chris rusin cubsDon’t forget to catch the latest episode of the BN Podcast, featuring some time with the Cubs’ voice of Spring Training, Tim Sheridan. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast, and then you’ll never miss an episode, which is obviously your goal in life.

  • Game action (ish) gets underway today, with an intrasquad game at HoHoKam Park at 1pm local time, which is open to the public for you folks in the area. Chris Rusin and Nick Struck get the starts, with Rusin followed by non-roster invitee Cory Wade and Trey McNutt, and Struck followed by Rob Whitenack and Rafael Dolis. The lineups are very interesting:

White Squad:

CF DeJesus
SS Castro
1B Rizzo
LF Soriano
RF Schierholtz
C Navarro
3B Stewart
2B Barney
DH Hairston

Blue Squad:

2B Valbuena
CF Sappelt
C Castillo
1B Nelson
LF Soler
SS Baez
3B Lake
RF B. Jackson
DH Bogusevic

  • Why do I say interesting? Well, setting aside the fact that there’s some prospect goodness in the Blue lineup, there’s the fact that it looks like the projected starters on White, and then prospects/back-ups/competitors on Blue.  … except that Welington Castillo shows up on Blue, and Dioner Navarro shows up on White. What up with that? Should we read anything into it? Probably not, although there’s been a fair presumption that Castillo will be the nominal starter this year, with Navarro getting plenty of starts in the backup role (maybe a 3:2 split). This was probably just a “veterans” versus “younger players” thing.
  • Also semi-interesting? Look at the outfield configuration on Blue. You’d think it would be Sappelt-Jackson-Soler, but everyone seems to be playing “out of position.” Clearly, each is being evaluated on certain things, and the biggest is probably how Sappelt handles center field. I think we’ll probably see him in center quite a bit this Spring.
  • The Tribune, in an inspired turn, takes a look at 12 cult heroes for the Cubs over the years. For the most part, the list is absolutely spot on – from leading with Tony Campana, Mark DeRosa, and Sam Fuld, right down to the pairing of Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot at the end. I won’t spoil the fun by listing everyone, but I think you know some of the other names.
  • Speaking of which, Baseball Prospectus writers came up with their favorite moves of the offseason, and Brad Doolittle greatly enjoyed the fact that the Cubs got a couple prospects (“living homo sapiens”). A humorous portion: “This is how you know Theo Epstein is a heartless, calculating bastard. Sure, Campana can’t “hit” or ‘get on base’ or ‘play baseball’ in a major-league sense, but he was so f’n cute. Seriously, it’s as if Ollie from ‘Hoosiers’ left the farm and signed with the Cubs, and showed up at the ballpark in the back of a pickup truck. Campana has the strangest build of any ballplayer I’ve seen, even more so, and in a very different way, than Sidney Ponson, whom I had the misfortune of seeing in a towel. Campana is all arms and legs. He’d have the build of a hurdler if only the hurdles weren’t so danged high. He acted the way he looked, carrying that aw-shucks demeanor over to his oh-so-precious encounters with the media. Yet he was really fun to watch, there is no denying that. His Cubs uniform was too floppy and his hat a size too big, and when he got going, he was as fast as any player in the game. His inside-the-park homer on a grounder up the left-field line in 2011 was electric. Once then-Reds outfielder Yonder Alonso overran the ball in the corner, Campana exploded on the basepaths. He could have scored and made it back to second base. He also seemed to be able to steal bases at will, even though every pitcher and catcher in the league knew that his entire value was wrapped up in that skill.”
  • The Cubs are the second most improved team in baseball! … if you look solely at the team as it existed at the end of last season and then add projected WAR that the team added over the Winter, which is what the Wall Street Journal did. I’ve long said I don’t think that’s a fair comparison (by September, the Cubs had already torn the roster apart – of course they were going to be massively “improved” over the Winter – but what matters is how the team looked in the first few months of 2012, when they were still all together, and were still terrible), but, hey, it’s nice to see a plaudit.
  • Who knew? Carlos Villanueva and the Chicago Cubs – by way of Sammy Sosa – have a history together.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer catches up with Dontrelle Willis, who is in minor league camp with the Cubs this year. Ditto Patrick Mooney. The “catching up with Willis” part, not the “in minor league camp” part.
  • Vine Line with some unknown facts about Cubs players.
  • hansman1982

    “What up with that? Should we read anything into it?”


    oh, and the Tribune, TOOK ER MEEEEME!!!

  • Cryinmybluecoolaid

    Kind of wish this game was on TV.

    • ETS

      More than kind of….

