gonzalez (16-23, five home runs, seven RBIs)

CY Young of the Week: Sonny Gray (one run allowed over 15 1/3, near no hitter in season debut)

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Andre Dawson: The Hawk is Flying Back to Chicago on April 13

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Although Andre “The Hawk” Dawson spent the bulk of his 21-year career with the Montreal Expos, he’s also remembered fondly in Chicago due to producing some of his finest seasons as a Cub. The Hall of Famer signed with the Cubs as a free agent in 1987, after which Dawson recorded a career-high 49 home runs and 137 RBI to win the National League MVP award.  He thrived while playing his home games at Wrigley Field, as he knocked in over 100 runs three times during his six years in a Cubs uniform.

Dawson is returning to Chicago and ready to talk about his experiences on the baseball diamond.  His appearance onApril 13 is part of an event series produced by Thuzio Executive Club (TEC), a platform that gives members and their guests access to memorable business events featuring pro athletes, coaches and sports personalities. Conversely, Thuzio Executive Club provides these sports celebrities with the chance to tell their stories to an audience of business people as opposed to the usual sports fan crowd.

The upcoming event in Chicago featuring Dawson will be at Osteria Via Stato and is billed as “The Hawk: An MVP and His Love Affair with the Windy City.”  Moderated by Ken Brunson, it will feature a Q&A session plus cocktails and dinner. Thuzio Executive Club members and their guests can ask Dawson about anything from his emotions on being voted into the Hall of Fame to why he allowed the Cubs to choose the amount they would pay him for the 1987 season.

TEC has been holding events such as this in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.  Other Chicago sports heroes who have participated are Bill Cartwright, Ozzie Guillen, Jeremy Roenick, Dan Hampton and Gary Fencik.

“Members of Thuzio Executive Club and their guests can expect the most interesting business evening of the year, each time,” said Mark Gerson, who is co-founder and chairman of the Gerson Lehrman Group and co-founded Thuzio in 2012 with former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber. “The combination of stories that yield enduring lessons directly from the top talent in the sport, the congregation of business leaders at each event, and the ambiance create an experience that our members and their guests remember for months that follow.”

Past TEC events have also featured the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Roger Clemens, Brian Leetch, Dick Vermeil, Terrell Davis, Allan Houston, CC Sabathia, Joe Theismann and Christian Laettner.

Thuzio Executive Club appears to be thriving as it currently plans on expanding to Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. But first they’ll be giving the people of Chicago a chance to get up close and personal with one of their heroes, Andre Dawson.

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Game 5 – Cubs Receive A Gift From An Old Friend

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

BOX SCORE

Over the last few seasons, the Cubs would not have won a game like Sunday’s late comeback. We’ve seen a new feel to the energy with this team in 2015 and Sunday’s finish may be the start of a swagger that has been missing for quite some time.

  • Kyle Hendricks didn’t look super impressive, but he didn’t kill the Cubs either. It’s a tough place to make your season debut when you’re a guy that tends to pitch to contact and not miss a lot of bats. If you didn’t watch the game, you’ll see a line of 4.1 IP and 5 ER, but that line could have been much different had he not tried to field a ball in the 2nd inning that could have been a double play. Ranging to his right, he tried to spear a ball that, had he let go, would have been a much easier play for Starlin Castro and came up short. It allowed all runners to be safe and opened the door for a four run inning. Outside of that, he really wasn’t bad given the park he was charged with pitching in. He even helped his cause with the bat, driving in Arismendy Alcantara in the 5th. I consider Hendricks to be the 5th guy in the rotation. I’ll take this outing in Coors Field any day of the week from my 5th guy, especially given the way Colorado has come out hitting so far this season.
  • The Cubs put the leadoff man on base a bunch of times early, with runners reaching base in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th, yet it was only in the 5th that we could manage a couple runs. The 5th inning was a wild one for Rockies pitcher, Jordan Lyles, who saw his defense completely wet the bed, particularly his catcher, Michael McKenry. McKenry, according to the broadcasters, is not known for his ability to control the running game and it showed. Joe Maddon had a few runners on the move in the game and McKenry couldn’t do anything about it. Tack on a badly missed opportunity to catch a foul pop up behind the plate and my guess is he was ready to crawl in a hole and not be seen.
  • The bullpen did their job again, which is more than you can say for poor LaTroy Hawkins. I took a look to see where he ranks in the all time leaderboard for blown saves and he came in ranked 38th all time for allowing a blown save. Not too shabby.
  • I really like what Dexter Fowler brings to the table. I’ve not seen anything particularly wrong with his defense in CF yet, which is the knock on him as a player.What I’ve seen is a guy in the leadoff spot that has made things happen. He’s made plays. I like that.
  • Mike Olt, who was hit on the wrist on Saturday night by a fastball, had x-rays that showed there were no breaks. He didn’t start, but it was good to see him available in a pinch hit role. Tommy LaStella was unable to play due to a strain in his side. He’s listed as day to day as of right now.
  • The Cubs head home to host the Reds this week and I’m very concerned about how well we will be able to stop Billy Hamilton on Monday with Jon Lester on the mound. Keeping him off base will be key. If Lester truly can’t throw to 1st, this could be a free for all for Hamilton.
  • Down on the farm, Kris Bryant hit home run # 2 on Sunday and Addison Russell went deep as well. It’s exciting to think that both will probably be a part of this team very very soon.
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Game 4 Notes – The bats have arrived

