The happiest of possible words: Pitchers and catchers report

Pitchers and catchers report. To a baseball fan, there cannot be too many four words together that carry more excitement or anticipation (Maybe, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” Maybe.) It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of the reigning World Champions, or the team that lost 100 games the previous year. When pitchers and catchers report, there is always hope.

Spring training, after awhile, is always kind of like an h’ors d’oeuvre, or a movie trailer. By the end, you’re ready for the main course, or the real movie. Starting off, though, there is nothing like it to whet one’s appetite after a long hungry winter.

Here are some assorted photos to offer us all a little spring warmth.

This isn’t actually a spring training photo. It was taken in Japan a couple weeks ago, I believe. But when I saw those shorts Ichiro has on, I knew I couldn’t let it pass.

Hey, look! It’s two of the most admirable men in baseball.

John Grabow and Randy Wells, already feelin’ the burn. (Courtesy Tim Sheridan’s Boys of Spring blog)

Big Z hits a monster shot while youngster Tyler Colvin looks on.

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Hot Soup Report: “Shhh! I gotta focus. I’m shifting into soup mode.”

The hot stove hasn’t been so hot for much of this offseason, and that is my excuse for neglecting the hot soup reports. Now there is suddenly a whole pile of soup-worthy tidbits. I’m just going to jump right in.

Trades

The big news since yesterday is the Roy Halladay deal, which has all but been finalized. Mr. Halladay will go to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee will go to Seattle and a tidy bundle of prospects will go to Toronto. It’s hardly thrilling to have Mr. Halladay join the National League. At the same time, I remember back when Johan Santana made the jump and we all thought nobody else would have a chance to win the Cy Young for years upon years to come. Not that that means anything. I’m just blabbering, trying to pretend that this move means anything to me. The Cubs will likely face Mr. Halladay and lose, yes. We probably would have faced Cliff Lee and lost as well. So what can I say?

The only other monumental trade was the Curtis Granderson tragedy, which I did mention previously.

Signings

Chone Figgins (Mariners): I was surprised how quickly this went down. I’ll tell you one thing… everybody is talking about Roy Halladay and such. Nobody seems to be noticing the Mariners. They’re getting things done, boy. They signed Mr. Figgins and have now traded for Cliff Lee. I’d say they’re looking pretty good. When one further considers that the Angels are losing Mr. Figgins, as well as John Lackey, well… one has to think that the AL West is gonna be a little more interesting this year.

John Lackey (Red Sox): Since his name already came up anyway… I don’t have anything to say about Mr. Lackey, besides that I’m not much of a fan. I randomly felt glad that the Cubs don’t have money to spend on such individuals this year.

Jason Kendall (Royals): I like Jason Kendall. I’m glad he isn’t a Brewer any more. For the record, I don’t like him so much because of the brief time he spent as a Cub (although he was charming in pinstripes), but because I used to enjoy his breakfast cereal.

Hideki Matsui (Angels): The only comments I can think of for this are attacks on the DH “position,” so I’ll refrain.

Randy Wolf (Brewers): Somehow, I don’t feel threatened.

Ivan Rodriguez (Nationals): This year, Pudge will become a lock to win the ‘Player-I’ve-seen-play-with-the-most-different-teams’ prize. Wherever this man goes, I end up seeing him play.

Mike Cameron (Red Sox): This pretty much narrows the Cubbies’ options for center-fielder down to Marlon Byrd. Unless we trade for someone. I vote for trying to talk the Yankees into giving us Brett Gardner. Otherwise, just give Sam Fuld or Tyler Colvin the job.

There are a bajillion other signings, but what interesting can really be said about Pedro Feliz to the Astros, or Bobby Crosby to the Pirates? This brings us to…

The Remaining Free Agents

Jason Bay: He won’t be returning to the Red Sox, according to the latest from MLBtraderumors.com. The front runners are said to be the Mets, Angels and Mariners, and the Yankees are “interested” (When are they not?) I want to see it down to the Angels and Mariners, don’t you? AL WEST INTRIGUE!

Matt Holliday: The Cardinals have, to my chagrin, made Mr. Holliday an offer for some obscene amount of money. If I was in power in St. Lou, the offer would have been: a box of Peeps from last Easter, a used copy of the original ‘Oregon Trail’ on CD-rom, a home-made Christmas tree ornament, and $1.42 in pocket change (lint included.) And that is my final offer. Not because I think ill of Matt Holliday, but because in this scenario I am obviously a mole trying to take St. Louis down from the inside.

Mark DeRosa: My offer to Mr. DeRosa would be the exhumed remains of my sweet baby turtle and a black shoelace. Anything to get him out of a Cardinals uniform.

Final Notes

The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up former Marlin prospect John Raynor in this year’s rule 5 draft. Here’s hoping he sticks! REBEL ALUMNI POWER!!!

Matt Murton, a former Cub and favorite of mine, will be pursuing his baseball career in Japan. I just want to publicly wish him the best. He’s a talented guy. I hope he finally gets a real chance to play and mops up over there.


