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starlin-castro-batBest Christmas song? Even if you’re not into Christmas, you can dig the music. I’ve always been partial to ‘The Christmas Song’ (preferably the Nat King Cole version) and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ (The Carpenters).

  • Rick Renteria met with the media yesterday at the Winter Meetings and discussed, among other things, the plan for Starlin Castro and the leadoff spot. Notably, there isn’t yet a plan: “I know over the course of his career Starlin has led off quite a bit and has some significantly decent numbers in that spot, but as we put together the club … we’ll see where we’re at with that.” (ESPNChicago) That’s the right attitude to have in December, given that you don’t even know what the roster is going to look like just yet. Given that 2014 is probably going to be more about development than success, you just want to see the Cubs putting Castro in whatever position best allows him to be comfortable. If that’s the leadoff spot and there is no clearly better option? Fine. Go with it. If it’s batting 8th? Go with that.
  • Relievers are sometimes able to come back from Tommy John surgery more quickly than starters, so it’s encouraging to hear Carrie Muskat noting, after speaking with Jed Hoyer and RR, that Kyuji Fujikawa could be ready to go in May. That’s the very early end of the timeline, though.
  • Muskat’s notes also include an expanded quote from Jed Hoyer on why the Cubs might pick up more than one starting pitcher this offseason – it’s the expected mix of attrition, injury, bullpen usage, (and I’d add trades).
  • As I wrote yesterday, the Cubs will hopefully get final re-approval on the Wrigley Field renovation plan today from City Council, and we’ll hopefully learn more about the expected timeline and discussions with the rooftop organizations. If Tom Ricketts was simply waiting for the legislative approval before opening up, he didn’t let on when the media asked him questions last night in Orlando. You can see Patrick Mooney’s piece, but the gist was a protracted “we’re working on it, we don’t know when things will be finalized, no comment.” We know the Cubs want to get it done, and we know that they’re not just going to sit on their collective hands. Hopefully the reason for silence is that speaking out could disrupt a possible deal.
  • David Bell dusted himself off from losing his job as the Cubs’ third base coach, and is now the assistant hitting coach with the Cardinals.
  • The Days of Cubs Christmas contest continues over at the Message Board.
  • Hopefully you’ve made BN’s Bears Page a regular part of your perusing rotation, but if not, here’s a nudge to check out this morning’s Bears Bullets.
  • Webb

    This is one of my favorite, off the beaten path Christmas songs.

    http://youtu.be/LzXAMfxe2iw

    Not everyone will enjoy it but I sure do.

  • millhah

    No question: Billy Squier – Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPf2snTB2wo
    Bonus points for his sweater.

  • JoeyCollins

    Bing Crosby and David Bowie doing Little Drummer Boy

    • North Side Irish

      Bob Seger does a pretty good version of this too…

  • billy buck

    Lots of good standards out there, but one of my favorites is a little off the beaten path. Harry Connick Jr.’s “I Pray on Christmas” :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAX5GZKhzKQ

  • Eric

    Even though I’m an atheist, I love a good rendition of We Three Kings.

    • Patrick W.

      I too am an atheist but there are very few Christmas songs I dislike. In fact there is very little about Christmas I dislike. I can’t argue with “Have yourself a merry little Christmas”

      • Eric

        You’d like the Pandora station, “Christmas Traditional Radio” then. Full of all of those old greats.

  • Coldneck

    “Significantly decent?” That’s a funny way to describe something. Doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, thankfully.

    • Jono

      I thought the same thing

  • Rebuilding

    As long as they don’t try him to hit “like a leadoff hitter”. Might as well get him as many at bats as possible.

    • Jay

      No doubt! This “look at a lot of pitches because all we care about is OBP” is crap and doesn’t work for everyone. Castro is all the proof you need of that.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Insofar as I’m aware, Castro is the first MLB player on whom anybody has tried the experiment. Until recently, it was “known” that players got better batting eyes as they got older. (A lot of old schoolers still believe this.) It was also “known” that drawing walks was a result of pitchers randomly spazing out or being afraid of the batters. (Again, a lot of old schoolers still believe these things, too.)

        It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that people have caught on that this is a basic tool. The first team to figure out how to actually teach players this is going to have one hell of an offense for several years to come.

  • Internet Random

    “‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ (The Carpenters)”

    Do yourself a solid and checkout Rowlf the Dog doing this one.

    • TWC

      John Denver & The Muppets A Christmas Together is the greatest Christmas album. Period.

      • beerhelps

        “I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this.”
        “I was thinking the same thing. That John Denver’s full of shit, man.”

      • hansman

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiNmVdFlIL4&noredirect=1

        GREATEST SONG EVAH!!!!

