Wildcard Wednesday: “Thank God for Arizona, in splendid sunshine dressed”

Happy Wednesday, one and all, and a belated happy beginning-of-spring-training! All I’ve got for you today is some photos I’ve scavenged up from around the web and a few thoughts on the spring’s early goings-on.

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A familiar face at Yankees camp.

A first glimpse of Matt Garza in Cubbie blue, courtesy Tim Sheridan.

It seems the Cubs have gotten new warm-up jerseys for this year. I like the old ones better.

Buzz!: Mr. Carlos Marmol and the Cubs reached an agreement on a three year deal worth 20-million smackeroos this week. Congratulation, Marmee. Please, please live up to this.

Tyler Colvin is ready to go. Notice the patch on his sleeve.

Buzz!: Carlos Silva has no intentions of yielding “his” spot in the starting rotation. Says he, “For [the other candidates] it’s open, or whoever is competing. For me, there’s only one spot open. I am one of the starters, you know what I mean. Whatever they think, they think that, not me.” Confidence is nice, but you still gotta go earn it, Carlos #3.

Additional buzz:

-The Cubs traded infield prospect Tony Thomas to the Boston Red Sox for right-handed pitcher Robert Coello yesterday.

Coello was drafted as a catcher, but was converted to a pitcher in 2007 while in the Angels organization. He made his major league debut with Boston last September. He made relief appearances in 6 games, compiling a 4.76 ERA. He has pitched 242.0 innings in the minor leagues and racked up 286 K’s (to 109 walks) to go along with a 2.98 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

-Brett Jackson launched a home run on Tuesday that broke the windshield of a passing car outside of Fitch Park.

-Kiddo James Russell had the following pearl to offer when asked about himself and fellow Texan Andrew Cashner: “We’re young and dumb and ready to throw strikes.” That’s what I like to hear.

-Albert Pujols. Sigh. I’m not one for speculation, but if I had to, I’d speculate that Mr. Pujols and the Cardinals will end up working it out in the end.

Think of what I’m saying, they can work it out and get it straight or say goodnight. They can work it out. They can work it out! Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.

Cough. Anyway, it isn’t that I wouldn’t like to have Albert on our side or anything. Even so, signing players to contracts for lots of years and obscene amounts of money hasn’t really worked for us and I think it would be a very rash thing to do (on the chance that the opportunity should present itself.)

 

 

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2011 Cubs Convention Recap

A good chunk of this post ought to have been put up yesterday. Since that didn’t end up happening, however, I’m just gonna cram it all in today. Double your pleasure, double your fun!

I’m going to plunge right in and try to hit on the highlights. If you’re interested in a more comprehensive recap, look no further than ChicagoCubsOnline.com. They’ve got days 1, 2, AND 3 covered, with actual play-by-play of many of the seminars. So three cheers for the folks at CCO and their fantastical work!

The boys in blue look on during Opening Ceremonies on Friday. Continue reading

Week Nine In Review

Week nine of the Major League season: In which entirely too many interesting things happened.

For the Cubs…

Losing series to the Cardinals and Pirates do not a happy fanbase make! Thus…

Kitten Eaters of the Week: Everyone (minus most of the starting rotation.)

Super Hero of the Week: Carlos Silva. Making the Cards look silly will earn you this distinction.

I heard it through the grape vine: Rumors of Derrek Lee or Xavier Nady being shipped to Los Angeles swirled, but were soon quashed.

Demoted: John Grabow, to the disabled list. Tom Gorzelanny, to the bullpen.

Promoted: Andrew Cashner, from triple-A. Carlos Zambrano, back to the starting rotation.

Headed in the Right Direction / Outstanding Gloviness: Darlin’ Starlin Castro has been showing off some filthy skills at short. I see Gold Gloves in his future.

Elsewhere in baseball…

Best Worst Headline: “Pirates plan is to acquire talent from the draftThere’s a revolutionary idea!

No More Ouchies!: David Huff scared the living daylights out of us all. Kendry Morales went down with one of the more bizarre injuries I’ve seen lately.

Stop, Thief!: Oakland’s Gabe Gross may have pulled off the most sparkling home run robbery of the year when he pulled in a would-be blast from off the bat of Detroit’s Gerald Laird. The Tigers might want to consider some kind of security system, because they got robbed more than once this week…

Masterpiece: That’s what Roy Halladay had on Saturday night. Yet the one we’ll all remember most was…

The one that got away: Armando Galarraga did everything that Dallas Braden and Mr. Halladay did and just got a tough break. He did essentially pitch a perfect game. So did Harvey Haddix (and then some.) That’s baseball! That’s life! By now we all know that the events that followed Mr. Galarraga’s incredible outing were even more memorable than the performance itself. Joe Posnanski’s article on the whole thing is a MUST READ. Here is a nice excerpt:

And in that moment when [Galarraga] had a perfect game so unfairly taken away from him, he smiled. In the interview after the game, he simply said that he wasn’t sure about the call but he was proud of his game. When told afterward that Joyce felt terrible about the missed call, Galarraga said that he wanted to go tell Joyce not to worry about it, that people make mistakes.

