The “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:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) March 28, 2014