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Cub Tracks goes to the pen

Happy Zip Zabel’s birthday, RIP Harry, learning to Spacewalk, great Szczur’s ghost, and other bullets and tweets and videos

MLB: Chicago Cubs-Workouts
I had the Green Chile Burrito. You?
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Cub Tracks pitched in and spring training began with nary a Hugh (nobody by that name is so far invited to camp) or a cry (there’s no crying in baseball, right? Right?) and very soon there will be actual professional games.

I’ve prepared for that eventuality by switching from Sling to DirecTv Now, which has the MLB Network as part of its programming. Still don’t have full local, so I am still missing Svengoolie on Saturdays and am having to substitute random giallo from Shudder in place of rubber chickens in Berwyn.

Next month, we’ll get all of that worked out. But the change allowed me to watch live college baseball while I wrote/compiled/assembled this thing and that was a definite plus.

Today’s the anniversary of Harry Caray’s passing. I have to say at the onset, the outset, the preface as it were, that I was not a fan of the man. However, I would certainly grant that he was a legend, a Cub Fan and a Bud Man, and I most heartily wish they would do away with the seventh-inning stretch for now and forever. What? How did that sneak in there? Here I was talking about a regular guy, a man among men, the very Mayor of Rush Street himself, and one of my demons took over...

I apologize most profusely for that outburst and shall down appropriate draughts of Jeppson’s Malört by way of apology. Maybe even a Budweiser.

You don’t have to read the above in Bruce Wolf’s or Marty Lennartz’ voice, but you could. Or you could read it in Ryan Dempster’s imitation Harry voice, but I wouldn’t suggest that.

R. I. P. Harry. You would have loved 2016. Matt Szczur has something for you.

Al will have a longer article on the anniversary of Harry’s passing at 9 a.m. CT.

Let’s move on, shall we? It’s content season now, we got the stuff. As always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1909 - The Boston Red Sox trade Cy Young, who won 21 games at age 41 in 1908, to the Cleveland Naps for pitchers Charlie Chech and Jack Ryan and $12,500.
  • 1922 - Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis resigns his federal judgeship, claiming the two jobs (judge and commissioner of baseball) take up too much time.
  • 1943 - New York entrepreneur William D. Cox purchases the bankrupt Phillies from the National League. The 33 year-old new owner will be banned from baseball in November by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis when he admits to making some “sentimental” bets on his team during the season.
  • 1944 - After getting permission from his parents and high school principal, 15 year-old Joe Nuxhall, a Hamilton, Ohio native, signs a contract with the Reds a day after playing in a high school basketball game. The not so old “Ol’ Left-hander” will become the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game, tossing 2/3 of an inning for Cincinnati in June, 49 days before his sixteenth birthday.
  • 1967 - During a softball exhibition game, pitcher Eddie Feigner strikes out six consecutive big leaguers, a group that includes five future Hall of Famers. The victims include Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Roberto Clemente, and Maury Wills.
  • 1998 - Longtime baseball announcer Harry Caray dies at the age of 84 after suffering a heart attack four days earlier while having Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife, Dutchie.
  • 2009 - At 11:25 a.m., the last remaining piece of Shea Stadium, the ramp to section 5, is demolished, marking the end of the New York venue where the Mets played for 44 years.
  • Happy birthday: Walter Thornton, Zip Zabel, Cal Neeman, Bob Miller, Jerry Morales, Shawn Estes, Brian Bogusevic.

Cubs news and notes:

I could not be more proud of him,” Maddon said. “What he said and how he said it and the manner in which he said it was really impressive.”

Rizzo spoke at a candlelight prayer vigil Thursday night, which was held at the same park where he has hosted a charity walk for six years.

In his speech, Rizzo offered support to his hometown, still reeling from Wednesday’s shooting in which 17 people were killed.

  • Carrie Muskat (*): Maddon: ‘18 Cubs rotation could be his best. “I think this group has the chance to be the best we’ve had here,” Maddon said Saturday.
  • Steven Martano (Beyond the Box Score): The Cubs current rotation looks a lot like it did in 2016. “The 2018 Cubs have a revamped, albeit not necessarily better, rotation than their World Series championship team.” Not sure what that even means but the article is good.
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Maddon hints at Cubs’ final roster construction. “When you look at the names among the relievers, it’s hard to imagine less than 13,” the skipper admitted.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Did Cubs miscalculate Jake Arrieta’s value in deciding against re-signing him? “I don’t think there’s any miscalculation in their game, to be honest,” Tommy La Stella said of Theo Epstein’s front office.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Cubs’ Jon Lester: Free-agent freeze ‘alarming,’ big revenues ‘there to be spent’. ‘‘I don’t know behind closed doors what’s being said, what’s not being said,’’ Lester said without saying.
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Kyle Hendricks was less ‘stuck,’ threw faster at end of 2017. “stay over the rubber better”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): What tweak(s) has Justin Wilson made to his delivery? Correcting an early release?
  • James Neveau (NBC Chicago*): Meet the new Chicago Cubs: Brandon Morrow. “Morrow is probably going to get the ball a lot in straight up save situations.”
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Cubs using Brandon Morrow as traditional closer could promote better performance. “In a vacuum, using your best reliever at the most stressful moments of a game makes sense.”
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Lester missing John Lackey; righty ‘probably done’. “He hasn’t said anything to me,” Lester said Friday.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Addison Russell relieved to stay with Cubs after believing he might be traded. “I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform. I want to be in a Cubs uniform for sure,” Russell said.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Cub SS Addison Russell survives trade winds to sail into spring at full speed. “There was a lot of trade talk,” said the Cubs’ shortstop.
  • Vinnie Duber (NBC Sports Chicago*): Addison Russell is so over 2017: ‘That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that’. The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year.
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Russell confident health will lead to breakout ‘18. “It really comes down to arm strength on a consistent basis,” Maddon said.
  • Carrie Muskat (*): Kyle Schwarber, Chili Davis find plenty of common ground. Everybody struggles.
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Davis using experience to help Schwarber heat up. “...hitting is the true barometer of Schwarber’s value...”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Jason Heyward believes if he can stay healthy, his hitting will come along. “Working with Chili will present a different method, possibly,” said Joe Maddon.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Maddon: Jason Heyward to open season as everyday player for Cubs again. “We’ll probably let him go and see how it plays out,” Maddon said.
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Cubs blowing away the NL Central in the first set of over/under win projections. “...Bovada released its opening over/under win projections for the 2018 season...”
  • Paul Sullivan (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs welcome Brewers fans with open arms — even if the feeling isn’t mutual. “C’mon down.”

Food for thought: