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For a little over six months now, I’ve been working on an article about Game Six of the 2003 NLCS, about the ESPN doc ‘Catching Hell,’ about Cubs fandom, and about my life. It’s finally ready to publish, and it’ll go up this afternoon. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope it doesn’t take you quite as long, though. Until then, Bullets…

  • The Chicago Tribune reports that police are still investigating the sexual assault allegations levied against Starlin Castro stemming from a late-season incident last year. Immediately after Castro was interviewed, there hadn’t been any indication in either direction that the case was close or that it was still under investigation. Now we know the case remains open. We’ve not heard anything new, so the default position is still: horrible allegations, don’t really know the facts, hopefully a positive resolution is forthcoming.
  • We should be getting final word on the Cubs’ bullpen this year, with three of Rodrigo Lopez, Shawn Camp, Manny Corpas, and Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo, making the cut. Castillo’s chances once looked very bright, given the Cubs’ probable desire to pick up a free player, and his early Spring performance. But, after some tougher outings, Dale Sveum sounds a little less optimistic about Castillo’s chances now. “He’s done OK,” Sveum said. “The velocity isn’t quite what it was earlier in camp. But he’s been pitching a lot more than he probably ever has. That’s one thing we’ve had to eyeball. He had to get built up. If he’s going to be in that role, he’s going to have to pitch quite a bit …. In the National League, you can’t have a guy that’s non-usable, so, he’s got to be built up to where he could pitch three innings, get to 50-60 pitches once in a while. He’s not the biggest framed guy in the world to put a workload on, but he’s got to get used to it.” That doesn’t sound like a guy who Sveum is too enthused about having to carry in his pen.
  • As an aside, if you’re looking for ultimate exercise programs, you might want to consider Rushfit. I’ll admit, some of those success stories are pretty impressive.
  • Bryan LaHair’s back is still giving him problems, and while the Cubs don’t expect him to start the season on the DL, he could miss Opening Day. “We’ll see what happens on Opening Day,” Sveum said. “He’s getting better every day, so we’ll just see with the treatment and everything, but he won’t be doing anything today. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.” As much as LaHair is a question mark, the Cubs need his bat in the lineup, particular against righties.
  • I noted a while ago that the Cubs were crushing a bit on San Francisco pitcher Kyle Zimmer with Jed Hoyer showing up in person to scout him, and now it looks like Theo Epstein has done the same. He’s flying up Draft boards, so there is some doubt about whether he’ll last all the way until the Cubs pick at number 6.
  • Darwin Barney, who’ll slot into the two-hole in the lineup against righties, doesn’t seem to like when he’s asked about the minuscule number of walks he takes. “I’m not up there trying to walk,” Barney said. “I’m not up there trying to do anything but win that at-bat. If guys are going to throw me strikes, fortunately I don’t swing and miss that much so I’m going to put the ball in play …. You can get on base a lot of different ways than just walking,” Barney said. “You want to be aggressive and you don’t want to be tentative. The walks will come. I’m not too worried about that, and I don’t think anyone else is. If they feel that way they’ll let me know.” Um … I’m a little worried about it. But, that said, I’m going to start the year jumping in both feet first on Darwin Barney: I hope he keeps hitting the lights out the ball, and becomes that rare exception of a guy who improves his production at the plate considerably at the big league level. Physically, it looks like it could happen – he really did look great this Spring.
  • Paul Sullivan collects some of the more notable quotes from Spring Training.
  • Bill Murray is your first pitch thrower and Seventh Inning Stretch singer tomorrow for Opening Day.
  • MLBullets at BCB, featuring a discussion of Andrew Bailey’s thumb injury.
  • With the Cubs taking on the Nationals in the Opening Series, I was fortunate enough to make an appearance on a great Nationals podcast, ‘Nats Talk On The Go’ (from the proprietors of two excellent Nationals blogs, The Nats Blog and Capitol Baseball). I show up around minute 17, but obviously the whole show is worth a listen if you’re looking to get some insight into the state of the Cubs’ first opponent on the year. You get to hear me be way too hard on Darwin Barney, and you can listen at this link.
  • Kyle

    I don’t know what’s worse. Having LaHair in your Opening Day lineup or having to replace him with someone even worse.

    • CubFan Paul

      Hilarious but sad.

  • Ryan

    Rizzo time lol.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Hopefully not for a couple of months.

      • Ryan

        Ha yea I was just joking.

