joe maddon speaksAbby Wambach’s significant, and storied career is at a close. I’m not much for soccer, myself, but following the U.S. Women’s National Team, even a layer removed, over the past decade plus has been an impressive thing, and I know that Wambach has been a significant part of that.

  • There’s still a long way to go in the offseason, let alone the actual season ahead, but it seems most agree that the Cubs are the best team in baseball on paper right now. Bovada’s opening World Series odds have the Cubs as a 6 to 1 favorite (though, because of a rabid fan base, their odds always seems to be stronger than reality (you would have to be a crazy person to bet 6 to 1 on ANY team in baseball, by the way)). Jeff Sullivan writes about the Cubs as baseball’s best team right now, and it looks pretty darn clear that they are. And even Joe Maddon concedes that the target is on the Cubs, and they’re just going to have to embrace it (CSN).
  • In that CSN piece, I loved this quote from Maddon, on the Cubs being “the target” in baseball: “But that shouldn’t really alter the way we think. It shouldn’t alter our preparation. It shouldn’t alter anything except, I think, once you admit to it, then you kind of disarm it a bit. If you want to constantly push it back and say it’s not true, then you give it more power.” It’s actually a tricky thing to accept that, on paper, your team is the best, while simultaneously recognizing that nothing will be handed to them. Put yourself in the shoes of a young player on this Cubs team. I trust that Maddon is the guy to best help manage that balance (he gets into it quite a bit in the CSN article), but it’s gotta be hard coming off the season the Cubs just had, adding all this talent, and then having everyone in your ear telling you what a powerhouse team you’re going to be. If you win 90+ games, people will simply nod and think it was expected. If you do any worse than that, it’s perceived as a disaster.

  • In that way, I’ve gotta say: I wouldn’t hate it if some other teams around the league loaded up on the remaining free agents and shifted some of the focus. Again, it’s not as if I don’t think the Cubs can handle it. It’s just … well … maybe I’m not sure I can handle it.
  • An older Maddon-ism, of course, still applies: never let the pressure exceed the pleasure.
  • The Cubs claimed lefty Jack Leathersich on waivers back in November as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and you may recall that they thereafter non-tendered him to open up a 40-man spot. My hope then was that the Cubs would be able to retain him on a minor league deal, and then he could emerge as a bullpen option in the second half of 2016 and beyond. I’m hearing good things on that front, and it does seem like the team will be able to hang onto him. That’s a pretty fantastic snag, given that the Cubs got him for nothing, and will not have to hold out a 40-man roster spot for him while he rehabs.
  • Many folks have wondered, and Addison Russell answered on Twitter – with Jason Heyward coming in as the new number 22 on the team, Russell will wear number 27 next year. Get yourself a nice watch on Heyward’s dime, Russell.

  • The weather will turn eventually, so maybe you want to check out some Cubs jackets on Amazon. There are so very many.
  • Theo Epstein spoke on a wide range of topics, including just how far behind the Red Sox and Cardinals the Cubs fell for David Price.
  • The latest episode of Limited Range is out, if you’d care to listen to me and Sahadev Sharma talking about the Cubs’ non-Heyward moves of late.
  • At least he looks happy:

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