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relieved happy catThe “exhibition” season kicks off today, as the Cubs play the Diamondbacks tonight and tomorrow at Chase Field. For anyone in attendance, if you buy one of those $25 gut-busting D-Bat Dogs and take a picture of yourself eating it, I will send you a free BN shirt for your (intestinal) trouble. First person to email or tweet me the picture gets the prize. And may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Patrick Mooney pretty well summed up why yesterday felt like such a good day with the Olt and Kalish news: “Some 96 hours before Opening Day, the team announced Olt and Kalish made the roster, striking a balance between the present and the future. This sounded like the outcome Cubs executives and Cubs bloggers had been rooting for this spring.” Everyone wanted this to happen. Sure, we all recognize that Olt and Kalish making the team won’t be the difference between a last place team and a playoff contender. But the two playing well enough to make the team is, alone, a really positive development. And, in a morass of crappy stories over the past few years at the big league level, it’s just nice to have something to be happy about. Happy for Olt, especially after his struggles and health issues. Happy for Kalish, especially after his struggles and health issues. Happy for the fans. Happy for the front office who brought these guys in. Happy about the future at which these two players hint. Whatever actually happens when the season gets rolling, I’m going to remember that this was nice.
  • The money quote yesterday from Mike Olt (Cubs.com): “Theo and Jed have a plan going for the Cubs. Just listening to it, you get goosebumps with what they’re trying to do. To be a part of that is definitely something special.” Here’s hoping Olt breaks out as a huge part of it in the next few months.
  • The money quote yesterday from Ryan Kalish (Cubs.com): “I got choked up a little bit. It’s been such a wild ride to even think I’d be starting Opening Day for the Cubs this year, after being in a cervical fusion recovery room overnight, is just pretty wild. This is a really awesome day for myself and everyone who has seen what I’ve gone through. My family is just ecstatic.” To top it all off, today is Kalish’s birthday. He turns 26, and I’m guessing dude is gonna have himself a paaaaartay.
  • On reflection, and with a hat tip to Jed Hoyer for mentioning the aggressiveness in Olt’s swings this Spring, I’m struck by how perfectly Olt matched the “selectively aggressive” mold at the plate. He saw a lot of pitches, but when he swung – when he triggered himself by seeing a pitch he thought he could drive – he swung aggressively and drove the ball. That’s the essence of the kind of plate approach the Cubs want to see. Sometimes it means taking strikes, especially early in the count, if you don’t feel like you can really put a charge into it. The walks, ultimately, come as a byproduct of the approach.
  • Hoyer confirmed in that Cubs.com piece, by the way, that the team will go with five starting pitchers out of the gate, rather than using off-days to mostly use just the first four starters. The decision on the fifth starter will come this weekend, and I think it’s still a pretty fair bet that Carlos Villanueva will get the call.
  • Starlin Castro will probably play in tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks, assuming his hamstring still feels good today after playing in a full minor league game yesterday. (ESPNChicago)
  • A less visible nice story is John Baker making the Cubs. The 33-year-old catcher has had an up-and-down career, and had a particularly tough 2013 season. As he tells the Tribune, making the Cubs is pretty special.
  • Wrigley Field ranked as just the 8th best ballpark in baseball according to a study by TripAdvisor (based on reviews and all that), which feels about, oh, seven spots too low. Get that renovation rolling.
  • The Dodgers have already sold more than 3 million tickets. Good. Lord. Remember when the Cubs went over 3 million tickets sold back in 2004, and it was a huge milestone? Well, it still is a big deal (the Cubs sold just 2.64 million tickets last year, and that’s likely to trend down), and the Dodgers eclipsed that figure before even playing a single home game. They’re going to blow it out this year. Lesson: it’s good to be good. (Cubs ownership knows this, FYI.)
  • A tweet just because:

  • Fishin Phil

    That could make you an accessory to murder by gastrointestinal assault. I’m just sayin’…..

  • J. L.

    “Wrigley Field ranked as just the 8th best ballpark in baseball according to a study by TripAdvisor (based on reviews and all that), which feels about, oh, eight spots too low.”

    So Wrigley should be number zero? :)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Shut your wise guy mouth. :)

    • brains

      it’s #1 in the *world*, besides the Roman Colosseum, i guess. at least the “we should move the ballpark into a mall in joliet” people have finally shut up about how inconvenient it is for them to drive to wrigleyville.

