Cubs’ Ricketts Has a Twin in Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Tom Ricketts, Chicago Cubs

Tom Ricketts

I’m just going to throw that out there never seen anything like that before. It just goes to show that there’s a twin out there for everyone.

Uncanny, I tell you.

The Angels beat the Cubs 8-4 but there was some pretty cool stuff that happened.

Last night’s game against the Angels was interesting. Mike Olt continues to impress with a two run homer and Travis Wood crushed a shot out into the picnickers area.

But the most interesting thing about yesterday’s matchup came when Kris Bryant started left field. I’d really like to see this happen. Mike Olt could have a breakout year but if Kris Bryant winds up at third, then as we all know, that’s not such a bad thing either.

“I asked him to not try to do too much with his arm and just get to the ball quickly, get in it quickly,” Maddon said Thursday of the Cubs top prospect. “He’s all jacked up about it.”

Here’s another thing that’s interesting; Javier Baez in the lead off. The Cubs are having the kind of issues that a great team should have and that is where to put these players?

“Part of it is to try to increase his confidence and let him know we support him,” said Maddon.

Where do they fit into the lineup? A few years ago, the Cubs had issues with finding great players. The problem this time around is where exactly does Joe Maddon put this talented group in the lineup? Baez has one of if not the most powerful swing in the majors. If he can harness it somehow, then he could possibly be out duelling Anthony Rizzo as batting champion for the Cubs. So, by putting him in the lead off position, and don’t get me wrong, I think Dexter Fowler is the guy for that spot; I believe that it will force Baez to build the kind of patience necessary to develop into the talented player we know he can be.

Then here’s another good problem to have. Matt Sczur. Should Chris Denorfia start the season on the disabled list, it could open a great opportunity to see Matt Sczur who continues to impress everyone this spring.

Oh, the problems!

Believe it!

What Happens In Vegas

Las Vegas, Cubs, baseball

In many ways, the Chicago Cubs win over the Oakland A’s can surely be viewed as a sign of things to come. Of course, it might not, but there’s no reason not to get excited over the small victories.

Jake Arrieta threw well stretched over four innings of work striking out three. One thing that impressed me was the amount of times the Cubs filled the bags. In most cases it didn’t amount to the kind of offence that was expected but it’s a really good sign that the team is starting to find a groove in their swings.

“I was able to use [the curve] early in the count for early strikes and to set up a couple counts later in the game, third, fourth inning,” he said. “I think I got one, maybe three on swings and misses. That’s what I was looking for today, and just keeping the fastball down in the zone, and both of those areas were pretty crisp.”

It’s almost too scary to think what the lineup will be on Opening Day. With Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Mike Olt (or Kris Bryant). Sure, the Cubs are 2-8, but there’s been a lot of firepower coming from those bats and that’s positive.

Yesterday’s game in Las Vegas was a homecoming for Bryant.

“Everybody on the field looked like it was such a reach for me to be there, and now I’m in that position, playing on this field, on a field where I got a chance to watch players play on,” Bryant said. “It’s a surreal feeling for me. I know it’s only a Triple-A field but it still has a special place in my heart, trying to get foul balls down the line.”

So, Maddon’s in tough. Bryant is surpassing expectations and will provide pressure for that Opening Day.

“You have to see him cope with a Major League season, because it totally turns different,” Maddon said. “The moment the first pitch is thrown, everything changes. People may not understand it, but it’s true — the difference between a regular season and a Spring Training is incredibly different. But, again, this guy’s different. He’s good. He’s going to be really good.”

Believe it.

Cubs Still Looking For First Win in Spring Training

Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs, Spring Training

The Cubs are winless this season. Sound familiar? Wait though, this is spring training. It doesn’t count, right? Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs lost a tough one to the San Diego Padres 6-3. There were flashes of brilliance in the game and some “uh oh, we have to fix that.”

Edwin Jackson pitched.

In baseball, a player can be statistically brutal and yet still be an ok player. That’s where Edwin sits. He had a good game even if he gave up four runs in the second inning. The thing is, and it pains me to say this, but Jackson is the one player who needs most of the work. He signed with the Cubs a couple of years ago to a whopping contract/per player value (i.e.he was overpaid) and added yet another chapter to the bleacher bums book of,”Hey, my grandmother can pitch better than you!”

Sorry Edwin, I had to say it.

I still believe Edwin Jackson can play on this team. It’ll be in the bullpen. The guy getting the fifth spot in the rotation is playing today, Travis Wood.

