“April, come she will. When streams are ripe and swelled with rain.” – Simon & Garfunkel, April Come She Will
There should be regular-season games scheduled today, but hey, April Fools. Thanks to that “defensive” lockout engineered by the league’s owners, we’ve still got a week of Cactus and Grapefruit League action to get through before the season opener on April 7, which seems so 1970s. If you can remember back that far, those home openers at Wrigley Field featuring the likes of Jose Cardenal, Ray Burris, Bobby Murcer, and Dave Kingman always seemed to be gloomy affairs. Heck, that’s how I learned about foreshadowing. Dark and foggy openers meant identically gray seasons.
The Cubs host the Brewers next Thursday to kick off the regular season and I am routinely confounded by the team’s front office. I thought they’d make a bigger splash in free agency, and when they didn’t, a glut of middle infielders, outfielders, and pitchers seemed to indicate a trade or two was inevitable. Perhaps that’s this year’s April Fool’s joke. Jed Hoyer said he was going to spend intelligently, and I’ve yet to decipher how anything he did since last season ended is worthy of an MBA or Ph.D. Other than inking Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki to decent contracts, everything else seems more like throwing a bunch of crap against a wall and seeing what sticks.
Of course, we’ve never seen that type of roster construction here in Chicago, so maybe we just aren’t qualified to determine how a frugal front office should operate. We fully understand the cost savings, but I don’t expect we’ll be able to determine where the value is once the calendar turns to October. Plus, if overloading on reclamation projects is an earmark of Hoyer’s grand plan, why the heck didn’t he extend short-term deals to a bevy of left-handed sluggers? Chris Davis seems like he may have been a perfect pet project for the president of baseball operations. Too bad he’s retired.
As the roster now stands, only Alfonso Rivas, Rafael Ortega, and Jason Heyward provide any left-handed punch, and that’s being exceedingly generous. Jonathan Villar and Ian Happ are switch-hitters, but the Cubs are going to struggle against right-handed pitching. Perhaps that’s why Chicago is projected to finish the season with a 71-91 record. It’s been four months since Hoyer signed Stroman and, other than getting Suzuki, Chicago is no better this year than they were last year.
In fact, there are so many similarities between this year’s roster and the ones Theo Epstein built during his first few years at the helm that I can see why Hoyer refuses to call this a rebuild. A reset is probably a better term because the rebuild will follow once Chicago’s front office starts wheeling and dealing in June and July. One would assume next year’s team would be built around Stroman, Suzuki, and Brennen Davis, but then again, we still can’t see the vision through the early April gloom and doom.
Cubs News & Notes
- Davis will start the season at AAA Iowa to the surprise of nobody.
- David Ross says Chicago’s outfield is still a “muddy situation,” though it’s doubtful the team will trade or cut Heyward to give more at-bats to Ortega and/or Rivas.
- If you’re wondering how the final roster may shake out, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com weighs in with his prediction.
- The Cubs are trying to thread that needle of competing this season with an eye on the future as well.
- Clint Frazier already loves playing for the Cubs and is grateful to get an opportunity for a fresh start. “I felt like I was embraced by a lot of the fans there,” Frazier said. “So for me, I want to get back to just thinking about playing baseball and not having to worry about other things that went on during my time [with the Yankees].”
- Stroman indicated he’d love to play for the Giants one day. Note to Hoyer: That’s what happens when you leave assurances unfulfilled.
- Kyle Hendricks is also keeping an open mind about his future. (subscription to The Athletic required).
- Suzuki gave Cubs fans a glimpse of the power we are all hoping to see regularly in 2022.
Odds & Sods
If Daniel Norris has a kindred spirit, it could be the legendary Sidd Finch.
3/28/1985 Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton releases a story about Mets rookie pitcher Sidd Finch. Finch wears one hiker’s boot when pitching, plays the French horn and can throw a fastball 168 miles per hour. pic.twitter.com/cTnBc6f4dh
— This Day in Mets History (@NYMhistory) March 28, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy in the company of strangers.” – Simon & Garfunkel, The Boxer
The Cubs were off yesterday and will resume action today with split-squad tilts against the Diamondbacks and Brewers.
Of players expected to make the Opening Day roster, Rivas, Frazier, Frank Schwindel, and Nick Madrigal are making the most of their opportunities. As far as the pitching staff, Scott Effross, Drew Smyly, and Mark Leiter Jr. have been lights out in limited innings.
Spring Training News & Notes
A baseball strike that started on March 31, 1972, changed the face of baseball forever.
If you’re against the universal DH and the ghost runner rule, this story of middling relief pitcher Rick Camp hitting a walk-off home run after he strolled to the plate sporting a .074 batting average will keep you on the edge of your seat. Camp’s heroics came in the 19th inning after a 90-minute rain delay.
You may need a summary of all of the rules changes to have the most positive MLB viewing experience this season.
Rob Manfred’s biggest boondoggle may be trying to promote the game to younger fans with a barnstorming home run tournament. Called Home Run Derby X, the three-city international tour will be a competition among retired MLB players Geovany Soto, Nick Swisher, Jonny Gomes, and Adrian Gonzalez. Yawn.
The Dodgers and Twins were baseball’s biggest winners of the offseason.
Here is a list of personal milestones that may be accomplished this season:
- Albert Pujols needs 21 home runs to reach 700 for his career.
- Yadier Molina needs to catch 119 games to tie Carlton Fisk for second all-time with 2,226. Iván Rodríguez tops the list with 2,427.
I’ve said all along that money talks when it comes to who will win the bid to purchase Chelsea FC, and the Ricketts family is doubling down with another deep-pocketed partner.
Exclusive: The owners of the Chicago Cubs have hired Jefferies, the investment bank, to work on their bid for Chelsea Football Club ahead of a final deadline for offers on April 11 that will determine the future ownership of the Stamford Bridge outfit. https://t.co/GCqZIwOhDL
— Mark Kleinman (@MarkKleinmanSky) April 1, 2022
They Said It
- “Of course, I would love to always be here. I’ve always said that. I love it here. But you never know what’s going to happen in this game, so focus on the time you have in the present, playing with these guys we have, learning from the new guys. That’s the role I play and where I fit in.” – Hendricks
- “The motions of the pitchers are different here, so it’s different to get the timing right. That’s where I’ve been trying to make better adjustments. It’s only my fourth game, so I’d like to continue to adjust, have better at-bats and better results.” – Suzuki
Friday Walk-Up Song
Tunnel of Love by Dire Straits – One of the band’s better songs and grossly underrated.