Spring Training is underway for the Chicago Cubs. Pitchers and catchers have reported to camp and its only 13 days before Opening Day in the Cactus League.
For the first time this decade and under Ricketts family ownership, there is excitement and expectation surrounding the Chicago Cubs. The narrative has changed. It’s no longer just about the future for the Cubs. It’s time for the team to win games at the highest level while continuing player development and working toward being a perennial contender.
Joe Maddon is the 54th skipper in franchise history, and the fifth since 2010. Maddon brings more change to the organization with a new voice in a manager that has a proven track record and knows how to put his players in position to win games. The players will get a fresh start with Maddon and his staff and at the same time, Maddon has said the entitlement program is over. Players will have to earn playing time and prove they belong at the big league level.
Projections and predictions have been made for the 2015 version of the Chicago Cubs, now it’s time for the team to get to work.
A series of reports leading up to the first full squad workout of the spring will be posted that focuses on the storylines of the spring for what should be an exciting team to watch, and follow, this season.
Joe Maddon and the Coaching Staff
For the fifth time since the 2010 season, there will be a new manager calling the shots for the Cubs along with a revamped coaching staff. Joe Maddon said the most important thing for him early in camp is to build relationships with his players and gain their trust.
While he has a bigger than life personality, Maddon is all about winning and putting his players in the best position to do so. Maddon will deflect a lot of pressure from the players with the media and his antics that helps keep the clubhouse loose will often be the focus, especially when the team is struggling.
Maddon basically brought Dave Martinez with him from Tampa. And the two baseball lifers have zero ties to the players and will be able to provide the tough love, honest conversation and criticism players need in order to eventually succeed. Martinez will also help teaching the players the nuances of playing the outfield, especially at Wrigley Field.
Brandon Hyde moved from the dugout to first base coach, but will run camp as Maddon gets to know his players in order to make the proper evaluations that simply cannot be done by just watching video.
Chris Bosio, Lester Strode, Mike Borzello and Henry Blanco will have their hands full with 33 pitchers and five catchers. And getting the unit to mesh will be one of the keys to the Cubs early season success. Bosio has just as loud a voice in the organization as anyone and for the first time he will have talent to work with and mold, not just preparing certain pitchers for the first half of the season to maximize their value to the organization.
While the Cubs have had a turnstile at manager for the entire decade, the team has seemingly changed hitting coaches just as often. John Mallee is the Cubs’ fourth hitting coach under the current regime and for the third time in three years the team will have an entirely different tandem coaching the hitters. Anthony Rizzo built a rapport with Eric Hinske last season and was able to apply advice Hinske gave him about hitting lefties. Mallee and Hinske will oversee the development of some of the best young hitters in the game. It will take time but helping those players reach their potential offensively at the highest level will set the foundation for the Cubs success for the next several years.
Joe Maddon depends on his coaches and delegates responsibilities. It’s his job to manage the team and the players, not the coaches. How quickly the coaching staff gets on the same page with Maddon will trickle down to the players’ success on the field.
Health and Avoiding the Injury Bug
Spring Training stat lines for veterans, and pretty much every player, are irrelevant. A player’s approach at the plate or locating his pitches are what is important during the exhibition season. It’s a cliché for a reason, but as long as the player is able to get his work in that’s all that really matters for the next six-plus weeks.
As camp opens, there have not been any reports of players dealing with any injuries or even aches or pains.
Unlike the previous three Spring Trainings, the front office has provided its manager with depth, not only with the pitching staff, but at every position. Health of the roster, especially to certain players, will be keys this spring in order for the Cubs to avoid repeating the last three Aprils.
This time last year the team’s media rights were up in the air. The Cubs did not have a radio or TV partner for the games televised on WGN or broadcast on WGN Radio past the end of the season. The business side is still working on the streaming issues and local carriers for games previously available on WGN America that are in markets that fall under Major League Baseball’s blackout territories. But, for the most part, this spring it’s all about Wrigley Field with Cubs radio on WBBM and the TV package divided between Comcast SportsNet, ABC-7 and WGN-TV Ch. 9.
Another legal hurdle was jumped Thursday when the Judge denied the two rooftops’ owners request for a temporary restraining order. The next court date is March 23, the team’s only scheduled off day on the Cactus League schedule.
The left and right field bleachers are behind schedule, but both should be opened by late May. Installation of the left field video board should begin very soon in order for it to be ready by Opening Night. And the team needs for the board to operational by April 5 for more than one reason.
An announcement has not been made if there have been further delays with the ongoing projects at Wrigley Field. Those questions will increase the middle of next month around the time the countdown to Opening Day hits the two-week mark.
2015 Cubs Spring Training Previews
- Cubs Baseball Begins, Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training
- Starting Pitchers
- Relief Pitchers
Spring Training has just begun and it should be an interesting as well as fun six and a half weeks of practice as the Cubs prepare for the season. Up next in the Storylines of the Spring reports, the pitching staff.