        (if by greatest you mean annoying)

        • TWC

          Worst.

        • Internet Random

          I was expecting Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

        • scorecardpaul

          worse than worst if that is possible. My Christmas would be better if I hadn’t clicked on that link

      • Colocubfan

        My kids wore out the John Denver/Muppets Christmas album. Have burned 3 copies of it for my grandkids!

        My personal favorite—The Chipmunk Song! (Drove my Grandpa nuts)

        • TWC

          You started out so well with that comment, but then you mentioned the Chipmunks.

      • Internet Random

        “John Denver & The Muppets A Christmas Together is the greatest Christmas album. Period.”

        I couldn’t possibly agree more.

      • KielOvher

        Elvis’ Christmas Album, on vinyl of course, is a must have.

  • Eric

    When it comes to Castro, I still believe he could easily be the purest hitter on the team. People have definitely written him off way too soon.

    • Jay

      They just need to get out of his ear and let him HIT.

  • James Gillmeister

    I’m partial to Joni Mitchell – River. It could be her very best song in a great body of work.

  • James Smith

    Yeah just let him be screw his OBP if he hits for .300 10 hrs 20 SB and 200 hits on average you shouldn’t try to change a thing his unsuccessful season is 100% on the FO trying to moneyball the cubs STOP it hasn’t worked for them yet so give up castro was one of the best hitters in the league and they tried to change him why just leave him be or trade him every hitter has something they can change to be better so let castro be castro

    • C. Steadman

      yes, I definitely blame Castro’s development on the FO…how many players regress this bad after hitting above .300 for their first two years in the bigs? that’d be an interesting list, I’m too lazy to find it though..

      • James Smith

        exactly why change his approach when he gets 200 hits and hit for .300 i dont care what SABR says thats a damn good player

        • Jay

          Was preaching this all last year.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Castro’s approach needed to change because OBP correlates with winning to a much greater extent than BA does. Really good leadoff hitters get on base 260+ times in a season: and Castro cannot do that without hellacious BABiP luck.

          As it is, Castro will hit 0.300 only when he maintains a high BABiP: and BABiP is an extremely unpredictable and fickle mistress. (Castro’s career has been a nice demonstration of that already.) What the Cubs need to do is get a couple of guys who are good batters instead of just good hitters, and then drop Castro to 6th or 7th in the order. He’ll never get 200 hits again because he won’t get the plate appearances, but a team with a guy like him batting down there probably has a plus offense.

          • Kyle

            Attempting to change Castro’s approach lowered his OBP.

            • Pat

              That or the 70 million guaranteed, we’ll find out more this year.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              I would say that the *attempt* to change Castro’s approach lowered his OBP. However, the attempt failed in that it didn’t truly change how he can approach PAs. I doubt that Starlin has any better ability to tell what a pitch is going to be like when it’s 10′ from the pitcher’s hand than he had 12 months ago.

              It’s possible that pitch recognition could be learned, but (if so) it clearly takes more than most of one season looking at lots of pitches. That is, of course, a real shame: but so is the fact that there’s no Santa!

              • Edwin

                A grown man breaking into my house and assigning gifts based on his own moral code while using a spy network to monitor my behavoir while demanding a tribute of baked goods and dairy-based beverages is not something I miss.

                No Virginia, there is no Santa Clause, and thank goodness for that.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  lol…. that really puts it into perspective! That written, I’ve got (at best) only another two XMases with The Elf (my son is 5), and I’ll actually miss it.

                  • TWC

                    Bah. My 7yo son still thinks he’s a Jedi who goes off to the Outer Rim to fight battles while everyone else is asleep — I’m pretty certain that we’ll make it through (at least) this Christmas without questioning Santa.

                    • On The Farm

                      “My 7yo son still thinks he’s a Jedi who goes off to the Outer Rim to fight battles while everyone else is asleep ”

                      Depends, what color of lightsaber does he use? Maybe I have seen him. There are quite a few of us out here on the outer rim. We are striking back on Darth Hater. Since you don’t sit in on the council meetings I wouldn’t expect you to know that we actually are doing a lot of work out here.

            • Edwin

              post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    • Scotti

      Run on a little bit there?

  • James Gillmeister

    Also – Bare Naked Ladies doing Mele Kalilimaka

    • DocPeterWimsey

      They do a great Jingle Bells, too. An Elf’s Lament is a hoot, as well.

  • CubFan Paul

    David Dell was the worst at third base.

    But then again, as a team they all sucked at baserunning, in particular: sliding into third and sliding into a blocked homeplate. The efforts were just pathetic looking …all season long

    • Coldneck

      You must not remember Wavin’ Wendell Kim. Or Lil Kim as some called him.