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Box Score

The first week or so of the baseball season offers ample opportunity for overreaction and sweeping conclusions based on a very small number of games, and I have to admit, it was hard not to want to do exactly that about the Cubs offense after just 3 games. Much was made of their lack of hitting with RISP going into Saturday’s game, as well as the notable absence of offensive production from hitters like Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler. So last night’s game was a refreshing change in terms of the offense

GAME NOTES

  • The Home Runs - First, the back to back missiles from Chris Coghlan and everyone’s favorite placeholder third baseman, Mike Olt, in the third inning, and then Starlin Castro‘s solo shot in the fifth inning. These were the first fingers for the Cubs this season, so it was nice to see them come in a bunch like that. Granted, they were feasting on subpar pitching in a hitters park, but that’s what good offenses are supposed to do. Speaking of which, while we’re busy drooling over young prospects and up and coming talent, don’t forget Coghlan. If healthy, he can be as much of a spark to the offense as the middle of the order.
  • Poor, poor Rizzo – Four HBP in the first four games. I have no idea what the record is for something like this, but wow.
  • Dexter Fowler‘s Big Night – Two Triples!!!! Love, love the production from Fowler as a whole, but it sure helps when he does his part in clearing the bases, as he did in the second inning. In all, he did what you want your leadoff hitter to do, he got on base and scored.
  • Welcome Back to Jason Hammel – I am definitely glad Hammel is back. Facing a strong Rockies offense in their home park in his first start of the season, he produced a quality start last night with 6 innings, just 3 runs, and 6 Ks. This is the kind of outing we have so often lacked for the past few seasons, where our pitcher throws a quality start and the offense actually backs him up.
  • Mike Olt Got a Boo Boo – Olt left the game in the 9th inning after taking a pitch of the wrist. Hard to tell how serious while watching, but don’t bother, Kris Bryant enthusiasts, the Cubs will make due for another week or so, if need be. Tweets were reported after the game that he is day to day.

TALKING POINTS

  1. Are you for or against the Cubs putting Bryant in the minors to earn the extra year of service time or are you one that subscribes to the theory that the best 25 should have come north with the team?
  2. Rumors that the Padres are looking for a shortstop and that Castro could be of interest abound. Would you like to see Castro traded or not?
  3. What are your thoughts on Joe Maddon‘s decision to hit the pitcher in the 8th spot in the lineup each game?

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Game 3 Notes – Failure To Chase

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Box Score

I came into last nights game pretty excited for baseball, but went to be disappointed. Let’s get to the game notes and talk about.

