The Rundown: Cactus League Baseball Opens, Suzuki Sidelined with Oblique Issue, Contreras Morphs into Yadi Molina
“Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darlin’, it feels like years since it’s been here.” – George Harrison of The Beatles, Here Comes the Sun
This morning arrived like Christmas for Cubs fans. We’ve opened our customary presents, like today’s starting lineup and pitching announcements, with a great deal of anticipation for the first Cactus League game of the year. Tempe is also hosting a musical event that includes Eddie Vedder to officially kick off the exhibition schedule. Things sure have changed since the days of training on Catalina Island.
Just like death, taxes, and clockwork, MLB renewed my subscription last night, so I’m $150 lighter in a bank account with little more than that to spare. I’m sure it will be worth it when I’m watching a Pirates-Reds tilt later this year. On the plus side, I now have the Marquee Sports Network through my Fubu subscription, which kind of makes me feel like I’m back home in Chicago. I do not get live Cubs baseball, though. Do you all still have CLTV? Remember when the Cubs would air a few games on that unfortunately-named station? Oh for the days of Harry Caray and WGN.
For those who abhor Marquee, it’s better than what the Brewers fans have in Milwaukee. It’s a daily struggle to find who is televising the Brew Crew, but with Brian Anderson as the team’s play-by-play man, I have to admit I don’t spend too much time surfing. The collapse of the Bally RSNs will make that search a little more difficult this season.
But hey, I’m here to talk about Cubs baseball, not the misfortunes of the Brewers. The world would be a much better place if Milwaukee would go back to the American League. Perhaps Rob Manfred can work on that when the league expands to 32 teams. Knowing Manfred, he’ll eliminate leagues “in the interest of the sport” and just have eight, four-team divisions under the guise of MLB. If the goal is to homogenize the sport, Manfred is the perfect architect.
The one takeaway from today’s contest is that David Ross has put together what looks like his Opening Day lineup. Notice I did not say batting order, though I am intrigued by a 1-2 punch of Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson.
I also like Seiya Suzuki at cleanup followed by Trey Mancini, with Ian Happ ahead of the two. Suzuki was scratched, however, due to oblique tightness about an hour before game time. Still, once you finally see the machinations of Chicago’s offseason in a static group of nine it’s pretty impressive. Patrick Wisdom as an afterthought in the eight-hole is an eye-opener. At this time last year, he was considered Chicago’s only source of power. Now he’s the guy you pitch around to get to Yan Gomes.
Chicago Cubs baseball is on the air! Pass the turkey and giblet gravy, please, and thank you.
Cubs News & Notes
- Kyle Hendricks displayed some new mechanics in his recent bullpen session.
- The Professor threw just 10 pitches, but it was his first time toeing the slab since July 5. Baby steps.
- Jameson Taillon stated that “it’s fun” to be a member of the Cubs. He came from the Yankees by way of the Pirates, so that’s no big revelation.
- Ross has been impressed by the work of Nick Madrigal at third base. If Wisdom is considered an eight-hole hitter, I’ve got to believe Madigal has a legit chance to start. Christopher Morel and Edwin Ríos are in the mix too.
- You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to access the content, but Cody Bellinger said hitting coach Dustin Kelly and assistant Johnny Washington are big reasons why the slugging outfielder signed with the Cubs.
- Cubs batters displayed a little bit of power during live batting practice this week, and the defense is apparently as good as advertised.
- Brennen Davis intends to open some eyes at camp this spring.
- James Ogden is the great and mighty wizard pulling the strings behind the improved development of Chicago’s pitchers.
Odds & Sods
Willson Contreras is bound and determined to become a bigger pariah in Chicago than Yadier Molina. I hope he bats .225 and the Cardinals finish in last place. That’s a nice way of avoiding the expletives I’d rather write.
Contreras compares the #STLCards and Cubs organizations: "For me, I like this better. It's a better organization. Old school way, which I love it. … Ever since I got here it's been everything just one way. The Cardinal way." pic.twitter.com/WAOhMYsKwW
— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) February 25, 2023
Climbing the Ladder
“Look up child, the world is born. Shoe’s untied, and your soles are worn.” – Amos Lee, Windows Are Rolled Down
Today marks the start of The Rundown as a seven-day-per-week column. In the past, I’ve had too much content to peruse on Monday mornings when writing. Plus, this is an exciting time to write about the Cubs. The next championship window officially opens today. It’s just a crack right now, but it is open.
The weekend editions will be a little more light and casual. Sundays will strictly be Cubs and baseball notes. I’m also going to write one feature per week. Look for a post on my lifelong love affair with baseball, the Cubs, and Wrigley Field later this week.
Yes, that means you will get me eight days a week.
How About That!
Manny Machado became the first victim of MLB’s new pitch clock.
Oh, those new rules. Embrace the chaos!
Others would rather see the league kick that wretched pitch clock to the curb. If that’s not enough to make you cringe, the specter of robotic umps looms on the horizon.
The Mets, led by Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and a resurgent Jose Quintana, enter the 2023 season with the best rotation in baseball.
Speaking of the Mets, Steve Cohen is the league’s anti-establishment poster boy.
Sliding Into Home
Because Joe Maddon isn’t managing anywhere this year, there will be no St. Baldrick’s charity head-shaving event. I’m looking into options to help raise money for the childhood cancer research facility. I may work something out where I raffle off Cubs bobbleheads. There is no guarantee, but if something pops I will have an announcement later this week.
I’m playing 6-4-3 on Wisconsin’s daily lottery all season.
Oh yeah, that's the stuff. pic.twitter.com/bqtXDm9AiY
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 25, 2023
- The Justin Fields trade rumors won’t fade away, and you shouldn’t completely dismiss them.
- O.J. Simpson hosted Saturday Night Live 45 years ago today. If I am recalling correctly, there was a skit where he tried to destroy Walter Payton using a voodoo doll. Seems a bit eerie in retrospect.
- A woman trapped on a crowded plane next to a passenger consuming an entire tray of barbecue took to social media earlier this week to vent her frustration.
- As of the last U.S. Census count, more people are moving out of Illinois than are coming in. With a mayoral election just a few days away, that can’t be good for incumbent Lori Lightfoot.
- The Mall Food Court is on the endangered species list, but savvy fast food connoisseurs know where to find the best offerings. I wish somebody would bring back the Orange Julius and Great Steak & Potato.
Despite record inflation, Americans are spending like crazy, and it’s kind of puzzling. We are living in a nouveau-Gatsby era.
They Said It
- “[Bellinger] has been able to talk his way through his swing. He understands his body really well and has put a lot of work into it. Some of the things he’s been through the last few years have helped with that as far as tuning in to his body with what he needs, what he needs on a different day. No hitter feels the same every day, no matter how good or bad they’re doing. So his being in tune with his body and knowing that it doesn’t feel right today, but there are still some really good things I can do has really helped him work through some of those.” – Kelly
Saturday Walk-Up Song
Bring on the Giants, and for that matter, the Brewers. We are just 33 days from the season opener.