  • BluBlud

    Valbuena leading off makes me wanna throw up in my mouth, then again, Valbuena on the Cubs makes me wanna throw up in my mouth. God, I hope Lake does something to force his way to the bigs this year so we can send Valbuena’s ass packing.

    • CubFan Paul

      …still butthurt i see. Hilarious.

      • BluBlud

        This has nothing to do with Campana. You could bring back Wells, Campana and Big Z and Valbuena in a Cubs uniform would still make me throw up in my mouth.

        • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

          I understand your problem with him leading off, but what’s your problem with Valbuena being on the team? He’s youngish and can play plus defense at multiple infield positions. He may not have the bat, but his skill set is much more fitting for the 2013 Cubs than TC’s.

          • BluBlud

            The funny thing is I have stated my dislike for Valbuena several times and never gotten this much response, but because people think I’m upset over Campana, who I did not bring up and who I was not even thinking of other then the part in the article, now they have a problem with it. Valbuena numbers are worse then Campana in almost every way, so how is he a good player for this team.

            • Edwin

              You’re right, Valbuena isn’t a good player for this team. The only thing he does well is draw walks at an above average rate. Otherwise, I guess he’s LH, and plays average defense at a couple positions.

              I’m sure the Cubs tried to upgrade 3B, but I don’t think there was a lot out there that fit both the price and lenth of a deal. 3B is probably one of the weakest positions on the Cubs, with pretty much nothing in the minors coming up. I wish the Cubs would have done more to upgrade 3B too, but oh well. I’m sure they’ll addess 3B next off-season.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      When “something” = “magically learns to be a position player,” then you are hoping pretty high!

    • TWC

      Valbuena leading off an intersquad scrimmage — in which all 300 or so people in campe are likely to get an at bat — makes you want to throw up in your mouth?

      Jeebus, Jay, you have a really low bar for disgust. How the frack do you get out of bed in the morning?

      • BluBlud

        Valbuena is a waste. I’m thinking of al the opportunities to upgrade this roster. Valbuena should have been upgraded. It can’t be that hard. There has to be 1 or 2 thousand little leaguers in the greater Chicago area better then him.

        • hansman1982

          You have a very interesting valuation system for players.

        • Jacob

          ummm.. Valbuena is a pretty solid bench piece. I mean, yeah he gets too much starting time on the Cubs, but look at the black hole they have at 3B. As a utility player off the bench, Valbuena has a lot of value. And way more value than Tony Campana did……

          • BluBlud

            Once again, this has nothing to do with Campana. I have not compared the 2 before now.

            None the less, a guy who is the same age but hits .040 points lower then Campana , with an OBP .016 points lower, negative WAR 3 out of 5 years including half of Campana’s WAR last year doesn’t = better player then Campana. Beside, my dislike for him has nothing to do with Campana. As I stated, I was actually happy with the return for Campana and I have moved on.

            Valbuena on the other hand is just a horrible ball player, plain and simple. Period.

            • Jacob

              They’re both bench guys who play for the same team. It’s a pretty easy comparison. My point, I’d take Valbuena, for a guy off the bench, over Campana. Valbuena is not a good starter, I’m not saying he is. But for a guy who could play once every 3 or 4 days, he could supply value off the bench. Much more so than Campana.

              • cub2014

                valbuena for the cubs is more valuable than campana off the
                bench he can play multiple positions. but they are at 2 different
                positions so theoretically you need both.

              • BluBlud

                Now you have sucked me in. How does Valbuena provide more value. Need a pinch Hit. Campana hit for more average. Need to just get on base, despite taking less walks, Campana still gets on base more. Need a pinch Runner, I think Campana has the edge there. Defense in the outfield verse valbuena in field defense, not enough difference, if any, to make a huge difference. Oh, these thing goes towards starting every few days also.

                Once again. I understand this is not a either or situation. I don’t dislike Valbuena because of Campana. I just don’t like Valbuena. I don’t dislike him as a person, I just think he is pretty bad at baseball.

                • Jacob

                  Valbuena plays solid defense at multiple positions. Campana plays bad defense. Also, Valbuena’s numbers were down last year because he got extended playing time. Most bench guys are bench guys because they can’t handle the extended role. Can you imagine what Campana’s numbers would have been with Valbuena’s PT? They don’t just average out the same, it doesn’t work that way. Valbuena is a better hitter than Campana, even if it’s not by much. When you add the defense at multiple positions that makes him more valuable off the bench. You don’t sign bench guys to come in every 3 days and hit the crap out of the ball. If you can get good D and typical bench numbers (which Valbuena provides) then that’s a valuable bench piece.

