Is It Time For Spring Training To Count?

Arizona League

As Spring training officially got under way, the excitement or honeymoon phase of the Chicago Cubs World Series victory is in full force. Yesterday, in front of a sold out Sloan park in Arizona, the Cubs treated the Oakland Athletics to a lesson of why they have the hardware. A 4-3 win.

“It was different,” Chicago starter¬†Mike Montgomery¬†said of the loud reception. “I’ve been in a few Spring Trainings now, and it was definitely a different experience. It was hard to control the adrenaline today a little bit. Usually in spring, it’s more laid back. Today, there was a lot of energy out there.”

This also marks an important transition for Kyle Schwarber as he takes on the Lead off role vacated by Dexter Fowler.

“What does a leadoff hitter look like anymore?” Maddon said. “There aren’t many of those high-on-base-percentage basestealing types. Guys don’t want to run as much because it beats their bodies up. It’s not easy to be a 50-bag guy or more because of what it does to your legs, your wrist, your hands. You’ll see, on occasion, guys who will go, but not like [Lou] Brock or [Maury] Wills or [Tim] Raines or guys who went all the time.”

A high point in yesterday’s game occurred when Len Kasper asked Joe Maddon some questions and Rajai Davis went up to bat and Maddon quipped, ‘You remember him?”

Yeah, we remember him Joe. These are the cool moments that happen in spring training that don’t necessarily occur during the regular season.

For the first time in a long while, the Cubs have a lot of expectations. They’re the champs after all. They’ll have to whip out the WD-40 and remove any rust from the machine, which brings me to another topic.

We all know that Cactus League games don’t amount to much other than an opportunity for players to strut their stuff and for rookies vying for a spot on the roster come Opening Day and for Canadian snowbirds to enjoy Cub baseball and the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

But what if spring training meant something?

With the recent rule changes regarding intentional walks, I believe it’s the right time for baseball to create a Sunshine Series pitting the Cactus League against the Grapefruit League.

Whether it be for bragging rights or playing for a different charity, it would be an opportune time to showcase some of the best rookies and players that might not make it onwards. It would also satisfy those south bound snowbirds. They could even have the defending World Series champion having to host it for example, this year’s championship would be in Arizona.

What do you think?

Cubs Witness Royalty

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The Cubs are still in the hunt for their first win of the 2014 Cactus League campaign. Is anyone surprised? Not really. it’s to be expected by fans, management and team alike. They are after all, evaluating and trying to see the pop within the group and where every player is going to fit in with the 2014 edition of the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs have players that are hitting for power in Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. They have their potential leads off man in Starlin Castro and their stable of young players. So where does the team stand so far? After three games and no wins(not counting the two cancelled games on the weekend) Not bad.

Castro left the game against the Royals early with a hamstring injury which isn’t too serious and should work itself out soon. There’s competition in camp for the lead off spot between Castro and Emilio Bonifacio.

“Starlin has the ability to put the bat on the ball pretty much anywhere,” Renteria said. “He handles the bat, he can manipulate the barrel quite well. He could fit in the [No. 2] slot quite easy. He’s a guy who was a 200-hit a year guy, so that’s a lot of hits. Having a guy who can get on base whether through a walk or hit is pretty good.”

It’s Starlin’s job for the taking. He needs the lead off to really elevate his game to the next level.

So here’s the thing: The Cubs are 0-3 while the Toronto Blue Jays are 3-2. While the comparisons between the two teams are minimal, with Dioner Navarro making the switch to the north; I believe the Jays have a lot riding on this year`s edition of the Blue Birds. While the Cub are really trying to find their swing and despite this year`s struggles that the Cubs will face, they`re in that good spot where they can be the team they want to be in the future.

It`s good to see Dale Sveum at third base.

Arizona`s looking good this time of year. It`s -22 Celsius up here and hopefully they`ll spread some sunshine and warmth up here.

—Mark

Two Days

It’s almost here.  In two days, the Cubs will kick off the 2011 Cactus League season.  Mike Quade will announce today what the line-up is going to be.  The only certainty is Aramis Ramirez will bat fourth.

Who will lead-off?  My guess is Fukodome.  It’s hard to predict what the order is going to be yet because it’s Cactus league play, however I’m excited spring training is set to begin.  It’s been a long winter and somehow, once spring training starts, the snow melts quicker.

Even though, Mike Quade has said he doesn’t want to put Starlin Castro in the lead-off because he’s still too inexperienced, I’d say Why Not?  Now’s the time to experiment.  Castro is hungry enough and he had a hell of a season last year.

Play Ball!

—Mark Gauthier