  • I didn’t watch the game live, so I could move through it quickly on MLB.tv. I found the trick. I set my settings to hide the score, but right before an inning goes to commercial, I just click the clickable line score to the next half inning and can avoid the silly commercials that MLB runs as part of the package. If you miss it, you’re forced to watch the commercial. I miss having the Extra Innings package on the TV this year more than ever as no games are on WGN America anymore. For someone who lives outside of the Chicagoland area, that is discouraging.
  • I thought Travis Wood looked pretty good last night all things considered. We talked this off-season why I believe he struggled so much last year. I believe it was his choice to move away from the slider more and more and rely more on the fastball. In addition, we discussed how the slider became incredibly ineffective all at once last year after being a dominant pitch for him the few years before that. I equated that to the fact that I believed he must have been tipping that pitch in some way. You don’t have a dramatic change like that unless there is a pretty distinct cause. In 2014, Wood threw his slider 7.3% of the time. He was just over 15% last night. It’s way to early to judge how effective the pitch is, but it’s a good sign to see him trust it that much last night.
  • Last night, Joe Maddon used his pitcher in the 8th spot, something that figures to be a normal occasion. The Rockies also started their game with the pitcher hitting 8th. That was just the 12th time in MLB history that both teams employed that strategy to start the game. I see the value in it more and more and I wonder if more teams will begin to use that idea. Strategy involves. We’ve seen a massive increase in the shift to the point that MLB has talked about reforming the allowed use of it. I think we’ll see this thinking evolve as well and more teams will begin using the strategy of hitting the pitcher 8th.
  • More failed offensive execution with the runners on base last night. Guys are getting on base, but once they are there, we’re simply not doing anything with them. I’m not overly concerned at this point, but if it keeps happening, you begin to worry a little bit. 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position is not going to get the job done. We had Tyler Matzek on the ropes a couple of times after his really nice 1st inning and were unable to deliver the blow that did him in. You can’t do that against an offensive team like Colorado and especially not in Colorado.
  • Anthony Rizzo managed two hit by pitches and it’s crazy to watch how far over the plate his hands are. It clearly made Matzek uncomfortable, but I worry that he might get hit and then be out for an extended period of time. I’m all for him wearing some heavy armour and taking balls off that elbow if it’s protected, but you start to worry about a guys ribs.
  • The line of the night didn’t show up in the box score, but rather out of the mouth of the Rockies color man. When Jorge Soler went after a ball in RF and came up short, he put his gold chain back in his jersey. The sheer size of it prompted a line “That’s a Mr. T starter kit, right there.”
  • Justin Grimm was placed on the DL retroactive to April 2nd before the game and Brian Schlitter was recalled. While I ♥ our bullpen, I do NOT ♥ Schlitter. I have never had faith in him and I would have rather seen us recall Zac Rosscup to give another lefty in the pen.

 

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Why Javier Baez is Taking Some Time Off

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Another day without Cubs baseball yesterday so another edition of the news this morning as we wait for today’s game. The Cubs begin a weekend series in Colorado today and it will hopefully wake up the offense. They will need to bring the bats because Colorado is great at home.

  • Jon Lester is focusing on pitching and not on picking runners off. While I agree that pitching should always be the number one focus, there is a difference between choosing to focus on it and just not being able to throw to first. We saw this issue a few years ago on bunts that Matt Garza had to field. He just couldn’t mentally make the throw. I fear that is the issue with Lester right now and that if he makes the throw to first and messes up the first one, teams will confirm their suspicisions and really open the flood gates on the basepaths. It’s almost like the famous quote by – “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Better for Lester to be perceived as not being able to throw to first than to try it and confirm it?
  • The Cubs released Ryan Sweeney on Tuesday. You might remember he was designated for assignment at the end of spring training. The fact that the Cubs released him means no one was interested in taking him on waivers and he was not interested in going to the minors. Good luck to him going forward. The 40 man roster currently stands at 39 and my guess is it will stay there until Kris Bryant is selected.
  • There have been constant rumors that the San Diego Padres are in the market for a shortstop. Starlin Castro has been mentioned, but I’m not sure the Cubs would be willing to move Castro unless the package was right at this point in the season. It’s a pretty big PR hit to trade a starting player away in a season that some feel you could compete for a playoff spot. However, the move may make sense in the long run if Addison Russell continues to look like the real deal. In addition, the Cubs have ties to the Padres since it’s Jed Hoyer’s former team. A deal makes sense. You might remember that Anthony Rizzo came from San Diego in exchange for Andrew Cashner.
  • Jim Callis has a quick guide to where each of the Cubs top 30 prospects are assigned to as of opening day.
  • Javier Baez is taking a leave of absence, not because of his struggles at the plate, but due to the death of a family member. His 21 year old sister has passed away from spina bifida. Sad news.
  • Yesterday was opening day down on the farm and Bryant did not homer. Something must be wrong. C.J. Edwards, who we talked about yesterday pitched 2.1 innings out of the pen for AA and gave up one run.