      • Spencer

        Does a player achieving Super Two status give the team an extra year of control than normal because of the extra arbitration year?

        • Cubbie Blues

          The way I understand it. Teams have 6 years of control. Years 4-6 are arbitration eligible. With a Super Two the team still has 6 year of control but now years 3-6 are arbitration eligible.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          No. He just gets an extra arb year at the front-end of his normal three arb years. Control remains the same (he’d be under control for 6.5 seasons or so).

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Yeah, what CB said.

  • Eric

    I actually kind of liked Barney’s response.

    • CubFan Paul

      Because it was the truth. Barney knows he’s not going to start walking/become a more patient hitter ..his offensive improvement this year will come in the form of SLG % (as brett said, physically it can happen)

      • rcleven

        Wasn’t Barney told by Sevem to jump on those 3-0 pitches if their strikes? Kind of hard to raise your walk total when your told to be more aggressive with your pitch selection.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yeah. And maybe I don’t understand baseball, but under almost no circumstances would I sanction Barney swinging at a 3-0 pitch. Ever.

          • http://obstructedview.net Aisle 424

            I like hitters swinging 3-0 OCCASIONALLY. Just enough to keep pitchers honest. Otherwise that 3-0 pitch is just going to be a batting practice fastball down the middle if they know the batter isn’t swinging. Making the pitcher make a pitch on 3-0 is important, IMO.

            I have the same belief about first pitches of an AB. At the end of his career, Sandberg wouldn’t swing at a first pitch no matter what. Pitchers were practically lobbing the ball in to get him down 0-1 and he wasn’t making them make a decent pitch to do it. He might as well have told the umpire “I’m just going to start this at-bat with an 0-1 count, OK?” I don’t believe in helping the other team out, and telegraphing when you are not going to swing is about as helpful as you can get.

            But I think those instances should be left up to the manager’s discretion. He should give Barney a green light in specific instances, not as a general rule.

            • TWC

              “Otherwise that 3-0 pitch is just going to be a batting practice fastball down the middle if they know the batter isn’t swinging.”

              I’m sure that I read an article on one of those (for me) overwhelming saber/stat sites that indicated the number of bullshit strikes (based on plotting pitch location) on a 3-0 count are far higher than any other count, second only to the first pitch of a plate appearance.  I think the speculation was that an ump is reluctant to call four straight balls, and subconsciously increases the strike zone marginally.  I’m sure I could find the article with some digging…

              • Drew

                Wasnt that posted by one of the members here over at the message board? The Goat maybe?

                Whoever it was, I remember it. It was an insane percentage of balls just off the corners being called strikes, something like 80% I think.

                • DocWimsey

                  It works both ways. On 3-0, the pitcher gets everything out to the other batters box. On 0-2, the batter gets anything not down the middle of the plate. (I exaggerate, of course, but you get the gist….)

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I mostly agree with you (and, for most hitters, I’d agree with you completely). I’m just not sure that Barney isn’t an exception.

              • DocWimsey

                A guy would have to have really good power before it would benefit a team to have him swing 3-0 consistently. And even then, it would be heavily context dependent: it’s one thing to have a slugger go for it with 2-outs, but quite another to have him go for it with 0-out.

      • Eric

        Well, while I’d love to see him walk more, I don’t want him to be “over thinking it”. Work your at-bats, put the strikes in play and hopefully the walks will come. That seems like a solid approach for Barney.

        • CubFan Paul

          I said Slugging percentage. Not walking more. The hope is his added upper body muscles doesn’t wither during the season and he Slugs at least .400 (yay for steroids)

          • Drew

            Hopefully, his increased power is coming from his lower body and core rather than his upper body. Otherwise, I’m not the Rudy Jaramillo fan I thought I was.

    • DocWimsey

      Barney’s response is an ignorant one that side steps the issues. You don’t draw walks by looking to take them: you draw walks by not swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. Yes, there are ways to get on base without drawing a walk: but you reduce how frequently you get on base by swinging at pget walks at the expense of outs more than hits (or errors). And, yes, Barney swings at strikes and makes contact. However, he also swings at balls and makes contact.

      So, it comes down to this: if Barney stops swinging at balls (and at pitchers strikes), then he’ll start taking walks and start getting on base a lot more often. He might not become an asset, but he’ll stop being a liability.

      • CubFan Paul

        Well said.

  • Eric

    So is what’s the odds that DirecTV and WGN come to an agreement before the game tomorrow?

