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wrigley marquee featureI’m sure I’m not the first to make the comment, but is it weird that the 40th Anniversary Saturday Night Live special thing is on a Sunday night?

  • Another way to look at how the gambling world is viewing the 2015 Chicago Cubs (something of interest to everyone, not just gamblers, since it is a semi-impartial market view of the Cubs’ competitiveness) is the recently-released over/under win totals from the Atlantis Casino, catalogued here at ESPN. There, the Cubs’ mark is just 81.5 wins, several wins lower than most projections currently have the Cubs. An over/under essentially predicts a team’s win total by inviting bets on whether the team will win more (over) or less (under) than the listed number.
  • So, by that prediction, the Cubs are just barely a better-than-average team, behind the Nationals (93), Dodgers (91), Cardinals (87.5), Pirates (85.5), Giants (85), and Padres (84), and tied with the Marlins. If you’re asking me, I’d take the over on the Cubs, but, as we’ve discussed, the possible variance for this team is pretty significant. You also have to factor in the general expectation that there will be four very bad teams in the NL this year, and none of them – the Braves, Phillies, Rockies, and Diamondbacks – is in the NL Central. That’s going to hurt the win totals, relatively-speaking, of all the teams in the Central.
  • David Laurila’s Sunday Notes at FanGraphs includes, among many other things, a surprisingly revelatory discussion of minor league salaries. No, not for players – we know they don’t make anything. Instead, Laurila looks at minor league managers, coaches, and player development personnel, and it’s not a pretty picture relative to their big league counterparts. Want a place where you can use large market resources to get a small competitive edge for a modest investment without any MLB rules interferring? Spend big on great minor league coaching/development talent. Anecdotally, that seems to be something on which the Cubs have focused in the last three years, though they aren’t going to discuss it loudly and publicly.
  • In a John Fay preview of the Reds in 2015, comments from folks attached to the organization – including GM Walt Jocketty – read like a perfect example of “thou doth protest too much.” Baseball is obviously inherently unpredictable, but the Reds strike me as having a ton in common with the pre-2011 Chicago Cubs: some nice players, but aging, and with almost no depth whatsoever. A rebuild was due in Chicago at that time, and it felt like the organization was desperately clinging to the hopes of competitiveness that no one else saw (hence the trade for Matt Garza). That Cubs team cost just about as much as any in the team’s history, went on to finish 20 games under .500, which cost Jim Hendry and Mike Quade their jobs, and marked the final straw for the Ricketts Family to see the overwhelming need to change everything about the way the organization was run. Well, the Reds didn’t even add a Garza, so …
  • Random other NL Central comment: where the hell did Pat Neshek come from last year for the Cardinals? Not only was the righty coming off of a half decade of up-and-down years in the bigs and minors, he was also about to turn 34. The Cardinals got Neshek on a minor league deal just before Spring Training opened, and, by most outside accounts, his addition was a virtual non-story. And then his velocity spiked, his walks plummeted, his strikeouts rocketed up, and he posted a 1.87 ERA and 2.37 FIP in more innings than he’d pitched in a big league season since 2007. The guy was worth 1.8 WAR last year, for crying out loud! Out of a setup role! We always joke about voodoo magic, but, seriously, dude. That’s among the voodooiest I can remember. Hopefully the Cardinals will hurt a little this year for the loss of those high-leverage, no-cost, shockingly incredible innings now that Neshek has departed for the Astros.

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