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Cub Tracks’ fertile grounds

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Al goes Dark, Bryant leads off, Martian beer, and other bullets

Horse racing on the Champs de Mars, Port Louis
Martian Landscape
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Previously, Cub Tracks got unconventional. Now that we’re all post-convention and waiting for some home cooking, the stove is lit in other cities. Let’s get this party started already! Here’s to a strong bullpen...and more mere speculation. Read all about it — as always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1886 - The Washington Nationals, also to be known as the Statesmen, are admitted to the National League. The new franchise, which will play its home games at the Swampoodle Grounds, will win only 28 games of the 120 games played, finishing 60 games behind the first-place Chicago White Stockings in their first season of the team’s four-year existence in the nation’s capital.
  • 1960 - The Cubs trade Al Dark, along with John Buzhardt and Jim Woods, to the Phillies in exchange for Richie Ashburn. After a slow start in Philadelphia, the ‘Swamp Fox’ is dealt to the Braves, where the veteran infielder will hit .298 for Milwaukee before retiring as a player at the end of the season to become the skipper for Giants, the team which he served as the captain during their World Championship campaigns of 1951 and 1954.
  • 1964 - The American League owners, by a 9-1 vote, nix Charlie Finley’s proposal to move the A’s to Louisville, and the maverick owner is given an ultimatum to sign a lease in Kansas City by February 1 or lose his franchise.
  • 1970 - Gold Glove outfielder Curt Flood files a civil lawsuit challenging baseball’s reserve clause, a suit that will have historic implications. Flood refused to report to the Phillies after he was traded by the Cardinals, contending the baseball rule violates federal antitrust laws.
  • 1974 - The BBWAA elects former Yankees teammates southpaw Whitey Ford and slugger Mickey Mantle to the Hall of Fame.
  • 2001 - In their first year of eligibility, Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett are elected to the Hall of Fame.
  • 2003 - The owners, in an effort to restore the competitive edge to the All-Star Game, unanimously approve the home-field advantage during the World Series will be awarded to the team representing the winning league of the Midsummer Classic.
  • 2008 - A former 20-game winner with the team, Jon Lieber (3-6, 4.73), signs a $3.5 million, one-year deal with the Cubs.
  • 2014 - Expanded instant replay, a concept previously agreed to by the Players Association and World Umpires Association, is unanimously approved at the quarterly Owners Meetings.
  • 2017 - The World Champion Cubs are welcomed at the White House by President Barack Obama, a noted White Sox patron who is offered a midnight pardon by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for his partisanship, and his wife Michelle, a fan of the North Side team.
  • Happy Birthday: Dizzy Dean

Cubs news and notes:

  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com): Cubs put emphasis on developing young arms. “It’s just a huge investment in our pitching infrastructure,” said Jaron Madison, director of player development. “It’s an area we’ve identified that can continue to get better.”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Cubs acknowledge organizational shift to pitching, but what does that really mean? “...there was a lot of good fortune involved in this whole process. “
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Willson Contreras wants to be the very best … and he probably will be. “Contreras just needs to take that final leap forward into a more consistent receiver behind the plate...”
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Leadoff spot, lack of pitching and Joe Maddon’s hair: Takeaways from the Cubs Convention. “I’ll do it,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “I’d love to. I did it in college. My whole junior year (at the University of San Diego), I was leadoff.”
  • Adam Nissen (Sports Mockery): Here’s an inside look at Kris Bryant’s inaugural baseball camp. “Can you imagine being 17-years-old and getting hitting advice from a goddamned NL MVP?”
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Does Chili Davis have key to unlock Jason Heyward’s bat for Cubs? “...the $184 million elephant in the room...”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): The focus now for Jason Heyward is less mechanical, more mental. “Heyward is still very young, and if he can somehow manage to flip that switch and find his former self, the landscape of the entire Cubs roster would change dramatically.”
  • Vinnie Duber (NBC Sports Chicago*): Cubs know waiting for Bryce Harper and next winter’s insane free-agent class is affecting baseball’s offseason. “It’s a number of factors. Every team has to make decisions in their own best interest, and that’s what’s going on,” Theo Epstein said Friday.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs load up on players from Mexico: ‘There’s more coming’. Alex Suarez, the Cubs’ director of international pro scouting, said that.

Food for thought:

Study International: Beer on Mars: Students discover hops could grow in Martian soil. In coffee grounds.

IFLS: Stimulating a nerve treats Type 2 Diabetes in rats. “The nerve in question is the carotid sinus nerve.”

Jeremy Deaton (Popular Science): Scientists are making carbon fiber from plants instead of petroleum. “Carbon fiber is the Superman of materials.”

Thanks for reading.