“Would I like to start? Yes,” Jackson said. “If I don’t start, am I going to go around and throw a temper tantrum? No. If I don’t start, it’ll be because of something I didn’t do to allow myself to be in that position. It’s a fun time here, a great group of guys, a great organization. It’d be a lot of fun to win a lot of ballgames, to win with this ballclub.”

In other news, Mike Olt continues to make Kris Bryant’s leap into the majors a difficult one. Yesterday, he homered along with Miguel Montero.  Of course it’s expected that Bryant will be there this year but I’m still on Mike Olt’s bandwagon.

If player evaluations are the key to spring training action, then the Cubs are on the right track. The uniforms still have a lot of wrinkles left in them over the brutal winter but the Cubs are in good hands and come Opening Day, we’re going to see a pretty exciting team take to the field.

Believe it.

Cubs’ Schwarber Kicks Off Spring Training In Style

Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs, Spring Training, Baseball, MLB

Was everyone glued to their MLB.TV? Yeah, I thought so too. Hey, congratulations to Kyle Schwarber hitting that grand slammer on his birthday. If that isn’t karma, I don’t know what is.

Now, I have to say that even though the Cubs were up 5-0, there’s a reason why the Giants are the champions. Yeah, yeah, it’s spring training but sometimes  these victories sow the seeds of the season to come? Perhaps?

What do you think of Dexter Fowler’s grievance towards switch pitcher, Pat Venditte? Yeah, I think he’s got something there. I’d be a little irked as well changing my stance and helmet.

“You’re on deck, so you’re swinging for whatever he’s doing,” Fowler said. “I was swinging left-handed because he was throwing right-handed, and then he gets up there and switches.”

Another scenario is Mike Olt. He got a homer in the first game and I really hope he keeps it up. I like the guy and the competition at third is fierce. Should the Cubs have to deal Olt to make room for Bryant, they’ll have some good trade bait, but on the other hand if they can put Bryant at another position and keep Olt that would be better. A couple of years ago, the Cubs would only dream of having this problem, right?

As for the fifth spot in the rotation, I’m really thinking it should go to Travis Wood.

“You always learn more when you fail than when you succeed, and I learned a lot last year about how to go about when you fail, picking yourself back up and getting back after it,” Wood said. “That’s what we took into the offseason.”

The Cubs wore commemorative caps with #14 on them in tribute to baseball and Cubs legend Ernie Banks.

It’s only the first game but so far the Chicago Cubs are looking great. Today, marks the debut of ace Jon Lester against the Cincinnati Reds. Game time is 3:05 eastern.

“It was just a really nice wonderful first day,” Maddon said.

Believe it.

Cubs Dream Begins With Respect

I made a comment to my wife yesterday about next week. I told her that next week our lives will change.

Cactus League begins. Baseball ’s back.

Being the Unofficial Blogger of the Cubs in Canada, here is a great shot of @CoxRyan89 at the park in Arizona. In Ryan’s words, Theo was,”A cool guy”

Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein, #LetsGo, #BaseballBegins

Ryan Cox @CoxRyan89 with Cubs GM Theo Epstein

Today is an exciting day when batters will take pitches from Jon Lester. This is where it all begins folks.

What kind of stuff will Lester bring to the team? Well Javier Baez, Mike Olt and Jorge Soler are going to find out.

This spring will have a lot of question marks attached, especially at third base, the hot corner and boy is it crowded. We have Mike Olt, Kris Bryant and newcomer Tommy La Stella. It’s going to be interesting because I think Mike Olt will start the season at third but inevitably the job will be handed over to Bryant.

With spring workouts to the soundtrack of Bruce Springsteen, Joe Maddon isn’t kidding anyone, he’s the Boss but with this much competition during spring training, it’s good to keep an open mind on every position and be creative.

“Respect 90” is a motto that Joe Maddon is using for the players this season. Is it his brand? Position Statement or tag line for the year. Ninety feet. That’s it. Believe in it. That’s what he wants the players to do.

“It really is the message I want to get out there,” Maddon said. “I believe if we respect that 90 feet every day, a lot of good things are going to happen here.”

This is an important season for the Cubs, the fans and the players. This is a season when everyone has to believe in something bigger than they are. The quest for the World Series isn’t about contract extensions, trophies, rings or even the glory; the quest for the World Series is about those kids in the schoolyards who had a dream. The World Series is about the parents sitting in the stands cheering their kids every step of the way. The World Series is about the Little League coaches smiling at their proteges in October.

The World Series is about believing.

Cubs on Paper look like Champions

If the Cubs win it all, Joe's buying the first round Chicago!

If the Cubs win it all, Joe’s buying the first round Chicago!

It’s always a dangerous thing making early predictions, but it’s also pretty darn cool to make them anyways.