    • Adam

      It says seven spots too low.

      • C. Steadman

        That’s because Brett can go back and edit it. Originally it said eight.

  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

    “D-Bat Dogs”

    I read this as D-Bags. Not sure I would want to eat one of those.

  • Blake Z

    Brett,

    Just out of curiosity, how many BN thongs have you sold?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Believe it or not: one.

      • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

        So no freebies to whomever sends you pictures of them eating the D-Bats Dog in the BN thong?

        • ssckelley

          So your the guy? No pictures of you wearing you’re thong!

          Oh and, KMA DAVE!!!! :P

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            I use it to dress up my inflatable hamburger doll.

            • ssckelley

              You bring him or her to the ICub games?

          • Darth Ivy

            I see what you did there. It’s okay, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Whatever. I’m fine.

            • ssckelley

              Nope, I got caught last night as well. YOUR not the only one.

              :D

          • Funn Dave

            Hahaha I was totally gonna call you out, too.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That earns a 10% stake in BN Enterprises.*

          *That is not a real thing, and that is not a real offer.

      • Lou Brown

        Truth….was that to Mrs. Brett?

        • Chad

          Awkward. Backing away now.

          • Darth Ivy

            RUN!

  • Myles P

    Boy, that @mphelps11 character must be a real swell guy. Just one heck of a dude. Gee gosh.

  • ssckelley

    Brett, loved your first bullet and you summed it up nicely. I would like to add that some of that excitement for me as a fan is now I have a reason to watch the Cubs. I am looking forward to Olt and Kalish, a couple of pieces that might be part of the long term plan, being in the lineup. I realize this team is not expected to be a playoff team but having Rizzo, Castro, Olt, and Kalish (perhaps Lake) in the lineup as opposed to players that are only here to build their value so they can be traded gets me excited.

    Does that make any sense?

    • JAllman

      Yes, this is exactly the way I look at it. I have hope that the games will actually be watchable.

    • Napercal

      Absolutely right. You can add an improving Castillo to the mix also.

  • Jim

    But srsly, do we have BN polos yet so I can rep at those “non t-shirt” places?

    • jh03

      I’d totally buy a BN polo…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Gotta figure out a design.

      • Jim

        [img]https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-frc1/t1.0-1/c27.10.126.126/379024_10150638294138902_1870851741_a.jpg[/img]

        Something simple like this, minus the greenish bleachers themselves of course, but leaving the “broken” lettering?

        • notcubbiewubbie

          like this idea!!

          • B_Scwared

            I recommend doing only the “legs”. Similar to the animal logos that are so popular on polos.

            I like the BN as well. You could splurge and put that on the sleeve.

  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

    In fairness Dodger Stadium seats about 15,000 more than Wrigley so over 81 games they can get about 1.2 million more fans into the stadium than the Cubs can. 3 million this early is crazy, but the Dodgers capacity is about 4.5 million.

    That would equate to the Cubs being at about 2 million at this point

    • ssckelley

      Nah, the revenues are about the same since Dodger fans leave after the 5th inning. The Cubs make up for it from us fans still purchasing beer. You HAVE to stick around Wrigley to join in on the “Go Cubs Go” song.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        O ya I agree there, Dodgers fans are usually in around the third inning and out after the 6th. That was strictly in reply to the bullet about the Dodgers already selling 3 million tickets

      • C. Steadman

        I’m a huge fan of the “Go Cubs Go” song, but it makes no sense….”Hey Chicago what’d ya say, the Cubs are gonna win today”…um hello sound guy, they already won…

        • C. Steadman

          *sarcastically picking nits…I love singing that song and have no problems with how Steve Goodman wrote it.

    • Brocktoon

      The Cubs haven’t sold out a single game yet, so capacity shouldn’t come into play.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        I was just putting that Dodgers number into perspective

  • itzscott

    Don’t know why Castillo doesn’t get much love on this board, but I see it as Castro, Rizzo, Castillo and perhaps/hopefully Lake with Olt being another building block being added to the lineup.

    We know all these guys have the tools, now if they can just put it together then half the lineup would be set for possibly years to come with additional building blocks coming off the assembly line.

