Rambling on the Eve of the Beginning

One day. One day away. It is such a good feeling. And after a week of done deals, not so done deals, possible federal regulations violations and a way-to-healthy dose of speculation, it is almost time to throw the ball and catch the ball and hit the ball, and for Tony Campana, run around the bases … fast.

So, let’s celebrate the beginning of the Spring Training and prepare ourselves to hear “Hope springs eternal” way too many times by doing some rambling. Jump in below. Let’s have a great talk today, you guys.

  • As I wrote last week, you just have to love the hot stove. A few nights ago, the Cubs had a deal in place and Jorge Soler had agreed with the Cubs.
  • Then, rumors began swirling the Cubs had violated a federal regulation by having a deal in place with Soler because he had not officially become a Dominican resident.
  • Now it is all up in the air and the Phillies and Yankees are the frontrunners. So, basically, he will sign with the Marlins. Especially because the Marlins said they had no interest in him.
  • The incessant hating of Ricketts is near-sighted, idiotic and unfair. Also, I must clarify this. He has not raised ticket prices for two years. They went down last year. For those that keep saying this, you are absolutely and entirely wrong.
  • Stop using lies to make an already ridiculously weak and obnoxious case.
  • Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.
  • I really hope Marlon Byrd is gone by April. I have nothing against Byrd, and I value his heart and hustle a ton. You don’t see that much anymore. However, unless he completely falters in the spring, B-Jax time has arrived.
  • If anyone from Vineline is reading this, please hire Ben Miraski. You would be doing yourself a favor. His contributions to the CCO have been great, and he has the experience you require.
  • ONE DAY.
  • That has so many meanings when it comes to the Cubs.
  • No one player can turn everything around. Especially an unproven teenager from Cuba. We should remember this.
  • That said, I would be stoked if the Cubs were to make a splash and sign the 19-year-old.
  • I swear, if Fukudome hits .310 and knocks in 75 runs, I am going to get really angry. Like “George is getting upset” level of angry.
  • RIP, Gary Carter. A true gentleman and ambassador of the game. I may not have liked the Mets, but I always respected Gary Carter.
  • And maybe it is because he resembled the main character in the often forgotten Gary Coleman baseball classic “The Kid from Left Field.”
  • If you haven’t seen that movie, hop on Amazon, make a purchase, and dust off the VCR. Fantastic stuff.
  • I have a weird desire for Alfredo Amezaga to make the team. I cannot explain it. It just exists. It’s like my crush on Michelle Tafoya, I can’t explain it, it just exists.
  • And trust me, if you make fun of me for the latter, you won’t be saying anything I haven’t heard from my friends for the past few years.
  • As the weeks go by, it becomes more realistic that Garza signs an extension with the Cubs. And the media seems to feel that way as well. Which all means he will be traded by the end of Spring Training.
  • Okay, I know this is a ridiculous statement. I know it. But for as bad as the Cubs are going to be, the NL Central is going to be atrocious. I would have to put my money on the Reds right now.
  • Think about it. The Cardinals lost Pujols, LaRussa and Duncan. All three are huge blows. Brewers lost Prince and possibly Braun for 50 games. The Pirates are improving, but imploded after the All-Star Break and the Astros are awful.
  • So just in time for Spring Training, let’s start chugging that Cubbie Kool-Aid!!

Let’s hear your thoughts on the NL Central and things Cubs below. Also, if you have an off-the-wall or rather odd crush, please share that as well, if only to make me feel better.

And until next time …

Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!

Quote of the Day

"What scares me is what scares you. We're all afraid of the same things." - John Carpenter

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  • Michael

    Complete side note: AJ Burnett apparently vetoed a trade to LAA, don’t know why but just thought it was interesting.

    • ldsteam2011

       His family is on the east coast, and his wife does not like to fly.  So he does not want to go to any teams on the west coast.

  • Tony_Hall

    Great Rambling!  Now lets Play Ball!

  • Mojo

    Atrocious yes, but somehow the Cardinals will win the World Series again. Sometime in September, Bud Selig will announce the new playoff format which is him drawing a name out of a hat. It will be St. Louis, a 68-win team, and they will win the WS. That’s pretty much what happened last year.

