Top Of The First
It’s March Madness! Oh, I know that whole hasn’t started just yet and I’m not a basketball fan anyway, though I do enjoy those first two days of the NCAA tournament. For me, March Madness means Spring Training position battles and, of course, games.
Let The Games Begin
The Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies kick off the 2016 Spring Training baseball schedule today.
The Cubs start their Cactus League schedule on Thursday with a 2:05pm tilt vs. the Milwaukee Brewers at the Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend Spring Training, I’ll admit I am a little jealous. Your summer has started early. Enjoy that. For the rest of us, we get to struggle with winter’s final few kicks in the shorts and the occasional game that happens to be televised. Have a beer and a dog for me, please and thank you.
Here’s a quick guide to Cubs Baseball on TV this spring (all times CST):
- 03/16/16 at Kansas City Royals on Comcast Sports Net 3:05 PM
- 03/17/16 vs. Arizona Diamondbacks on ESPN 6:05 PM
- 03/18/16 at Chicago White Sox on MLBN 3:05 PM
- 03/20/16 vs. Kansas City Royals on WGN 3:05 PM
- 03/23/16 at Texas Rangers on Comcast Sports Net 3:05 PM
- 03/25/16 vs. Milwaukee Brewers on Comcast Sports Net 3:05 PM
- 03/26/16 vs. San Francisco Giants on WGN (Local) and MLBN (National) 3:05 PM
- 03/27/16 vs. Seattle Mariners on Comcast Sports Net 3:05 PM
- 03/29/16 vs. Oakland A’s on Comcast Sports Net 3:05 PM
- 03/31/16 vs. New York Mets on Comcast Sports Net (Local) and MLBN (National 7:05 PM
- 04/01/16 at New York Mets on WGN 3:05 PM
The two games vs the Mets will be played in Las Vegas.
The Cubs will play an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels in Los Angeles on Sunday April 3rd. The 2016 season officially starts with a two-game series at Los Angeles vs. the Angels on Monday, April 4th and Tuesday April 5th. The Cubs then travel back to Arizona for four games with the D-backs before the home opener at Wrigley Field on Monday, April 11th vs. the Cincinnati Reds.
Are The Cubs Still Looking For Pitching?
I know Joe Maddon can make the roster work in such a way that he finds playing time for everybody despite a plethora of outfielders and relief pitchers. The Cubs have an embarrassment of riches at both positions. It seems to me they have positioned themselves to acquire a cost-controlled starting pitcher. All winter the Cubs have been linked to San Diego, Cleveland, Atlanta and Tampa as hypothetical trade partners. Those teams are looking for cost-controlled offense.
Could Jorge Soler start the 2016 season playing for a different team? A number of pitchers have been suggested as possible fits in a Soler trade.
From Atlanta: Julio Teheran
I should note that Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins has been mentioned in trade rumors all winter. It would take a boatload of players and prospects in return to get the Marlins young ace, but the Cubs strength is young talent.
Will it happen? I doubt it, but anything is possible as we’ve seen since the Winter Meetings. I don’t think the Cubs have enough pitching depth to swing a deal for Fernandez, but there are some intriguing arms in the lower levels of the Cubs system in case Miami wanted to kick the tires.
No Love From Boston
I am a regular reader of Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. As far as baseball writing goes, Cafardo seems to have a lot of inside information on the Red Sox and a number of other teams as well. He also has his opinions, for better or worse. He has not been without his detractors, though, particularly in the sabermetrics community.
There’s been some bitterness, anti-Cubs bias, and outright trolling from Cafardo since Theo Epstein left Boston. It started subtly, with a couple of digs at “the plan” and some jabs at the long, long streak of non-championship seasons covering a century and a decade.
After the Cubs signed Jon Lester — who, mind you, was a member of the Oakland A’s when he became a free agent — last year, the jabs have hit somewhat harder, more frequently, and just a bit louder. Cafardo doesn’t go more than a week or two worth of columns without letting his readers know that Lester struggles to throw to first base. Off the top of my head I recall reading seven or eight instances in his Sunday Baseball Notes column alone since the signing.
Recently, Red Sox owner John Henry released a statement saying the Red Sox were going to rely less on analytics. He also said the signing of David Price and Chris Young — both over 30 years old — and the acquisition of Craig Kimbrel — for whom the Sox arguably overpaid in prospects — this offseason were based on the team’s new philosophy.
In Cafardo’s column, Henry seemed to take a veiled jab at Epstein and Epstein protege Ben Cherington: “I spent at least two months sort of looking under the hood, and came to the conclusion that we needed to make changes,” said Henry, who also owns the Globe.
“Perhaps there was too much reliance on past performance and trying to project future performance. That obviously hasn’t worked in three of the last four years.”
Cafardo made sure to pile on in a separate column a day later: “Finally, someone who realizes that human beings play the game, not numbers, data,” said one longtime scout. “We’ve all had to embrace analytics in some way to keep our jobs, but we all know it’s a tool, not the final say in all of our decisions.”
Henry’s point was that the Red Sox were too reliant on analytics when it came to projecting player performance. Still, it seems Cafardo has issue with the Cubs and Theo Epstein more often than not.
And to think at one time Cubs fans were torn as to whether to give up Chris Carpenter or Trey McNutt as compensation for signing Theo Epstein. I can’t even imagine the baseball boss’s thoughts when he looked at the Cubs system in 2011. Epstein is probably the best hire in the history of this franchise.
Fact, Fiction, Truth, or Rumor
Believe it or not, there a cool aggregate website that works as a Theo Epstein search engine for the blogosphere community.
MLB is spearheading an effort to remove smokeless tobacco from baseball and the Player’s Association is all in as well.
Whoa. Right-wing extremist Phyllis Schlafly wants to ban foreign players from Major League Baseball because it takes away American jobs.
Holy bat man, Batman! Mike Trout will use a “smart bat” this season. Just one more thing for pitchers to worry about when facing Trout, I guess. The bat houses an ARM Cortex Processor in the handle with Bluetooth communication capability and includes dual accelerometers and a 3-axis gyroscope with over 1000 data points available to analyze each swing. Hopefully he will still be working out the kinks at the start of April.
Bottom Of The Ninth
I watched three documentaries last night that focused on the Cubs and Cubs culture and if you haven’t seen them, I highly recommend each:
- Wait ‘Til Next Year: The Saga of the Chicago Cubs – an HBO special that chronicles the lives of die-hard Cubs fans. It’s ten years old already but because the Cubs are still attempting to break the curse, it remains timeless.
- “Holy Cow! The Story of Harry Caray” presented by the Major League Baseball Network. Caray is singularly responsible for the world-wide popularity of Cubs culture and you cannot argue with me on this point.
- “100 Years of Wrigley Field” presented by the Chicago Cubs and available on Amazon and VUDU. A romanticized look at the national treasure that is Wrigley Field.