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Cub Tracks leads off

Hip to Happ, Almora amore, news and notes, and other bullets

Happily ever after
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

“All the news that’s printed to fit”

“The emotions of a fan are often thought to be a continuum, ranging anywhere from happy to sad to angry. Fans have varying degrees of these emotions when it comes to the outcomes their teams see. In reality, though, their emotions are far more discrete. The team wins, or the team loses. Those outcomes are met with sadness or joy. The sadness, it’s practically unbearable. We somehow come to care so much about such a small thing that when it’s ripped away from us, the heartache is practically unbearable. The joy, though, that’s what makes it all worth it.” — Ryan Schultz

It’s time for another edition of the new, improved Cub Tracks. Last episode, we proposed that Kyle Schwarber be traded to the Colorado Rockies and then be installed as their first baseman. Eddie Butler was gonna go too (and I also threw in Dylan Floro, who was so invisible that I forgot he had already left the organization), and German Marquez and Gerardo Parra were gonna don the Cubbie Blue.

Hot Stove Happenings at BCB. Front-page articles and fanposts and hundreds upon hundreds of completely unsearchable comments. This is the stuff that dreams are made of... happenstance.

I was gonna write about other things to do with Schwarber but Al beat me to that and totally traded him and Schwaber away (and not to the Rockies, though he did allude to the first-base-playing possibilities of a guy I see as a really young Jim Thome)...and then I was gonna look at the leadoff position but interbret took the lead on that one and the discussion came to much the same conclusion I did — without some roster change, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. are your leadoff men, based on OBP alone. Mix and match. I’m going to look just a little closer, though, and give you some probably-too-large (since I dunno how to resize ‘em) charts to give mute evidence to my suppositions. If Schwabr leaves, these guys can play left and center field, respectively, or they can share center if that doesn’t happen.

Happ carried a .334 obp against right-handers in 105 games. That’s in the ballpark, assuming that we’re talking about .350 as a benchmark. He hits for a higher avg against left-handers but the obp is down.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Chicago Cubs Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Almora carried a .411 OBP against left-handers. Overall it was .338.

Either one is better than Gerardo Parra (though they’re NOT better than Andrew Benintendi or Christian Yelich (I’ll give you Happ, Duane Underwood, Rob Zastryzny, and David Bote for Yelich and Jose Urena right now). Happ is the fastest runner on the Cubs, though he hasn’t evidenced much stolen-base acumen at this point. I love me some stolen bases, but they’re probably not absolutely necessary. Just having a guy on base 35% of the time in front of Kris Bryant is good enough for me. If Schwab stays, I like him in the five-hole against right-handers, following Willson Contreras. Feel free to roundly excoriate my reasoning, as long you keep it PG.

We’ve made some minor changes this time around, and this will likely continue — the offseason is a good time to experiment. Objects in the rearview mirror may be larger than they appear, heh heh. But enough about me — here’s the news — and, as always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Yesterday in Cubs History: The triumphant return of Kyle Schwarber [VIDEO].

Today in baseball history:

  • 1911 - With a seven-run seventh inning in Game 6, the A's coast to an easy 13-2 victory over the Giants at Shibe Park to win the World Series. Outfielder Danny Murphy leads Philadelphia with four hits, and Chief Bender goes the distance to get the win.
  • 1931 - Charles Comiskey dies at age 72. The White Sox owner and pioneer player never recovered from the betrayal of the 1919 World Series.
  • 1946 - Westbrook Pegler, a syndicated columnist, becomes the first to question in print the off-field association of Leo Durocher with actor George Raft and others allegedly tied to gamblers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning-writer's expose of the Dodgers manager will start a series of events that will lead to the 'Lip's' one year suspension in 1947.
  • 1960 - After his family operates the team in Washington since his dad, Clark Griffith, took over as manager of the club in 1912, Calvin Griffith, president of the Senators, makes a decision to move his club to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to become the Twins. The District of Columbia is awarded an expansion team, that will begin play next season, to fill the void, placating the lawmakers who spoke of examining baseball's anti-trust exemption should the national pastime leave the nation's capital.
  • 1982 - The Phillies' 37-year-old southpaw Steve Carlton (23-11, 3.10) wins the Cy Young Award for an unprecedented fourth time.
  • 1995 - The ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 5 of the World Series is thrown by Commander Ken Bowersox, who is onboard the space shuttle Columbia. The ceremony, transmitted from space via satellite and shown to the Indians and Braves fans at Jacobs Field, continues with an animation sequence on the scoreboard that ends with a ball that appears to fly in and land in center field.
  • 1997 - With two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning of Game 7, Edgar Renteria singles home Craig Counsell, giving the Florida Marlins their first World Series title with a 3-2 win over the Indians.
  • 2000 - In Game 5 at Shea Stadium, the Yankees win their third consecutive World Series, the fourth title in five years and record 26th championship by defeating the Mets, 4-2. Derek Jeter becomes the first player to win the All-Star Game and the World Series MVP honors in the same season.
  • 2005 - Willie Harris scores the game's only run in the eighth inning as Jermaine Dye, the series MVP, singles the pinch hitter home, giving the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Astros and the team its first World Championship since 1917.
  • 2009 - The Padres formally introduced 35-year-old Jed Hoyer as the team's new general manager.
  • 2014 - Cardinal rookie Oscar Taveras, who participated in seven postseason games with St. Louis earlier in the month, dies in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic.
  • Happy birthday, Steve Ontiveros.

