Did everyone watch a lot of baseball yesterday? Tomorrow is the big day when the Chicago Cubs play a split squad against the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics in Spring Training action. I could talk about everything that’s exciting about this year’s edition of the Northsiders, but faithful readers, you all ready know that.
Instead, let’s talk about that situation behind the plate. What to do, oh what to do?
Currently, the Cubs have three catchers in Welington Castillo, Miguel Montero and David Ross. The Chicago Cubs don’t need three catchers and more than likely, Welington Castillo will probably find another club to play for come Opening Day.
It’s unfortunate, but a reality and I’m sure he knows that.
“If Castillo is on the team as a third catcher, it will be difficult to get playing time,” Maddon said. “Off the top of my head, it would be a situation where we’ll have to find a spot for him to start. You’ll probably want to run for David Ross, you’ll probably want to run for Montero late in the game. You’d probably not be concerned at all about putting Welly back there because of his throwing ability and blocking ability.”
Now, going from a starter to a backup is probably not the situation Castillo would like to be in but the problems the Cubs are facing so far are very good problems to have.
“This game has a really cruel way of answering questions, and that’s why, right now, this is all theoretical stuff, and I get it,” Maddon said. “‘I don’t know’ is my best answer.”
Look at their pitching scenario. The five spot is a mess now that the Kyle Hendricks Experience is all but locked into the four spot. I think it’ll be wise to stick Travis Wood in there over Edwin Jackson.
Jackson needs to regroup this season and find his groove. I’m rooting for him but as Joe Maddon says,
“This game has a really cruel way of answering questions.”
Whether it was a chance to “Dot the I’s or cross the “T’s” the decision to start Jon Lester on Opening “Night” really came down to being a no brainer. However, that doesn’t mean that the excitement of making it official didn’t send chills down my spine at the very mention.
Imagine, Opening Night is around the corner. In just over four weeks, the Cubs prepare to defend the Den against those pesky redbirds of St. Louis.
“I talked to Jon,” Maddon said Monday. “Jon will start Opening Night.”
Now that the Cubs have figured out who the Opening Day, er, Night starter is going to be, that begs the question of who will end up their number five? Will it be Edwin Jackson or Travis Wood?
I think it will be Travis with Edwin in the Pen, but something tells me that the five spot will change drastically throughout the season should Edwin find his groove. Madden’s a creative guy so be prepared to be unprepared.
“The line I like is that, I’m not going to lie to you,” Maddon said. “If I tell you the truth, you might be upset with me for about a week or two, but then you’re going to be OK. But if I lie to you, you’re going to hate me forever. If you shoot somebody between the eyes honestly, they might leave the room upset, they might slam the door, they might drive out of the parking lot quick, they might go home and hopefully not hit their dog. Eventually, they come back because you told them the truth. Every professional person I’ve ever been around really appreciates that.”
Perhaps Maddon is the type of manager the Cubs need at this time. Someone who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.
As irrelevant as it may seem, those eight words could go down in history as the start of something amazing. For example, the Model T rolled off the line two weeks before the last World Series championship.
In a fitting tribute, the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois is giving away a Back To The Future DeLorean if the Cubs win the World Series. Now, that’s confidence!
Everything changes this week. I have my At Bat MLB App 2015 (say that ten times drinking Old Style), constantly pouring over the Cubs Schedule and have now made it my wallpaper on the phone. Yup, baseball is indeed back.
Manny Ramirez is making quite the impression in the Cubs spring training camp so far and the positive influence on Starlin Castro hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I think it’ll be really good for us, especially the young guys,” Castro said. “That guy had a wonderful career. He knows a lot about this game and I think everybody listens to him. I think he’ll explain it, and he can help a lot of guys.”
Joe Maddon has his work cut out for him but thankfully he’s got a quality stable of guys to propel the Cubs to October. Which brings me to Kris Bryant. Should he start on Opening Day is probably the biggest question that is looming large over every Cubs fan across the nation. I’m standing by my decision to not start him but go with Mike Olt. There’s no need rushing the kid.
So, as we prepare for another winter snowstorm brewing, my thoughts and attention turn to the dry desert heat of Arizona and count down the days, Thursday March 5 2015 to those folks who really want to know when the now mighty Chicago Cubs start their spring training campaign.
