And we have the first blown 3-1 lead of 2017: it’s ‘La La Land,’ which was not only the favorite coming into last night’s Academy Awards, but was actually announced as the Best Picture winner … before it was revealed to be a gaffe, and ‘Moonlight’ was the actual winner. Gotta figure out how to close, ‘La La Land.’ Probably shouldn’t have let Emma Stone start again on short rest.

  • I enjoyed Jed Hoyer’s thoughts (CSN) on what it would have been like if the Cubs hadn’t pulled out their Game Seven victory, and about how he can empathize with Indians fans/staff/players who don’t want to talk about how close they came – Hoyer recalls the 2003 ALCS loss to the Yankees, when Aaron Boone’s dramatic home run walked off against the Red Sox, where Hoyer was at the time.
  • Hoyer also talked at CSN about how important it is to always have young talent percolating up through the system, and not get caught up in a “the future is now” way of thinking. A fun bit from the piece compares the Cubs to the 1990s era Braves, who saw 14 different players show up in Rookie of the Year balloting within a 15-year window from 1991 to 2005. Out of curiosity, I checked: in 2014 Kyle Hendricks got down-the-ballot votes, in 2015 Kris Bryant won the award, and in 2016 … no Cubs got a vote, because Willson Contreras was criminally excluded from down-the-ballot consideration (OK, so actually, it was mostly because it was a loaded year for rookies in the NL, headlined by Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Kenta Maeda, Trevor Story, and Aledmys Diaz). Gonna need a lot more youngsters to step up over the next 12 years!
  • … which makes you wonder, who could even realistically get votes for the Cubs this year? Sure, an injury or two could happen thrust a surprise youngster into the spotlight, but it’s hard to project that kind of thing. Albert Almora currently projects as the only rookie to get regular time.
  • We haven’t seen him in action yet, but this Tribune write-up on Caleb Smith seems to confirm that he is staying converted to a reliever for now (as opposed to working both as a reliever and a starter). Moreover, Smith says he saw his velocity tick up to 95mph last year upon moving to the bullpen at AA, which could obviously make for an interesting lefty reliever if he can command it, together with a nice slider. The Cubs got Smith in the Rule 5 Draft (by way of a trade with the Brewers, who’d selected him from the Yankees – which means the Cubs were specifically targeting him), so they’ll have to carry him on the 25-man roster out of Spring Training if they want to keep him. Otherwise, they could offer him back to the Yankees, or work out a trade to keep him. With Brian Duensing, Jack Leathersich, David Rollins, and Zac Rosscup all in the mix as potential lefty specialists*, there is plenty of competition for the job in the Cubs’ anticipated eight-man bullpen, which I am guessing will feature only one LOOGY-type guy.
  • *(Note that, if everyone is healthy, the bullpen will also feature a second lefty in the form of Mike Montgomery or Brett Anderson, but I don’t really count them as lefty specialists for reasons tied both to their would-be bullpen role (they’re more of a full-inning or long relief type) and their expected actual usage (bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen).
  • A little pitching order news for the week:

  • The expectation, then, would be that the front four in the rotation – Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey – would probably see their first Spring Training action at some point after Wednesday, perhaps this weekend.

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