    • coolpdxcubsfan

      Sorry, NO WAY!

    • paulcatanese

      Watch out for the Pirates.

  • cubs1967

    ticket prices are higher since ricketts took over; fact is they are not lower from when zell owned the team or the tribune.  season tix are higher as well.
    some tix have gone up 3 years.(cards-white sox brewers tix have not gone down).  there are now $200 bleacher tix prices only available to groups.

    cubs tickets remain top 3 in baseball.

    saying otherwise is wrong.

    here are 4 articles that show ticket prices over the years.
    only in 2012 was there a across the board lowering of prices.

    the 1st one show prices from 1991 to 2009.
    2nd article shows prices for 2010.
    3rd one shows prices for 2011.
    4th, for 2012.

    http://www.thecubdom.com/features/cubs_ticket_prices.html

    http://archive.chicagobreakingsports.com/2009/12/cubs-raising-ticket-prices-on-prime-seats-for-2010.html

    http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?
    ymd=20101008&content_id=15517114&vkey=news_chc&c_id=chc

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-10-14/sports/chi-cubs-announce-ticket-pricing-for-2012-20111014_1_ticket-prices-bleacher-seats-bleacher-ticket

    • Tony_Hall

      BREAKING NEWS……major sports teams raise their ticket prices over time…..BREAKING NEWS…….

      120,000 people on the season ticket waiting list….yeah, name me one business owner that would lower the prices with 120,000 on a waiting list….Tom Ricketts did….interesting.

      Right from one of the articles.  
      “Kenney said that up to 25 percent of the platinum tickets sold are then re-sold to a secondary market like Stub Hub or scalpers for twice the face value, or more, which led to the decisions to increase the prices for those types of seats. 

      “We understand our season-ticket holders, in particular, use the secondary market as a way of underwriting their ticket purchases,” he said. “It’s a fact of life. We’re over that. That’s fine. So we did the $5 (average) increase on those premium games as a way of trying to push the burden of our ticket-price increase on those games, leaving the ticket prices flat for most of our games, for most of our seats.

      “The Cubs are also creating about 700 more season tickets, most of which belonged to the team’s former owners, Tribune Co. Current season-ticket holders will get a chance to relocate, based on seniority.Kenney said the current season-ticket waiting list is at around 120,000. He said there would be new season tickets sold in the bleachers, although no exact amount was given.

      Currently there are about 75 season tickets held by bleacherites, and none have been available for years.”

      AND

      “The good news for Cubs fans is that bleacher seats have been reduced by an average of 10.3 percent for individual games, the Cubs said, and by 14.3 percent for bleacher season ticket holders.”

      • cubtex

        Bleacher seats will be the best place to sit whenever Dempster,Volstad,Maholm and Wood pitch……Alot of chances to catch home run ball :)

        • Tony_Hall

          We will see how it goes…you do know that is not the rotation of the next Cubs playoff team…right?

      • paulcatanese

        All I can say Tony, is the Cubs have amazing fans, they keep coming back again and again.
        I really think its due more to Theo and group coming over than the team at this point.
        They finally believe this is a positive move and are looking forward to a winner. Even as they may fail this year, they are putting thier hopes towards the future.
        Can’t knock it, I’ve been doing that for over 65 years, waiting for next year.
        Many things to be done,and many bridges to cross, lets hope it gets done.

        • GaryLeeT

           The fans keep coming back, because they have so much invested. After 2 hours and $300 in quarters, we’re sure that the odds are now in our favor. The next pull is going to get us that jackpot.

        • Brp921

          I agree with you Paul, but not because of Theo coming over, but because Theo is doing things the way I have felt they should be done. That is rebuilding the team from the bottom up. Build a good foundation and spend money on the big time free agents when you feel they can put you over the top. I am happy to wait a couple of years now since that’s the case.

      • Henry

        anyone know where that 120,000 number stands at the moment.  A friend was hovering around the 6000 mark for the last 5 years.  He now has season tickets.  The list appears to be dwindling fast!