 

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The Cubs’ Pitiful History of Opening Day Positions Players (since 1977)

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

The Cubs lost to the Cardinals on opening night 3-0.  I imagine the vast lot of you knows this already, unless you were in a cave somewhere…or scrubbing toilets aboard a ship for a strange cult.  I was disappointed, as you were…but I rebounded quickly.  In my mid-40’s (closing in on “upper mid”) I have finally grown up.  I am still “in to” the Cubs almost as much as when I was a 9-year old…I just don’t react like I did as a 9-year old. I quit doing that in my late 30’s. What I mean to say is I don’t live or die with each Cubs win or loss.  Nevertheless, Opening Day does seem like much more than one game…doesn’t it? (especially against the dreaded Cards!) I imagine most fandoms view opening day this way, but Cubs’ fans take in dread like oxygen.    Thus the loss to the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright was difficult for many. I am ready to move on to the next 161, yet still have a bit of “opening day spirit” (I still haven’t taken down my opening day decorations) left over from Sundays’ debacle.  I decided to research the worst opening day starters at each position for the Cubs…and put together a really awful 9 player contingent.  I put in a couple self-imposed conditions:

  1.  I only went back to 1977. Why 1977 you ask? Well that’s the summer that this 9 year old boy began following every game.  In some ways it my A.D. if you will. (I hope I didn’t offend any ones religious sensibilities, unless you belong to the aforementioned cult)
  2. I only included players who started at the position on one opening day for the Cubs.
  3. I used WAR (wins above replacement) for my statistical analysis, because unlike Hawk Harrelson, I want to prove to you young bucks I can “get down” with saber metrics. OPS (on-base plus slugging) is actually my favorite statistic…but only deals with offense.

Hence using that criteria, here are 9 pitiful position players who started for the Chicago Cubs on opening day (with a brief comment or two thrown in):

CATCHER      2002  TODD HUNDLEY                                         0.4 WAR

Todd’s father Randy is also a former Cub, who when called upon in the Cubs’ radio booth has displayed an insightful baseball mind. Todd displayed that by 2002, he was washed up as a player…and that he could never button up his shirt.

1st BASE        2012  JEFF BAKER                                                  -0.4 WAR

Poor platooning Jeff is only on this squad by default…this is a position in which the Cubs have had few one year opening day starters. Bill Buckner, Leon Durham, Mark Grace, Derek Lee and now Anthony Rizzo take up most of the past opening day’s spots at first base.

2ND   BASE     1981  JOE STRAIN                                                   0.4 WAR

After the Manny Trillo years, yet prior to the Ryne Sandberg era…young Joe Strain was an extremely forgettable player the Cubs acquired from the Giants.  The 1981 opening day line-up of the Cubs was shockingly awful.

3rd   BASE      1981 KEN REITZ                                                      -0.8 WAR

Reitz was acquired along with Leon Durham for Bruce (cough) Sutter.  There were actually worse third sackers than Reitz who started in multiple years. (I am looking at you Kevin Orie and Gary Scott!) Did I mention that the 1981 Cubs’ opening day line-up was frightful?

SS                    1998    JEFF BLAUSER                                               -0.6 WAR

Did you forget the Cubs had him…or maybe you just blocked it out?  Blasuer was a Cubs’ killer as both an opponent and a member.

LF     1990    LLOYD MCCLENDON                                                  -1.6 WAR

Another platoon casualty here…McClendon did enjoy some nice moments for the Cubs.  If you never saw him play…you missed Harry Caray pronounce his name about 13 different ways…McClennan, McClenlen, McClendand, MacLyndon, McLandin…

CF     1980    CARLOS LEZCANO                                                                 -0.4 WAR

I was so excited that this rookie was starting the season in center for the Cubs in 1980…that excitement was gone by May 1st.

RF     2009    MITLON BRADLEY                                                                  0.3 WAR

Settle down! No really…settle down!  I get it…you are still angry at Milton.  In fact, if Milton were to be introduced at Wrigley in 2015…I think he would be booed louder than AJ Pierzynski, Satan, and Steve Bartman…combined.

SP     1991    DANNY JACKSON                                                     -1.8  WAR

The Cubs first major foray into free agency included signing George Bell (pretty much a bust), Dave Smith (definitely a bust) and Jackson. (a colossal bust) Of course in true ex-Cubs fashion, Jackson rebounded and helped the Phillies advance to the 1993 World Series.

Does this appalling trip through the gallery of Cubs’ opening day lineups past make you feel any better in 2015? Certainly none of the starters from the other night will ever appear on a collection like this in the future?

Jorge Soler? No way…never! Dexter Fowler? Highly…highly…doubtful. Chris Coghlan? P…p…probably not? David Ross? (Symbolically pulls collar away from neck) I kid…I kid…we all know that 2015 is going to be different.  All things Cubs’ related are going to go smoothly.

…unless you need to use the bathroom.

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