    • Cubbie Blues

      Right now it looks like the best shot for opening day is this.

      DIRECTV Files Complaint with FCC Questioning Control of Tribune Broadcasting Company During Bankruptcy

      Tribune Management Agrees in Principle to Retransmission Consent Compensation only to be Overruled by Hedge Fund 
      and Investment Bank Creditors

      WASHINGTON D.C., April 2, 2012 – With more than 5 million DIRECTV customers losing access to Tribune Broadcasting Co.’s 23 local stations in 19 cities since midnight Saturday, DIRECTV today filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission seeking an immediate intervention and expedited ruling against Tribune for failing to negotiate in good faith and bringing into question whether broadcast licenses have been prematurely, and inappropriately, transferred to bankruptcy creditors.

      They also list some alternate viewing options. The options however for the cubs is CSN, MLB.TV and nationally televised games (not WGN America). The only option I have to see the opener is to go to a bar. I am 4-5 hours away and still in the black-out area so MLB.TV is not an option and I really doubt a set of rabbit ears will do any good being this far away.

      • Eric

        Here is where I rant about how the area I live in is in 6 different teams’ “black out region” so MLBtv is worthless to me. Too bad, it looks like it runs pretty smoothly via XBOX.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I’m guessing you’re in Iowa, which is the dead zone for MLB blackouts (it’s the most ridiculous and un-fan-friendly policy in all of sports).

          • Cubbie Blues

            Looks like I’m going to take off work a hour early tomorrow to go watch the game. I’ll have to leave in the middle to pick my boys up from school and head to somewhere kid friendly to watch the rest of the game (maybe Scotty’s).

          • Eric

            Yes, Iowa, and yes, it’s ridiculous. I don’t even understand who benefits from this other than maybe direcTV/dish network. My understanding of blackouts is that it is either suppose to help ticket sales or help local channels that cover the games. Well, I’m way too far from these games for this to matter and local channels never cover anything with the exception of the handful of regional Fox games every year.

            I’m really failing to understand why MLB would have such crazy restrictions? I would buy MLBtv if I weren’t blacked out. Isn’t this policy just taking money from baseball?

            • Mike

              “I don’t even understand who benefits from this other than maybe direcTV/dish network.”

              Well, to play devil’s advocate, you do, sort of.

              The reason that those six teams are blacked out is that you’re considered in the local market of those six teams, which means that you have the option of having them on your basic cable package.

              That’s not much use to you if you don’t have a provider that carries all of those channels (RSN?), but that’s the general idea. So it sucks when a game is blacked out, but more often it means you have more games available without paying for a premium package like MLBtv.

          • ColoCubFan

            Brett, (or anybody that knows)
            Can you explain why the blackout limits reach so far? I live in Iowa too, and if I lived like 20 miles from the game, I would be willing to take some blame for not attending the game. But since I live where I do, it’s not like I’m going to go to many games.

            • Mike

              See my response above – it has to do with the availability of the games on over the air and non-premium TV packages.

              It sucks, but it’s also part of the reason local TV packages are going up so high (as discussed w/r/t the Dodgers the other day) – because they’re selling EXCLUSIVE rights to the broadcasts. The local broadcasters wouldn’t pay as much for rights if you could bypass them and just get an MLBtv subscription.

              Iowa is a unique situation – so many teams are blacked out because Iowa is considered a “local” market for a lot of teams. It’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, if you have the right local provider, you get a TON of games for free – more than most people in other states. On the other hand, you have a lot more games blacked out on ESPN, MLBtv, etc.

  • Spencer

    I’m really excited about Opening Day. Not because of the Cubs, but so I can manage my fantasy teams.

  • NC Brad

    I am probably in the minority on this, but is anyone else ready to move on from the celebrity 7th inning stretch routine? It made sense after Harray died to pay tribute to the singing of the stretch, but now it is just so overdone, and more times then not the singer butchers the song and it becomes a joke.

    This site seems like a pretty knowledgable collection of Cubs fans that is more concerned with what the Cubs are doing to win more games, rather than preserving the cheesy cubs traditions. I was curious to see if anyone else was ready to move on from the celebrity singing of the stretch?

    • Pat

      It should have lasted one season, tops. Run a tape of Harry singing if you really want to pay tribute.

    • Brian

      Yes!