Galarraga pitched a perfect game on Wednesday night in Detroit. I’ll always believe that. I think most baseball fans will always believe that. But, more than anything, it seems that Galarraga will always believe it. The way he handled himself after the game, well, that was something better than perfection. Dallas Braden’s perfect game was thrilling. Roy Halladay’s perfect game was art. But Armando’s Galarraga’s perfect game was a lesson in grace.

I liked these snippets from Yahoo’s Big League Stew, as well.

Our reward comes in seeing someone perform at the highest level and then having enough presence of mind to maintain a proper perspective when something goes against them.

It’s kind of strange that there would have been plenty of plaudits thrown Galarraga’s way had Jim Joyce made the correct call, but that we also wouldn’t have really seen the true measure of the man if there hadn’t been a bang-bang play on the would-be the 27th out.

Headed for Countryside Acres: Ken Griffey Jr.. Hey, wait! I already covered this yesterday!

One for the road: 18-yr-old Eri Yoshida debuted for the indy-league Chico Outlaws this week. I always looked upon this phrase with distaste in the past, but I’m saying it now, anyway: You GO, girl.

“When putting away your luggage after arriving home, always close the zippers so bugs can’t crawl in.”

Author’s Note: The following post includes significant Starlin Castro-inspired enthusiasm. Nothing that has happened since his stellar debut has really dampened my excitement over him, and it is my opinion that the individuals who booed Starlin during last night’s game should all be hit square in the face with a sock full of pennies.

I hope nobody will hate me for relating every minute detail of the little trip I went on last week. Friday’s game was by far the best Cubs one I have ever been to in person, and the entire day was just flat out awesome. If it ever sounds like I’m bragging, forgive me. I am not trying to… I honestly had an incredible few days and count them as a tremendous blessing. If I could give everyone a little of my leftover joy, I would. And Cubs Nation would have a few more happy campers. Continue reading

It happens every spring

Every spring and every team has it’s own little tree of story-lines to keep fans interested. Today’s post is dedicated to identifying the branches and twigs of Cubness that are likely to keep the Chicago faithful atwitter for the next month and a half.

The Geovany Soto Chronicles One of the most prevalent subjects I’ve seen thus far concerns our young catcher. Which Geo will we see in 2010? The 2008 Rookie of the Year? Or the 2009 disappointment? Time will tell. On Tuesday, Geovany responded to speculations that he’d been on steroids (the 40-pound weight loss raised suspicions.) Here are some selected quotes from his statements:

I wasn’t strong. I was just fat.” (Good answer, Geo.)

My dad used to tell me, because I used to open the refrigerator a lot, ‘Just eat right, small portions throughout the day, it’s a lot better,’ We didn’t know that [growing up]. I got a personal trainer, a professional in that area, to try and help me. I stick to the program and it worked. I’m really happy I did it, because I feel a lot better.” (That’s good enough for me.)

A little before and after.

The Progressions of Ted Lilly When will our lovable lefty be able to pitch again? Ted wants to be ready by Opening Day, which seems… optimistic, to say the least. But, hey! If anyone can do it, Ted Lilly can. If he came back early and threw a no-hitter in his first start of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised. Seriously, though, this is what Ted himself had to say:

If it turns out to be May 1 or whenever after that, then that’s what it is. The whole idea is to not only come back as soon as possible and start contributing, but to be productive, too.”

He also spoke of the early arrivals to camp of many Cubs players:

I would hope that failure is a major motivator. This is my opinion, but us not getting to the playoff is failing. We’ve got a lot of talent, and we expect that of ourselves.”

Ted also had this to say, on 2010 being the last year of his contract.

I think the best thing to do is not make it be about yourself. I don’t want to draw attention to myself that way or distract from anything our club is trying to do. I don’t think it’s all about me. That’s my perspective, and I’d like to keep that behind closed doors.”

I love this man.

The non-story of Carlos Marmol It irritates me that people are already making an issue of “Marmee.” It’s as if folks are expecting him to fail. I do not see Marmee as a problem at this point. HE IS OUR CLOSER, LET US ACCEPT HIM AS SUCH AND GET BEHIND HIM ALREADY.

The Return of Greg Maddux He’s back! Squeeeeee! Who isn’t happy to have Mr. Maddux amongst us? Beat reporter Carrie Muskat twittered the following on Wednesday: “Greg Maddux just strolled into the Cubs facility at Fitch Park, looking more like a special ass’t to GM than a pitcher.” Oh, how I smile. Because, let’s be honest… Greg Maddux has always looked a little more like a general manager’s assistant than a pitcher.

