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wgn the gamePositional players are due to report in Mesa tomorrow, and Spring Training really kicks off with the first full squad workout on Wednesday. I enjoy the offseason as much as anyone, but every year I’m surprised at how ecstatic I am to have baseball back.

  • Pretty significant sports media news in Chicago this morning: WGN will be taking over an FM station and turning it into The Game 87.7 FM, a sports talk station geared toward trying to court a younger, well-educated audience (i.e., more valuable to advertisers). The lineup is presently: Jonathon Brandmeier from 6 to 9 a.m., David Kaplan and David Haugh from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Howard Griffith and Alex Quigley from 1 to 3 p.m., Harry Teinowitz and Spike Manton from 3 to 7 p.m., Mark Carman from 7 to 10 p.m., and NBC Sports Radio programming overnight. It sounds like the excellent Jordan Bernfield will also migrate over as a sports reporter for the station. The station turns on the lights this afternoon, I believe.
  • As for the Cubs implications of the new station, I don’t see any negative impact here with respect to the question of the Cubs’ future radio home. WGN will still operate its AM station, so, arguably, by offloading some of their content onto the FM station, maybe WGN wants to retain Cubs games even more now. In any case, we’ll continue waiting word on what’s going to happen with the Cubs’ radio rights after 2014. At the Convention, business president Crane Kenney said there should be something to announce on this front before Opening Day.
  • Kris Bryant has arrived early to Spring Training, and he’s already finding that there will be a lot of attention on him (per Mark Gonzales and Patrick Mooney). Among his focal points this Spring: showing that he can stick at third base defensively. Although he’ll continue to play third base after he departs Major League camp, and he might play a little outfield while he’s in camp, the impressions he makes now at third base could go a long way to dictating his long-term future. After all, if his bat is as good as the Cubs hope it is, the positional question may have to be answered as soon as the second half of this season (of course, a great deal of that depends on what happens with Mike Olt and Javier Baez, among other things).
  • Among the other early-arriving positional guys (whom we haven’t discussed already): Albert Almora, Josh Vitters, and Brett Jackson. On the latter two, I’m both pleased and not surprised to hear that they showed up early to get to work, given what’s ahead for them. More on Vitters and Jackson later today. Also, an obligatory annual note on early-arriving positional guys: remember that position players who live outside the United States have to arrange their work/travel visa situation based on when they’ll actually be working in the U.S. That tends to mean the actual reporting date for positional players, and it’s not always simply for them to arrive early, even if they wanted to. That doesn’t mean they aren’t already hard at work in their home countries.
  • Jake Arrieta (shoulder tightness) is throwing and participating in the pitchers’ drills, but isn’t yet throwing off the mound (Carrie Muskat).
  • Some of the things the Cubs are doing with their new facility in Mesa were informed by the way NFL teams train and instruct, Theo Epstein told Laurence Holmes. Maybe Epstein’s comments about being willing to sign a Michael Sam were actually literal? Signing NFL draft prospects: the new market inefficiency! (Alternative quip: SIGN ALL THE LINEBACKERS!)
  • Paul Sullivan caught up with Dale Sveum, who holds no grudge but still feels like he was blindsided by the decision to fire him last year.
  • A beautiful set of Spring Training photos from the Tribune. I can see up so many noses, I feel like I’m right there in Mesa! (No, but, for real, it’s a great set of pics.)

 

  • Baseball_Writes

    I find the addition of Teinowitz odd for a station trying to tap into a younger market. He really is the antithesis of that. Nothing against him personally, but his shtick is way outdated.

    • kbr7171

      “trying to court a younger, well-educated audience…The lineup is presently Harry Teinowitz and Spike Manton…Mark Carman”

      Where’s the well educated part?

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        I don’t know these guys but if they are like Rome, Bayless, or Stephen A Scream then it’s exactly what they are going for.

