Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part Two

Cubs baseball, and I mean real Cubs baseball, gets underway just the day after tomorrow! Squee! Excitement!

For now, here is the second installment of Rhyme-o-rama 2012. Look for the final one to be published some time before the first pitch of the season is thrown out.

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Soriano is old and frail,
But capable, still, of kicking some tail.

Ryan Dempster will start day one
He eats up innings and is oh-so-fun.

David DeJesus: The bunting champ.
But what will he accomplish outside of spring camp?

James Russell may posess some hustle,
But he isn’t a batter, so it doesn’t matter.

Jeff Baker has earned a place in my heart,
He excels in that benchy/utility part.

We got this new chap by the name of Maholm,
When he faces the batters I hope he will stall ’em.

Young Steve Clevenger out-caught Castillo
Now our backup backstop he shall be-o.

I know next to nothing of Mr. Joe Mather
But I am inclined to like him, rather.

1B: Anthony Rizzo waits in the wings.
For now, LaHair will handle things.

I tried pretty hardzija,
But nothing rhymes with Samardzija.

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Spring rolls on…

The petri dish of preparation and experimentation that is Spring Training is drawing nearer to its end. I’m not celebrating yet, but I do have my party hat and noisemakers where I can reach them. Because, while spring camp is always fun at first, eventually it becomes like an exciting movie trailer that you’ve seen too many times. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for the full-length feature.

Here are a few more springy notes. They will likely be the last of 2012. (I know… yay!)
No room in the inn: Brett Jackson, who has pretty much mopped up in the Cactus League this year, will start the 2012 regular season in triple-A. Not because he isn’t big league ready, but because there just isn’t a place to squeese him in on the Cubs 25-man roster.  Somebody pointed out that this is like discarding a $100 bill because your wallet is filled with $1’s and there isn’t room for it. I can’t think of a better analogy.

The situation is hardly worth pouting over, though. We all know that we’ll be seeing Brett in Chicago before long.


Jeff Samardzija, SP: If you had asked me a month ago, I likely would have proclaimed that Jeff Baker had a better chance of earning a spot in the Cubs starting rotation than Jeff Samardzija. Then I totally would have downplayed the sass of the remark by saying that I meant it more as a compliment to the versatile Jeff B. than an insult to Jeff S.

But I digress. Here we are in late March with Smarj now looking to be a shoo-in for a starting roll. And no-one can say he hasn’t done anything to earn it. I certainly hope he’ll keep up the good work… it warms my heart to see a player transform from kitten-eater to winner. I’d like to state here and now, however, that that no matter how productive Jeff may continue to be, I reserve the right to laugh at/criticize his long flowing locks and sketchy facial hair.
Catcher V. Catcher: Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger are battling for the back-up catcher’s position and it looks like the contest will go down to the wire. I’m just happy it won’t be Koyie Hill anymore. Not because I didn’t like Koyie Hill. I was fond of him, as has been well documented. But it will be really nice not to have to listen to everyone else complain about him for a change.

Bunting Tourney Final: The unexpectedly entertaining ride that was the Chicago Cubs spring bunting tournament came to a conclusion last week. Casey Coleman represented the pitchers and David DeJesus the position players in the final, with the latter coming out on top.

Congrats, David. My expectations for your regular season in-game bunting skills is now unreasonably high.

Joe Mather: Actually has a shot at making the team. How ’bout that?

Dave Sappelt: Is it just me, or does Dave totally look like some sort of batting helmet model in this photo?

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”

My friends, spring has sprung. Like a jaguar out of hiding… like a slinky falling down a flight of stairs. It is upon us.

Here is a random collection of thoughts on Cubs camp happenings thus far:

So long, Chris Carpenter: It hurts to lose a promising young pitcher, but at least the saga of the Theo compensation will nag at us no longer. I extend all my best wishes to Mr. Carpenter, but I’m not looking back on this one. At least not until Chris goes and wins the 2012 AL Cy Young for the Red Sox. Which wouldn’t shock me one bit.

As you can see, Jeff Samardzija is going with the Alexandre Dumas look again this season:

This is fine with me, as it is an excuse to bring back my good friend, the musketeer lego man. All for one and one for all!

On the other side of that coin, Brett Jackson has cleaned up considerably since the winter…

If Jeffrey wants a pal to swashbuckle with, Travis Wood might be the best candidate.

I don’t quite know how a spring training bunting tournament ballooned into a spectacle that has Cubs personnel, media, and fans everywhere taking notice. But I like it. I like it a lot.
Tony Campana had emerged as the early favorite on the position player’s side, only to be upset by Steve Clevenger in the first round. The man to beat now might just be youngster Matt Szczur. My sources like Ryan Dempster on the pitcher’s end (the outcry to his being seeded as a #10 was significant. ‘Tis a head-scratcher, indeed, as Ryan has always been a most proficient bunter.) I always pull for the underdog, so you can bet I’ll be supporting whichever unlikely candidate makes it the farthest.
I know one thing for sure. After all the extracurricular bunt practicing and tourney hoopla, this team better be able to bunt with lethal precision once the regular season rolls around.
Stay tuned!

