The Cubs will play another intrasquad game today, likely featuring mostly minor leaguers and back-up types. That’s not to say it won’t be good, because…

  • Yesterday, the team of minor leaguers and back-up types beat the Cubs’ mostly-starters team 10-4 in an intrasquad game. Travis Wood was knocked around in his few innings of work, and Matt Szczur had the fake game of his lifetime, including a grand slam, and tagging up and scoring from second base on a fly ball to right field. There is no box score, and it wouldn’t have a ton of value if there was one. I know that it’s fun to see the Cubs playing baseball finally, but the thing you have to understand about “games” like this is that we have no idea what the players were working on. Wood could have been working, exclusively, on his inside fastball. Batters could have been focused on hitting fly balls. We really have no idea. So, to read too much into the result or the individual performances would be a mistake.
  • …but, if you want to take the game as metaphor, you could say it was a representation of the Cubs’ rough-looking present, and bright-looking future. Plus, that headline was fun to type.
  • The Sweet Sixteen of the Cubs Bunt Tournament is set, with Dale Sveum having taken out two of the tourney’s favorites (first Kerry Wood, and now Ryan Dempster). The match-ups are Beliveau vs. McNutt, Rusin vs. Coleman, Samardzija vs. Wells, Maholm vs. Sveum, Cardenas vs. Lalli, W. Castillo vs. Clevenger, Mather vs. Castro, and Baker vs. DeJesus. I guess you’ve gotta figure Sveum is the favorite now, which is either awesome or sad.
  • Dale Sveum strongly suggests that Starlin Castro will be his number three hitter to start the year, which is theoretically fine with me (I’d prefer him hitting second, but whateves). We’ll discuss the batting order a bit more later today, but it continues to be a tough thing to put together with this group of players.
  • Phil Rogers thinks the Yadier Molina extension will make the Cubs more likely to trade Geovany Soto (on the theory that extending Soto (he’s under control through 2013) just got more expensive). Eh. I’m not sure I see the impact of a hefty contract for an unquestionably elite player affecting the Cubs’ plans for Soto two years from now. The Cubs will shop Soto this year, regardless of Molina, if (1) Soto is producing, (2) Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger look ready to take over, and (3) the market for catchers isn’t soft. The question I’d ask about the Molina deal is whether Soto just got more attractive to other teams – perhaps some who were hoping Molina would reach free agency?
  • The Cubs’ defense is supposed to be dramatically improved this year, according to The Fielding Bible. But, unfortunately, it’s still expected to be one of the worst in the league, primarily due to huge negative marks for Alfonso Soriano in left field and Starlin Castro at shortstop. The former is easily remediable, and the latter could improve on his own. Just sayin’.
  • Cubs players ever-so-gently needle Ryan Braun by noting that they’ve never had any problems with “The Collector.” Alfonso Soriano offers the best dig: “I’m not worried that it’s the same guy,” Soriano told the Sun-Times, referencing the fact that Dino Laurenzi, Jr. also collects for the Cubs. “I’m not worried because I know what I take. It doesn’t matter who takes the sample. If you don’t take nothing, he can take [the specimen] home for a week and nothing will come out.”
  • Cubs’ GM Jed Hoyer is a fan of the new playoff format, but hints at the Trade Deadline impact (namely, that fewer teams may be willing to sell that early). Perhaps it’s time to consider pushing the Trade Deadline back a few weeks, as some BN’ers recently suggested?
  • The small, subtle changes in the Cubs’ organization continue, for the better. At Spring Training, the Cubs now have an in-house chef preparing healthy, nutritious meals for all players and staff at breakfast and lunch. Before this year, the Cubs’ clubhouse manager was in charge of getting the food. I’m not saying he didn’t do a fine job – I’m sure he did acceptably – but this is clearly a change with a purpose.
  • Mike In Southern IL

    In Chicago this weekend. Sometimes I just have to come home. Can’t wait for the Cubs to come home and play “for real”. I think, all kidding aside, they will do better than expected this year. If they don’t beat themselves.