      • jeff1969

        That lineup for The Game stinks. Brandmeier? Harry & Spike? Kap is listenable every once & a while, but what a crappy lineup. The people running WGN radio think they have clue, but they’re lost.

  • Elden14

    Rizzo looks like an absolute behemoth in the picture next to Gary Jones

  • BenRoethig

    I’m probably reading far too much int this, but its Interesting the Trib’s new FM station is affiliated with NBC Sports Radio.

    • Baseball_Writes

      That’s an interesting point I kind of glossed over. Must be more cost-effective for them to outsource the overnight programming. I imagine they are thinking … NBC already has this programming, it would be easier and probably get better ratings than anything we could throw out there.

      Also, do you think there is a possibility that maybe tapping into this NBC overnight programming is just temporary, and maybe they would replace it with their own down the road?

      • Bilbo161

        Maybe its more about the Blackhawks than the Cubs. NBC has a significant interest in the NHL with its sports programming.

        • Baseball_Writes

          Very good point. Something else to think about, considering how good they’ve been and their rise in popularity.

  • Ivy Walls

    I read the Sveum piece and he (honestly admitting) he felt blind sided is window into why he didn’t stick and Cubs underperformed, (albeit marginally) under his helm. A professional in his role must be on top and also anticipate all situations. But still some accountability goes back to Epstein/Hoyer in that they failed to have (even implicit) competition for Rizzo and Castro so that the manager could use playing time as a leverage. Though sometimes the die is cast and now with a new Sheriff in town hopefully Renteria can be all, communicate positively, instill mentoring and remain a hammer.

    As far as 3B, that will be where the entire Cubs position player development pivots. If Olt hits like 2012, all good if not, can Bryant field the position, if not is it Baez’s spot?

    • Bilbo161

      If he really felt blindsided then maybe Thed didn’t communicate well enough with him. Same complaint Thed had with Svuem communicating with the players.

  • DarthHater

    It’s good to see Theo looking tan, rested, and ready. I’m sure he had a very relaxing off-season. :-P

    • JacqueJones

      Ya well all he did was sit around on his hands while other GMs actually did stuff rabble rabble rabble

  • Spoda17

    Those are awesome pics… Rizzo is huge…

  • Javier Bryant

    No wonder 87.7 is switching over to 101.1
    The spring training pix were pretty awesome

  • V23

    I absolutely welcome a new sports radio station.

    The Score too often covers the dramatic issues of sports, and then goes on and on and on and on about it until I want to scream.

    I dislike the ESPN brand. Too much east coast bias.

    What happened to actually talking about the games after they happen? Or previewing the games?

    Instead, you have Score guys who like covering the press conferences. Sick of it.

    Welcome 87.7 The Game.

    • JacqueJones

      Haven’t listened to ESPN radio in a while but since a lot of the guys on there are writers for ESPNChicago, I think there is a bit of an exception to the East coast stuff. The ESPN channel is annoying but the local ESPN stuff has a decent amount of Chicago homers and good to listen to guys. Always liked it more than the score.

      • Jon

        Everyone bashes the ESPNChicago writers because they write negative things about the Cubs. How dare they!

    • Bilbo161

      Is that point about the target audience being more well educated a slam on the Score’s audience? Probably not intentional but it made me laugh.

    • YourResidentJag

      Waddle and Silvy are still a good listen.

  • Jon

    Man, that’s some good off season work by Rizzo. Imagine what these guys could do with PEDs.

  • Blackhawks1963

    So I new sportsradio station that includes Johnny B from 6-9 AM. The most active listening time for most? Yeah, that will work out well.

    Harry T. is [not good].

    The only thing that sounds mildly intriguing is Dave Kaplan. But he’s on middays when nobody with gainful employment is going to listen.

    [Ed. – That’s really inappropriate. I’m trying to decide how inappropriate.]

    • Jon

      whoa, settle down Mel Gibson

  • Blackhawks1963

    So it looks like the 25 man roster “may” look at follows….

