Without any games – playoffs, World Series or otherwise – I’m going to have to figure out what this little intro section to the daily bullets is going to become. The bullets were a new feature in Spring Training this year, so I’ve not yet done them when there was no baseball at all. Well, at least I figured out what to do for today…
- Ryan Dempster, who will return to the Cubs next year for $14 million, has value beyond what he does on the pitching mound. He’s a leader, a good clubhouse presence, and a friend to many. I’m not one for espousing the value of “intangibles,” but I do believe having good leaders in the clubhouse can be of a value difficult to quantify, particularly on a team expected to get a bit younger. And, frankly, I like Ryan Dempster, and enjoy cheering for him. That’s part of the reason we are fans of the Cubs, right? Because we like the players? Otherwise, you’re just cheering for laundry.
- Other baseball executives expect the Theo Epstein regime to push for a number of significant changes around Wrigley Field to improve the Cubs’ revenue streams (which improves the product on the field, over time), including … gulp … the removal of “the old scoreboard.” A GM familiar with Epstein said, “I wouldn’t look for that old scoreboard to be sitting on top of the center-field bleachers for many more years. There’s $20 million [a year] sitting up there if they put up a giant Jumbotron. I know people are attached to tradition, to that scoreboard, but is taking it down any bigger change than putting seats on top of the Green Monster? [Ed. – yes.] People in Boston went nuts when they were talking about closing off Yawkey Way. But now it’s a part of Fenway Park. Everybody enjoys it and the Red Sox make so much money from those things. It helps the team compete.” The jumbotron issue has been on the table for years, and the operative question is: would you rather the Cubs kept the old scoreboard, or added (for example) Prince Fielder (I’m imagining $20 million per year added to payroll) to the roster? I can see a strong answer on either side.
- UPDATE: Paul Sullivan just tweeted – I can only assume in response to this post (because the original article is 20 hours old) – that, “No, Theo is not going to touch the Wrigley scoreboard. It’s an official landmark and can not be changed.” I responded with two thoughts: (1) Landmark status is politically granted, and can be changed if the right levers are pulled (isn’t the whole ballpark a landmark? How exactly were they planning on “renovating” if a landmark cannot be changed?), and (2) Sullivan might want to check with his colleague, Phil Rogers, who wrote the original article.
- Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein comes in for a quote in the same article on the Cubs’ revamped front office. “I find it hard to see any scenario in which the Cubs end up in better hands,” Goldstein said. “Theo was their primary target from the day Jim Hendry was fired, and they landed him. One of the things that appealed to Ricketts so much about Theo was his model, where he builds a large front office filled with smart people …. [Theo]’s a very talented general manager, but not a miracle worker, and while 2012 should certainly fall under rebuilding, they could compete as early as 2013, and compete is all you can project for any team.”
- Speaking of the front office, sources say the Cubs are targeting long-time Arizona Diamondback scout, Joe Bohringer, as the team’s new pro scouting coordinator. Bohringer, a 1993 MIT grad, aligns nicely with the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod school of thought on scouting – namely, that you use a blend of statistics and visual scouting, with more of the latter for younger players, and more of the former for advanced players.
- MLB and MLB.com are presenting some awards called the GIBBYs (Greatness in Baseball Yearly), which is not unusual. But, um, here are two of the categories for which Cubs players are nominated: Ryan Dempster picks up a nod for his Harry Caray impression (which is actually an impression of Will Ferrell doing an impression of Harry Caray) in the “Oddity” category, and Starlin Castro is nominated for “Wow Factor.” There are normal categories, too, and you can vote at that Gibbys link.
- A high level sabermetric review of the Chicago Cubs, and the possible impact of the Epstein/Hoyer regime. In short, sabermetrics tell us something we already know: the 2011 Cubs were bad.
- The Cubs are facing the Tax Man – Cook County is auditing the Cubs over its amusement tax payments over the past several years. The White Sox and Bears are also facing audits.
- Carrie Muskat offers a round-up of Cubs’ prospects playing in Winter Ball all over North America (the ones you’re not hearing much about), including Steve Clevenger, Blake Parker, Marwin Gonzalez, John Gaub, and Scott Maine.
- Cubs’ prospect Josh Vitters is playing all over the field in the Arizona Fall League, but Farm Director Oneri Fleita says that’s just so he can get at bats. “He will play third base in 2012,” Fleita confirmed recently. The Cubs are hoping Vitters can, within the next two years, establish himself as the long-term replacement at third base for Aramis Ramirez, but neither his bat nor his defense have been where they need to be. Drafted as a 17-year-old, it’s easy to forget how young Vitters is, since he’s been in the Cubs’ system for so long. He just turned 22 a month and a half ago. There’s time.
- For his part, Vitters knows what he needs to work on, and, on the offensive side, that’s being more patient. While Vitters doesn’t strike out much, he frequently gets himself out on a pitch out of the zone. Says Vitters, “I’m an aggressive hitter, and I always have been. I’m just trying to make sure it’s my pitch I’m swinging at — not the pitcher’s pitch.”