I made a comment to my wife yesterday about next week. I told her that next week our lives will change.
Cactus League begins. Baseball ’s back.
Being the Unofficial Blogger of the Cubs in Canada, here is a great shot of @CoxRyan89 at the park in Arizona. In Ryan’s words, Theo was,”A cool guy”
Today is an exciting day when batters will take pitches from Jon Lester. This is where it all begins folks.
What kind of stuff will Lester bring to the team? Well Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Jorge Soler are going to find out.
This spring will have a lot of question marks attached, especially at third base, the hot corner and boy is it crowded. We have Mike Olt, Kris Bryant and newcomer Tommy La Stella. It’s going to be interesting because I think Mike Olt will start the season at third but inevitably the job will be handed over to Bryant.
With spring workouts to the soundtrack of Bruce Springsteen, Joe Maddon isn’t kidding anyone, he’s the Boss but with this much competition during spring training, it’s good to keep an open mind on every position and be creative.
“Respect 90” is a motto that Joe Maddon is using for the players this season. Is it his brand? Position Statement or tag line for the year. Ninety feet. That’s it. Believe in it. That’s what he wants the players to do.
“It really is the message I want to get out there,” Maddon said. “I believe if we respect that 90 feet every day, a lot of good things are going to happen here.”
This is an important season for the Cubs, the fans and the players. This is a season when everyone has to believe in something bigger than they are. The quest for the World Series isn’t about contract extensions, trophies, rings or even the glory; the quest for the World Series is about those kids in the schoolyards who had a dream. The World Series is about the parents sitting in the stands cheering their kids every step of the way. The World Series is about the Little League coaches smiling at their proteges in October.
The World Series is about believing.
There’s a couple of old sayings that go like this; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and the other one being, ‘Manny Being Manny” In the Chicago Cubs case, both will apply this season.
The Chicago Cubs are a broken team. In the last five years, they’ve finished fifth place in the National League Central or next to last(But nobody really counted the Astros now, did they? What, I’m joking!)
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were brought in to not just put a band aid on the team, but down right strip them to the core, slap some Ozonol on that wound and get them back in the game. So, Theo took Jed aside and said to him in the meetings,
“Listen buddy, The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since before the Titanic’s maiden voyage and the last time they’ve been to the World Series, Casablanca just left the theatres, by the way Jed, that was my Uncle that wrote it.”
Now that plan is coming to fruition. The Cubs have hired Manny Ramirez as a hitting consultant. This is good, because with a team that has a history of curses and College of Coaches, hiring Manny is the smartest thing that could happen to the organization. Ok well, hiring Joe Maddon, signing Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, Jon Lester and don’t forget that awesome stable of young talent that is poised to knock the leather off the rubber this season was the smartest thing Theo Epstein has done.
Manny Ramirez has won two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox(Hey Stephen King, that offer still stands.) which is two more than the Cubs have won in the last 100 years.
Epstein doesn’t doubt Ramirez’s work ethic. This is a chance to redeem himself but most importantly, to redeem the Cubs and be apart of something extraordinary.
“Manny got rave reviews from everybody he worked with [at Iowa], from the young hitters he helped influence to the coaches who he spent a lot of time around,” Epstein said. “He was very open and honest with guys about what not to do from his past and lessons he learned along the way. He was a huge asset, and we were really hopeful of the possibility of bringing him back.”
Whether they win or lose the championship, this year’s edition of the Cubs is going to be something special.
There’s no denying that there is a special kind of magic circulating throughout the Cub’s organization this spring. From the anticipation of Jon Lester to the thrill of Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have their stuff together.
But what about their rookies? I’ll tell you right now I think they should wait a bit for Kris Bryant. Just a bit though. It would be a big mistake to throw him in there and not succeed. The team has too much depth all ready for them to mess things up by having Bryant there on Opening Day.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues,” Bryant said. “I feel I’m pretty close now. I’m going to use this Spring Training as a way to go out there and get better in those areas.”
The more I think about it though as I pore over the stats projections, it’s the pitchers that have something to prove more than anything. Sure, we know that Rizzo’s going to hit at least 30 big ones, Castro is going to be just happy he never got traded and go out there and do his stuff(you know, the kind of things he does so well when he pays attention) and Javier Baez will be more patient. In other words, the infield is A-OK.
