I’m thinking about Opening Day.
The days are getting longer and I can watch baseball on TV 24 hours a day, so I know it’s close to the time I can drive around Milwaukee and Chicago with my sunroof open. It would feel a little forced to do that today when it’s 30 degrees outside, regardless of my stage five cabin fever. But it’s sunny out, so I may wash a months worth of salt and mud off my car.
As long as this winter has seemed, spring training is flying by and Opening Day is just 26 days away. Last season, Ian Happ homered on the very first pitch of the baseball season. I can’t wait to see what he does for an encore.
For Cubs fans, that’s a “where were you” moment. I was at Chicken Planet on Van Buren and Wells, ordering lunch. I’ll probably never forget that either.
If you’ve gone to any season opener, what is your best memory.? I have three to share.
- April 6, 1971 Cubs 2 Cardinals 1 – In a 10-inning game that lasted less than two hours, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson both went the distance, with the Cubs winning on a walk-off home run by Billy Williams. It seems like a million years ago, but it was the first Opening Day game I attended with my father, who let me cut school to go to the game as a birthday present. Best birthday ever.
- April 11, 2016 Cubs 5 Reds 3 – The only Opening Night I’ve ever attended and the Cubs didn’t disappoint, scoring all five runs in their last two at-bats. The highlight? Addison Russell hit a three-run tater off of a Jumbo Diaz slider in the bottom of the 8th to give the Cubs a 5-3 lead. Many of the Cubs’ most meaningful wins in 2016 were of the theatrical variety.
- April 12, 2004 Pirates 13 Cubs 2 – It was a slaughter that was over by the top of the 2nd when the Bucs scored five runs off of Greg Maddux in his first start at Wrigley Field as a member of the Cubs since 1992. It was about 29 degrees out with flurries, and by the top of the 3rd I was watching from the warmth of Murphy’s Bleachers. But Mad Dog was back and many of us thought he was the key to getting over the heartbreaking end to 2003 and finally reaching the World Series.
Every year I order a new Cubs jersey to start the season, and though I know a lot of people will rail against me, the only one I ever actually wear in public is the the one that has my own last name sewn across the back. I’m leaning toward getting a Kyle Hendricks jersey in the home whites this year. A good season for me will mean the Cubs win the World Series, but a great season will mean that my girls go to a game with me. They’re not big baseball fans and their only Wrigley Field experiences have been Billy Joel concerts.
Cubs News & Notes
- How much are the Cubs worth right now? If you guessed $2.15 billion you’d be correct. The Ricketts family bought the team for $845 million 10 years ago.
- A high school coach wanted Kris Bryant to be a pitcher. So Bryant switched schools.
- Cubs fans aren’t nearly as annoying as Nicky Delmonico says we are. Are we?
- The Cubs earned a D grade for their offseason moves.
- I think we need to stop the narrative that the Cubs didn’t get Bryce Harper simply because of moves the team made previously. You can’t use that argument when a team has the means to afford a player and simply decides not to. Each year presents a different set of circumstances. For crying out loud, it’s not the end of the world, and very few free agents that get $100 million-plus are ever worth the contracts they are signed to.
- Bryant isn’t fazed that the Cubs didn’t sign Harper, or any other big free agent for that matter. “I’m super happy with the people we’ve got around here,” Bryant said. “It’s important to be happy for what we’ve got here rather than what we didn’t get.” As far as Harper’s deal, the Cubs third baseman said he probably wouldn’t have signed a 13-year deal.
- Mike Montgomery threw his first live batting practice session of the spring yesterday.
- Joe Maddon is no fan of a proposal that would require a pitcher to face a minimum of three batters.
- Jose Quintana used an effective changeup in retiring six of the seven batters he faced in his spring debut against the Diamondbacks, a 10-2 victory for the Cubs. Also of note, Tyler Chatwood didn’t walk a single batter.
- Spring underdog alert: Trent Giambrone, a 25th-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Delta State in Mississippi, is 6-for-13 this spring after a single and RBI double yesterday. The 25-year-old infielder was one of the team’s stars in the Arizona Fall League with an .890 OPS and two homers in 12 games.
- Two players whose contracts might make sense for the Cubs to extend are Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks. Both players say they’d love to stay in Chicago long term but that the Cubs have yet to approach them about extensions.
- Phil Rogers had an oozing hot take on Monday:
No one expected @Cubs’ response to losing Game 163 and WC game would be to make no significant additions or subtractions. Feels sort of like @CubsJoeMadd is being set up to fail but if @faridyu is healthy rotation could be best in NL. KB homer in first AB an omen?
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) February 24, 2019
- Jon Lester has become one of the best interviews on the team. His no-filter approach to team, league and personal analysis is refreshing to say the least.
- Yu Darvish has bulked up this winter and is off to a pain-free start to 2019. Just as important, he finally feels comfortable with the organization, his coaching staff, and teammates.
- Kris Bryant is emerging as a leader of this Cubs team in words and actions. It’s a pleasant surprise. A pissed-off Bryant might terrorize all of baseball with is bat. Look for a peak year from the all-star third baseman.
- No other team had a higher batting average than the Cubs’ .290 mark on pitches 94 mph or faster.
- Willson Contreras has been getting defensive help from his brother William ($), a catching prospect in the Braves organization, per Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
This Week’s Baseball Read
A Season in the Sun: The Rise of Mickey Mantle by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith – The book focuses on Mantle’s 1956 season, the greatest of his career. Mantle helped to re-energize baseball as it faced declining attendance, racial tensions, and economic uncertainties. The Mick won a Triple Crown that season and was the star of the crosstown World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. His OPS+ that season was 210.
A Flick to Pick
For the Love of the Game – The fictional story of Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel, which follows a perfect-game performance by the aging pitcher in what may be the final start of his illustrious career. It’s a romance vehicle as much as it is a sports drama, but highlights include John C. Reilly as offensively-challenged catcher Gus Sinski and J.K. Simmons as cliched manager Frank Perry. Kevin Costner plays the lead character, at times overacting just a tad.
But it is actually Vin Scully who carries the picture. He calls the game, which has a number of factual errors, with the same passion as any Dodgers game he’s ever called. Too bad the writers forgot that Chapel would have had 10-5 rights, and simply could have refused any trade rather than walk away from the game. Maybe that was just his choice.
PS – Scully’s voice gives me goosebumps, the backstory reminds me a lot of my two girls, and the soundtrack is incredibly underrated.
Saturday Walk Up Song
It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock & Roll) by AC/DC – Not an Irish song per se, but it has a killer bagpipe solo and is a staple at every St. Patrick’s Day party I host. Little known fact: this is a great group participation wedding song. Get everybody in a circle and have couples take turns doing a spotlight dance inside.
I’ll add March Rundown songs to a running playlist on Spotify. I’ll post the February link during the week.