The Rundown: Pizza Puffs, Goose Gets Loose, Scouting Trevor Cahill

Top Of The First

Have you ever had a Pizza Puff? As far as I can tell, Pizza Puffs are only available in the Chicago area and they are delicious, deep fried pockets of pizza ingredients to which I have become rabidly addicted. I had a couple on Clark Street about a block north of Wrigley Field two weeks ago and I just can’t get enough of the high-calorie, deep-fried pastry bombs since.

The best ones are the restaurant-grade pizza pastries made by a company called Iltaco but, honestly, whoever invented the Pizza Puff deserves a national holiday. At most places they are listed in the appetizer section. They’re not appetizers. Two puffs and a liter of cola is a meal.

The Pizza Puff is my new post-game Wrigleyville go-to food find. I thought I’d share my passion with you because that’s what friends are for.

An aside: You are welcome for the free advertising, fine folks at Iltaco. You are my combination soul mate and spirit animal. I know you’re not healthy for me, but forbidden love is almost never healthy, is it?

Goose Goes Lee Elia with a Side of Kenny Powers

Ahhh, I see Goose Gossage verbally challenged the whippersnappers who are attempting to make baseball fun again and the stat geeks who run so many franchises. Maybe he’s swallowed too much mustache wax or choked on a few too many amphetamines in his lifetime.

Evan has the full story on the tirade, which, for what it’s worth, instantly put me on the Memory Lane Express to April 29, 1983 when Lee Elia fielded a question from Les Grobstein and proceeded to go global thermonuclear war on Cubs fans. Even with the audio edits, Elia’s tirade is still NSFW. Yet, it’s still an oddly-treasured event because it represents the rock bottom point of Cubs culture and almost immediately spearheaded the reversal in aestheticism to that which represents Cubs fandom today.

Here’s the NSFW audio version of Elia’s implosion. Sensitive ears may want to opt for the written transcript instead.

But back to you Goose – what the holy heck is up?

You know, I absolutely love when former players and old-timey announcers like Vin Scully romanticize the history of the game, but let’s face it, baseball has never been a true gentleman’s game. We’ve seen beanball wars, on-field fights, career-ending collisions and all kinds of hooliganish behavior since baseball formally organized as a sport.

Baseball is just not that worthy of the poetic waxing we are so often subjected to — especially when it selectively omits parts of its history — and it’s certainly not an Ecclesiastic narrative deserving of a baseball bible and a baseball church. Baseball does have those cherished moments but it also has a lot of not-so-cherished moments.

Among all those wonderful feel-good stories, Major League Baseball is also Ty Cobb’s razor sharp spikes. It’s the 1919 Black Sox Scandal and a sport rife with gamblers. It’s Babe Ruth gormandizing on hot dogs, prostitutes, and beer and Hack Wilson trying to drown his semi-inebriated hangover in a tub of ice minutes before game time. It’s Charlie Hustle busting collarbones and breaking the collective heart of baseball fans into 4,256 shattered shards of a Louisville Slugger. It’s steroids and PED’s that were so prevalent that baseball defined it as a recognized era. And it’s a sport that reveled in racism for the first seventy years of it’s existence, in private, followed by two decades of very public racial inequality when blacks accepted uniforms and contracts in exchange for Jim Crow oppression, segregation, and forced conformity just to play with the white players who so vehemently opposed them. In some circles that type of bigotry still exists.

Yes, the stadiums are hallowed grounds with perfectly manicured lawns and there’s so much beauty and symmetry. I get it. I do. But really? Big whoop. You can stand in reverence and undying love for the history of the game but if you really believe the romanticized Cliff’s Notes that have been peddled to consumers of all things baseball for over a century you are delusional.

So just  let the kids have fun, Goose. I love a suicide squeeze and a knee-buckling Uncle Charlie as much as the next baby boomer but I love the flair that the millennials are bringing to the game and the math that the geeky stat-heads do too. No harm, no foul. Lay off us nerds. We know far more than you do, Kenny Powers (WARNING: link to more NSFW audio).

Go back to being forgotten, please and thank you. I wanted to do an analytics piece today and you robbed me of that. Not cool, bro.