Battle for the back end of the rotation So we got Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. We hope Ted Lilly will be ready soon and that Randy Wells will be able to replicate his outstanding rookie season. Then we got Carlos Silva, Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzellany, and Jeff Samardzija in competition for the fifth spot (and the fourth spot, whilst Ted R. Lilly is vacant from it.) My money is on The Shark.

Battle of the pine-riders There is also competition for a spot (probably just a single spot) on the bench. Combatants include Micah Hoffpauir, Andres Blanco, Kevin Millar, and Chad Tracy. I can’t help but root for James Micah Hoffpauir. At the same time, I have a major crush on Andres Blanco’s glove. Sigh.

Is the future now? What kind of showing are we going to get from super-prospect Starlin Castro? This is probably going to be the most interesting twig to keep an eye on throughout the course of the spring. Cubs legend and minor-league manager Ryne Sandberg had these things to say:

Is it too big a jump at his age? It’s all up to the individual. But I’ve never seen a guy start at low A, go to high A, then Double-A and the Arizona Fall League all in one year and dominate like Castro did.”

“We don’t know how he handles adversity because he hasn’t had any. But when he was with us at Double-A, I saw a lot of good things. He was disappointed if we lost, or if he didn’t advance a runner, or didn’t feel like he had a quality at-bat.”

He could be slated for Triple-A, but if he has a big camp, he might give them no choice.”

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For even more good springy info, check out this Bruce Levine chat from Tuesday.

The Daily Herald has some photosBoys of Spring has better ones.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago has some nice video.

“My kind of town, Chicago is- my kind of people, too- People who smile at you.”

As promised, this is my post dedicated to the 25th annual Cubs Convention, which took place this past weekend. All of my information has been gleaned from various locales across the web. Basically, I have attempted to pick out all the highlights and arrange them here in one convenient location. For your pleasure.

-WGN radio provides an nice assortment of audio from the Convention’s various interview panels, as well as some condensed videos and some photos. See ’em all here.

-Allow me to offer a quick congratulations to Mike Fontenot, who, according to the Tribune, became engaged this off-season. The only thing more precious than engagements is new babies.

-When asked who on the team would shake things up now that Milton Bradley is gone, Ted Lilly replied that he’d be willing to assume that role. Oh, Ted…

-Though few apparently noticed, Carlos Silva was present. Good for him!

Andre Dawson basically came out and said that he prefers to wear a Cubs cap when he is enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame this year. What else would one expect him to say at what is basically a big, infectious Chicago love fest?

-One session not recorded by WGN was “Down on the Farm,” the one featuring Cubs prospects. This is a shame as I would dearly have loved to hear it. Fortunately, the meat of the thing is covered thoroughly on ChicagoCubsOnline.com. The panel included minor-leaguers Andrew Cashner, Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson and James Adduci as well as scouting director Tim Wilken and VP of player personnel Oneri Fleita.

-I found this mildly entertaining video on YouTube. Half of it consists of long-winded introductions, but I was amused by how uncomfortable the pitchers look during that time.

-Perhaps the biggest buzz coming out of the whole convention was over Geovany Soto. Our catcher looked to be in splendid shape and says he has dropped 40 pounds. Geo’s attitude was also encouraging. He seems ready to rebound in 2010 after his disappointing sophomore effort.

PICTURE TIME!

Sellout crowd!

From left- Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and man-of-the-hour Andre Dawson. According to attendees, Mr. Dawson received the loudest ovations of anyone there.

LOOK, MY UNCLE DAN WAS AT THE CONVENTION!!!! Signing autographs…? Oh… wait. Sorry. That’s new team owner Tom Ricketts.

I listened to the audio from this pictured session and was initially perturbed by all the female fans (and even the host) who kept telling the players how good-looking they were. When I saw photos, however, I couldn’t help but agree. In fact, I thought that every person I saw in videos/pictures looked fantastic (except Jeff Baker. But he just really doesn’t photograph well.)

D-Lee, of course, always looks great.

The new, svelte Geovany Soto.

And two more you have to click on:

I really really wonder what the deal is with this one. What is going on here?

First thing out of Ryan Dempster’s mouth: Is this vodka?

Saying Goodbye: Milton Bradley


Milton Bradley is off to Seattle in exchange for Carlos Silva and 6 million dollaroos. Okay… not feeling so rosy about this one. What’s done is done, though. If Mr. Hendry had only listened to me a year ago and signed Adam Dunn instead of Milton we wouldn’t be in this pickle, would we? I mean, we’d still have problems (like the worst outfield defense on planet earth) but they’d be more pleasant ones.

One good thing: I finally get to put up the goodbye song I picked out for Milton weeks ago! Because I didn’t love him, Mr. Bradley gets Professor Rattigan and not the Muppets. Because of technical difficulties, I’m being forced to post this in video form.