The Rundown: Veteran Cubs Have Serious Swagger, Epstein Talks Rules Changes, Celebrate Responsibly This Weekend
The city of Boston started the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America beginning in 1737. However, I have yet to confirm that that is where the saying “Show me your shamrocks“ was originally coined. Or Kiss me, I’m Irish, for that matter (link is my favorite SNL skit, btw).
Now that we are firmly entrenched into the spirit of the weekend, let’s get down to business.
I’m loving me some Yu Darvish this spring. He was a little shaky in the 1st inning yesterday and struggled with his fastball, but then settled down and was outstanding, finishing with five strikeouts in four innings of work. He said he felt good by the time he finished and admitted he’s where he needs to be at this point in camp.
Over four innings of work on Thursday, Yu Darvish appeared to be returning to top form for the #Cubs pic.twitter.com/rklaXQdT08
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) March 15, 2019
Is it just me, or do veterans Darvish, Kris Bryant, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have some serious swagger this spring? Theo Epstein has noticed, as he told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com yesterday. Epstein is always a great interview.
“I think I’ve been really impressed by everybody’s attitude. The players had really productive off-seasons. I think nobody was happy with the way last season ended and I think they’ve shown up with a real seriousness about their work, and they know that if we want to get where we want to go this year, that we need to show up every single day. That’s not coming from us, per se. That’s coming from within the player group and it’s really important for them to be the type of team that’s going to be a tough out every single day.”
Epstein also touched on baseball’s new rules changes in the interview.
Who’s ready for the season to start? It would be insanity to think the Cubs win 100 games this year but they sure feel like they could. I’ll drink a green beer to that.
Cubs News & Notes
- Per Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, there’s a sense that Epstein and Joe Maddon are in a better place ($) after a much-needed cooling-off period following last season’s second-half offensive collapse and Game 163 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
- The team’s rotation looks about as good as any in the National League, and Lester remains the group’s vocal and symbolic leader.
- The bullpen is a different matter, though Epstein said he does not “foresee anything significant at all” in terms of new acquisitions and added that he is confident in the team’s existing depth.
- Perhaps Craig Kimbrel might make sense as a mid-season acquisition, should the elite closer still be a free agent come mid-June.
- Maddon wouldn’t commit to using Carl Edwards Jr. as closer if Brandon Morrow (elbow) and Pedro Strop (hamstring) are both unavailable to begin the season. Steve Cishek could see some save opportunities while Strop and Morrow mend.
- As far as the new rules changes go, Maddon isn’t exactly thrilled about the three-batter minimum for pitchers to be implemented next season. Ever the chess player, I’m sure Papa Joe feels his creativity will be somewhat stifled.
- The rule change could be a huge mistake for MLB. That’s not a link to the Arrested Development catchphrase, but this is.
- Cubs left-handed reliever Brian Duensing believes the role of a lefty relief specialist is near extinction with the new ruling.
- Last year Willson Contreras stated that he felt he could be league MVP. His aspirations for this year are more peripherally tempered.
- Daniel Descalso is struggling at the plate and battling a bum left shoulder.
- 2018 first-round pick Nico Hoerner has a 2.194 OPS this Spring and may be aggressively promoted to Double-A Tennessee to start the season.
- The Cubs and White Sox are eyeing different goals as the start to the season draws near. The White Sox hope to steadily improve while the Cubs intend to maintain the standard of success they’ve set since 2015.
- As far as after-market ticket sales, the Cubs are the fourth most in-demand team according to StubHub That the Giants are ranked higher than Chicago seems somewhat puzzling.
Spring Training Notes
Despite the new rules changes, the real heavy lifting toward solving baseball’s many issues is still to come.
One change that hasn’t been talked about much could affect two-way players such as Shohei Ohtani. Starting in the 2020 season, players can only be designated as two-way on the roster if they have pitched in 20 innings and hit in 20 games. Each game considered a non-pitching game must include at least three plate appearances.
Carlos González is the last remaining major free agent who’s not a pitcher, and Rockies fans aren’t happy about that. González has a career .851 OPS.
The rebirth of a wicked changeup by Justin Verlander is proof that the veteran righty is as dominant as ever.
Carlos Rodon is finally healthy and looking like a top-of-rotation starter for the White Sox.
Astros starter Collin McHugh ripped into the White Sox for starting prized OF prospect Eloy Jimenez in the minors.
Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo has been incentivized to join this year’s home run derby thanks to a $1 million prize for the champion. That’s more than Gallo makes in salary. “He will make people look stupid in this,” said teammate Nomar Mazara.
Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is up for the challenge of replacing Bryce Harper in right field and as the number three hitter in Washington’s lineup.
Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is really on a tear this spring.
Reds pitcher Sonny Gray hurled three scoreless innings against the Dodgers yesterday. I think we should just call him Sonny Red from now on.
In that spirit, I hope Bartolo Colon signs soon. Big Sexy is also baseball’s Big Kahuna, right?
The Irish Rovers are a holiday staple every St. Patrick’s Day, but so are roving checkpoints by your local police force. I shouldn’t have to remind you not to drive this weekend if you decide to partake in festivities that include adult beverages. In an age where you can order a taxi, Lyft, or Uber from the convenience of your mobile device, it is ultimately the poorest of poor decisions if you decide to drive your car (or motorcycle, yikes) after drinking alcohol. I don’t want to get all Nancy Reagan on you, but just say no. A first DUI offense in Illinois is considered a felony with mandatory jail time. Oh yeah, you might also kill yourself or somebody else.
Milwaukee prohibits sobriety checkpoints by law. Things get a little messier in and around Wrigley Field every year. Use common sense and travel with a sober driver.
Friday Walk Up Song(s)
You get two today. Consider it your lucky pot o’ gold.
The Unicorn Song by The Irish Rovers – Back in the day we used to spend St. Patrick’s Day at TC’s Pub in Oak Lawn, where Chicago legends Terry & Whitey would perform Irish music all day long. This was an annual staple, and despite a heavily-skewed White Sox crowd that numbered 200-300 every year, it was always a great time. Do you know the Unicorn Dance? If you do, you’re cool with me.
Green River by Credence Clearwater Revival – A noted St. Patrick’s custom in Chicago for the dyeing of the Chicago River, a tradition that started in 1961. They got the idea from public works engineers who would dye the river green to look for sewer discharges. Many say the river is already green, so why dye it? Utter nonsense. Not utter nonsense: The Chicago River is the only river in the world that flows backward. Look it up.
Feel free to disregard, but…in the 1970s my grandmother used to buy me Green River Soda every year for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago. The drink was developed in 1919 by the Schoenhofen Brewery of Chicago as a non-alcoholic product for the Prohibition era. It was a hit as a soda fountain syrup, trailing only Coca-Cola in popularity throughout the Midwest. The name of the CCR song (and album) Green River was inspired by the drink, according to John Fogerty.