One prediction that’s going to loom large over the Chicago Cubs this season is of course, Ernie Bank’s passing. The poignant part is that as the Cubs prepare to take a run at a post season birth and perhaps a World Series, “Mr. Cub” will be a part of it all. The Cubs will more than likely be wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys in tribute to this great man.

Here is an early version of the Cubs batting order which I’m predicting will be the Opening Day order:

  • Dexter Fowler– Simply because of his OBP being .375 You figure it out.
  • Javier Baez– Give him a break, he’s only 23 and last year he swung at more than he hit. This year will be different.
  • Starlin Castro- Starlin matured last year into a hitting machine. I’m placing him ahead of our captain Anthony, because he got more doubles(33) Stay focused, and Starlin is a winner.
  • Anthony Rizzo- He’s going to take 32 HR and turn them into 45. Wanna know why?
  • Jorge Soler- Because Soler is going to hit 32 HR right behind our captain.
  • Miguel Montero- New catcher on the block hit 72 RBI and a SLG of .370 playing for the Arizona GrassSnakes. Go ahead and say Boo Ya!
  • Mike Olt- I still believe in the guy. He’s underrated. Don’t forget he managed 33 RBI’s in 89 games. Not too shabby.
  • Arismendy Alcantara- Joe Maddon likes him, I like him and Arismendy will turn into that sabermetric machine that Epstein and Maddon love. You can quote me that.
  • Chris Coghlan- He ‘ll be adjusting into Alcantara’s slot

If you’re wondering why I didn’t start Kris Bryant on Opening Day, well here’s my reasoning. If the Cubs can’t win April then they’re not going to be there in October. It just won’t happen. Mike Olt is their third baseman for now. Bryant will see action sometime in May, but why spook the kid and turn him into a Javier Baez? No, Mike has to start at third on Opening Day. There’s no doubt about that.

Are expectations too high for the Cubs this season or are predictions justified. Spring couldn’t get here quick enough to see the likes of Jon Lester, Joe Maddon and Anthony Rizzo.

On paper, the Cubs are going to have one of the most dynamic teams this season. In the outfield there’s Alcantara, Fowler and Soler. Mike Olt, Starlin Castro Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo in the infield. A fantastic starting lineup. If there’s going to be any weakness in the Cubs organization, it’s their back up guys like Junior Lake and Welington Castillo. Where do they fit in this potent lineup. It’s a great problem the Cubs are going to have.

It’ll be bittersweet should the Cubs make the post season, but something tells me that the 2015 season is going to be one magical year.

Tomorrow, I break down the rotation.

Believe it.

Cubs’ Valbuena Off To Houston For Dexter Fowler

CT game7.jpg

It was inevitable that Luis Valbuena would be traded. Hey, not because he wasn’t pulling his weight around the clubhouse, but c’mon, he played third base and we all know who’s been waiting in the wings just chomping at the bit to get a piece of the third bag on the diamond.

Kris Bryant.

During the Cubs Convention, a young fan asked Joe Maddon who he would pick at third base, Mike Olt, Luis Valbuena or Kris Bryant. We all know who the kid wants, but Joe still asked him anyway, “Who would you play at third?”

Kris Bryant

Of course the kid picked Kris Bryant. Of course Joe Maddon wouldn’t commit to an answer!

The reality is that the Cubs have been in such a great position lately stockpiling players to make room for these young kids coming up. Having too many guys at third was a great problem to have.

A fantastic problem.

Yesterday, the Cubs sent Luis Valbuena and David Straily to the Houston Astros for Dexter Fowler. On paper it doesn’t have any ink drying blockbuster deal but look closer and it’s a really good deal.

Luis Valbuena is a great guy and the kind of player teams need. He was consistent last year and at the odd time showed some pop. I’m a little sad seeing him go, but with too many elephants standing at third, there wasn’t a choice.

In comes Dexter Fowler. A switch hitting possible leadoff hitter(a position the Cubs are still pretty soft at) and hitting an awesome .366 On Base Percentage, he’ll anchor the outfield between Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara.

“It’s tough leaving my teammates and relationships I’ve built,” Fowler said, “but going to a young team like that is awesome.”

So, in my mind the team is set for Spring Training. It’s going to be a battle in just about every position. No kid is a sure thing and no veteran is a lock.

Let me put this in perspective:

You’re a batter. One corner has Kris Bryant/Mike Olt. Then Starlin Castro separates Javier Baez from third. Who’s on first? Anthony Rizzo.

Jon Lester? Yeah, he’s that monster on the hill staring you down.

Believe it,

Mark