“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.”

I had hoped I’d be able to scrounge up a little audio by this point. No such luck. Next week, perhaps. Instead, here are some more springy photos for our eye-feasting pleasure, which have been scavenged from various sites across the web.

Angel Guzman gives a pat on the head to fellow relief pitcher Carlos Marmol. The real question: Why is he wearing a batting helmet?

Newbie Marlon Byrd shows the fans a little love

Mike Fontenot and his hair

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and air-horn… this might be the picture of the spring so far.

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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.”

*

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.

The Hot Wire Sandwich: “I brought you a tuna sandwich. They say it’s brain food. I guess because there’s so much dolphin in it, and you know how smart they are.”

Think of this post as a sort of current event round-up. It’s a sandwich of everything that has happened lately. And, yes… I do like comparing baseball events to food.

-The biggest item that everyone has been buzzing about is Mark McGwire’s steriod confession. I haven’t been tuned in to the noise, but did read this article by Joe Posnanski (I’m glad I did. I thought it was excellent.) I’m in agreement with pretty much all of Mr. Posnanski’s points… let’s just forgive Mr. McGwire and move on, and let him move on.

The only thing that bothers me is that it took him so long to make these admissions. Wouldn’t the pain and embarrassment have been less if he’d done it years ago, anyway? Look at guys like Andy Pettitte and Brian Roberts. They both faced up to the charges and apologized as soon as their respective steroid usage became public knowledge. Now, I don’t think anyone has a thing bad to say about either of them. (Granted, the weight of Mr. McGwire’s accomplishments is greater. But I still believe that had he come right out and faced the situation like a man, folks would be more forgiving than they are now.) The persistent lying almost became worse than the original crime. I am glad that Mr. McGwire did finally decide to come clean and I hope that others will follow suit (*Cough-SammySosaRogerClemens-Cough!*)

-Buried beneath the Mark McGwire commotion was a smaller bit of news that brightened my day. Hearing that the Cubs had hired Greg Maddux as a special assistant to the GM brought me great joy. I barely even know what it means, but as a shameless Maddux admirer, I am thrilled to have him back in the Cubs organization in any capacity.

-So, Randy Johnson formally announced his retirement from pitching. The sad thing is how close I was to writing, “He was such a great player, it’s a shame I never got to see him pitch in person.” I thought those words. Fortunately, I remembered that I actually did see him pitch in person. Embarrassment averted!

-Cuban defector/supposed pitcher extraordinaire Aroldis Chapman signed with the Reds this week. I guess I’m a bit of a Chapman skeptic, or maybe it’s just that I don’t care for the man (one of these days I’m going to write up a list of the players I think could use a good slap in the face.) I was going to wish Cincinnati sarcastic luck, but I’m sure that it would come back to bite me. I might get bitten anyway. We’ll see.

-The 25th annual Cubs Convention kicks off TOMORROW! Expect coverage, miles away though I may be.


The FBB’s Year In Review: The (Unconventional) Bests, Worsts & Mosts of 2009

Well, dear reader, 2009 is drawing to a close. In a few days a new year will dawn, bringing new hopes and dreams with it. Before we embark on that new 365-day journey, let us take a moment to reflect on the many unique events that filled the last one…


BEST broadcasting moment: This remarkable call comes from the Seattle Mariners radio announcer Mike Blowers. If you haven’t seen/heard this yet, you must. (Honorable Mention: Ron Santo singing “Kumbaya” on air)

BEST catch: OK, so this is a conventional category. The “catch,” though, is anything but. It involves some ballet-like teamwork and two Pittsburgh Pirates you’ve probably never heard of. I’m probably the only person stiffing the Dewayne Wise catch in this category. Speaking of which…

BEST pitching performance: Everyone automatically thinks, Mark Buehrle’s perfect-o. That’s probably what everyone should think of, as a perfect game is a very rare and special accomplishment. No disrespect to Mr. Buehrle, but I’m gonna give this one to the San Francisco Giants’ Jonathan Sanchez. Because the Wise catch would have been a home-run 99 times out of 100. Because the only thing that kept Mr. Sanchez’s no-hitter from being a perfect game was a fielding error. And because I just want to be different. So there.

BEST line uttered: Courtesy Tim Lincecum, who was describing his panda bear-ish teammate Pablo Sandoval:  “His hair’s pretty fuzzy looking. He’s got a cute little smile and he gives really good hugs.” (Honorable mention: from Greg Maddux’s number retirement speech at Wrigley Field, “Let’s beat the Marlins today!”)

BEST worst headline: From ESPN’s website, “Texas Rangers Quietly Make Noise At Winter Meetings”

WORST headline: Sports Illustrated’s big headline for its World Series preview article read, “BIG SEXY SERIES.” Really, SI? Really?

MOST weepy events: The death of Nick Adenhart and Ernie Harwell’s farewell speech to Tigers fans.

BEST “news” article: The Phillies should have done a little research, because Roy Halladay doesn’t actually exist.

MOST exciting/improbable play-off series: I gotta give a shout-out to the hometown boys. Our Rebels, with a line-up depleted by injuries, defeated the bitter rival Luray Wranglers in the first round of Valley League play-offs. N’er have I been so proud!

BEST name: My second favorite part of the MLB draft (behind hearing a familiar name called) is some of the truly odd monikers of the selected players. This year’s greatest name was Seth Schwindenhammer. That’s a 15-letter surname (look out, Jarrod Saltalamacchia!) Runner up: Dexter Bobo.

MOST laughable PED accusation: Ryan Theriot… some journalists clearly had too much time on their hands.

WORST gameday weather: Will anyone who was there ever forget the crazy New Market hailstorm of ’09?

MOST readable preseason coverage: Walkoff Walk’s “BONILLA Projections” were the only ones worth reading, in my opinion, and are worth a looksy even now.

BEST musical performance: Mr. T’s rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame trumps all. Sorry, Alicia Keyes.

BEST baserunner: This guy.

WORST celebration: Some people thought this was fun and innocent. I thought it was garbage. (Honorable mention: I heard that when the Dodgers beat St. Louis in the NLDS, they used up all their victory champagne and beer and eventually started pouring water and milk on each other.)

MOST heartwarming first pitch: At least the Brewers are capable of doing something classy.

MOST gutsy glovework: I just wanted to slip this Sam Fuld catch in somewhere…