The pitching rotation has got to earn its keep. This is the area which the club has invested a lot of cash and in many ways, the organization has got to keep a close eye on Lester. Don’t tire him out and let him work his magic on the mound.
But wait you say? What about Edwin Jackson? Here’s the deal with Jackson. He’s got some stuff left in the tank, we just don’t know what that stuff is but one thing I’ve learned about Jackson since his tenure with the Cubs is he’s a bit of an enigma. That’s right folks from now on he is referred to as Enigma Jackson. We never know who is going to show up.
The infield is going to bring the excitement this season and the outfield is going be the anchor of the organization but it’s the pitching that will bring the fireworks.
Setting goals is great. In fact it’s downright fantastic. Earlier this year, Anthony Rizzo predicted a National League Central crown. Not one to be outdone, but Cubs’ ace Jon Lester went ahead and gave the thumbs up to the be all end all prize of a World Series. Wow, that’s one hell of a lofty goal. It should be expected considering all the cash they paid for him.
This is important to the morale of the team because as the Chicago Cubs begin their quest for baseball’s ultimate prize, where a 90+ in the win column is the most important statistic in achieving this goal, the Cubs have to work together and become a well oiled machine.
Today, the Chicago Cubs are in my son Darcy’s words,”Tossing The Pass” they are warming up before next month’s kickoff to Spring Training games.
I would love to be in Arizona, soaking up that dry desert heat, maybe snagging an autograph like my “Eye in the Sky” Ryan Cox did in getting Kris Bryant’s John Hancock. If you would like to follow his adventures @CoxRyan89 he’s pretty cool.
This is the goal that I’ve set for the season. I’d like to become the Unofficial blog of The Chicago Cubs in Canada. That Great White North Side Bleacher Bum. Yup folks, I want to become that guy.
“We, the Chicago Cubs recognize in good faith that The Canuck Cubbie, is hereby designated Our Unofficial Blogger in Canada. He will represent the organization to the best of his writing abilities. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. However, as we embark on our most anticipated season since the Bush administration, we will take his heartfelt written words as a kind of motivational speech to boost the club’s morale and help end sport’s longest drought.”
So help me achieve this goal. Spread the word. It’s a shameless self promotion, but nothing ventured nothing gained, right?
Also, I would like to unite Cubs fans from Ryan Cox to @bleedcubbieblue Al Yellon. This is the most important season in a long time.
In two days, pitchers and catchers will report to camp marking the return of baseball but most importantly, and on this side of the border at the least is the near end of the winter season. Some cities have eight foot snowbanks at the end of driveways so when I tell the neighbour about Cubs baseball, well he shouldn’t be surprised. Bring on the warmth of Arizona, the HD digital sound of the ball smacking leather.
I’m not talking about Fifty Shades of Grey either.
It’s a clean slate once the players report. Forget the expectations on the Cubs this season, and let me tell you that it feels really good that there are expectations put on the Cubs for a change. No more,”Well, we’re hoping to evaluate players and see where we’re at.”
Those days are gone.
This season, Cubs fans aren’t necessarily expecting a World Series championship, all though that would be nice; this year’s edition of the North Side is to go out there and win. To finally compete against the big boys of the division like the Reds and the Cardinals.
I was watching that football film Rudy, not a great film but nevertheless uplifting. So, I decided to look back at John Baker’s pitching gem. Folks, if you get a chance to look at that game again do so because it’s fantastic! A true underdog game. The Cubs are not these guy anymore.
The one area that isn’t different than any other year is that everybody will be competing for a spot in the lineup.
All right, maybe Tony Rizzo’s job is safe.
“It’s always dangerous to write up a lineup card in January because guys can get hurt,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said, “but there’s no doubt that guys batting sixth, seventh, and eighth now will be more experienced, more talented and certainly have better on-base skills than they have in the past.”
It’s pretty cool when just about every player has to compete for his job. So, whether the Cubs are legitimate contenders for the World Series or like the Washington Nationals paper champions, one thing is for certain that very few critics and journalist will argue;
The Cubs are going to turn a lot of heads this season. With the best farm system in baseball, this Chicago team will not be push overs.