        • Tony_Hall

          As of 1 minute ago – 114,317

          The number will always move fast, as many people put there name down, but when the time comes (and the bill), they just can’t do a full-season ticket.

      • cubs1967

        Thanks for the know-it-all nothing rant. I never said Ricketts could not increase tix prices; I just said he did and proved it with facts.(see 4 articles). The rambling blog post said they had not gone up; which is wrong. They have; in some form every year. 2012 they are lower; but there are $125-200 bleacher tix for groups only; so again; in some form prices are up. Didn’t say not allowed; just they are’ cause Brian’s statement is an inaccurate fact.
        Just like the payroll is estimated  this year at $107M; 38M lower from when Ricketts took over or about 28%. He can do that and did.
        Just like the team can be worse each year he owned it; they have the 1st 2 yrs (see W-L record) and they will this year; but the facts are TIX prices have gone up; that’a fact.
        And that’s what I said in my post.
        God knows what you were responding too; your know it all nothing rant proves just that; nothing.
        Grass is green, sky is blue; those are facts too; deal with it.

        • Tony_Hall

          It actually wasn’t much of a rant, the majority were direct quotes from the articles you linked.

          It is good to know that you knew these were for you:

          “The incessant hating of Ricketts is near-sighted, idiotic and unfair. Also, I must clarify this. He has not raised ticket prices for two years. They went down last year. For those that keep saying this, you are absolutely and entirely wrong.”

          “Stop using lies to make an already ridiculously weak and obnoxious case.”

    • Brian

       Sir, you argument is that he “keeps” raising ticket prices.  Yes, the prices are higher than when he purchased the team.  However, last year season-ticket prices actually went down, and this year they remained level.  Post whatever you want, but these are the facts. 

  • Tony_Hall

    Jim Bowden’s grading of the National League teams off-seasons.

    http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/the-gms-office/post?id=3443 

    Chicago Cubs – Grade: B+

    Key Transactions: Acquired 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates from San Diego for RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na; acquired LHP Travis Wood, OF Dave Sappelt and IF Ronald Torreyes from Cincinnati for LHP Sean Marshall; acquired 3B Ian Stewart and RHP Casey Weathers, from Colorado for Colvin and LeMahieu; acquired RHP Chris Volstad from Florida for Zambrano and cash; signed OF David DeJesus, two years, $10 million; signed LHP Paul Maholm, one year, $4.75 million; signed RHP Kerry Wood, one year, $3 million; signed LHP Gerardo Concepcion, $7 million guaranteed deal. 

    Bowden’s Take 

    The signing of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod as the club’s new baseball brain trust was the best move of the offseason by any team. The Cubs now have a clear plan and direction. The new administration had a solid first offseason with the trades for quality prospects and young players who have fallen off a bit but still have upside. The Cubs wanted to get more left-handed, improve their defense and add more starting pitching depth to their roster and they accomplished all three.

    • cubtex

      I hear Bowden quite a bit and his grading is basically based on the suits.

      Let me ask you this………..How much have the Cubs improved their defense?????

      DeJesus vs Fuko….I will be fair with you and call it a push but I would grade Fuko as a slight upgrade due to his arm.

      Stewart vs ARam…….Upgrade Stewart.

      LaHair vs Pena…….Huge downgrade! Pena is excellent around the bag and good at picking throws out of the dirt. LaHair is very average over at 1st.

      Soriano is still in left, Byrd still in CF, Castro still at SS,Barney still at 2B and Soto still at C.

      They did not accomplish improving the defense this offseason.

      • Anthony

        tex, agree, hard for anyone to argue against your summary

        they are stuck with Soriano, Byrd is OK, and I have expressed the SS issue several times, so let Theo see it for himself

      • paulcatanese

        Do I forsee third base for someone soon?:)

        • J Daniel

          Paul,
          We all know that Castro is best suited for third :)

      • gary3411

         Castro will be better. Barney will be better. Those are both upgrades. On Stewart and LaHair, yes Pena is a bigger upgrade, but third base is also a MUCH more demanding defensive position than first base. So I would call that a wash. Fukudome will be 35 this year, hard to imagine his defense will not taper off, while Dejesus is still young enough to hopefully stay the same. Soriano can’t get much worse. Byrd lost weight so he may be even better, but probably the same.

