Positional 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.)