hector rondon cubsAssuming I can dig our car out, the family will be taking in Disney on Ice this afternoon. And if I can’t dig the car out, we will simply perform our own version in the street.

  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon mostly put to bed two discussions that become popular this time of year (one with an actual impact on the team, one almost entirely symbolic): who will be the closer, and who will start Opening Day? In discussions with reporters, Maddon indicated that, indeed, Jon Lester will be starting on Opening Night for the Cubs against the Cardinals (he just has to talk about it with Lester first before announcing it), and suggested Hector Rondon will remain the team’s closer heading into the season. The latter is obviously more functionally important, and interesting, given that Maddon had previously indicated a willingness to be flexible with traditional roles in the bullpen. Not that I’ve got any beef with Rondon sticking as the closer, because he really thrived in the role, seeming only to blow saves when opponents strung together three or four BABIP-blessed dribblers.
  • Speaking of roles in the bullpen: although I’ve generally not been a fan of slavish devotion to only using a closer in “closer” situations (if you’ve got a stud pitcher, you should use him when it means the most, regardless of whether it’ll lead to a “save”), I especially have no problem with Rondon being the “closer” in the context of this particular bullpen. With Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Jason Motte all very capable of excelling in high-leverage roles, I’m not sure you’re sacrificing anything by brining one of those guys into the bases-loaded, high-leverage eighth inning situation, and reserving Rondon for the 9th. If, however, some guys stumble early on, and you can’t have that same confidence in everyone, I hope that Rondon being the “closer” won’t preclude using him in other high-leverage situations. And, of course, that assumes that Rondon isn’t the one who stumbles.
  • Importantly, Maddon seems to think the same way about all of this stuff, saying that he cares less about roles and innings than he does about using the best match-ups in high-leverage situations (Tribune, CSN). I’m already anticipating being called an apologist for Maddon throughout the season because I suspect I will rarely disagree with his decisions. It was the same when the new front office took over. It’s not because I’m unalterably committed to the decisions of everyone and everything wearing a Cubs uniform (those who’ve been around long enough to remember the Hendry era or Quade era, for examples, know that I voiced disagreement and displeasure frequently). It’s just that I already view the game a certain way, and it happens to align well with this front office’s vision, and, it seems, Maddon’s as well.
  • (All that said, we’ll see about the bunts.)
  • Your reminder that the amateur seasons are underway, and scouting for the draft is already hot: the Cubs had most of their heavy hitters taking in the TCU/ASU game in Phoenix Friday night (Tribune). That’s how it’s going to be for the next three months, especially on Friday nights, when teams often feature their best starting pitcher. The scouting life is not an easy life. Just imagine the area scout right now in a region where he’s got to travel 200 miles each way to watch players nearly every day, and then imagine the possibility that, on draft day, he won’t actually get to see any of his recommendations selected.
  • Mystery ball – I’m assuming Kyle Schwarber has some kind of connection to the ball in question, but, looking at his limbs, I can’t quite place how the ball got where it is, with neither of his arms up. And if it wasn’t Schwarber, was there just a ball randomly flying at the wall (or from the wall) with no one even noticing it? I just enjoyed thinking about it:

  • The early feedback on Facebook is that it was probably being tossed by someone off camera, over the wall to the right, and headed toward Schwarber. Looks like it makes sense to me. Mystery solved?
  • A visual on the Ernie Banks patch players will be wearing this year: