I don’t know diddly plop about the NBA, but my Twitter feed is not infrequently populated by grousing about how terrible the Bulls are in every regard. Out of curiosity, I checked this morning, and although they’re a couple games under .500, they’re still in a playoff spot. So that’s something, right? I am trying to imagine a scenario where the Cubs were in a Wild Card spot this year, and folks – smart folks! – were talking about how terrible they are. Obviously the playoffs are a different animal in the NBA, but still.
Then again, knowing our reactionary nature, I’m sure there would be plenty of Cubs fans ripping the team if they were merely in Wild Card contention by midseason. Heck, there will be fans outraged when the Cubs briefly go down 2-0 in the second inning on Opening Day …
- I am asked about this regularly, and am thus grateful to Carrie Muskat for reporting that Cubs single game tickets will go on sale February 24. Get your virtual waiting room patience hat ready.
- There are many more slogans and messages coming for the Cubs this year, including Joe Maddon’s new trio: “Be Uncomfortable” (which allows you to stretch outside yourself and grow), “Authenticity” (just be yourself, which allows you to repeat the success of the past), and “Don’t Forget the Heartbeat” (a reference to Game Seven of the World Series).
- There will also be renewed references to “That’s Cub,” which was one that happened organically over the past few years, as players and coaches would point out things they saw done well or done positively for each other. (It used to mean something else, but has been reclaimed, as it were. Maybe the Cubs can reclaim “Cubes”, too … perhaps for games when they at least triple the score of their opponent? The math on that isn’t quite right, but it seems unlikely that they’ll beat too many opponents 27 to 3, or 64 to 4.)
- Joe Maddon says the Cubs probably won’t use a six-man rotation right out of the gate this year (Cubs.com). Given the extra rest and (arguably) extra productivity it affords pitchers, especially ones who are coming off of a very long season and expect another one this year, I do hope that the Cubs utilize six starters for at least some stretches of the season. Whether that’s at the start of the year or not, I won’t really grumble right now, especially given that so much can change with pitcher health and performance expectations between now and Opening Day.
- We’ve discussed Willson Contreras as the Cubs’ “starting” catcher since last season ended, but the Cubs hadn’t yet technically come out and given the situation that label – they have now, via Joe Maddon (CSN). Contreras is the starter, and is expected to catch 4 to 5 games per week, and the back-up, Miguel Montero, will catch 1 to 2.
- Maddon also confirmed (CSN) that managing the running game was a primary consideration in pairing Contreras with Jon Lester this year. He also said it was possible that Montero might still catch Lester some, which would obviously make for a potential field day on the bases for the opponent, but could also allow the Cubs a little more match-up flexibility. Given Montero’s previous back issues, my own anecdotal recollection that he performs his best offensively when he’s had plenty of rest, and the fact that he could be match-up optimized, I could see him having a resurgent offensive year in a backup role. (There’s also his xBABIP from 2016, which strongly suggests he had a hard luck year.)
- Something to tuck away in your mind: in a write-up about the Cubs’ many, many pitchers in spring camp, Mark Gonzales singles out non-roster invitee Maikel Cleto for mention as “[o]ne reliever who could get a close look.” That’s probably not entirely out of nowhere, so it’s possible the Cubs have already seen some things they’re liking, physically, from the former big league reliever. The Cubs signed Cleto, 27, to a minor league deal back in December.
- You’ve already heard a great deal about the Cubs’ fancy new clubhouse at Wrigley Field, which replaced the unbelievably antiquated one before the 2016 season (directly led to the championship? you be the judge!). But one component that Travis Sawchik suggests might be undersold is the round shape of the main area. Because of the layout, more player interaction is organically encouraged, and the chance encounters between teammates not only fosters positive relationships, but also could generate more conversations about substantive baseball issues that might otherwise go undiscussed. It’s interesting to think about how something so atypical and seemingly pedestrian could have impacted the 2016 season, but I’d be surprised if the impact was zero.
- Good vibes and well wishes going out to Ron Gardenhire:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) February 14, 2017
- Carter Capps has a new delivery:
Now *that's* an unorthodox delivery. pic.twitter.com/1pSEAVx3ps
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 15, 2017
- Over at TYL, Luis has your Bears Bullets here.
- I’m going to have to tell The Wife about this one, because we use them all the dang time: Command hooks and strips on sale at Amazon today.
With Spring Training underway, it’s going to become increasingly common that I think to myself in the morning, “Wow, there was a lot going on yesterday,” so I’ll probably be popping these kinds of mini-recaps into the Bullets most mornings so you can at least skim the list to ensure you didn’t miss anything:
- The big news of the day was a potential season-ending injury for Cardinals youngster Alex Reyes, which was then confirmed earlier this morning.
- Lots of other Spring Training items in the Miscellany from last night, including some batting practice video, and Javy Baez’s new hair.
- Mike Matheny says that a projection that has his team five games under .500 is “unbelievable.”
- Willson Contreras takes the mantle from David Ross, when it comes to catching Jon Lester.
- Kyle Schwarber *will* do some catching this Spring, with the future usage to be determined.
- A bunch of Cubs prospect notes.
- Mike Montgomery is prepared to start or relieve, but I’m sure hoping he gets a loooong look as a starter.