The Cubs Get Down To Business

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All the Pomp of opening a new facility with the Cubs Park is over. It’s an amazing venue and the sellout crowd wasn’t disappointed. Well, at least it was comfortable.

Len and JD were in fine form broadcasting from a warm sunny place. Welcome back boys. We missed you!

I think the thing to take out of any spring training game is that expectations are to evaluate what is working and what isn’t working. Starlin Castro went two for two and looked like the superstar the Cubs were looking for all those years ago. He hit the ball in the sweet spot between first and second. If you look throughout the history of the game, I believe that spot has scored more runs than any other spot on the field. Give me a good bounce any day. The question for Starlin is, “Will he just try to get on base?” He’s the lead off hitter. Get on base, that’s it. No fancy stuff, just hit the ball.

That was a good test for the Cubs facing the Diamondbacks and Paul Goldshmidt. They’re tough and will get everything rolling with the Cubs.

“It feels just like another game,” the Cubs’ Rick Renteria said. “We’re getting ready for the season and today’s the first day of basically a test to see how everybody’s doing. We’re going to use [Spring Training] to see what aspects of the game we need to improve on and basically see where everybody’s at.”

That comes from the man himself. Hey, I like Rick. He’s laid back, but his eyes are always on what’s going on the field. He’s taking notes and evaluating. Believe me folks when I tell you that the Cubs are in good hands.

In front of a sellout crowd hungry for baseball, even though the Cubs lost, they won the crowd.

—Mark

Here We Go Again, Cubs Fans

Today marks the beginning of a long journey that could take us into October. Probably the end of September but you can’t fault a man for dreaming, can you? The Cubs square off against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

This morning we were out braving the blizzard and listening to tunes on the Ipod when that familiar opening to Steve Goodman’s post win classic, “Go Cubs Go” blasts through our Hyundai Elantra (Touring edition for the high rollers out there.)

Now, I posted this last year but there it is again just in case you’re new to the Cubs. The song can be annoying but it’s a comforting tune after they win. Trust me.

Our son loves this song, maybe because it’s easy to sing along with, or perhaps he just doesn’t know the history of the Cubs. To our son, the Cubs are the champions.

It was the song that came after this Cubs anthem that struck a nerve. You see, I’m a huge Stones fan and our son, just like most three year olds do, they want to be like Daddy. I sing this song a lot. It’s an amazing Stones classic, but coming after a nice Cubs anthem is this bit of foreshadowing.

We all know that our beloved Northsiders aren’t expected to do much but provide some rookie excitement this year and I’m looking forward to that.

There’s an amazing bond between Cubs fans across the world. We’re cautiously optimistic. We have unbridled faith and passion in what is beyond our reach. The Holy Grail of baseball. The World Series. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won it in over a hundred years.

Mick Jagger and company might be pessimistic in the future, but I like Steve Goodman’s version of the future a little bit better.

Go Cubs Go!

—Mark

A New Skipper, A Fresh Start, An End To A Curse?

If anyone has to wonder about the excitement I get from spring baseball, here it is:

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That is the scene from our backyard up here in the Great White North.

This is what’s happening now in Arizona:

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I see the difference, do you see the difference?

There’s no other way to describe it. It’s been a long drawn out winter up here. Some have said it’s been the most snow where we live in twenty years. Is this an omen? Perhaps.

There’s a certain excitement this year surrounding the Cubs. More so than any season in a long time. There’s no big free agent signings, no Soriano and most importantly; there’s nothing to lose.

We have a new manager in Rick Reinteria

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and a stable of young players waiting to strut their stuff. This truly is the best part of the season and I’m going to make a bold prediction on the starting lineup.

1. Starlin Castro
2. Luis Valbuena or Mike Olt
3. Nate Schierholtz
4. Anthony Rizzo
5. Junior Lake
6. Wellington Castillo
7. Ryan Sweeney
8. Darwin Barney

Of course this could and will change because nothing is secure at third base. That spot is wide open. We could see Kris Bryant this year. Hell, Albert Almora could see some action. Or, holy crap there’s Jorge Soler.

it’s unbelievable to think of the possibilities that could happen within the Cubs organization. I’m excited to see what the new skipper, Rick Reinteria can do. He’s the complete opposite from the reserved and let’s face it, Dale Sveum always appeared to be hung-over. Not to say I didn’t like him, I thought he did a fantastic job with what he had, but in order to succeed to the next level, the Cubs need a skip that is vocal, fresh and not battle scarred because folks, that’s what will happen in the major leagues.

Rick Reinteria is the man who will lead this franchise back into the post season. Maybe not this year, but I guarantee it will be next year. That’s a promise. Save me a seat behind the dugout, Rick. I’ll be there.