      • Kyle

        I remember the stat that something like 24 teams went all season that year without a runner thrown out at home with no outs, and Kim managed to do it twice in one game.

  • http://BN Sacko

    I will not be going to a game in the near future no matter what the stadium looks like. I like watching what’s on the field and to this point it would be the visitors being more interesting.

  • terencemann

    If Valbuena can hit as well as he did last season, I’d like to see him in the lead-off spot vs RHP. He’s never really shown the ability to get on base at a solid clip like he did in the minors but the skillset seems to be there.

    • Eric

      I could see that. I have a feeling though that Valbuena is going to have some regression due to jumping around to different positions this year.

    • C. Steadman

      I feel Valuena is the most underrated Cub…career 9.9% BB rate and 18.8% K rate…walks a good amount and puts the ball in play with above average defense…thats a solid contributor, once the Cubs are competitive I would love to have him around as a utility IF…and where the cubs are at now I want to see him play everyday until a better prospect graduates to the bigs

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    okay I’ll try not to offend anybody. As to the Patrick Mooney piece referenced and Paul Sullivan in the Tribune as well as on sports radio this morning the owner of the Cubs professes not to know anything specific currently about the issues we discuss here. The commentators seem to be saying that the rebuild is postponed because of rooftop and city council considerations. Are there any other reasons for the postponement?

    best Christmas song from that Charlie Brown movie

    • terencemann

      The whole Peanuts Christmas album is the only Christmas music I like. If you get enough egg nog in me, I might admit to liking Harry Connick jr’s Christmas album.

  • Kyle

    I hope that’s just media talk and Renteria doesn’t really buy into the “what’s a guy hit in X spot” stat.

    But otherwise, yeah, don’t care that much about lineup construction. Just hit, Starlin.

    • Eric

      It’s a weird stat to be sure because it has nothing to do with skill. It’s all head games. If Castro feels good in that spot, it could mean he thinks less and puts less pressure on himself. It’s weird.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        There is still the rampant belief that pitchers will throw different pitches to Joe Smith if he’s batting leadoff than they will if he’s batting anywhere else. If that was ever true, then it certainly has not been true in years: for at least a decade, pitchers’ have had great heat charts showing where every Joe Smith is weakest.

        And, of course, there are the cursory stats that “show” a guy does better batting in different spots. Of course, when you put error bars on the numbers, they never fail to overlap strongly. (Soriano was a great example of this: everyone blathered about how much better he did while batting leadoff while the numbers shrugged and said “we look like members of one distribution.”)

    • terencemann

      Yeah, I’m a big fan of Acta for that very reason. Acta doesn’t believe than any player is a “leadoff” hitter or a “#3 hitter”; for Acta, players should just bat where they fit in the lineup that day.

  • Scotti

    With all that “man strength” I’m not sure leadoff is the place for Starlin:

    “He’s at that age–he’s going to be 24 years old–where he’s going to start to put on a little bit of that man strength.” Jed Hoyer

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/12/10/starlin-castro-is-getting-into-the-best-shape-of-his-life/

    Sometimes you say things and you want them back as soon as you say them. Things like man strength.

    • mjhurdle

      Ha! thats good. Im going to start dropping the term “man-strength” in casual conversations now.

      “Wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to move the sofa, but I muscled up some man-strength and got it up the stairs.”

      I like it

      • Scotti

        If you have that kind of man strength it must come from your man muscles…

    • cubsfan08

      Whoa – DO NOT KNOCK MAN STRENGTH. I’m a huge believer in it. My friends and I have referenced it since college. Its a real thing, basically science with NO factual evidence…

      But here is the perfect case study:

      You: 20 years old, play sports actively, work out regularly, by the naked eye you are the best shape of your life.

      Your Dad: 52 years old, beer belly, doesn’t do any manual labor/ not in a trade as a profession. Hasn’t worked out since before you were born. Lets say he sits at a desk all day and maybe cuts the grass still

      Situation: You are moving into a college apartment. Couches, cabinets, heavy stuff needs to be moved. You and Dad each take an end and your like, damn this is heavy. Has Dad EVER not been able to pick up his end? (this also implies he doesn’t have a Bo Jackson hip, or something similar)

      I didn’t think so – MAN STRENGTH. You might not want to pick up heavy stuff or hit baseballs farther…but you can!

      • Mick

        You’re right, he’s always been able to lift his end! I’m a true believer but we call it old man strength.

      • Spriggs

        After reading this: count me among the Man Strength believers.

        • scorecardpaul

          after reading this, count me in the belief that the younger generation needs to get outside and actually do something. Your father should never be stronger than you.

          • TWC

            Even. At. Birth.

