Thoughts of Spring

You Know Better….

I had spent the afternoon with Neil watching my first Spring Training game ever, as the Cubbies put a beating on the Giants. In the early evening I am doing some grocery shopping with my wife, when I become certain that I must be standing next to a space heater or something, as the inside of my knee feels as if it is on fire. Lo and behold I had applied sun screen to my legs earlier in the day, when I was standing up, but since I sat Indian-style on the lawn all day, the sun ferociously beat down on a fist-sized area of skin that had not received any application of SPF 30 whatsoever. So as I lay on the couch typing this column, and I am stopping every five minutes to apply this green aloe vera gel (ahh….it tingles!) on my leg, I can’t help but notice my wife’s expression out of the corner of my eye: she isn’t saying anything aloud, but I am getting her message loud and clear and I can hear her voice in my head saying….”you know better”.

She is right, as wives inevitably always must be, but for more reasons than just my poor use of sun protection. You see….I should have known better than to have waited this long to see a Cubs baseball game in Arizona, and I definitely should have realized sooner what a great time I was missing out on. The weather was great, the park was much nicer than I had expected, and the people made you feel like you were at a big block party, as everyone seemed to realize that they had a love of the Cubbies in common with each other.

Watching Batting Practice….
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something that all the CCO readers probably already know, which is that we are all very lucky to have such a dedicated and sincere Cubs fan, as Neil is, to be putting in as much time and effort as he does to make this site so great. I always thought I was a pretty big Cubs fan (and, really, I am….) but Neil has such a deep abundance of Cubs knowledge, that during batting practice he graciously put up with all of my questions of “who is that” which I must have asked 20-30 times. Not only could Neil answer the questions but he could tell me how the guy has been doing all Spring as well. I don’t know about some of you guys, but I didn’t realize how much I missed the names on the back of jerseys until today. I was never one to memorize the numbers of players, but that definitely has to change now, as I was constantly trying to figure out who all these new guys were….Buck Coats, Felix Pie, Michael Restovich, and Brandon Sing, etc…. I had heard the names and seen the stats on these guys, but I had never seen them in person yet! Those guys all seemed like big and impressive-looking athletes, and I remarked to Neil that it seemed like the Cubs finally have some position players in the pipeline again. Since Bobby Hill and Hee Sop Choi left, the buzz really only seemed to be about the pitchers in our system. With Cedeno already on the club, and these other guys waiting in the wings, it looks like the Cubs have some legitimate options in the field besides free agency in the next few years, which can free up money for other key areas of the club.

Pitch Counts
I am not sure how many pitches Rich Hill threw in his first two innings, but to say he “threw two shutout innings” would be a bit misleading, as he didn’t seem too sharp. I don’t know what to think of this guy yet, but as I have maintained before, if he isn’t major league-ready very soon, the Cubs would be wise to unload this guy while his value is so high. If Hill doesn’t make the team this year (which isn’t expected to happen) and he doesn’t strike out a ton of players in AAA, like he did last year, then the appearance can be that he has taken a step back in his development. In other words: Hill has set the bar so high in the minors, that he has nowhere to go but down, and that will hurt his psyche as well as hurt the Cubs by devaluing one of their current top assets. I hope I am wrong, but I just don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Rich Hill’s future with the Cubs….

Running the Bases
I have always found that it is hard to compare watching a game in person with watching a game on tv. If you don’t see games in person regularly, then when you are at the park it becomes harder to judge if a ball was really hit hard, if a player is really that fast, and if a pitcher really has great stuff. With that caveat, I did think the Cubs seemed to be aggressive in running the bases yesterday, and they scored a few times in which their players beat the throw home from the outfield. That could just mean that the Giant’s CF was pretty lousy (which seemed to be the consensus in our general vicinity, although different words were used in place of “lousy”) or it could mean the Cubs are making an effort at this Combination Ball style of play. Give the style whatever name/term/description that you want. but if it means the Cubs are hustling. running the bases hard. not swinging at the first pitch. and are….GASP….scoring runs without a homerun being hit, then I am glad to see it!!

Final Thoughts: Kerry Wood
This situation is kind of like that guy that you used to be good friends with in high school, but you went to separate colleges and kind of grew apart, and then when you both graduated you realized he turned into a weirdo and became utterly unreliable and undependable. Finally, with a guy like that, you just give up, and you stop expecting, and hoping, that you will ever regain the friendship that you used to have. You become resigned to the fact that things are different now, and that you have to move on. This is basically what it has come down to with Kerry Wood and his amazingly unfulfilled potential: we just need to forget about him, and if he comes back and is great, then he will be an awesome surprise and a huge lift to the team. If he doesn’t come back, then we aren’t disappointed, as we finally have curbed our expectations with ol’ Woody. Trust me CCO readers….I want Wood to win the Cy Young, too….I just want someone to wake me when he does, as I am tired of being stood up at the altar by this guy. I just wish we could take some chunks out of those giant calves of Mark Prior and shove them in Woody’s elbow joints, shoulder joints, and knee joints, along with some WD-40 and then hopefully this guy will stop breaking down. Well, at least Maddux looks like he wants to win 20 games this year….I would have to say that Maddux has better odds of winning 20 games, in my book, then does Wood, but maybe I am just siding with the guy that went beyond his potential, and against the one that seems to have misplaced it. The Cubs look good….they just need Jerome Williams and Rusch to really step up for at least a month and a half, and we should be in great shape. Thanks again to Neil for a great day at the park, and I hope more CCO readers will be getting out to Mesa each Spring!

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver