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Cub Tracks Has A Ticket To Ride

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Don’t take it personally, the Cubs will never be hated, constant fanfare, and other bullets

Chicago Cubs Fans Watch Game Four in Wrigleyville
I don’t think I’m gonna be sad
Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Cub Tracks overcame heartburn just in time for Sunday brunch. Good thing, too, because we have a lot on the buffet today. There will be actual games soon — and while they don’t count toward the road to another World Series victory, they count in terms of development and the sheer enjoyment of America’s (‘other’) Pastime.

The Caribbean World Series and the World Baseball Classic are all well and good, excellent stopgaps, superior entertainments in their own right, but, to me, stopgaps is what they are, pauses along the way to the real tournament, the Grand Old Game its ownself, Dan Jenkins, the one and only superior sport...

Forgive me for resorting to cliche, but nowhere else is the quality of competition as good, the stakes as high, as in the Major League Baseball season. In the season just past, the Chicago Cubs ascended to the top of the mountain, and I for one cannot wait until they begin the climb again...but first we have the Grapefruit and Cactus League mini-seasons to endure enjoy.

There aren’t many openings on the Cubs’ roster, but there’s always the possibility that a phenom can grab a spot and head north, if only for a cup of coffee, displacing someone who already had a seat at the table, and the awful specter of injury also hangs over the proceedings. We know who some of those phenoms are, Eloy Jimenez, Jeimer Candelario, Duane Underwood, Pierce Johnson, and others. We know that the Cubs have acquired pitchers who once showed great promise and will be taken under the wing of Chris Bosio (Eddie Butler, Alec Mills, et al). There is some competition for rotation spots, for bullpen assignments, for utility roles. The starting centerfielder’s identity is yet to be determined.

Such is the intrigue of Spring Training, a vetting process, a proving ground, a preview of coming attractions. The others will fill in the details — I’ll provide moving pictures, soundbites, words from the wise, wiseacres, and otherwise, and snapshots from the dining car as the Cub Tracks train rolls on through the Cactus League and on into the regular season, and, hopefully, the playoffs. BYOB.

I’ll be watching all of it on MLB.TV and MiLB.TV, streamed via Playstation to my 50-inch tv, having re-upped Wednesday night. I also bought a ticket for one spring training game (I’ll keep that under our cap for now). I assume you all have your own plans. Buy the ticket, take the ride, as the Doctor once said. Selah. Let’s talk some baseball. As always * means autoplay on (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history**

  • 1935 - Lou Gehrig signs a one-year deal with the Yankees for $30,000. Last season, the All-Star first baseman hit .363 with 49 homers and led the American League with 165 RBIs.
  • 1946 - Giants outfielder Danny Gardella becomes the first major leaguer to announce he is jumping to the Mexican League. It's the first shot in a series of events that will dominate baseball in 1946, even more than the return of all the war veterans. Gardella's attempt to return to the major leagues a few years later will initiate a major court battle.
  • 1953 - Ted Williams safely crash-lands his damaged Panther jet after flying a combat mission in Korea.
  • 1970 - Effective April 1st, Tiger pitcher Denny McLain is suspended for three months by Commissioner Kuhn for his alleged connection with bookmakers.
  • 1977 - The A's sell pitcher Paul Lindblad to the Rangers for $400,000, calling into question Bowie Kuhn's policy on player sales. Kuhn voided an Oakland sale of players on June 18, 1976 as 'not being in the best interest of baseball,' but had not specified the amount allowable in a player sale.
  • 1981 - When the player-management panel is unable to reach a compromise, baseball implements a compensation plan that provides for the team signing a ranking free agent to give up a roster player and an amateur draft choice in return. The owners' move, seen by the players as undermining the value of free agency, will lead to a mid-season strike, forcing the cancellation of 713 games.
  • 1983 - Fernando Valenzuela wins his salary arbitration case with the Dodgers and becomes the first player to win a $1 million salary through that process. The Dodgers had offered Valenzuela $750,000 for the 1983 season.
  • 1987 - Less than one month after signing with the club as a free agent, pitcher Vida Blue stuns the A's by announcing his retirement.
  • 2012 - At the Bell Centre, Canadiens mascot Youppi! wears his jersey with the Expos colors in place of his usual bleu-blanc-rouge (blue, white, and red) to honor the memory of former major league catcher Gary Carter, who died that week as the result of a brain tumor. The 57-year-old Hall of Famer, the only player enshrined as an Expo, and Youppi! played key roles for the National League team before the franchise left Montreal to move to Washington, D.C. in 2005.