                  • BluBlud

                    Ummmm……Valbuena’s numbers were actually up last year, that’s the bad part. They were his best numbers possibly of his career.

                    his .219/.310/.340 .290 wOBA 18% k rate 11 walk rate(pretty impressive) is about as good as he’ll get.

                    • Jacob

                      I didn’t look at his career numbers, that’s just the mold for a majority of guys who are off-the-bench guys.

                  • Edwin

                    I think they’re pretty equal in terms of value off the bench. All things being even, I’d take Campana over Valbuena. I just think that the Cubs are much deeper at CF/OF than 3B, which is why Valbuena is sticking around and Campana is elsewhere.

                  • cub2014

                    valbuena is more important than a base stealer or late inning
                    outfielder. but campana was not a bad defensive outfielder.
                    you dont play centerfield at multiple levels if you are bad, come on! have you read scouting reports on campana, his outfield weakness is lack of arm strength.

                    • cub2014

                      my beef with the cubs is in a rebuilding year
                      why not have campana start until jackson is
                      ready? apparantly Svuem or Theo werent
                      interested. But why bring in schierholtz?
                      In the long term scheme of things Campana
                      JUST DOESNT MATTER! for the cubs.

        • Beer Baron

          “There has to be 1 or 2 thousand little leaguers in the greater Chicago area better then him.”

          Actually just 999 now that Tony Campana has been traded.

          • cub2014

            beer baron your attempt at humor is weak, but typical none the less.

        • TWC

          Would you feel better if the Cubs had a prospect ready who has a ~.300/.375/.490 line over the last two full seasons at AAA?

          • Not Cubbie Blues


          • BluBlud

            I could careless about Valbuena AAA numbers. Any of these guys can hit AAA. He can’t hit Major league pitching, and last time I checked, Iowa and Columbus Clippers production doesn’t win the Chicago Cubs many games.

            • Jacob

              Side note (this is a general comment, not directed at you): The expression “I could care less” really bothers me. Saying you could care less means you care to some extent. Shouldn’t the saying be “I couldn’t care less” ??

              • Internet Random

                Should be and is.

                • Jacob

                  I always say ‘Couldn’t care less’ but a majority of people don’t say it that way…

                  • JB88

                    Then a majority of people are wrong.

                    • Jacob

                      Well then this solves my dilemma. I’ve honestly wondered that forever. Maybe it’s just how people say it in my area or something.. who knows.

                    • Diggs

                      Yeah, “couldn’t care less” is correct.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      I always just say: “I don’t care about X” or “X is absolutely irrelevant to me” or something like that. Nobody can worry about possible irony that way.

        • twinkletoez

          So a former highly regarded prospect going into his age 27 season (the season most hitters breakout and start their prime years) and putting up these numbers, .306/.414/.497 with 39 RBI in 183 at-bats. He also drew 34 walks. All of those totals were good enough for top 10 in the league. In the postseason, he hit .341 and drove in 21 in 91 at-bats. In the Venezuelan League.

          I wouldn’t be so quick to toss him aside and give up on him just yet. He is at the very least a respectable 24th or 25th man on the roster.

          • BluBlud

            Right, now if we can just transfer the exact same players that he put those numbers up against into the rosters that we will be competing against this year, then I would say keep him, but I’m willing to bet when the season starts, he’ll be his typical .220/290/340 self, and all the other numbers will mean absolutely jack.
            This is not a Rizzo or Jackson situation, this guy has had 1100 or 1200 MLB at-bats.

            • TWC

              Right. Or 319 ABs spread out over parts of 5 seasons. Really depends on how you use reality.

              • Jacob

                And how many bench guys put up great offensive numbers? His numbers would be better he was strickly a bench guy last year, anyways. Granted, they still wouldn’t be great. He plays solid D, at multiple positions, and provides typical off-the-bench offense. He’s a valuable bench guy.

              • hansman1982

                Which is fewer than someone else who just needs a full-time playing gig to really blossom.

              • BluBlud

                where do you get 319. He has actually had 1109 PA for his career.

                • TWC

                  Totally. I realized I blew that as soon as I hit submit.

                  But that’s how *I* use reality.

            • TSB

              Alternative to Valbuena: Brent Lillibridge, who pocesses even worse numbers than Valbuena.

              • BluBlud

                Brent Lillibridge in a Cubs uniform. Now I don’t think I would be able to hold the throwup in mouth. That would probably come out all over the floor.

                • twinkletoez

                  And we finally agree! :)

            • twinkletoez

              I am in now way comparing him to Rizzo or even Jackson. I am also not saying he will match his winter league numbers. What I am saying is, with his age and the numbers he put up in the winter league that I would not give up on him just yet. He can still turn into a serviceable 3rd baseman or at worst a 24th or 25th bench player that can be the infield utility type. There is some talent there maybe he can turn things around.

