“Baseball’s Opening Day is full of time-honored traditions: the President throws out the first ball, the Cubs’ starting pitcher walks away with a 54.00 ERA, the Royals get mathematically eliminated from the pennant race.” – Rob Sheffield
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) March 30, 2021
As far as pomp and pageantry is concerned, does anything rival MLB’s Opening Day? For statistics hounds and fantasy baseball players it’s downright frustrating to see a pitcher walk off the mound with an incalculable ERA because he couldn’t record an out, or to see a role player have a career day while everybody immediately jumps on the hype train. Oh, Tuffy Rhodes…what could have been.
Sheffield, who I quoted above, is one of my favorite all-time authors, and his book “Love is a Mixtape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time” belongs among the great literary canon, at least as far as I’m concerned. If anything, the author and I share several common traits, not the least of which are being Cubs fans with an intense obsessiveness and love for music and writing.
My bosses here have always been super cool with letting me do my own thing. Evan Altman told me the format he wanted when I started a few years ago, but he let me personalize it, including the daily walk up song. Some mornings, like today, I come prepared with nothing but the music, and to be honest, trying to find topics in a full calendar year that contained just 60 regular season Cubs games was a little tough at times.
Baseball is back though, and with immunizations now topping 3 million per day in the United States, that light at the end of the tunnel gets bigger by the millisecond. One of every 16 adults has now been vaccinated and, though I wouldn’t want to jinx anything, stadiums should soon be full of fans and the neighborhoods surrounding your favorite ballpark will be buzzing on game days. If anything, the league should hold a moment of silence tomorrow for those whose lives were lost, but also for those who have survived. It seems a bit oxymoronic to say, but uncertainty lies ahead because we are still sailing uncharted waters.
That’s why today, the eve of Opening Day, seems a little more solemn than usual. Anticipation remains slightly stifled and trepidation is the theme as we begin to navigate the homestands of April and May. We’ve by no means licked this thing, but I think we’ve proven we can get past it as long as everybody uses common sense and makes good choices.
Rather than continuing to wax on, I’ll close with the words of 10 others this morning, and ask each of you to cherish the start of this season a little more than previous ones.
- “Our lives were just beginning, our favorite moment was right now, our favorite songs were still unwritten.” – Sheffield
- “An Opener is not like any other game. There’s that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. … You know that when you win the first one, you can’t lose ’em all.” – Early Wynn
- “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for his first or last time. I owe him my best.” – Joe DiMaggio
- “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” – Marilyn Monroe
- “I’d play for half my salary if I could hit in this dump (Wrigley Field) all the time.” – Babe Ruth
- “When I grow up it is my dream, to play for my favorite baseball team.” – Anonymous
- “Look to the moon when you swing, he instructed. “That’s what you want. A ball that disappears into it. One that goes to the moon and past. A moonshot.” – Alessandra Torre
- “It is dangerous to spring to obvious conclusions about baseball or, for that matter, ballplayers. Baseball is not an obvious game.” – Roger Kahn
- “Analyzing baseball yields many numbers of interest and value. Yet far and away- far, far and away- the most critical number in all of baseball is three: the three outs that define an inning. Until the third out, anything is possible; after it, nothing is.” – Michael Lewis
- “Play Ball!” – 15 MLB home plate umpires, tomorrow.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs begin the 2021 season with loads of talent, but lots of questions.
- David Bote has high praise for the guy that will eventually replace him, Nico Hoerner.
- Former Marlins executive David Samson believes Jed Hoyer made an egregious mistake in lowballing Anthony Rizzo, but also believes an offer should not have been extended at all to the first baseman because the team has now signaled its intentions to its pending free agents.
- The Cubs are reportedly interested in Jonathan Lucroy and Tony Wolters as potential backups to Willson Contreras.
- Several key members of the bullpen, including Craig Kimbrel, are trusting that mechanical adjustments will improve their chances of success this season.
- Win, lose or snooze, the Cubs are on their way.
- Len Kasper officially starts his new gig as the radio play-by-play announcer for the White Sox tomorrow.
- Meanwhile, Jon “Boog” Sciambi is fired up to begin the season as Kasper’s replacement in the Cubs’ television booth.
Odds & Sods
Why can’t today be tomorrow?
Word among scouting circles is ol’ Chuck had a 70-grade fastball, but struggled with location, and had he been able to develop a third pitch, he may have had a shot at the bigs.
"This is the one moment of the year I cherish. This is the first time I climb up on that ol' pitcher's mound." ~ Charlie Brown (Classic Peanuts – March 31, 1966) #MLB #Baseball #OpeningDay pic.twitter.com/g276YaVudR
— Baseball by BSmile (@BSmile) March 31, 2021
MLB News & Notes
For lack of a better word, Rob Manfred promised us a de-juiced baseball this year, but exhibition game stats seem to indicate otherwise.
Baseball needs to do a better job at protecting its fans.
The Pirates may struggle to win 60 games this season.
The Marlins have renamed their stadium and it defies the rules of good grammar.
If you are unaware of the rules changes for this year, no doubt an ongoing effort since Manfred took over, Bleacher Report has your ’21 syllabus.
Believe it or not, baseball attendance is a barometer of sorts for the U.S. economy as a whole. Investors are awaiting the start of the season with bated breaths.
Three Stars (Cubs Cactus League MVPs)
- Joc Pederson – .378 BA, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 1.431 OPS in 51 PAs
- Shelby Miller – 12 IP, 16 K, 1.50 ERA, 1 HR
- Zach Davies – 16.2 IP, 14 K, 1.08 ERA, 2 HR
It bodes well for the team that all are newcomers, though I was hoping for a lot more from some of the veterans.
Apropos of Nothing
Have you noticed the updated logo/header here at Cubs Insider? I’m no graphics critic, but I do like it.
Sliding Into Home
I officially turned 57 at 12:44 AM this morning. This last trip around the sun has been one for the books. I am accepting virtual birthday shots this year, though I won’t promise they will contain any alcohol. My personal highlights of the past year have been beating COVID-19, a little bit of a better health outlook, and of course increased readership here at CI, a testament to all of you because baseball has been tough to cover since the pandemic started. I do miss my brother Scott Crandall, though.
Apparently, the new baseball is being manufactured by Wiffle Ball Inc., as Blake Treinen happily demonstrates.
Blake Treinen, Insane 100mph Sinker. 😳 pic.twitter.com/zFMhFNPIiy
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 31, 2021
They Said It
- “The numbers can be skewed one way or the other. Over the course of 162 games, that can kind of level that out and tell you who the true you is. So I’d take it as I stayed healthy. I’m going into the season with the right mentality, threw all my pitches that I wanted to, worked on the things that I needed to in spring.” – Zach Davies
- “That [confidence David Ross expressed in me] shows who Rossy is as a person, as a manager who gets it. He gets this game. He gets his players. He knows me, he knows my path so I mean that was really impactful, really cool to hear from him.” – David Bote
Wednesday Walk Up Song
57 Channels (And Nothing On) by Bruce Springsteen – A pretty accurate description of my time here on the rock up to this point.