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Ryan Braun had a simple response when asked by USA Today to respond to the news that he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs: “It’s B.S.” That’s it. Of course, the matter remains under appeal, and Braun probably can’t say much. But, for a guy who carries this clean cut, nice dude image, either offer a complete thought, or say nothing at all. Just a thought.

  • Richard Justice, who usually covers the Astros, offers a defense of Braun. I don’t know that I agree with Justice’s “Braun deserves the benefit of the doubt” (call me jaded and reactionary, but I just can’t give any player the benefit of the doubt anymore), but it’s a compelling piece. A high point: It just makes no sense that he would risk his good name when he has been blessed with enough gifts to do great things. He’s also part of a generation of players that has been tested for steroids since the first day they signed professional contracts. He’s a smart guy. He has seen the damage done to players who’ve tested positive. For him to use a banned substance would be to do more harm than good. I have trouble believing he did that. I may be proven wrong, but I just can’t wrap my mind around it.” Decent argument.
  • Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are attempting to build a roster better equipped to handle the schizophrenic nature of Wrigley Field, which requires small-ball early in the year and when the wind is blowing in, and could stand to have some power in the Summer months and when the wind is blowing out. So what exactly does that mean? Pitching and defense. You can’t change the elements, and some offensive players only go one way (small or big). But pitching and defense remains a constant. To that end, the Cubs upgraded the defense by adding David DeJesus and Ian Stewart – though the upgrades are largely by virtue of the players they replace, rather than their own defensive prowess. So, Theo and Jed: how about that pitching part?
  • Brewers writer Mike Hunt (real name) is a total … well, let’s just say he’s not nice. A recent article about the Brewers’ pursuit of Aramis Ramirez contained this thoroughly unnecessary pearl: “Meanwhile, it’s taken this long in the column to mention that Ramirez was a longtime Cub, like that matters. It won’t take him long to adjust to an organization dedicated to winning and the comfort of its players in a modern environment. Chances are, he would be pleased about a warm roof over his head, 21st-century conveniences and ownership that has a clue. He would like and respect the manager. He would bring no personal baggage to a largely issueless clubhouse. He would no doubt enjoy a place where success is a higher priority than selling a dumpy, old tourist trap repackaged as charm.” What in the hell does that Glenn-Beckish-lowest-common-denominator-overplayed-bashing have to do with anything? Mike Hunt is apparently bitter. Mike Hunt is also clearly jealous. Mike Hunt is a smelly, old curmudgeon who can’t celebrate his own team’s success.
  • Casey Coleman, who unsuccessfully filled in as a starter last year at various times, hopes he gets another chance in 2012. “I had been struggling the first part of the year because I wasn’t prepared to be a starter,” said Coleman of early 2011. “I had nine innings of big-league camp but you can’t predict two injuries to your rotation. It’s tough facing big-league lineups early in the year when you’re really not ready endurance-wise. I was going from one inning at a time in spring training. There’s no excuses, because when they give you that opportunity in the big leagues you need to go out there and perform.” As bad as Coleman was in the bigs, he was excellent at AAA last year (in a very, very hitter’s friendly league). Still just 24, Coleman could carve out a future as a back-end starter. That said, it’s hard to see the Cubs going into 2012 looking at him as anything more than depth.
  • In light of the new television contract with Fox Sports, which pays the Angels some $150 million annually (and, which, in turn, afford the Angels the luxury of committing more than $300 million to Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson on Thursday), the subject of the Chicago Cubs’ TV revenues will come into the spotlight in the coming months, I’d reckon. Because the Cubs’ current TV deals with CSN Chicago and WGN were negotiated back when the Tribune was in charge (who owned by the Cubs and WGN), there are reasons that those deals are depressed, relative to market value. My understanding is that those deals – which net the Cubs in the ballpark of just $50 million per year – don’t expire for several more years. The Ricketts family was keenly aware of this issue when they bought the team, knowing that, down the road, a huge new revenue stream (i.e., a Cubs network, or, at a minimum, a better TV deal) would come into the picture. Until then, though, the Cubs will be behind the 8-ball vis a vis teams like the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, and many other teams (even the Rangers, for example, recently inked a deal that brings in more than $80 million per year). I’m not sure why this subject hasn’t been getting more play in the media, but I’d say it’s time to do some digging: exactly how much are the Cubs getting, from what sources, and exactly how long are the Cubs currently committed? Maybe I’ll do some digging myself.
  • Speaking of that Pujols contract, a report says Pujols is committed to working for the Angels for another 10 years as a “consultant.” That means it’s possible Pujols won’t be able to return to the Cardinals as an ambassador until 2032, when he’s 51 years old. What a total slap in the face to Cardinals fans. Dear media: stop trying to convince everyone that the decision wasn’t all about the money. It so, so, so was.
  • J.T.

    The bubble in regional sports networks likely will burst well before 2019. Keep WGN for at least one game a week.

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