The Competitive Landscape and the NL Central, Telling on Myself, and Other Bullets

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The Competitive Landscape and the NL Central, Telling on Myself, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Gettin’ me a big ole sundae tonight. Already thinking about it. Lordy it’s gonna be good.

  • There’s no question that the NL Central is, right now, the most competitive division in baseball. Yes, there are divisions with better individual teams on paper, and ones that might be more competitive 1 through 3, but from top to bottom, there’s not a tighter division. It’s not just a matter of the teams all being meh, either. Evaluators see the division largely the same way we do – just a lot of really good teams:

  • As we approach the end of the offseason, I get a lot of comments about what the Cubs haven’t done, and what other teams have done. To that end, going through the entire NL, it’s pretty remarkable how many teams have improved their roster over last year, or at least remained flat:

  • The Cubs would be one of those flat teams, in my opinion. Given the construction of the roster, they pretty much would have had to add a truly impactful bat and/or an elite reliever to feel like they improved from last year – it’s a little easier to “improve” when you have more obvious open roster spots. Nevertheless, I’d feel a helluva lot better about the offseason at this point if the Cubs would just make sure to go out and get an excellent defensive veteran back-up catcher. Please. I beg you.
  • Telling on myself:

  • Maldonado is the best (and priciest) option out there, and probably finds a starter job yet. But even if not him, then give me Nick Hundley or A.J. Ellis or Rene Rivera. Come on, man. As we’ve said ceaselessly, the ability to get Willson Contreras more regular rest (and have him work with a veteran who is an excellent receiver) would seem to have a dramatically positive impact on *his* ability to be the best version of Contreras. Throw in the benefit of having an elite receiver catching 25% of the games, and it’s win-win. I don’t dislike Victor Caratini at all – I just don’t know that he’s ready/right to be a big league back-up catcher. That’s a very particular role that is challenging for a young, hungry, unestablished guy to take on.
  • Relatedly-ish: Say what you will of the Cubs offseason, but can we STOP saying they “blew” a 5-game lead last year? The Cubs went 15-12 in September, a .556 winning percentage (same as Braves won the East), at a time where they were roasted by a brutal schedule. The Cubs didn’t “blow” it. Brewers *won* it.
  • Spring Training offers a nice opportunity to catch up with folks you’ve played with before – even if they’re from another country:

  • On the passing of baseball legend, and transformational figure, Frank Robinson:

  • Sure feels like this is one of the biggest “miss” areas for the Cubs in the current era. They’ve done very well on their big-money IFA signings and their top draft picks, but finding those BREAKOUT guys in the late rounds or for minimal bonuses? Those true diamonds in the rough? The Cubs really haven’t had success. Of course, by definition, it’s hard to bust out too many superstars from among the groups that are underscouted and low cost, but occasionally, you’ve gotta do it. And it has been done:

  • Well, you sold me:

  • I want to see a Cubs reliever bust out the celebratory glove spike on a big inning-ending strikeout:

  • This is also fun, but let’s not give Joe West any ideas:

  • A happy and artful birthday to Joe Maddon:

  • This works on a lot of levels:

  • Here’s hoping both the Cubs and GOT rebound from sub-par offerings. Yup. I said it.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.