            • scorecardpaul

              well, I was assuming I was writing to people who were on this message board reading. I guess I should have made my point more specific

              • cubsfan08

                You are interpreting it wrong – its not that your father is “stronger” than you…simply put he is still strong without actually doing anything to be that way. That’s Man Strength.

                In the same college dorm referenced above – you will no doubt be able to find a few college kids who can’t lift the couch. Every Dad there will be able to pick the damn thing up. Why can’t the college kids match that? Lack of MAN STRENGTH.

                • scorecardpaul

                  I wasn’t going to respond to this, because I thought we were all just having fun? Please cubsfan08 go back and read your reply to me, and tell me again how I am interpreting it wrong. I think you are actually giving good points for my side of the discussion. I would guess that when the dads are lifting more than their sons, that the dads are actually stronger than the sons. I would also say that as a generation todays kids need to go outside and do stuff. The old men don’t just have man strength, they earned it the old fashioned way by actually doing stuff when they were younger. Maybe that is why every dad there will be able to pick it up?

                  • Drew7

                    Wait, the dads are strong at 52 because they “did stuff” when they were young?

                    • hansman

                      Whats this doing stuff?

              • TWC

                Ha. Just poking fun, Paul. I knew what you meant.

  • Spoda17

    I think lead off for Castro may be the best fit. I don’t know why some feel he has to hit for more power. I just don’t see him hitting more than 10 hrs a year. Let him hit .300, work on his OBP, and “set” the table for the rest of the lineup. If the Cubs remove the power expectation from him, he actually may increase his slugging by relaxing, and not being all caught up in the expectation. But #2 may be the absolute best spot if he hits for average but never walks… but I guess 8th would work too… ha!

  • North Side Irish

    I’ve always enjoyed “The Twelve Drinks of Christmas”…though admittedly my childhood was a little warped.

  • Edwin

    I’ve always been a fan of Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen and Coventry Carol.

  • Spriggs

    Anything without chipmunks or barking dogs is good.

  • itzscott

    Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley

  • CeeDeeVee

    Sherman reports that Cubs are interested in Morrison as an outfield option….makes sense but if that’s the type of guy, they’re gonna go for, I rather they go after Hart.

    • rockin’ dawg

      Mariners signed ‘em both!

  • Scotti

    Christmas Song~~Jethro Tull

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdalBvgNAxI

    That’s the true meaning of Christmas right there. Seriously.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Yeah, that is a great one. Actually, a lot of the “pop” XMas songs really skewer modern society and just how crass the holiday has become. Of course, “A Charlie Brown XMas” did that wonderfully: in 1965! (It always makes me laugh when people my age complain about how Christmas has become “commercialized” when people were complaining about it when we were born.)

  • Cubbie in NC

    I don’t care where Castro hits as long as he does not have to think there.

    If you are not easily offended I wanna rock you hard for Christmas by the Dan Band is catchy…

  • Louie

    So what’s the reason Rickett’s can’t start improving the clubhouse and other Wrigley field needs that doesn’t involve moving the outfield walls? Is it the scoreboard/sign rooftop battle?

    • Scotti

      He loses all of his leverage. The only reason the Mayor’s office is assisting him is Ricketts can take his half billion dollar football home with him if the City/Neighborhood/Rooftops/Bars don’t play nice. If he commits to spending, then no one else needs to give an inch.

    • MichiganGoat

      Yes, the jumbotron and outfield signs is what will fund the renovation, without that security of income they don’t want to start remodeling without the revenue coming in. The worst thing would. Do to pay for the jumbotron and then a lawsuit preventing it from being installed.

  • MichiganGoat

    I not really a fan of Christmas music, guess I’m kinda a Scrooge (holiday are just full of traveling on bad roads) in some ways, but I do enjoy the South Park Christmas song and of course Twisted Sisters holiday album is so atrocious it’s actually fun. However I do enjoy Christmas beer and TWC’s “Marry Stoutmas” has given me plenty of ideas to enjoy the season more.

  • Louie

    Oh, ok. I thought the clubhouse improvements and outfield signage should be 2 separate projects. Considering the Cubs do make profits and seem to be saving money on payroll compared to other large market teams. I understand having to wait for the rooftop owners approval for the jumbotron and outfield signage

  • DocPeterWimsey

    “The Boar’s Head,” as done by the Chieftains on “The Bells of Dublin.” (The “St. Stephen’s Day Murders” with Elvis Costello on the same album is totally awesome, too….)

    And, of course, there is the entire Charlie Brown Christmas album by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

    Among more contemporary tunes, I still love “I Believe in Father Christmas” by Greg Lake. John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” still works after all of these years, too.

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