  • butlerdawgs

    I’m really surprised that the Cubs didn’t have a chef prior to this year. I was out at a bar last year and met a guy that was the spring training chef for the Cardinals for a couple of years. I asked how much it would take to get him to slip something in the food and he just laughed.

  • Brian Myers

    I think it will be interesting if Dale Sveum WINS the bunt tourney. That’s the kind of motivation (out right shame & bragging rights) that might motivate some guys to get better to shut the manager up.

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    I also see that Tony Campana got 3 hits and scored 3 times. I know, I know, it is only practice, but I think that it shows that he came to play, and is psyched up.
    Sczur and Bjax and Campana kind of stole the show from the starters, hope it continues.
    The boss leading the bunting is really cool, now if he can just teach them to hit it where they aint…….like say the bleachers……

    • DocWimsey

      Or it means that he was facing some pretty bad pitching: not only did he get three hits, but the guys behind him were hitting to get him home.  Again, remember what Whitey Herzog said….

  • papa_g

    Soriano’s bad defense is easily remediable? How do you figure?

    • Mel78

      I’m assuming Brett is referring to the fact that Soriano can be replaced with someone who plays better defense in left, either permanently or in a platoon.

    • Toosh

      Put someone else in LF.

  • Ken

    Molina is elite? He had his career offensive year last year otherwise he’s a slightly better defensive Tony Pena.

    • Brett

      I have no idea – but, based on that contract, he’s viewed as elite by at least one team. I think we just have trouble quantifying how good he is behind the plate.

    • ferrets_bueller

      You’re joking, right? The guy is one of the most game changing defensive catchers ever, and is in the argument for the best defensive one ever.
      There is absolutely no question that Molina is elite. There is no active catcher that i would rather have.

    • JasonB

      If defensive metrics for catchers could be evaluated better, he’d be much more highly regarded than he currently is. Molina absolutely stifles opposing running games, which leads to less runs, and hence more wins for his team. There are probably 2 or 3 catchers I would take ahead of him right now – tops. Baseball is about more than hitting.

      • Smitty

        Agree totally about Molina. Not only does his defense speak for itself, but he was like a 2nd pitching coach for those guys. Duncan didn’t have to get up 1/2 the time because he knew Molina had it covered. I question the 15 mil over 5 years…but considering his importance to that team and most likely to the changing coaching staff the Cards had to give him whatever he wanted.

  • Shawn

    I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I hear Matt Szczur talk about scoring from second on the sac fly. He mentioned the work they have done on cutting the bases and taking it to the game. This has me excited for two reasons. One, Svuem and his staff are getting back to basics and working on the little things. Second, the young players are buying in and working hard. Good stuff.

  • ferrets_bueller

    So far, I love Sveum.

    I also love the part about the easy remedy for Soriano’s defense, and Castro’s fixing itself. Right on.

  • Ivy Walls

    Minus ten runs for playing Soriano in LF! Simply putting a fair OF’er in LF but the biggest problem is that the Cubs gave up 756 Runs in 2011 where the book says 43 were given up while TB took away 42 runs with their defense….that is a spread of 85 runs or 83% of the Cubs spread of last year (runs scored vs runs allowed).

    This year will be a roster and playing by transition. They might start out with Soriano hoping for a big offensive start like last year’s 10 HR’s then as his defense causes liabilities.

    The same holds true in CF and around the infield. Defense is something the coaching can control through who is on the field.

    • die hard

      Toronto’s David Cooper, minor league batting champ, is available as there are 2 ahead of him at 1B. Hes a natural hitter and just needs a shot. Wonder if offering Byrd would entice a trade and then see if he can play LF in platoon with Soriano with view to take over eventually if Soriano falters? Or he can get in the mix at 1B. Hes much younger than LaHair and reminds scouts of Mark Grace as to his batting, but not his fielding yet.

  • Cerambam

    Cubs players ever-so-gently NEEDLE Ryan Braun… Ha very punny

  • die hard

    If willing to experiment with Soriano at leadoff then maybe will to do so in other areas too? Such as switching Castro with Barney, Soriano to 1B, Byrd to LF, and Dempster to long relief.

  • 2much2say

    In my opinion, Bret Jackson starts the season on the 25 man. Cubs have got to have an early season draw