In the news:

  • Jay Jaffe (Sports Illustrated*): Winter Report Card: Cubs lost key pieces but smart moves keep them as favorites. “The reigning World Series champions watched as their starting centerfielder (Dexter Fowler) and shut-down closer (Aroldis Chapman) departed, but they are still loaded with talent and depth,” Jaffe says in the slug line.
  • HBO Real Sports profiles Joe Maddon (here’s the trailer). The show runs first on Tuesday, Feb. 21 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT).
  • More Maddon from ESPN [VIDEO].
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune {$}): Joe Maddon stresses 'heartbeat' leads to success during team meeting. A steady rhythm is the key.
  • ESPN: Jon Lester throws to first base [VIDEO].
  • Sal Cacciatore (numberfire.com {?}): Don't sleep on Brett Anderson in Fantasy Baseball. He’s effective when healthy.
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Cubs may lean on beanpole Carl Edwards Jr for more support this season. Gordon Wittenmyer advanced the theory and this advances the reasoning.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): Back at full strength, Hector Rondon won’t take things personally in Cubs bullpen. “They pay me to pitch," he said.
  • Craig Edwards (ESPN* Insider {$}): If the strike zone moves, who wins and who loses? Kyle Hendricks heads the list. He also talks to Waddle and Silvy [AUDIO].
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Jon Lester: Cubs are 'naive enough' to repeat. "Our big guys are so young,” he said. “They're naive to the situation and just go out and play.”
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald {$}): For Cubs' Lester and Contreras, it's all about repetition. Lester will be getting used to a new catcher this year.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): How Cubs see Jon Lester and Willson Contreras working together. “I don’t think there’s going to be much of a learning curve,” says Lester.
  • Janie McCauley (AP via Yahoo Sports): Miguel Montero prepares for another season as Cubs backup. “Miggy's fine. He's still a very strong contributor. It's just that his role's going to shift right now theoretically in the beginning, but you never know,” said Joe Maddon.
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Kyle Schwarber catches bullpen session at camp. Schwarber extended his left leg out while squatting to catch the ball to avoid putting extra stress on his knee.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Out on a limb: How Schwarber might handle catching after injury. “Think Tony Pena or Manny Sanguillen, only thicker.”
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Kris Bryant’s Dad, Mike, talks to CI about crafting an MVP swing and how his son can get even better (Part 1). “...it helps to have a dad who’s a former Red Sox farmhand and now works as a professional hitting instructor.”
  • AP (via Fox Sports): Cubs star Kris Bryant unfazed by constant fanfare, attention. ”As far as the way he goes about his business, the baseball part, it’s fun to watch and you appreciate it,” Jason Heyward said Saturday.
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com) Addison Russell recalls whirlwind year. Plus some words about Hector Rondon and Wade Davis.
  • Chris Bahr (Fox Sports): Anthony Rizzo explains why the Cubs never will be hated by sports fans. “We’re a team that is likeable,” he said. “...If we just respect the game, it’ll make it hard for people not to like us.”
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Jason Heyward puts in offseason work to regain 2012 form. Heyward tinkered with his swing a mite to attempt to bounce back from a subpar offensive year.
  • Patrick Mooney (CSN Chicago*): Why Jon Lester thinks Year 2 will be different for Jason Heyward. “It seems like he’s a little more relaxed,” Lester said.
  • Bryan Smith (Chicago Magazine): Why we love Kyle Schwarber. He’s an everyman.
  • Jacob Evans (isportsweb): Projected outfield depth chart for 2017. Little capsules about each player.
  • John Arguello (Cubs Den): Camp Competition: Matt Szczur, Tommy LaStella lead battle for last position player spot. “There aren't many things to decide in this camp.”
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Tom Ricketts intent on Cubs joining ranks of elite. "What separates a really good team from a really great team is the consistency of results," Ricketts said.
  • Bruce Levine (CBS Chicago): Tom Ricketts addresses his Championship Cubs. “We are trying to be the best organization in sports,” Ricketts said.
  • Luke Blaize (Bleacher Nation): Revisiting the 2011 Draft: Jim Hendry’s swan song helped bring the Cubs a World Series. “...a fascinating if cloudy chapter of Cubs history...”
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald {$}): Cubs Postcard: Staying connected. Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe took part in Friday’s spring workouts.
  • Chuck Garfien (CSN Chicago*): Dallas Green’s letter to 11-year-old Rick Hahn. “I actually wrote a number of letters to Dallas, and out of the kindest (sic) of his heart and perhaps mistakenly, he wrote me back,” Hahn recalled.
  • Steve Greenberg (Chicago Sun-Times*): On Day 1, Dexter Fowler’s arrival was music to Cardinals’ ears. “The Cardinals are coming for all the Cubs’ banners.”
  • Adam Nissen (Sports Mockery): MLB writer believes all Cubs fans are stupid. Adam doesn’t like Phil Rogers.

Food for thought:

  • Ashley Yeager (Science News): Citizen scientists are providing stunning new views of Jupiter. “JunoCam lets public point camera, process images, feel like space explorers.”
  • Tia Ghose (Live Science): Earth has a hidden 8th continent. Only small bits are above sea level.
  • Pallab Ghosh (BBC News): Scientists appeal for more people to donate their brains. After they die, that is. The researchers' aim is to develop new treatments for mental and neurological disorders.

Thanks for reading. Cub Tracks will be back Tuesday with more hot takes and cold cuts.

** information derived from today in baseball history and the national pastime.

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