What could a guy in a guernsey (uniform) or jumper (another name for uniform) have to do with the Cubs? Actually, it has nothing to do with baseball, directly. I do trust that it will end up being yet another way of rephrasing the Cubs system problems and solutions.
In my high school days, ESPN aired (along with pro wrestling and roller derby) Australian Rules Football. A curious mix of soccer, rugby, and US football, it was something I'd never seen. Sadly, when Bristol quit airing the sport, it left my consciousness. A few years ago, the network began airing Australian Football Games again, and my younger brother and I took to the sport again. I didn't really have a squad in the day, as the cities often sounded (no offense) a bit silly. Footscray? Collingwood? Geelong? Really?
When it came back to my computer screen, I did some research (via YouTube) and found a team I liked. I thought. Long story, but without looking at the standings or records, I picked the Geelong Cats. (When will this involve baseball? I've got to catch up on my Twitter feed.) As it turns out, the club was very good until the early 1960s. Then, they started getting rather weak at recruiting, developing players, and training them. This lasted, largely until about 10 years ago. Then, they had a few really good drafts, started developing the quality players they did draft, and picked up a few disgruntled veterans from other squads. (Trades are a rarity in the AFL, and free agency doesn't really exist.) You are, in the AFL, what you develop.
ESPN no longer covers the AFL, but the itch had been scratched, and I follow audio coverage from the league site. Back to my Catters, they won a "Premiership" (equates to the World Series) in 1963, but not again until 2007. Then again in 2009. Then again in 2011. Sometimes, they have won with an inferior club, relatively. Sometimes, they get beaten in the post-season by a team they're better than. However, when a team plays Geelong, they know they must bring their best effort.
Overnight Friday, the undefeated Geelong Cats met the undefeated Essendon Bombers. Despite being down by three goals midway through the second term (quarter), the Cats kicked the ball much better than Essendon the rest of the way, won handily, and will be atop the ladder (standings) heading into their match (game) next week with bitter rival Collingwood. And, yes, music is very important in football over there. When you win, you get your song played over the loudspeaker. Sound familiar? Geelong's is an opera piece from "Carmen", and it makes me want to go out and mark (defend) somebody. And connect on a ripper from 35 metres out.
So what has that to do with the Cubs? It's a different sport, in a different hemisphere, with different rules. The key to note is that, when Geelong was haphazardly run, they were a bad team. When they started to do the proper things in the front office, there was a lag between executive clarity and success in the trophies-won category. Now, when the draft is held, Geelong drafts at the bottom, with all the teams with bad records getting first crack at the newest, best talent. But a funny thing will happen on the way down to Geelong's first pick. The Cats selection, be he a center-halfback or a ruckman (yeah, there's a bit of language adjustment there), he will be well trained. Their coach is completely willing to give a youngster a bit of trial-by-fire (they don't have options or Rule 5 drafts to deal with), and usually, they seem to fit in rather well. (On a podcast on the sport I listen to, on the draft edition, their standard line ends up being that when a player with ability slips far enough, Geelong will happily take him. As if they needed him.)
In today's game, Jackson Thurlow (pictured) played in his first-ever AFL game. After a start where the other team isolated him a bit, leading to a uneven beginning, he was a very good player in his first game. If the selection process and the training are done well enough, a team can eventually win. And maybe even be hated for their winning. (My apologies to an league experts if I mis-relayed a fact or two. I'm still learning as well.) Now, on to Three Up/Three Down.
Lendy Castillo (Low-A Kane County), RHP
The off-season talk was that Castillo would start the year as a starter in Double-A Tennessee. That didn't happen. He also slid past High-A Daytona. His time in the Midwest League has been unsatisfying. Castillo entered Monday's start against light-hitting Dayton with an ERA of 8.53. It went up that morning. He has surrendered homers in his last four starts. If Josh Conway were healthy, they could swap spots. Castillo hasn't advanced at all. At least he was well-paid for his service. (By the way, Conway is in very good spirits, despite his injury.)
Starling Peralta (High-A Daytona), RHP
As off as Castillo has been, Peralta has been worse. Since a nice opener, he's had a trip to the DL and three very bad outings. I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear of surgery in his future. It's been a tough start for Rule 5 selections.
Trey McNutt (Double-A Tennessee), RHP
McNutt's last five outings have been for less than two innings. He has surrendered 10 hits and five walks in those outings, which comprise less than seven innings..
Jorge Soler (High-A Daytona), OF
Since late April, Soler is hitting over .400. Since May 4th, he has three homers. In his current four-game hitting streak, he has two homers, a triple, and three doubles. That is what Cubs fans have been expecting more of. Hopefully, it continues.
Bijan Rademacher (Low-A Kane County), OF
Rademacher has a stat-fan's dream week going on. Due to an injury to Trey Martin (who should be activated when the rain stops), Rademacher has a six-game hitting-streak going, with multiple hits in the last five games. I hope you activated him for your Midwest League fantasy team this week.
Rafael Lopez (Double-A Tennessee), C
A couple weeks ago, I put Lopez in the other category. In his last 23 at-bats, he has two homers, more walks than strikeouts, and a seven-game hitting streak.