    • ssckelley

      I think you are directing this at me. Castillo was on my mind when I made my comment and I almost included him. But when I have the Cubs game on Castillo is not a guy that when he comes up I drop whatever it is I am doing and watch his at bat and I don’t know why. I do believe he is capable of hitting for more power but his biggest contribution is what he does behind the plate and he needs to get better at framing pitches or he may not be the long term answer at catcher.

      • Voice of Reason

        While its certainly showing its age, I’d like to see the 7 parks ahead of Wrigley.

        I’m more of a traditionalist and I like the fact that babe Ruth played there. Not many parks left that can claim that.

        At the same time id trade the park if it meant a world series.

      • itzscott

        ssckelley -

        While no team has or ever will have the best player in baseball at every position, I think Castillo is solid and as close to a clone of Yadier Molina “Lite” than any other catcher I’ve seen currently playing.

        • CubFan Paul

          “as close to a clone of Yadier Molina “Lite” than any other catcher I’ve seen currently playing”

          Only if you ignore pitch framing.

          • jh03

            Good thing about pitch framing is that it is a skill that you can work on and improve. It’s not something that *has* to come natural.

            • C. Steadman

              and that’s why John Baker is backing up Castillo

          • ssckelley

            Is this something Molina struggled with early in his career?

            Anybody?

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              It is not, Yadi has always been a great defensive catcher including pitch framing.

              According to BP and the extra strikes stat

              08: 119.1 (4th in MLB)
              09: 102.9 (7th)
              10: 116.8 (4th)

              The main thing I learned from these reports is that the Molina brothers are all VERY GOOD at framing pitches

          • Brocktoon

            And douchey neck tattoos.

            • CubFan Paul

              Yea, they’re not on the same planet.

        • half_full_beer_mug

          If your were going to clone a catcher why would you clone the “light” version?

          Also, why not go all out and get a Johnny Bench clone then?

  • sdcoddi

    Are you going to have a 20% off sale for opening day? I’m waiting to buy my shirt for when the cubs come play in Boston!

  • Medicos

    The FRIENDLY CONFINES were ranked the 8th best ballpark??? I wonder if they went into the filthy bathrooms with the troughs, attempted to find a parking space and stood in the crowded lines attempting to exit Wrigley Field after the game’s conclusion.!!!

    • brains

      those bathrooms do need to be renovated, and have since i was a kid in the 1980s. otherwise, i wouldn’t change a thing. that would be to ruin the patina of the history that makes it so much fun.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Completely off topic, but I had occasion to look at the numbers for Fontenot last night. He had a ridiculously good 2008.

    • CubFan Paul

      Back when scrappy was cool.

      • C. Steadman

        Back when scrappy slugged over 500

        • CubFan Paul

          Back when scrappy used steroids.

          • C. Steadman

            Has Fontenot ever been mentioned with steroids? It’s a legitimate question, because I don’t recall.

            • ssckelley

              I don’t ever remember Fontenot showing up one spring larger than usual. Even the season he had in 2008 matched up with his performance in the minors. I think the Cubs waited too long to bring him up.

              • C. Steadman

                Yeah, I knew Theriot had been “suspected” after his “power surge” in ’09 when he was on pace for 20+ HR, but then the universe corrected itself and he hit only 7. Never, did I recall Fontenot was suspected.

                • CubFan Paul

                  “then the universe corrected itself and he hit only 7″

                  Testing became more advanced and more often.

                  • C. Steadman

                    “Testing became more advanced and more often.”

                    I can understand more often, but all-of-a sudden more advanced half-way into a season. Why can’t Theriot have gotten to a hot start and then regressed to his norm?

                    • CubFan Paul

                      I’m not breaking down individual seasons, i’m saying in general testing became more advanced and more often.

                      Whenever I look at offensive stats now, I ignore everything before 2009. The power just drops off dramatically all across the board except for the special guys (or the A-Rods that can afford the *good stuff*)

                    • C. Steadman

                      Oh, I was just breaking down 2009, because he was on pace for 20+ that season and then didn’t hit a homerun for 2-3 months. I thought that’s what you meant by “Testing became more advanced and more often.” during those months when he didn’t hit any in 2009

            • Brocktoon

              Why should a legit connection matter. Guy hits HRs = steroids. You’re never going to make it as a sports journalist with your attitude.

              • C. Steadman

                Yeah, I guess not. I’m an innocent until actually mentioned by credible source type of guy when it comes to ‘roids.