Cubs News and Notes:

“Mission not accomplished. The goal is to create a really high floor for this organization, where the off years are years where you might win in the high 80s and still sneak a division or a wild card, or win 90 games and get in and then find a way to do some damage in October. And the great years you win 103 and win the whole thing, and the in-between years you’re dangerous in October.

“We have done a lot of tremendous things, and thus far it’s been a success, but I think the whole goal is to get there as many times as you can over a long stretch and a long period of time. We’re really well-positioned for the future. In no way do we see this window ending now or lessening in any way.” — Theo Epstein

Still see #Cubs most likely for ex-#Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey but, FWIW, heard today #Twins are also interested, along w/STL, SF, BOS — Marc Topkin

  • David Haugh (Chicago Tribune* {$}): The Theo Factor: Epstein turns his vision into reality with Cubs. "I didn't know him and was just worried," Tom Ricketts recalled. "I didn't want to bring someone in with a big ego or someone who didn't treat people well."
  • CIO: For the Chicago Cubs, data is a game-changer. “Data is the key to understanding what is the best way to monetize our assets and also to drive revenue to achieve our goals,” says Andrew McIntyre, vice president of technology. One can easily imagine that this applies across-the-board.
  • Tim Baffoe (CBS Sports Chicago*): The interesting arc of trust in Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “I was proud of Cubs fans overall this season, and that’s not something I can often claim.”
  • Bruce Levine (CBS Sports Chicago*): Cubs’ coaching staff in flux. “...the Cubs are still sorting through their internal coaching positions, with several remaining up in the air.”
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Cubs interview Hickey for pitching-coach job. “The Cubs began the process of replacing pitching coach Chris Bosio on Monday by interviewing Jim Hickey, who was on manager Joe Maddon's staff in Tampa Bay.”
  • Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times*): 3 biggest concerns for Cubs in offseason. You know what they are. Here’s Cahill’s reasoning.
  • Zack Moser (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Diagnosing the bullpen’s walk problem. “Chris Bosio will be plying his pitcher whispering craft in a city other than Chicago next year, and it’s sort of the bullpen’s fault...the suspicion is that Bosio did little to dissuade Cubs pitchers from walking hitters, evinced by the 10.1 percent walk rate the bullpen has sported since Bosio came aboard in 2012.”
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are possibilities for Cubs, but not probabilities. “...Epstein does leave open the possibility that the Cubs could go after high-end arms like Arrieta or Darvish, but cautions that shouldn’t be the expectation.”
  • Aldo Soto (Sports Mockery): The next wave of Cubs prospects to hit MLB are starting pitchers. Jen-Ho Tseng and Adbert Alzolay leading the way.
  • Sean Holland (Cubs Insider): Three intriguing buy-low rotation options for Cubs. “Jeremy Hellickson, Tyler Chatwood, and Michael Pineda. Each of these pitchers has notable flaws offset by enticing upsides that make them perfect reclamation projects.”
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Is Schwarber really that bad defensively? (Hint: No…well, at least not awful). “Defensive metrics, though useful, are fraught with limitations.”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): We’re about to find out how much the Cubs really believe in Kyle Schwarber. “...the brass’s stubborn devotion to a favored player won’t allow them to grasp the reality that Schwarber isn’t a good fit for the Cubs moving forward.”
  • Patrick Mooney (NBC Sports Chicago*): Albert Almora Jr. ready to show Cubs he can do bigger and better things. “You will have more responsibility. You will have more of a role than you had this year. We’ll see how much more that is, and what you can grow into,” said club president Epstein. “He’s excited. He’s moving closer to our spring-training facility in Arizona and ready to get to work.”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Jon Jay loved his time with the Cubs, but should the two sides re-up? “He was a perfectly solid complementary player on a deep roster.”
  • Sean Sears (Sports Mockery): Cubs eyeing star Red Sox outfielder. From the “out of left field” department, but maybe, just maybe, not as far-fetched as we all think it is.
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago * {$}): Bryce Harper is flirting with Chicago. I admit it. I eat this stuff up. YMMV.
  • Dan McGrath (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Which Cubs are on the track to Cooperstown? Premature for everyone except maybe Epstein and Maddon, who are likely candidates for enshrinement. Another ten years of thirty-plus homers and 100-plus rbi would make a good case for Rizzo, Bryant. Lester might need to reach 200 to have a shot, which might be doable. He’d need 41 more.
  • Madeleine Kenney (Chicago Sun-Times*): Watch 12-year-old cancer patient get jersey, picture from Cubs’ Rizzo. Follow-up to Tuesday’s article: Anthony makes it right. Respect him. Abby Schrage does.
  • Joey Gelman (Sports Mockery): Baseball is forgetting Its Most Important Fans this postseason. Won’t somebody think of the children?
  • James Neveau (NBC Chicago*): Cubs fans will soon be refunded for postseason ticket deposit. “...within the next two weeks.”
  • Bob Goldsborough (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Jake Arrieta's North Side home hits market for $1.8 million. “While his future with the Cubs is tenuous as he enters free agency, Arrieta — whose offseason home is in Austin, Texas — has spoken of his appreciation for the neighborhoods near Wrigley Field.”

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading. Cub Tracks will return for a third year of heart-pounding excitement, and I’ll return for an unprecedented 56th year, starting Sunday. To celebrate, I’m having meat loaf™. With gravy and sides. And brownies a la mode, which is my traditional birthday cake.