The Cubs goal for the season is to win the National League Central Division and play in the post-season for the first time in seven years. And in order to do so, Joe Maddon’s team cannot stumble out of the gate. The Cubs must begin the season on a positive note and post their first winning April since 2008.
Lou Piniella’s crew began the Two-Thousand Eight season 17-10, since then the Cubs have been 10-11, 11-13, 12-14, 8-15, 10-16 and 9-17 during the first month of the baseball calendar.
Buster Olney ranked the early season strength of schedule for the National League. And the Cubs have the third toughest schedule to begin the year.
The Cubs play 23 of their first 39 games against teams with winning records from a year ago. After opening the season with three games against the Cardinals, the Cubs play the Rockies (3) in Denver, Reds (3), Padres (3), Pirates (4) in Pittsburgh, Reds (3) in Cincinnati, Pirates (3), Brewers (3), Cardinals (4) in St. Louis, Brewers (3) in Milwaukee, Mets (4) and Pirates (3) before spending a week in San Diego and Arizona.
Of the 39 games, the Cubs will play 22 of them at Wrigley Field and 17 of the first 39 games are against the Cardinals and Pirates.
Joe Maddon and the coaching staff will use the next three weeks to get the players prepared for when the games actually count. As the cliché goes, pennants aren’t won in April and May but they can certainly be lost.
Joe Maddon’s Post-Game Tweet
Joe Maddon tweeted the following early Thursday morning in response to Wednesday’s victory, “ZD … zero defects today … playing fundamental baseball is always a pleasure to watch … Lester set the tone … sac fly wins it … good stuff.”
Joe Maddon may have not been worried or concerned about his team after the Cubs slipped to 0-6-1 in the Cactus League, but that did not keep him from talking to his players about the mental mistakes prior to Wednesday’s game. And using the team-wide issues as a teaching tool.
Maddon told the beat writers that he explained to the team, “If we’re going to change the culture here, they have to understand when you show up to the ballpark every day, it’s not about survival, it’s about winning. I want them to understand that when it comes to work, the biggest parts are the little things.”
Maddon stressed he was “not denigrating anything in the past” and further explained “the wins will happen if we get the fundamentals.”
Maddon admitted he thought the home runs hit by Soler, Baez and Bryant were “sexy” but he prefers the “non-sexy” plays.
- Full Report from Carrie Muskat
- Full Report from Jesse Rogers
- Full Report from the Sun-Times
- Full Report from Jon Heyman
And Joe Maddon doesn’t like it when his players “pimp” home runs.
When asked about Welington Castillo’s remarks about if Manny Ramirez saw the way he pimped his home run in Tuesday’s loss, Maddon said he did not see Castillo but if he did pimp it then the two need to talk. Pimping home runs does not fall in line with Maddon’s “Respect 90” philosophy. Maddon wants his players to act like they’ve been there before and not show up the other team.
Actor Will Ferrell was added to the Cubs’ Spring Training roster Wednesday night and he will play for the Cubs in Thursday’s game against the Angels in Tempe.
According to the release, Ferrell will make an appearance at five different Spring Training parks Thursday “as production begins on a new HBO special from Funny Or Die.” Ferrell is partnering with Major League Baseball and has dedicated the special to the fight against cancer.
Ferrell is going to play for 10 different teams and spend time at every defensive position.
Bert Campaneris played all nine positions in a game for the Kansas City A’s in 1965 will be with Will Ferrell for part of his trek on Thursday. #FerrellTakesTheField
Game-used equipment and jerseys will be auctioned off on MLB.com and the proceeds will be donated to Cancer for College and Stand Up to Cancer.
Toast to Harry
The 17th Annual Toast to Harry Caray is Thursday night, March 12 (today) at 6:30pm CDT.
Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, River North has a daylong celebration planned to celebrate the Hall of Famer with a Back to the Future theme —> Click here for the details.
Raise a glass to Harry Caray tonight.
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to Rick Sutcliffe, Daniel Bard had another successful simulated game. Sutcliffe tweeted Bard faced left-handed and right-handed hitters, threw a lot of strikes with all three pitches and hit 95-98 mph on the gun.
• Cubs’ sloppy play doesn’t faze Jon Lester according to Comcast SportsNet.
• Miguel Montero caught Jon Lester for the first time in a game Wednesday. After a rough bullpen, Lester was very good for the second time in a week. Lester shook Montero off a couple of times according to ESPN Chicago. Lester pointed out issues he had with his delivery but the key was and always is getting ahead of the batter.
• Speaking of catchers, the Diamondbacks received bad news on Rule 5 Draft pick Oscar Hernandez. The catcher, who was supposed to start the season as Arizona’s backup to Tuffy Gosewisch, broke his hamate bone in his left hand. Hernandez is scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday and will be out four to six weeks. Arizona was one of the teams linked to Welington Castillo since Dave Stewart traded Miguel Montero to the Cubs.
• Former Cubs’ lefty reliever James Russell is dealing with turf toe in Braves camp … Russell is still hoping to be used as a starter according to Mark Bowman.
• The Dodgers were the clear winners of the off-season according to Peter Gammons.
• Sports Illustrated’s Cliff Corcoran preached patience when he took a deeper look at Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant.
• ESPN Chicago asked for reactions in the clubhouse on the three blasts hit By Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant.
And last, but not least, Dexter Fowler tweeted Wednesday that the first thing he and Anthony Rizzo had to do was get a selfie with the home run trio of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs released Aaron Cunningham
2003 – Cubs released Kevin Orie
1996 – Cubs signed free agent Terry Shumpert
1984 – Frankie De La Cruz, born
1971 – Randy Hundley suffered a badly sprained knee. Hundley played in only nine games in 1971 after playing in 160 games in 1968, 151 in 1969 and 73 in 1970.
1964 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Ron Theobald
1957 – Mike Quade, born
1954 – Larry Rothschild, born
1945 – Horacio Pena, born
1939 – Johnny Callison, born
1906 – Bud Tinning, born
1892 – George Maisel, born
1874 – Doc Curley, born
1867 – George Moolic, born