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Royals 10, Cubs 0: The Chicago Cubs Are On The Air

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The first televised game via CSN Chicago brought some changes from last year.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- As I did not attend the Cubs game at Surprise against the Royals Wednesday afternoon, I had the same view that any of you who watched via CSN Chicago, or via MLB.tv.

So let me play media critic for a while before I get into the meat of the Cubs' 10-0 loss to the Royals. (Parenthetical note: I have skipped attending four games so far this spring. The Cubs have lost all of them.)

On the air, Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies were in midseason form. Deshaies' criticism of Javier Baez sliding into first base in the seventh inning was spot-on, I thought. There's certainly nothing wrong with aggressive baseball, and I know Joe Maddon preaches that. But you have to pick your spots. Sliding into first base, in my view, isn't a good idea in general and it certainly isn't a good idea in a meaningless spring game. Baez hurt his thumb on a head-first slide at Iowa last year and missed considerable time. And though he didn't appear seriously hurt, he did leave the game. (It was probably time for him to be taken out anyway.)

The feature vignettes CSN ran between innings were informative and interesting, I thought. I especially liked the bike ride CSN's Kelly Crull took with Maddon on his way to the Sloan Park complex. Not because of the "shared ride" thing, but I thought Maddon shared quite a bit of insight on the ride. That was well-done by CSN, and though obviously they can't run commercial-free during the season, I was glad that they did this. These kinds of things are what you'll likely see more of on the Cubs Network when it premieres in a couple of years, even before live games are broadcast.

Now, I have a complaint, and it's about CSN's new scorebox. Here's a screenshot from the first inning of Wednesday's game:

csn screenshot 3/16/16

Compare the scorebox there to this one, which is from the last CSN game of the 2015 season:

csn graphic screenshot

To me, CSN has taken something that looked pretty good and made it less readable. White text on black is much more readable than black text on a white background, though it seems that's the way TV channels are going. Here's one from ESPN from Jake Arrieta's no-hitter last year:

espn graphic screenshot

Black-on-white seems to be the way of the web, too, with many more sites using very thin fonts in black on white backgrounds. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like the new scorebox. I've added a poll on this topic, please vote.

Regarding the game, John Lackey threw five decent innings, becoming the first Cubs starter to go that far. He allowed six hits and two runs, didn't walk anyone, struck out five, and picked Raymond Fuentes off first base:

Once again, take note, Jon Lester. That was a textbook pickoff. Nice move, perfect throw. Perhaps Lackey can teach his old Boston buddy something.

Fuentes, for his part, made up for this mistake by hitting a three-run homer off Pedro Strop in the seventh that put the game on ice for the Royals. Then, Hector Rondon got hit really hard in the eighth. Among the seven hits he gave up was a two-run homer by Dusty Coleman, so both the Cubs' top late-inning relievers were taken deep. Hopefully, they were just "working on things," as they say in spring training.

The Cubs couldn't do much offensively all afternoon. Miguel Montero singled and had a pair of walks; he's about the only regular who's done much at the plate this spring. They couldn't score off Chris Young, Luke Hochevar or Joakim Soria, then loaded the bases in the seventh with nobody out off Brian Duensing, who had to leave the game with what was described as an "ankle contusion" after Baez's liner hit him. David Huff came in and got Kristopher Negron to pop up and Arismendy Alcantara to hit into a double play.

Albert Almora made another slick play in center field in the seventh inning. No doubt, he could be a plus defensive center fielder in the major leagues right now. It's just a matter of whether he can hit at the big-league level or not. If he can -- even at an average level -- he could start in the majors. Otherwise his ceiling could be "fifth outfielder." This year at Triple-A Iowa will be huge for him.

Thursday's game at Sloan Park starts at 4:05 Arizona time, 6:05 Chicago time, for a national ESPN broadcast. Jason Hammel will face the Diamondbacks' Archie Bradley.