Countdown to Pitchers and Catchers: 5 days
Happy Valentine’s Day from Chicago Cubs Online
Spring Training begins this week. The hype and expectations surrounding the Cubs will kick into high gear this week as well. And the baseball writers that haven’t picked the Cubs to at least win the NL Central, simply have not gotten around to it.
Joel Sherman labeled 2016 as “the Cubs’ year” and while the team may or may not end the longest championship drought in the history of North American sports, the Cubs will be one of the biggest stories in baseball throughout the season.
And for that reason, Sherman tabbed Theo Epstein as the most interesting person in the game heading into the 2016 season.
The Cubs are coming off a 97-win campaign, a trip to the NLCS and an off-season in which the front office added Jason Heyward, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Adam Warren to a roster that already consisted of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and is run by the reigning NL Manager of the Year, Joe Maddon.
New York Post: 2016 is Cubs’ Year, The 50 Most Interesting People in MLB
All-Star Game at Wrigley Field
The Midsummer Classic hasn’t been played at Wrigley Field since 1990. But the Cubs could host an All-Star Game by the end of the decade.
Bruce Levine interviewed Commissioner Rob Manfred for his Saturday morning baseball show on 670 The Score (Inside the Clubhouse). When the Cubs will host an All-Star Game again was one of the many questions Levine asked the Commissioner.
After Phase Two is wrapped up this year, the Cubs have three more phases of the 1060 Project scheduled. The project is currently scheduled to be completed by Opening Day of the 2019 season.
Major League Baseball schedules All-Star Game locations three years in advance. The 2016 All-Star Game will be held in San Diego, 2017 in Miami and the Nationals will host the game in 2018.
Even with the selecting process changing, Bruce Levine reported the Cubs could be in line for the All-Star Game in 2019 or 2020.
Protective Headwear for Pitchers
Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have developed new protective headwear for pitchers that will debut in Spring Training. According to reports from ESPN and Sports Illustrated, the gear “will be given to 20 pitchers and won’t be made mandatory.” The new headwear “is a hybrid of a cap and a helmet and will weigh 10 to 12 ounces with a carbon fiber protective shell.”
The new headwear resembles a sun visor “with extended forehead and temple coverage and single earflaps like batting helmets.”
Research conducted by Boombang, the company hired to design and produce the headwear, showed “that line drives to the side of the head … a pitcher’s most vulnerable area … typically strike right-handers on the right side and lefties on the left because of the follow-through position, so the hats are righty- and lefty-specific.”
News and Notes
• Joe Maddon wants his players to embrace the target this season. The hype surrounding the Cubs has hit all-time levels, but they are not the only club with high expectations for the upcoming season. Mets’ captain David Wright knows his team is going to have a bull’s eye on their back all year according to a report from the New York Post.
• Sandy Alderson plans to limit David Wright to 130 or fewer games this season according to a report from Hardball Talk.
• MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is not happy so many players remaining unsigned as camps officially open in Arizona and Florida this week. According to the report from Hardball Talk, Clark also mentioned the possibility of a draft lottery when he talked to the Associated Press. A lottery “would take away the incentive for teams to tank or lose on purpose.” Not only does a team receive a better draft pick for finishing with one of the worst records in baseball, the draft bonus pool is significantly larger.
• Baseball Prospectus is releasing the PECOTA projections for the upcoming season on Tuesday.
• According to Buster Olney, the Brewers’ trade of Khris Davis is another example of a flawed system … since July the Brewers have traded their starting left fielder, centerfielder, third baseman, shortstop, first baseman, closer and a starting pitcher.
• With pitchers and catchers reporting across baseball this week, Anthony Castrovince posted a list of 10 guys he’s looking forward to watching this spring.
• The seven teams with improved bullpens, according to Richard Justice: Red Sox, Athletics, Tigers, Nationals, Yankees, Cardinals and Astros.
• CBS St. Louis posted a Spring Training preview of the NL Central.
• Paul Hoynes examined what the Michael Brantley-less outfield will look like for the Indians. And it’s a rather hazy picture for a team that expects to challenge the Royals for the top spot in the AL Central.
• Rays’ RHP Chris Archer is one of seven pitchers that Nolan Ryan thinks is the best bet to throw a no-no this season.
• The Marlins are still searching for starting pitching depth according to a report from Hardball Talk.
This Day in Cubstory
2011 – The Cubs and Carlos Marmol avoided arbitration when the two sides agreed to a three-year, $20 million contract.
2007 – The Cubs announced for the first time that advertisements will be placed on the green outfield doors in left and right field. Under Armour logo ads were placed on both doors before the company’s spokesperson, Alfonso Soriano played his first game at Wrigley Field.
2000 – Cubs released Andy Larkin
1973 – Daniel Garibay, born
1972 – Cubs signed amateur free agent Julio Gonzalez
1948 – Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown passed away at the age of 71 in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Hall of Fame right-hander spent a majority of his career with the Cubs and posted a 188-86 record in 346 games, 241 starts, over 10 seasons. Brown had 206 complete games and saved 39 games for the Cubs. Brown had a 1.80 ERA, 0.998 WHIP and 2.21 FIP in 2329 innings with the Cubs. Brown was pivotal in the franchise’s success in the early 20th Century, leading the pitching staffs on the 1906-08 National League Champions and the back-to-back World Series Champions of 1907-08.
1940 – Len Gabrielson, born
1939 – Cubs signed free agent Earl Whitehill
1903 – Uel Eubanks, born
1890 – Mike Hechinger, born
1887 – The Chicago National League Ball Club known by the nickname the White Stockings sold Mike “King” Kelly to the Boston Beaneaters for the then unheard sum of $10,000.
1869 – Ace Stewart, born