Two Down, One Hundred Ninety-Three to Go: Cubs Baseball is Underway
The unadulterated joy begat by those first live innings of spring baseball is certainly intoxicating, but even setting some of that aside I’m not sure I have the tolerance to keep up with this team for another seven months. But I guess I’d rather be drunk on the Cubs than Mixx-tails, so let’s run with it.
Remember when watching this team was almost a nuisance, when we could casually tune in with flippant insouciance? Well not any more, if you want my two cents. They’ve got guys coming up who were recently students, and when you add in the vets you’ve got quite a real movement.
In the past with the Cubs that would mean of the bowels, and the pain of watching elicited yowls. But those who’d said “I’d rather not” have changed to “Let’s do this,” though I’ll pump the brakes now that my prose has gone Seuss-ish.
Okay, so that was…well, it was something. Then again, so was Day 1 of seeing the Cubs in uniform against another major league team, or two, also in uniform. The first takes are the hottest, so I’m hoping to get these little nuggets of Cubbish goodness out while they’re still steaming.
Happy birthday, indeed
There was a time when people questioned the Cubs’ selection of a husky-looking dude who most felt would have to move from behind the dish. Besides, he played ball and Indiana, and it wasn’t the brand they practice at Assembly Hall — though that’s actually a mark in his favor at this point.
All Kyle Schwarber has done since being drafted fourth overall in 2014 is tend Japanese rock gardens. That is, if you consider .344/.428/.634 with 18 homers and 53 RBI in only 72 games across three minor league levels raking.
Sure, the three-year college vet was facing overmatched pitchers most of the time, but he absolutely destroyed the notoriously stifling Florida State League during the 44 games he played in Daytona. And in his first taste of major league camp, all he did was blast a home run off of the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong. Not Cy Young, but not an 18-year-old kid armed with a cement mixer either.
It may have been Schwarber’s 22nd birthday, but if he can maintain his current pace he’s going to be the gift that keeps on giving to the Cubs. A lefty catcher with loads of raw power and a great hit tool? That’s some white whale stuff, right there.
Orange is the new Black
Cubs fans may have been turning cartwheels on Thursday afternoon, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for those in the Bay Area. That’s because Hunter Pence took a wild Corey Black offering to the left forearm, suffering a nondisplaced fracture that could sideline him for 6-8 weeks.
He’s a gangly, awkward-looking fella who makes me think of Marv the Wet Bandit of Home Alone fame, but I do like watching Hunter Pence play. And given all the joy I spoke of earlier, it sucks to see an injury like this right out of the box, even if Pence does think Game of Thrones is just ‘OK.’
I’ve been carrying Starlin Castro’s jock long enough, so I feel it’s time to provide a bit of support to another player who seems to have polarized the fans a bit. He might be an uppity Connecticutian, but Olt is straight-up country strong, which this former farmboy can appreciate. After all, hicks dig the longball.
And while my pigskin loyalties lie firmly in the Windy City, I suppose my Central Indiana roots might be impacting my adoration of My Colt as well. Whatever the reason, I really want to see this guy succeed. For one, it makes me feel even better about trading away a dude-bro who — along with his wife — is too easily offended by bunts.
More than that, though, I see Olt’s potential success as being important for the Cubs in manifold ways. Have I written about this too much already? Okay, sorry, I’ll move on. But you can rest assured this isn’t the last you’ll hear from me about this guy.
You know it’s not real baseball when…
Players are being shuttled in and out faster than unconfirmed Blackhawks rumors and there’s an agreed-upon 9-inning limit. I get it, but after getting our first real taste of the sport in what feels like forever, seeing a tie is just a sad-trombone “whomp, womp.”
I will call you Number 2
When he made out his lineup card for the home half of the split-squad games, Joe Maddon had his best hitter in the two hole. Yes, slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo was batting between Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro. This obviously isn’t the in-season lineup, but it’s a concept that makes sense.
As Nate Schmidt pointed out earlier, Rizzo was one of the best in the league in terms of OBP. Pairing him with fellow on-base threat Fowler at the top of the order could really jump-start an offense that has struggled to score runs. I trust Uncle Joe to know what’s best for his team in the end, whether that means Rizzo is second, fifth, or anywhere in between.
There are many more takes to be had, but absent either a microwave or a beer, I feel mine are beginning to cool. What were your takeaways from the first set of games? What are you looking for as the spring progresses? Leave your takes below.