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Cub Tracks ties it all up

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New rules, no team has better muses, phantom traffic jams, and other bullets

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Chicago Cubs
Chatwood delivers
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Ties are for railroads...last episode, Cub Tracks went back-to-back. This time, we Face Front, True Believer, the way we always did as members of the MMMS, though it’s a Marvel that we survived those years of bad baseball.

Nowadays we have good baseball and bad comics. I prefer that, to be honest, and I can always go back and riffle through some vintage Kirby as I have almost the entire 60s and 70s output in digital form. Would that there was a decent archive of say, Billy Williams’ finest games, or some of the Cub’s finer seasons.

But, alas, there isn’t. Billy does have a writeup below, though, and I’m working on getting more information about some of the lesser-known birthday boys for future articles. In the meantime, let’s see what the scribes have put together for our infotainment pleasure. As always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Today in baseball history:

  • 1901 - The N.L. Rules Committee decrees that all fouls are to count as strikes, except after two strikes. To cut the cost of lost foul balls, the committee urges that batsmen who foul off good strikes are to be disciplined. Other new rules: catchers must play within 10 feet of the batter, a ball will be called if the pitcher does not throw to a ready and waiting batter within 20 seconds, and players using indecent or improper language will be banished by the umpire. A ball will be called when a batter is hit by a pitch.
  • 1908 - The sacrifice fly rule is adopted. No time at bat is charged if a run scores after the catch of a fly ball. The rule will be repealed in 1931, then reinstated (or changed) several times before gaining permanent acceptance in 1954.
  • Happy birthday: Bud Teachout, Leroy Herrmann, Sammy Taylor, Carl Warwick, Ron Hassey, Matt Stairs, Willie Banks, Craig Monroe.

Cubs news and notes:

  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Jed Hoyer speaks: The right leadoff mentality, bad decisions in AZ, mound visits, pitch clocks, more. Includes [VIDEO].
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Joe Maddon discusses trait he shares with Rick Renteria. “He understands how to run a game, and he could also go out there and conduct the whole practice if you asked him to,” Maddon said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Former Cubs great Rick Sutcliffe understands 200-inning debate. “There’s no doubt the best feeling I ever had in baseball was shaking that catcher’s hand at the end of (a game),” said Sutcliffe.
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com*): Kyle Hendricks comfortable with high expectations. “This [rotation] has to be up at the top, or close to it,” Hendricks said Sunday.
  • J. L. Wall (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Trouble with his curve — a Yu Darvish deep dive. “...it wasn’t just the postseason or World Series where Darvish reduced his curveball use: this was true of the year overall.”
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com*): Tyler Chatwood pleased with spring debut for Cubs. “I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” the right-hander said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Nervous Chatwood gets job done in spring debut with Cubs. “...it was nerve wracking, but once I got out there and threw the first pitch, I was good,” he said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Dillon Maples isn’t consumed by the Cubs’ numbers game: ‘I know what I’m capable of’. “Once he learns to throw a fastball for a strike where he wants to, that’s when he’s going to take off,” Maddon said.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): How Willson Contreras could become the Cubs’ next serious MVP candidate. ‘‘Look at his game,’’ Maddon said.
  • Ryan Davis (FanRag Sports): What can Cubs expect from Chris Gimenez? He was one of the guys who don’t like to lose,” said pitcher Ervin Santana.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Bryant wants to take a simpler approach to hitting this season. “My goal this year offensively is to be locked in, ready for each pitch,” Bryant said.
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Kris Bryant reduced his launch angle and became a better hitter. “He’d quite possibly become the most valuable player in the bigs.”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): Leadoff or not, we’ll probably see more of Ian Happ this season. “...he was leading off for the second time in three games.”
  • Evan Altman (Cubs Insider): Does Ian Happ really need to cut strikeouts to be a successful leadoff hitter? “...while a high strikeout rate does not preclude a hitter from producing at a high level in general, it’s less than ideal from a leadoff hitter.”
  • Carrie Muskat (MLB.com*): Kyle Schwarber feeling lighter...without knee brace. “Schwarber is keeping the knee brace in his locker. He’ll need it if he catches again.”
  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Knee brace off for defense, Schwarber wants to be a good outfielder. “With improved defense (and baserunning) from his newfound fitness and strength in his knee, Schwarber could very quickly become a significantly more valuable player to the Cubs.”
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Can Schwarber’s glove play big enough to earn him more time at the plate? “I don’t want to be the National League DH, know what I mean?”
  • Tim Huwe (The Zygote 50): College algebra and the draft. “...the best way to get the choice at 24 to be productive by then is to choose a college player.”
  • Jon Paul Morosi (MLB.com*): Cubs aim to create new masterpiece this year. “While it’s unclear whether the Cubs possess the best roster in the National League, no team has better muses.”
  • Manny Randhawa (MLB.com*): Billy Williams’ quiet consistency led to HOF career. “Williams is one of the greatest players in Cubs history.”

Food for thought:

  • Elizabeth Pennisi (Science): Microbes found in one of Earth’s most hostile places, giving hope for life on Mars. “A hardy community of bacteria lives in Chile’s Atacama Desert...where it can survive a decade without water, new research confirms.”
  • Tom Metcalfe (Live Science): ‘Phantom’ traffic jams are real — and scientists know how to stop them. “...phantom traffic jams are an emergent property of the flow of vehicles down a highway.”
  • Emily Conover (Science News): Two-way communication is possible with a single quantum particle. “Sometimes you overlook a cool idea, and then it’s just literally right in front of your nose,” says University of Vienna experimental physicist Philip Walther.