        With those opinions, I think the Cubs defense will be much improved this year. We will see though, but I’d be willing to put money on it they will be.

        • cubtex

          Improved defense does not only mean less errors. Runners will go 1st to 3rd more on DeJesus since he doesn’t throw well. LaHair will not get to balls Pena did nor scoop as many balls out of the dirt. Barney doesn’t turn the double play well at all. Of course Castro will improve but that is not an offseason move…..I am talking about offseason improvements but with a young infield…..I disagree about 3b being more important than 1B. Pena saved a lot of errors last year on throws fron ARam,Castro,Barney and the pitchers.

          • gary3411

             The defense is improved, that’s the bottom line.

            Losing Pena was inevitable, so there wasn’t anything we could do about that. Everywhere else we are better or the same.

            We could have gotten a loafer to play RF and 3B, but we didn’t.

            There is no way to reproduce Pena’s defense, so that can’t be thrown on them, unless keeping Pena another year is what you were hoping for?

            So, in all other areas we improved or stayed the same. RF is debatable, and I havn’t seen Dejesus full-time yet to give a reliable opinion, but it’s hard to imagine his arm is THAT much worse than Fukudome. Let’s say teams take 3rd on us maybe 2 or 3 more times more than they would have with Fukudome in right, that’s not the biggest of deals to me. Fukudome’s arm was never impressive to me, especially not for a RF.

      • Tony_Hall

        And I fully expected them to field a World Series caliber team with what they inherited and the free agents available :)

        You are still looking at what is left over and not seeing the whole picture of them turning over this roster.

        It is not about putting the absolute best team possible for 2012 on the field, at the expense of the future years.  It is about fielding as competitive a team as possible, while not affecting the future years development.  

        I don’t expect Soriano and Byrd to be around all year, and I don’t expect Lahair to play 1B all year.  

        Give them a chance to use 2012 to finish turning over this roster and giving the young guys the chance to come up and get going.

        • cubtex

          No Tony….I was not questioning fielding a ws caliber team, I am questioning the talk of improved defense. It goes without saying what Gary mentioned that Castro will improve…..I am talking about the NEW additions. I really don’t see it. That was my point. The defense has not been addressed this offseason.

          • Tony_Hall

            Stewart over ARam 2012 wins

            Pena over Lahair or Rizzo 2011 wins

            DeJesus/Fukudome – flip a coin (but I’ll take DeJesus :) – even 

            Barney and Castro should be improved. 2012 wins

            BJax will be better than Byrd at some point. 2012 wins

            Soriano will be relieved an awful lot this year, so that has to be an improvement. 2012 wins

            The bench will be improved, I hope, but we will have to wait and see who takes the final spots.  I’m still holding out hope of Barney being the other infielder on the bench with Baker and not the starter at 2B. 2012 wins

            Catcher Soto and anybody will better defensively than Soto and Hill (for a defensive minded catcher he really wasn’t that good) – 2012 wins.

            Overall, I do expect this team to play better fundamental baseball on defense this year, as I expect Sveum and Company to have the players better prepared than Q Ball’s crew ever could do.

          • gary3411

             They said defense was going to be emphasized not the number one concern, meaning they weren’t going to sign loafers for the open positions (RF, 3B, and 1B). They didn’t. Like Tony said, 1B is still in the air and I expect Rizzo to be there eventually in 2012 and he’s supposed to be decent defensively.

            You can’t get better than Pena at first, so not sure what was expected there.

            They will be better defensively in 2012 than 2011. They improved the defense by not making it worse through the reasons Tony and I explained.

            They never said, every position we have a new starter in 2012 will be better than that particular position in 2011. Overall, they are better, for what they had to work with and by not tarnishing the future.

          • daverj

            I agree with you that the defense isn’t any better, but I think the plan is to improve the defense long term, not necessarily in 2012.  To me the goal of this offseason was (1) to shed some of the bad apples in the clubhouse and on the field, (2) to pick up additional draft picks, (3) to sign international free agents, (4) to sign a big time free agent if, and only if, the price and years were reasonable, and (5) to add lottery ticket type players who are cheap but have a few years of control and a chance (albeit a low chance) of big upside.