Should Starlin Castro hit lead off? You better believe it. Hitters want to hit. There’s no other way around it. If he’s going to get out of this slump that he’s in, Starlin Castro has to hit his way out of it.

I’m going to assume that Mike Olt will secure third base from Valbuena. He’s got a lot to prove and with a young club this is the guy to do it.

Nate Schierholtz had an OBP of .301 last year. His slugging percentage was .470 compared to Rizzo’s .419 He’ll hit above him.

There’s one guy who may suffer from the sophomore jinx and that is Junior Lake. Naw, I’m messing with you. He’s going to show Cubs fans the future.

Third on the team in OBP was Wellington Castillo. I’m putting him in the sixth spot at the start just to see how he’s going to do. I think Lake will get on base more this year but Castillo has got some pop so having him hit behind Junior will give him the confidence he’ll need. This spot will change.

Rounding out the order is Ryan Sweeney and Darwin Barney. I liked Ryan Sweeney a lot last year. He finished the season tied for third on the team in triples. This is a good statistic to have when you’re hitting lower in the order I would believe.

There’s one player other than Starlin Castro that has a lot to prove and that is Darwin Barney. A Gold Glove winner and a future team captain. He’s got to show everyone what he can do at the plate.

Tomorrow is a big game, Let’s Play Ball!

—Mark

The Cubs Have A Shot This Year!

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I’ve hummed and hawed during the off season if I’d be blogging again this year but here I am again. Tomorrow is the start of spring training, The Cubs are tied for first and my MLB.TV subscription is on stand by. 

One of my spring traditions is to get a baseball annual. It could be Sporting News, Lindy’s or Athlone, it doesn’t matter but I’ve found that Sporting News is my favourite. It’s got awesome pictures and great predictions. although last year they predicted the Boston Red Sox to finish fifth in the AL East and look what happened? C’mon, if you weren’t a Red Sox fan last season, by the time David Ortiz cracked one over the back with Torri Hunter flipping over and cracking his skull, then a part of you and all of us are rooting for the crimson sock wearing bean towners this year. Bostonians are such awesome folks.

You see, where I’m going with this is I’m a Cubs fan. Sporting News generously predicts the Cubs to finish fourth in the Central. Last season Boston won it all. Now is the picture becoming clearer? If there is one team with nothing else to lose, it’s the Cubs. They’re young,  picked on constantly and supposedly have the best farm in the country.

They could be the sleeper of the season. Don’t let Starlin Castro fool you. He’s talented and a hot shot. Last year, he was unfocused and perhaps it was the birth of his son, the legal trouble or just plain stupidity. He’s going to be different this year. He has to surpass his expectations or he will be just a casuality in the pile of what could have been. He’s my son’s favourite player. My son is three years old and he sees the good in everyone, so c’mon Starlin, turn it around this year.

Anthony Rizzo is only 24 years old. To put that into perspective, I was buying Motley Crue’s Dr.Feelgood on cassette when Tony Rizz’s parents were wrapping him up in a hospital issue blanket and enrolling him in the Cub’s Newborn’s Club. Mr. Rizzo banged 23 Homers last season and that was a slump? Oh Boy, I can’t wait to see him break out of this one.

The Cubs Gold Glove winner Darwin Barney, sure looked like that glove was made of fool’s Gold last season. He’s the clubs class act and although he didn’t look good at the plate, it was the infield where the Cubs are paying him the big bucks. This is going to be a pretty good season for him.

Jeff Samardzija is their ace. Keep him happy and this shark will bite all season long. Ya got that, chums?

Catching him is Wellington Castillo. Faithful readers of the Cubs Den will remember what I said last season in Spring.

Junior Lake and Nate Schierholtz had break out seasons last year. In 64 games, the still Lakes run deep can apply to this Junior Cub. He got 16 doubles and 26 runs compared to Schierholtz who in 137 games tallied 56 runs. Junior’s just getting started folks and this Lake will overflow. Prepare for the flood.

There’s an argument for bringing the young kids up too fast but with the firepower that the Cubs have in Kris Bryant, Brett Jackson, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora. Would it hurt the Cubs to bring em’ up throughout the year? Give them a taste of the big leagues and throw them into the fire.

The Cubs are in good hands with new manager Rick Reinteria. He’s got his work cut out for him but just from the clips I’ve seen, he’s a communicator and that’s just what the Cubs need. With the young talent they have, it’s fitting that they hired a first time coach to lead these newbies into what could be a post season. I like Rick. He seems like a great guy and he smiles. A lot. Here’s hoping he’s smiling eight months from now.

Will the Cubs make the post season this year? Maybe. Are they as bad as all the trade publications make them out to be? No. Will they  finish last in the Central? Not a chance, brother. Give that to the Brewers.

These Cubs aren’t so lovable anymore. Look out baseball fans, these Cubs are about to roar.
–Mark