Scouting The Cubs — Trevor Cahill

After coming to the Cubs from Atlanta last season, Trevor Cahill resurrected his career. In a worst-possible scenario, the Cubs swingman saw his peripherals completely abandon him at the start of 2015. His velocity was down, his command regressed, his swinging-strike rate bottomed out and his first-pitch strike rate (FpK) dropped to a career low 55 percent.

The Cubs saw correctable flaws. Converting Cahill from a rotation afterthought to a bullpen mainstay resulted in a serious uptick in velocity. In fact, the reliever flashed the best velocity of his career in September and October. More emphasis on changing speeds resulted in a FpK that jumped to 67 percent from July on. How good is that? Clayton Kershaw had a 68 percent FpK in 2016. It’s not easy to erase Cahill’s first-half struggles from memory but the Cubs believed enough to make him an offseason priority.

Even better, Cahill bought in to being a significant bullpen piece for the Cubs rather than being a fringe starter for another team. He’s 28 this year and should be a dominant and dependable middle relief pitcher, with a few spot starts thrown in when needed.

Previous Scouting Report: Kris Bryant

5 – 4 – 6 – 3

As mentioned previously, you take baseball’s good with its bad, even if you feel a little nauseous accepting that premise at times. With that in mind, Brew Crew Ball offers an excellent piece on how parents should explain Ryan Braun — or any other proven cheater for that matter — to their children.

Redbird Rants looks at Cardinals players who could be next in a long line of devastating injuries for the St. Louis Nine, as well as a pattern of Spring Training injuries that doesn’t bode well. The good news for Redbirds fans is that Yadier Molina is playing in Spring Training games and Jhonny Peralta may not be as injured as originally feared.

Viva El Birdos projects SP Carlos Martinez as the Cardinals ace for 2016. It is both amazing and disheartening that the Cardinals seemingly manufacture Cy Young candidates on a yearly basis.

Bucs Dugout is going around the horn in their own way with a look at three players to watch from each of Pittsburgh’s Central Division Opponents. These are companion pieces to a series the author is doing for MLBTR breaking down the offseasons of each NL Central club. He will not, however, be doing a piece on the Cubs.

Reds Reporter looks at Cincinnati players who may reach career milestones in 2016.

Redleg Nation projects Zack Cozart’s season, one which could be the slugging shortstop’s last in Cincinnati.

Fact. Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor

Theo Epstein projects baseball’s next market inefficiency.

Bryce Harper is the anti-Goose Gossage. And he’s right, it’s time for Baseball’s “Unwritten Rules” to be mercifully euthanized.

On this day in 1995, Michael Jordan held a press conference to announce he was retiring from AA baseball after a season in which he batted .202. Though I hear he was pretty good at that basketball game.

Baltimore Orioles prospect Xu Guiyuan comes from Shenzhen, Guangdong Province in China where baseball was permanently banned during the Cultural Revolution, before being revived at the start of the century. Xu was discovered at the age of 13. This is a must read.

Eddie Vedder’s ode to the Chicago Cubs, “All The Way” is the second greatest baseball song of all time in this article from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request” by Steve Goodman is ranked 7th overall.

Bottom Of The Ninth

Most of today’s snippets touch on culture, and for good reason. A lot of that was fueled by the Goose Gossage implosion which grabbed all the headlines and hijacked all of the social media feeds today.  More importantly — and buried beneath all the sensationalism of the day — Major League Baseball held it’s fourth annual Diversity Business Summit at Chase Field on Tuesday.

MLB hosted a panel at the summit that included a deaf player, a female baseball executive, and a gay former ballplayer, all talking about the challenges each faced in their careers as they attempted to de-stigmatize their lives while gaining the acceptance of their peers. The culture of baseball seems to be evolving, though the pace is much slower than civilian life in general.

“We think about diversity as a business imperative,” MLB Commissioner Manfred said. “Our society is increasingly diverse, so in order to sell our game we need our product out here [on the field] to be diverse, and we need people to understand that there is diversity at the very highest levels of the game.

“It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, and we don’t need to quibble about that, but it’s necessary for our business.” (Quotes from Cronkite News Service, Arizona PBS)

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