          • cubtex

            Yes I agree….but they need to quit saying how much the defense has improved. If it did improve…..it is not significant enough to mention as a strength.

          • daverj

            Agreed.  I’m with you on that.

          • Tony_Hall

            Who are “they”?  

            This started because a reporter said they had.

          • cubtex

            This is not the first time that this has been mentioned. It has been said on this site and several other sites on how the defense has been improved. Again….I don’t agree.

        • J Daniel

          EXACTLY!  The thing was such a mess it will take a bit of time.  Personally I think a very good job was done this off season but time will tell.

      • paulcatanese

        Not only did they not really improve the defense, but the pitching will put even more balls in play, increasing the chances to expose the guys on the field.

        Little addition, you’re son must be chomping at the bit in his senior year to get going next fall, hope he has a great senior year.

        • cubtex

          Great point Paul! Volstad, Maholm and T Wood do not miss alot of bats. Alot of balls will be put in play so we will see. Yep, my son and daughter are pumped for track season. First meet tomorrow. It’s nice that he has his college choice out of the way so he can enjoy his senior year and put up some fast times!

  • John G

    Always love your rambling on Fridays. Good job Brian.
    Have to agree with you on the negativity. Sometimes I think Eeyore (remember him? From Winne the Pooh?) is posting on here under a couple of screen names.
    Crushes?? Valerie Bertinelli … most definitely.

    • Redlarczykg

      MY signon at my last job was Eeyore for almost 20 years.  Being a Cub fan for over 50 years I tended to expect bad things to happen.  The Eeyore signon was to remind me each day not to think like that.

      But I have to ask.  How bad will the Cubbie’s be this year?

      Maybe real bad, but I do look forward to this!

      Seeing the kids play!   Jackson, Risso, Beliveau, Castillo, Clevenger, Dolis and old man LaHair.

  • paulcatanese

    If Fukudome hits .310 and drives in 75 runs, we all need to keep an eye on Rip.:)

    • John_CC

       I won’t lose any sleep worrying about that.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    According to the transactions page on Cubs.com, Blake DeWitt has cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa

    • Redlarczykg

      Greg Maddox will be disappointed.

    • Ripsnorter1

      He might make the club this ST, too.

    • J Daniel

      Thank goodness!

  • Ripsnorter1

    Can somebody tell me why the Pirates wanted A.J. Burnett? He’s owed $31.5 million, and the Pirates are paying only $13 million. Zambrano was a much better deal…..

    He can’t pitch anymore. IN-CREDIBLE!

    IDONTGETIT.

    • daverj

      Burnett and Z have a much different history when it comes to potential attitude problems.

      • cubtex

        Did you read that Z says he has been clocked at 97 this winter? I doubt that he is up to 97 but I am sure he has a chip on his shoulder this year and will pitch well.

        • J Daniel

          That is why I think they should have kept him until the deadline.  Pitch better or go to Boise (which I know is not possible but wish it was).

  • Anthony

    Who is taking their ball home so the sandlot game ends?

    A Princeton grad, a known egomaniac, and suspect of the following:

    “Controversy surrounds L L as being the source of leaking information to Dan Shaugnessy in a 2005 article smearing Theo Epstein, as well as a 2011 Article smearing Terry Francona”

    A Yale grad, aka Theo, decides to leave a poisonous situation.

    These two couldn’t solve the Comp issue, and it IS PERSONAL, some yellow line in the IVY League sand being drawn like little boys fighting…lol

    Then, they bail and defer the decision to a Used Car Dealer?

    Its a sad comedy

  • paulcatanese

    I just want to throw this out there, I have seen Ashburn, Brock, and Wills run. Without a doubt in my mind I think Camapna is faster than all three. What the other three had was experience and smarts on the bases and were better base runners at this point, but not faster.
     They knew how to read pitchers and get a good jump. If Campana can ever put it together to get on base and absorb what those guys had he will break all records.Henderson was fantastic, but again he knew what he was doing all of the time and used it to his advantage.
    Head to head Campana is faster than all of them.