Here’s a scenario:
What if the Cubs don’t win it all this year? Back to the Future Part 2 was just fantasy and the Cubs finish at the bottom of the National League Central division.
It’s certainly a possibility that we should consider. Yeah, I’ll be disappointed along with Cubs fans all over the world but should the Cubs finish dead last what would happen then? Could the mighty team of Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein be canned? Would Joe Maddon be sent his walking papers and cycle all the way back to Florida?
This very well could happen and we should prepare for it.
The expectations are mighty and the Cubs certainly have the tools to make it to the post season at the very least, but I’m not expecting a World Series championship. No, my expectations are going to be different.
I’m expecting Javier Baez to hit a few balls out of the park. I’m expecting Anthony Rizzo to carry the torch that Ernie Banks has passed over to him and I’m expecting Kyle Hendricks to prove to the rest of the MLB what Cubs fans all ready know; This guy can be a future Cy Young winner. Jon Lester, Joe Maddon and Dexter Fowler were brought in to do their respective jobs. They won’t let us down, but it’s the rest of the team that needs to anchor it.
Here’s my proposition and it sounds crazy, corny and perhaps loony; but c’mon faithful Canuck Cubbie readers, that freakin’ Goat curse isn’t real.
Honour Steve Bartman.
Invite him back into Wrigley Field with open arms. Have a ceremony on Opening Day, hell maybe he should sing the National Anthem?
It was cruel and mean spirited what some fans did to him that day a long time ago. He didn’t deserve that chastisement that was brought upon him. He didn’t mess up the Cubs chances of a World Series appearance. He was just a fan doing what us fans do best; Grab a piece of history.
So, Steve Bartman, come out of the witness protection program. You see, if there really is a curse on our beloved North Siders, it’s not a Billy Goat being refused entrance; it’s a fan of the greatest team in all of baseball being ushered out by security because he just wanted a souvenir.
Now that the “James Shields” sweepstakes are tied up, we can focus on Spring Training.
Nine days to go, baby! To tell you the truth, the Cubs didn’t need James Shields. Not to take anything away from him, but the Cubs are in good shape as it is. It would have been nice though.
It looks like the Cubs are chomping at the bit to get the ahem, ball rolling. Jon Lester is all ready trying to get the boys together for some Cubs brotherhood sessions.
“Baseball’s such a weird sport, where you have nine individuals playing for a team. And if those nine individuals pull the same direction on the same rope, then you’re good. And that’s all we’re going to try to do, is come to Spring Training, mesh together and bond and become brothers and hopefully that takes us to the end, and if it doesn’t, we’ll keep busting our butt to get to that prize.”
This I like. He’s got a point. Look at hockey, if that guy isn’t on the receiving end of a one timer, that puck ain’t going into any net. Hockey is very much a team sport. Same with football as witnessed in the Super Bowl we just saw.
Yeah, it’s different. The pitcher is alone on the mound. Those three guys standing far back on the grass? Unless they run with their eyes closed, it’s just them and the ball. Keep your eyes on the ball. That’s what baseball’s all about.
So, what about the World Series champions? What do they do that is different from what everybody else is doing? I’ve noticed throughout the years that it boils down to the little things like not relying on the Ace for the strikeouts. Asking the right questions like,”What if our pitcher doesn’t get him out? How do we react?” In other words listening to each and every player on the team and compensating for their weaknesses.
San Francisco got it done, but it could have been Kansas City’s ring to get. Each team capitalized on those little things. Baseball isn’t won entirely by hitting the home runs. The best part about baseball is getting those guys on the bag home.
Sounds preachy but going forth this season, there’s a lot of energy in the Cub’s clubhouse and probably a lot of egos. The players have to remember that Joe Maddon is the manager, not the players. Anthony Rizzo is the team captain and has to lead by example. Starlin Castro has to put that hot dog attitude back in the cart and Javier Baez must realize that superstars aren’t born on talent, but patience and listening abilities.
It’s going to be an incredible season. Some might say a magical one, but if expectations fall short(and it probably will) fans and players have to take it in stride. Because there’s one saying that every Cubs fan has come to know and live by:
There’s always next year.