I have already heard some griping about what a pain this Cubs team is going to be to watch this season, what with all the young, inexperienced players we’ll be trotting out. It baffles me how such pessimistic souls live with themselves. I mean, they’re probably right. It is very likely that the Cubs are on their way to limping through yet another sub-par year. But, for goodness sake, it is Spring Training! A game has yet to be played. If you can’t feel at least a little excitement at this point, I pity you.

Hey, guys… the first real game of the preseason is just five days away! Be ready to jump for joy (or, even more appropriately, spring for it.)

Here are just a few more visuals to tide us over:

Marlon Byrd offers some of his expertise to Reed Johnson’s little boy.

Dale Sveum can see you.

Brotherly love.

GM For a Day

It had reached that time of year when fans the nation over begin to put their GM caps on and think/talk about what moves they would make if they were in charge. GM caps aren’t nearly as fun to play with when your team is mired in sub .500 mediocrity, but it is something to do nonetheless.

The following is a just-for-fun looksee at what I would consider doing if I were the Cubs GM for a day. You will see that, even as sentimental as I am, I do not share real GM Jim Hendry’s somewhat alarming stance on fire-sales and rebuilding.

This may be the most heartless post I’ve ever written.

***

Dempster, Ryan: While I am trying not to let my heart interfere with my head in my pretend 1-day tenure as Cubs general manager, I can’t help it with Dempsty. I couldn’t possibly let him go anywhere. (See also: Wood, Kerry.)

Garza, Matt: I never would have traded for Matt in the first place. Unless some other team was daft enough willing to part with 3 of its top ten prospects, I wouldn’t let go of him this year. It just seems pointless.

Grabow, John: Free to a good home.

Marmol, Carlos: There was a time when I would have considered Carlos #2 as untouchable. I don’t any longer. I suppose all that 9th inning stress has gotten to my head. I am not saying that I would trade Carlos, only that I wouldn’t rule it out. And I would demand a LOT in any possible trade situation (more than he is worth.)

Marshall, Sean: Sigh. It would be difficult for me to pull the trigger on any deal involving Sean, but I hope that in the end I would be able to do what was right for him and the Cubs.

Russell, James: If John Grabow and Sean Marshall aren’t around I guess that would make James the new go-to lefty in our bullpen.

Samardzija, Jeff: He’s done OK this year, certainly better than anyone expected. I would just keep Jeff where he is and ride out that contract.

Wells, Randy: Most of these fellows fit into one of three basic divisions. One, the guys somebody may want. Two, the guys that nobody want. Three, the guys people want but can’t have. I’m afraid that Randy might be a two.

Wood, Kerry: Maybe Kerry should be a one, but he’s a three as long as I’m GM.

Zambrano, Carlos: I wouldn’t even consider Carlos #1 as trade bait. If only to annoy Paul Sullivan.

Hill, Koyie: I heard a rumor that someone might be interested in Koyie. If it’s true, he’s theirs. But it probably isn’t.

Soto, Geovany: Not for sale. Catchers, even half decent ones, are too hard to come by.

Baker, Jeff: If I were the GM of a team that was in contention, I would want Jeff Baker. As Cubs GM, I would hesitate to part with him. Players as versatile and inexpensive as Jeffy B. are worth hanging onto, even in a bad year.

Barney, Darwin: Not going anywhere on my watch.

Castro, Starlin: Crown prince of all the untouchables.

DeWitt, Blake: Blake has never really seemed like a fit on the Cubs. I would send him some place where he could be more useful.

Pena, Carlos: I love Carlos Pena. I always have. I’ve enjoyed watching him as a Cub. But he is still probably the first guy on the proverbial chopping block.

Ramirez, Aramis: The times, they are a-changing. I’m willing to say goodbye if he is.

Byrd, Marlon: Yet another prime trade candidate who I’d miss.

Campana, Tony: Should probably be in triple-A getting more seasoning and playing time, but if half the trade propositions I’ve suggested went down, he’d probably have to tough it out in Chicago.

Fukudome, Kosuke: Sayonara, Fuke. (I seriously feel so mean all of a sudden.)

Johnson, Reed: I couldn’t let go of Reed. So much for that head/heart business.

Soriano, Alfonso: Rumors, schmumors. Fonsie isn’t going anywhere, whether we like it or not.

*Jackson, Brett: I would appease the people (myself included) who would like to have a peek at Mr. Jackson in Chicago before the 2011 season expires.

*Flaherty, Ryan: How do you feel about third base, Mr. Flaherty?

***

So, how ’bout it? What would you all do if you had GM powers for a day?

Predictorama!: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs, Part Two

A most happy MLB Opening Day to one and all! The Cubs turn doesn’t come until tomorrow afternoon, but there are several games (real games!) being played to hold us over for 24 hours. There is also this, part two of my Cubs prediction party, as promised. Get caught up with Part One, if you missed it!