    • Shawon O’Meter

      I’m with you, Brad. I loathe the “celebrity” 7th inning stretch with a passion and of course the ridiculous talk show scenario that follows. If there are alternative broadcasts of the game, I typically turn away from Len and Bob for the entire 7th inning. If the Cubs want to continue to pay homage to Harry, the 7th inning should ONLY involve former Cubs or broadcasters, otherwise they should play a tape of Harry singing the song. I find the whole thing to be an embarrassment especially when you get some grade Z “celebrity” in the booth taking in their first game ever at Wrigley. How is that a tribute to Harry?

      And while I am on a rant, the winning song contest that WGN radio conducted is an abomination! First of all, the name of the song is “Let’s Go Cubbies”. I cringe every time I hear the Cubs referred to as “The Cubbies”. I thought they were moving away from that image of the soft, cute, cuddly, lovable loser. And the song itself? Typical neo-pop rock crap of today fully equipped with auto-tune since the singer clearly can’t sing. Quite frankly, it sounded like the song was processed through a computer and was shitted out with no soul. Awful, just awful!

      Seems I will be watching the Cubs with the sound on mute quite a bit again this year…what a damn shame.

      • Eric

        I can’t speak ill of bill murray

        • DocWimsey

          Sadly, I lost my tape of Murray calling the Cubs-Expos game back in April of 1987. The tape was redone so that the middle 3 innings had the radio broadcast. (That was back when Harry would flip with Dewayne Stats for the middle three.) It was the funniest game ever……

      • Cubbie Blues

        “I cringe every time I hear the Cubs referred to as “The Cubbies””

        Guess we don’t see eye to eye on this one.

        • Shawon O’Meter

          Sorry, Cubbie Blues…nothing personal. In my experience, Cubbies was/is a term typically used in a demeaning manner by non-fans of the Cubs when making fun of their lack of success. It’s time for a little respect and hopefully it will be well earned over the coming years.

          • Cubbie Blues

            I have always viewed it as a term of endearment. Actually, I don’t think I have ever heard a non-fan call them the Cubbies.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      They should have run it for one year, and then given the mic to Ron Santo.  Now that Santo’s gone, I’m not sure who the best person to take over would be.  Maybe Mark Grace, if he ever moves into the TV or radio booth.

      • DocWimsey

        Given that a huge proportion of Cubs fans no longer remember Harry, this really does seem anachronistic. Still, the 7th inning stretch is funner at Wrigley than at, say, the Nats park!

        • Jim L.

          As much as I dislike the Cubs 7th inning embarrassment, it’s better than being at Yankee Stadium and forced to remain in your seat.

      • hardtop

        isnt he already in a tv or radio booth… in arizona?

        personally, i like the someone leading the singing during the 7th inning stretch.  I dont know that it has to be a celebrity, but it just seems right to me to have someone up there leading the crowd.  a recording would be lame.  but random celebrities, who dont even know the words, are super duper lame.  (how is it possible that people don’t know take me out to the ballgame? its like not knowing the national anthem, actually worse in my household)

        The choices should be athletes, actors, singers, and/or public figures who are known real cubs fans. none of this jonas brothers bullshit.  this is baseball, men’s baseball, this is not high school girls fast pitch.  men do not listen to teenage chick pop music.   also in the pool for song leaders are former cubs players/coaches/managers and then fill in with bob or keith or whatever staffer is the default, now that ronny is gone.  guys like bill murray make sense.  we have one of the largest fan bases in the country.  statistically speaking, a huge number “celebrities” who consider themselves baseball fans, must pledge their allegence to the cubs, no?  Is this statistic on baseball-reference?  not to mention, Chicago readily produces funny, talented, and smart cats & kittens… just look at me, for example:  I’m all of those things, and handsome to boot, and I’m from Chicago.  What gives?  How hard can it be to find someone?

        OK, because Thed Hoystein narrowly beat me out for the VP/GM gig, I will handle this 7th inning thing for WGN or the Cubs or whoever is running that shitshow.  Tom, call me, you have my number.

  • gratefulled

    Can’t wait the see the series preview and who will be representing the Cubs. Are you taking votes and/or suggestions or do you already have someone picked out?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I do have someone in mind for the first series for the Cubs. But not yet for the Nats. Any thoughts?

      • Spencer

        Joe Biden.

        • gratefulled

          Nice Spencer. How about Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Other than that, I got nothin’.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I hate when players or anyone says they are not up there to TRY and walk. No one is telling you to TRY and walk…you TAKE walks. And when you are taking walks in only 4% of your plate app’s, the number of times you “win the at bat” is likely going to be below average.