    • cub2014

      the fun part is lake is playing 3rd. as far as valbuena goes he is a utility guy defensively he is very good. there are better utility guys out there. but he fits the cubs this year.

  • northsiders6

    FYI…prospects/back-ups/competitors on Blue

  • Stinky Pete

    I’m going to go ahead and nominate Brad Nelson for the Scott “Annihilate Spring Training then initiate fan outrage when not given an MLB roster spot” Moore award.

  • ETS

    is anyone at this game? Can you at least get me a box score or something? I’m a junky willing to do about anything for a hit of cub’s action!

  • BD

    How did Todd Walker not make that list?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, he should have been on there.

    • Wester

      Or Glenallen Hill? The guy hit a ball over a rooftop!

    • Mick

      Glenallen Hill, Doug Dascenzo, Henry Rodriguez, Brian McRae, Rod Beck, Mickey Morandini, Howard Johnson, Turk Wendall, etc., etc., etc. How didn’t we win 10 World Series?

      • Freshness21

        I agree. The list seems a little uneducated.

  • mark

    Cult hero? C’mon! Joe “Tarzan” Wallis.

  • Todd McCombs

    Navarro has never caught Rusin before – Rusin will probably be first pitcher called up from Iowa if a starter goes down. Catchers need to have contact with all the pitchers. (that’s my read)

  • JB88

    [Tongue in cheek] Is it really fair to call these bullets when you use an arrow symbol?

    • Seth

      Oooohh burn. He got you good Brett.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s just showing the flying motion of the bullet.

      • TWC

        I refer to them as “tracers”.

        • hansman1982

          Using them every time is bad form. It’ll give away Brett’s position.

  • Patrick G

    Excited to see whitenack against the presumed major league squad. Hope he does well this spring

  • terencem

    I was really excited to see Hector Villanueva included in that Tribune post. He’s probably my favorite “cult favorite” Cub. Using a B&W photo of him just makes me feel, old, though. They had color photos in 1990….

    • DaveY

      Yeah, Hector Villanueza was one of my favorites too. He had a Dan Vogelbach type body and maybe almost as much raw power. He really could whip the bat around. Too bad he couldn’t make enough contact. I don’t remember any baserunners ever challenging him at the plate. At best, I remember one runner coming in with a feet first slide and Hect didn’t move at all. The runner hit Hector’s shin guard and popped up as if he just slid into second and accepted his out call. If I remember correctly he caught a lot of Maddux games too.

  • TSB

    Jimmy Qualls; when trying to score, instead of sliding into home plate, he tried to dive over the catcher, who stood up and flipped him waaay in the air. but he landed on the plate, might have cracked a rib, and was never seen again in a Cub uniform.

  • cjdubbya

    I wonder what the Twitter rage would have been for Augie Ojeda, had Twitter existed back then…

    • Patrick G

      Ojeda was legit my idol growing up. I was awesome in the field but couldn’t hit for anything, or even Rey Ordonez. Then I became a pitcher and wanted to be like Wood and Prior, no wonder my arm blew out

  • Mick

    Is this a motivational snub for Vitters?

  • Jim

    I am excited to see the likes of Soler, Baez, and Almora this spring, but I realize that 2014 is probably the earliest that we will see any of these guys. For me, Junior Lake is who I am excited to see now. I know people rip on his defense and maybe this guy turns out to be more of a utility bench guy, but I just have a feeling that his bat will force the Cubs to find him a position and maybe even in 2013. I would guess he will begin in AAA and probably spend time at 3B and maybe the OF. He needs to work on his glove, and as in most Cub prospects – cut down on strikeouts and take more walks.

  • Bacon Nation

    The Tribune’s Cubs Cult Heroes should have included Chico Walker, Rick Wilkins and my man Turk Wendell!

  • Die hard

    As I said before and first to do so-Struck will strike lightening and stick

  • Caleb

    Ha! Awesome write-up on Campy!

    “He’d have the build of a hurdler if only the hurdles weren’t so danged high.”

    Got a good laugh out of that article!

  • WI Jeff

    Interesting to see Lake over Vitters at 3rd for the first inter squad game. Is there anything worth reading into this early in Feb?- Probably not. If I had a voice on the line up card, I would have pushed a Vitters DH/First Base. Now that would be a more interesting line up for us BN’ers to chat about.

  • md8232

    Can I follow the game today if I pay for MLB at Bat?

  • WI Jeff

    Each of Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters are dealing with minor quad injuries. Vitters’ kept him out of yesterday’s game, and Stewart’s forced him from the game early.–Question Answered of why no Vitters yesterday….

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