    OF – Sweeney, Ruggiano, Schierholtz, Lake, Coughlan
    IF – Valbuena, Castro, Barney, Rizzo, Bonafacio, Olt / Murphy
    Cat – Castillo, Kottaras

    SP – Samardzija, Wood, Jackson, Hammel, McDonald (I assume Arrieta starts season on DL)
    RP – Veres, Strop, Villenueva, Russell, Wright…with Grimm, Rondon, Cabrera and Parker duking it out for 2 spots

    • Ivy Walls

      I think there are Black Horse surprises. For structurally I think the Cubs go north with 4 starters until April 18th when the schedule suddenly gets full to May 2nd. So they could go north with 11 pitchers. That would mean that they could carry at least one position player with options.

      So it appears barring injury or trades there are 4 ID’d OF’ers, 2 catchers and 3 IF’ers and one super utility IF/OF or ten spots with four open for at least the first 2 2/3 weeks, (14 games). Bonifacio is the Cubs designated utility guy, late inning situational base runner who can come in and play defensive positions in the NL game of situational PH and replacements,

      I also think the brass is really rooting for Olt to stick at 3B, thereby moving Valbuena/RH platoon to second base.

      So if that emerges as the roster structure for March 31, we have to back fill first.

      Who among the IF and OF bench competitors has IA options available? Can’t include non roster invitees for they have to be placed on the 25-man and then if moved go through waivers—that is stupid so eliminates Roberts, Valaika, Valdez, Coughlan, Kalish, but leaves RJax, Szczur, and VITTERS who is the only one who can play IF/OF (especially for an inning or two or even a game, like against a tough LH SP).

      That then leaves competition for two IF platoon/utility spots between holdovers Barney & Murphy, plus invitees Roberts, Valaika, Valdez and one OF spot between invitees, LH options of RJax, Kalish, Maier and Coughlan and RH options of McDonald, Szczur, and Ha

      One could say that Murphy and Barney are almost interchangeable except Murphy has more hot streak power while Darwin a better defender, though both would be platoon against LH starters, Murphy cost less. Roberts appears to an intriguing 12-13th position player in that his splits are strong against LH’ers.

      Finally I think Vizcaino comes north as well. So the Black Horses could be Vitters and Vizcaino, with Grimm and Arodys possessing options. This BTW would allow Arietta to start the season on the 15-day and be called up for a start around the 20th.

  • YourResidentJag

    Well, I gotta say the station could do MUCH better already. Bernfield as a mere sports reporter. Brandmeier in the morning? And as others have said, Harry T.? Huh?

    What about Teddy Greenstein, Shadev Sharma, Mark Grote, or at least Koz and Memilo in the morning? ???

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If they want to cater to the young/smarter crowd, I would definitely throw a heavy push behind Sahadev. He’s good and stuff.

      • YourResidentJag

        Well, like, duh? ;)

  • TheRiot2

    After viewing the photos from Spring Training on the Tribune,I feel renewed with better things to come. I also sense a better product on the field than last seasons and the yr. before. The outfield picture has to be enhanced with the likes of Kalish,Ruggiano and Bonifacio. Emilio will likely play a lot of infield as well as the outfield. A new kinder gentler manager for the kids can’t help a bit on the positive reenforcement level. Another aspect will be the addition of Mueller and Brumley as the hitting guru’s A lot of new FRESH air can maybe wipe away some of the negative vibes from the last few seasons.

  • ssckelley

    Is there an online link to listen to the new station go live?

    • ssckelley

      never mind, found it….they started off knocking the Score and ESPN. :D

      http://tv.trb.com/extras/wgnam/player/listentwo.htm

      • CubFanBob

        that’s not too hard to do

        • ssckelley

          Going to be a short lived radio station if they keep talking hockey.

          • Edwin

            At least Chicago is actually good at hockey, though. I wish the Score would talk about hockey more often, instead of non-stop football coverage and basketball coverage.

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