    • DocWimsey

      I think that it stems from a “football coach” mentality that many players get when they are young (or in a Jim Hendry system). Walks are “passive.” I have heard/read some people state that guys who take walks “don’t care.” I guess that the Sox, Yanks, Phils, etc., passively and apathetically lead the league in runs-scored every year….

      • Drew

        I have battled with this type of metality all year with the high school kids. I think part of the problem is kids are taught from a young age to “be aggressive” without an explanation of “bad” aggressive vs “good” (selective) aggressive.

  • Andrew

    The anticipation is killing me, can’t wait to dig see meaningful Cubs baseball.

    I know you did an article about this but doesn’t Rizzo have to stay down for quite a while to get that extra year, while jackson doesn’t need to stay down nearly as long. If these back issues start getting overwhelming with Lahair, I wonder how patient the Cubs will actually be with bringing up Rizzo. Hopefully the backups will prove adequate enough to let us keep Rizzo down to get seasoning and that extra year.

  • CubFan Paul

    Solid appearance on the podcast Brett ..except for when you called Randy Wells excellent

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Haha. Oh, Paul.

  • mrp

    I really hope this investigation doesn’t drag on all season.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      With Bour also on the roster, I think Ridling will certainly be seeing a lot of time in left field.  That would have been the case in Iowa as well.

  • TWC

    “For a little over six months now, I’ve been working on an article about Game Six of the 2003 NLCS, about the ESPN doc ‘Catching Hell,’ about Cubs fandom, and about my life. It’s finally ready to publish, and it’ll go up this afternoon.”

    Right.  I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      A little over an hour. The article became something very different than originally intended. I almost can’t believe how much time I spent on it (which, incidentally, makes it all the more difficult to “put out there”).

  • RoughRiider

    I haven’t seen any comments about it but I’m shocked at how many Cub minor league games are going to be on MILB this year. I’m stoked. Especially when Boise starts in Late June.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      It’s impressive. Nearly every Iowa game, every Daytona home game, and every Boise home game, plus about a dozen games for both Peoria and Tennessee. All for about $40. Not a bad deal at all.

      I haven’t signed up yet, but I likely will soon.

  • TSB

    3-0 is usally the best hitters’ pitch a batter will see. It makes sense to have Barney swing away at a 3-0 pitch that wait until he gets pitches that he can’t handle, i.e., out of the strike zone swings.

    complaining about singing at the 7th inning streach is like complaining about finding an unpopped kernel of corn in your bag; big deal, get over it.

    • TWC

      Until Barney gets his OPS above .700, I can’t see how it makes any sense to have him swing on a 3-0 pitch.

      • Cubbie Blues

        I think if you take what Barney said along with what Sveum has been saying (selective aggression). You can see that Barney’s comment is being taken a little out of context. The way I read it was don’t automatically take 3-0. If it is a good pitch to drive then try and drive it. Now, if it is a ball or a pitchers strike go ahead and take it. It appears to me that Sveum is trying to preach (to all players) to only swing at pitches you can drive.

        • TWC

          “If it is a good pitch to drive then try and drive it.”

          Or, in Barney’s case, try to find a hole in the infield to ground it through.

    • DocWimsey

      There almost certainly is a higher probability that Barney will score if he takes a 3-0 pitch than if he swings at it. What we want is for him to *stop* swinging at pitches out of the strike zone altogether.

      • Drew

        Without question, Doc.

        Its been mentioned before: pitchers are almost always trying to throw strikes, so a 3-0 count is most likely an indication of a pitcher struggling with command. Why would we help the guy out by 1.) Allowing him to throw at least 1 less pitch in the AB, maybe more. And 2.) give up the high likelyhood of a walk for the smaller chance at a hit that will (at least in Barney’s case) just put you on 1st base where you would have been in the 1st place.

        I know there are those that will find exceptions to this, but when talking about a guy like DB who is a very light hitter, theres no reason for him not to be taking in that situation.

  • Eric S

    GREAT! Now that Carpenter is hurt and Bailey went down John Henry will want Marmol as compensation for Theo. Then when he goes down he’ll want Castro, Garza, and Rizzo until one of them is healthy enough to play a full season. It’s never going to end! JUST KIDDING. Man Boston has been bit by the injury bug, and I find it funny that they let Pappy walk to pick up Bailey who’s going to miss almost half to the full season. 6 closers down in Spring Training? Sounds like the Cubs may have leverage if they want to move Corpas or Marmol!

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