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Picking right up where I left off…

Reed Johnson: I anticipate bookoos of Reed-inspired baby sloth smiles from innumerable  game-saving web-gems and a copious amount of hit-by-pitches. It’s good to have him back, isn’t it?

Carlos Marmol: Give Marmee one sloth hug for strikeout, minus one for every walk. I think he’ll come out well enough ahead. I’m calling Carlos #2 makes the NL All Star team. Or, if he doesn’t, we will all consider it injust and be wild with fury.

Sean Marshall: If he can replicate the outstanding numbers he put up last year, our bullpen isn’t going to be too shabby. 1 baby sloth hug for every time Sean’s curveball gives me goosebumps. 25 more if VCU wins the NCAA championship.

Marcos Mateo: I totally typed in “Juan Mateo” at first by accident right there. Does anyone else remember that game in 2006 when Juan was- for some reason- used as a pinch runner in extra innings and scored the winning run? And Derrek Lee proclaimed something like “that’s the slowest I’ve ever seen a human being run”? You remember the little things in seasons like that…

Anyway, if Marcos can do something that amuses me half as much as his brother did then, I shall be delighted.

Carlos Pena: It is hard to say exactly what kind of numbers Carlos will put up, or what kind of year he will have. It is easy to say that he will certainly charm us all with his winning smile, and good defense (maybe even a walk-off home run or two.) He isn’t going find baby sloth hugs hard to come by, no matter what his batting average is.

Aramis Ramirez: Probably not going to win any more silver sluggers or golden gloves. Sigh. Sometimes reality and time aren’t fun.

James Russell: One consolation baby sloth hug for every time James is going to be shuffled from Chicago to Iowa. The same goes for Justin Berg, and anyone else like that.

Jeff Samardzija: Every bullpen seems to have at least one designated kitten-eater… one guy that elicits groans before he has even tossed a warm-up pitch in the bullpen. I’m calling that that guy is gonna be Shark in 2011. 3 sympathy baby sloth hugs for him, but he can’t collect them until he cuts his hair.

Alfonso Soriano: Either Mr. Soriano has been flying under the radar lately, or people have run out of things to say about him. I, for one, have hardly given him a thought this spring. But Sori isn’t just the Canadian word for “sorry”… it’s still our left-fielder, too. I am hoping he quietly has a half-decent season, provided the injury bug doesn’t bite. 4 baby sloth hugs per home run, minus 2 for every groan-inducing defensive play.

Geovany Soto: This is one guy who I genuinely look forward to watching every day… one of the few I don’t feel like I have to cross my fingers for. I foresee good things (good health, potent bat, possible all star selection if he isn’t barred out by Brian McCann and Buster Posey.) 5 bonus baby sloth hugs for every stolen base, triple, and/or inside-the-park home run Geo hits this year. 100 Bonus baby sloth hugs if he ever does a handspring on the base paths.

Randy Wells: I’ll feel better about Randy when I know he’s found a good woman.

Kerry Wood: Kerry will always be allowed as many baby sloth hugs as he wishes, regardless how he performs. I predict a solid year from my all-time favorite Cubs, with just one negligible DL stint.

I’m happy he’s home.

Carlos Zambrano: Two baby sloth hugs per hit recorded. I don’t know what to say about Big Z anymore. I mean, his bat is easier to rely on than his arm. I am going to err on the side of superstition and not predict anything. I just hope… no, wait… I don’t. My lips are zipped.

 

 

Wildcard Wednesday: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”

Yesterday was “picture day” for the Chicago Cubs, and probably for another team or two as well. Today is picture day at the Fair Base Ballist. Enjoy the visuals… it’s just a few more days ’til we get to see baseball players in live action. Hip hip hooray!

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Some interesting training techniques going down at the Oakland A’s spring headquarters.

I’ll let y’all give this one your own caption.

This is sweet. Although, I’m not sure how that ball was going to fit through the chain link.

A nice artsy shot of Randy Wells from photo day. On a side note, the Chicago Tribune has mislabeled Randy as both “Justin Berg” and “David Wells” in the course of a month. I don’t think they know who he is.

Seeing Double: Jeff Samardzija edition. I can think of no excuse for a man to look like this in the 21st century.

Fernando “Tight-Pants” Perez tries to make sense of the discrepancy between his slacks and those of the rest of the team.

There were a lot of less-than-flattering shots that I found from yesterday, but the Matt Garza ones take the cake.

Look at ‘im! Fortunately for Matt, I find people who look like muppets endearing.

Fact: When young Kyle Smit turns sideways, you can’t see him.

Don’t you just love Carlos #4 and his happy face already?

It was windy in Arizona this week.

Tyler Colvin wins the award for being the Cubs most photogenic player. Though I think you could have shaved for picture day, Tyler.

News of the morning? Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright may be headed for Tommy John surgery. Bum! Bum! Bum!


 

 

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