    • ssckelley

      I blame Dusty Baker, no way he should have been kept down at Iowa for 2 1/2 years. He might have had a couple more years like 2008 but instead of giving this guy a chance he went with guys like Todd Walker and Neifi Perez. He wanted nothing to do with developing young players, Baker preferred the guys over 30.

      • Brocktoon

        I’m a fan of blaming Dusty Baker for traffic jams, overcast days, and my persistent refusal to win the lottery, but to blame him for not using Mike Fontenot enough prior to ’08 is too much. He was up for half a season in ’07, and contributed pretty much nothing. His numbers in the PCL were never anything special until that point, and he was old.

        • ssckelley

          Right and without Todd Walker and Neifi Perez playing 2nd base the Cubs might not have won 66 games in 2006. Why use Fontenot in 2007 when you have a perfectly good 32 year old veteran DeRosa playing second base?

          It is no secret that Baker did not like using young players and he is a big reason why some of the young Cubs players got old.

  • ssckelley

    Well Brett I got my Cubs email pimping me tickets this morning but no Mike Olt!

    How hard would it be to have a background pic of Olt, Castro, and Rizzo with a neat slogan like “Here is Your appetizer!”?

    • C. Steadman

      I watched Arrested Development for the first time last night, just so I could get that reference. I almost died laughing when I heard the first “STEVE HOLT”.

  • Petey28

    I feel like the minor league rosters are getting better at AAA and AA. Seems like a sign of good things to come. I’m taking my son to his first professional baseball game during the Iowa Cubs opening homestand. The I-Cubs look to be way more exciting this year than in years past. I feel like this indicates a positive trend for the organization and look forward to seeing the prospects make their stops on the way to Chicago.

    • ssckelley

      Good idea to go to a ICubs game early, not sure how long Baez will stay. I agree, this is the best the ICubs have looked in years. Instead of the typical filler and AAAA players they will actually have good prospects on the roster worth keeping an eye on. I know I plan on making my way to Des Moines for a few weekends in April and May.

      • Petey28

        My son is 9 months old, trying to make it an annual tradition and also start the Cubs brainwashing early. Just hope we don’t get any more snow!

  • Ivy Walls

    The last roster spot now is being decided between Rusin and Grimm, note balance thingee, “the plan” per Olt’s goosebumps reflections. Cabrera has made it unless he breaks curfew in that depth is important at the 10th-12th pitching spot as there will always be a merry-go-round flight pattern and waiving Cabrera now is bad timing. Doing it in mid-April and chances are he could sneak through so if Rondon has an option remaining he is moved. As for Rusin it comes down to who (Rusin or Villaneuva) matches up (Phil & STL) through mid-April. Last year Phil’s OPS was minus .023 against LHP (.684) while more importantly StL’s OPS splits against LHP was minus 0.63 against LHP (.672) so everything being equal I think Rusin makes the team early on.

    My bullet point thoughts regarding the first 60 days of the season, the by words will be “Hold until relieved” and this will be for pipeline additions as well as playing time and in game strategy.

    The season will go right if the following happens:

    Arietta (the forgotten prospecty promise of 2013) ascends to perform much like Samardzija did a couple years back sporting the best stuff on the club.
    Jackson rebounds to an innings eating plus .500 pitcher
    Wood incrementally improves even more
    Cubs bullpen is a strength holding until relieved when Vizcaino and Fujikawa come aboard and Cubs bullpen becomes dominating and overall the team allows 649 runs an improvement of 40 runs over the year, or less than 0.25 runs per game.

    Offensively

    Rizzo ascends to plus .850 OPS
    Castro hits above .285
    Lake and Olt become the surprise power
    Bonafacio averages above 5.4 per 25.5 outs an improvement of 1.5 from last year!
    Cubs score 50 more runs than last year (602 ranked 28th 2013) up to the half way point in MLB or 0.31 more runs per game.

    Strategic roster movements

    Cubs trade Samardzija for significant value including a future TOR LHP prospect where Hendricks ascends and the club doesn’t miss a beat.

    Cubs trade Villaneuva for value and actually improves the bullpen swing with a better pitcher (Grimm or Ramirez).

    Cubs ascend Baez and eventually Alcantara (June/July) long term securing 2B and putting Cubs in position to trade Castro in off season for significant value.

    Olt sticks at 3B forcing Bryant to OF where ascends near late August to RF.

    Cubs close strong in September finishing at or above .500

    Spring hopes eternal

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