“While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?”

Curtis Granderson is about to be a Yankee. I must vent! A trade hasn’t made me this cranky in years. Really, it makes me sick. It’s like the Pillsbury Doughboy joined the mafia.

I suppose I could choose to take the view that the Yanks, having acquired this lovable man, have become more lovable themselves. But, no… instead I have the feeling that the evil empire just snatched an innocent soul as another part of their nefarious plan to take over the world. Ptui. I’m not merely jealous, I promise.

Don’t suggest Melky Cabrera’s possible availability to the Cubs as a consolation prize, either! Why not just tell me I have snail fever then offer me a lollipop?

Hot Soup Report: “Beautiful soup so rich and green- Waiting in a hot tureen!”

I’m calling my take on hot stove stuff the “Hot Soup Report.” For this feature, I will be taking some offerings from MLB’s hot stove and preparing them into a delicious soup for the (hopeful) enjoyment of all.

I have also created the “Soup Scale” to rate the interestingness/validity of each report. A One is canned tomato (boring.) A Two is Broccoli Cheddar (predictable yet enticing.) A Three is Crab Bisque (mmm.) A Four would be Dunkard Soup (off the charts.)

In baseball’s off-season, fans such as myself (read: not inclined toward the NFL or NBA) are obliged to take an interet in hot stove reports. There are a lot of silly rumors involved, and 98.7% of them come to nothing. Evidence of this can be easily obtained by browsing the Chicago Cubs roster, where you will not find the names of either Brian Roberts or Jake Peavy. The hot stove is still on preheat at this point, but it already looks like we have a likely heir to the Roberts/Peavy throne for the 2010 season in Curtis Granderson.

As a huge fan of Mr. Granderson (he and Tampa Bay’s Carlos Peña are my favorite non-Cub, non-Rebel players in the majors,) I was excited by these initial reports. The Cubs need someone who can hit, someone who can run and someone to play center field. Curtis fits all the qualifications, on top of which he is a Chicago native and a fantastic team guy with a reasonable contract. The fuddyduddies of the internet have been quick to point out his flaws. He strikes out too much, can’t hit southpaws, etc., Duly noted facts, fuddyduddies. It seems clear that if, in fact, Curtis Granderson is an option, he is the best possible option for the Cubs. I don’t doubt that Jim Hendry and Dave Dombrowski will be discussing the matter as the winter progresses.

There are two or three sticky matters that are keeping me grounded in light of these rumors (by grounded, I mean keeping me from literally shouting with joy and dancing jigs at the very possibility of Curtis Granderson in a Cubs’ uniform.)

The first and stickiest of the sticky matters is Milton Bradley. Mr. Hendry has himself in a tight spot with this one and I don’t envy him a winkling. I’ll forgo much further comment on Milton to avoid deviation from the topic at hand. It would seem that Mr. Hendry’s hands will be tied until he is able to complete the Milton Bradley relocation project (no small challenge.)

Second, we have the reality that the Cubbies could be facing some rigid competition. Both the Angels and Yankees are believed to be interested in Mr. Granderson. Both those parties can probably offer some fairly nice packages to the Tigers, besides which it just always seems like the Yankees get whatever they want. They’re basically like the spoiled rich kid in the neighborhood. You know, the one with a pony. I have no especial hatred for the Bronx Bombers, but Curtis Granderson in a Yankee uniform would not make me a happy camper.

Third is the question of whether the Cubs have the players it would take to get a deal done. Or rather, are the Cubs willing to part with the players it would take to get a deal done. Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune recommended simply telling Detroit to name their price. While I wholeheartedly believe that Curtis Granderson is worth a good bit, Mr. Rogers’ suggestion is pretty rash. In my opinion, trading 19-yr.-old super prospect/supposed sweetheart Starlin Castro at this point would be very rash indeed. Castro and Carlos Marmol were the names dropped by Mr. Rogers. He didn’t propose who the closer should then be…

Just in case I haven’t been clear up to this point as to how I feel about Mr. Granderson, I LOVE HIM. He is worth a good bit, but not worth selling the farm for.

The fellow over at the blog Desipio panned Phil Rogers article, proposing instead that the Cubbies ship fan-favorite Ryan Theriot to Detroit. I don’t know who he thinks would play shortstop until Castro is ready, but I do know that this guy found the most creatively vile things to say about every person he mentions. So don’t go read that, because it really isn’t nice.

My working knowledge of these sorts of dealings is not great, so I don’t have some perfect offer imagined up. If I had to make a suggestion, it would be a fair one. A couple of good prospects along with a bench-type player and a reliever or two. Give or take (probably give.) Should the Tigers accept, wonderful! I’ll be turning cartwheels in the backyard. If not, so be it. Move on.

I’ve run away with myself a bit, so lets wrap it up. Where does this hot-stove product rate on the Soup Scale? I give it a Broccoli Cheddar. It’s a tasty tidbit, but I definitely get the feeling we’re looking at Brian Roberts/Jake Peavy part trois.