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Cub Tracks ponies up

If you’ve got the time, leading off, navigating awkward, and other bullets

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St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Twofer taco Tuesday is in the past, and now the Cubs are up for a quick series in the Milwaukee that Miller made famous. No, not Stu Miller, who famously almost got blown off the pitcher’s mound in the 1961 All-Star Game in Candlestick Park, and not famous labor negotiator Marvin Miller, but Frederick Miller, who hailed from Hohenzollern, Germany and started a little brewing company in southern Wisconsin.

Two days with no Cubs is rough, I know. I too am suffering Cubbie withdrawal, ameliorated only by a watching of Willard on International Rat Day, which was yesterday as you’re reading but is very much today as I’m writing, for such is the peculiar magic of the Cub Tracks continuum. I hope both Stephan Pastis and Matt Szczur had good days. Likewise Big Daddy Roth. But enough polluting the time-stream — let’s sample a bit of the old zeitgeist, shall we? As always * means autoplay on™ (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome).

Cubs news and notes:

Dawson slams Jeter:

“He made an ‘unpopular decision,’ the way he likes to put it,” Dawson said. “The one thing about new ownership — it’s their money, their team. They have a sense of direction.

”I didn’t think it was handled professionally or the right way. First of all, you gotta know what you’re signing up for and if you’re gonna do that, you handle baseball people the right way. You stand up to them and you do it yourself to their face. You don’t let someone else make a phone call for you.

”That was the only thing I thought was quite unprofessional. He supposedly has a genuine reputation about the type of classy individual he is. But no.

”I thank him for doing me a favor, because it allowed me the opportunity of a lifetime.” -- Tony Andracki.

Ben Zobrist to bat leadoff more often instead of Ian Happ.”

“Zo looks pretty good to me,” Maddon said. “Among all of our guys, he gives you that pro at-bat as often as anybody. Coming out of camp, he wasn’t quite there yet. He looked pretty sharp to me in Miami. I believe the hot hand exists.”

Zobrist has 887 career plate appearances in the leadoff spot, batting .241/.330/.389 with 23 homers, 71 RBIs, and 105 runs.

Maddon said he also considered leading off with Albert Almora Jr., but he likes him better in the middle of the order. Maddon also believes Happ still has a future as a leadoff batter, but he wants to see Happ hit more balls to the opposite field than he has recently.

”We know he strikes out, that’s part of his gig,” Maddon said. “When gets back over there [to the opposite field], he’ll take off.” — Jeff Wallner,

“I was good at getting out of traffic,” Tyler Chatwood said. “I created a lot of that. I thought my stuff was really good today. I just need to trust it and try not to be too fine too early. I can build off this for the next time.” — Jeff Wallner.

‘‘All across baseball, you see certain guys that aren’t having the starts that people want, and it’s like front-page news. It’s the first [five] games. We’ve got a long ways to go. I don’t think anybody in here is worried about one start. You start putting a month or so of that together, and then maybe we need to re-evaluate some things. But one start is not going to make or break guys’ seasons.’’ — Jon Lester

  • Brett Taylor (Bleacher Nation): Ben Zobrist surging already? It seems too early to say yes, but he’s opening eyes. “...he’s really squared the ball up so far, including deep, hard drives from the right side of the plate.” #narrative
  • Gordon Wittenmyer (Chicago Sun-Times*): Cubs leadoff man Ian Happ fights off ‘bad approach’ since 1st-pitch HR in opener. “That was a cool first moment,” said Happ, whose huge spring earned him the majority share of the Cubs’ leadoff job. “And then there were some really bad at-bats in a row after that. But it’s such a small sample size. Let’s see where it’s at after four or five or 600 at-bats.”
  • Bruce Miles (Daily Herald {$}): After tearing down labels, Happ makes his mark with Cubs. “There was kind of a false narrative about Ian out there,” Theo Epstein said.
  • Zack Moser (Wrigleyville-Baseball Prospectus): Contact, OBP, and an early slump. “...only a fool looks at actual stats after five games and panics.”
  • Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic {$}): After five mostly frosty games, Chili Davis and Co. not worried about Cubs’ cold bats. “Yeah, I’m really upset,” Maddon said with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
  • Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic {$}): Putting the Cubs’ ugly strikeout, contact rates in perspective. “I’ve talked about it for how many years now?” Maddon said. “I’ve talked about the B hack, moving the baseball.”
  • Patrick Mooney (The Athletic {$}): Setting the scene for Cubs vs. Brewers: Time for trolling and big-money pitching. “I’ll be the enemy,” Craig Counsell said. “That’s fine. That’s cool.”
  • Patrick Mooney (The Athletic {$}): Clubhouse Access: All the awards and commercials are nice, but Kris Bryant wants another World Series ring. “I just want a ring, man,” Bryant said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Jason Heyward hopes spring changes pay off at the plate. “I think he’s going in a very good direction,” Chili Davis said.
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Cubs-Brewers rivalry ‘good for the game,’ Joe Maddon says. “You can’t contrive (rivalries). ... They either exist or don’t exist. … You cannot force rivalry. So I love it. It’s good for the game. It’s good for the communities, the proximity. All that stuff is kind of neat.”
  • Mark Gonzales (Chicago Tribune* {$}): Yu Darvish plans to unleash full pitching arsenal in next start. “I’ve got a lot of pitches, including my fastball,” Darvish said. “So I’d like to include all those pitches and combine them all for my next outing.”
  • Brendan Miller (Cubs Insider): Early data shows Chatwood made changes to release point, perhaps to leverage spin rate. “...this is definitely something to monitor going forward.”
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago*): Justin Wilson’s bounceback can be a gamechanger for Cubs bullpen. “The thing is, I never lost confidence in myself,” Wilson said.
  • Tony Andracki (NBC Sports Chicago*): The long game: How Joe Maddon is navigating ‘awkward’ first week in Cubs bullpen with the future in mind. “I’m trying to keep in mind August and September,” he said. “I want us to play well and strong in those months and we have. And if you don’t keep an eye on it right now, you will not play well in those months.”
  • Michael Cerami (Bleacher Nation): 2018 draft slots and bonus pools finalized: Plenty of money for the Cubs to work with. Jason McLeod will be happy.
  • Bill Vilona (Pensacola News Journal*): Jody Davis back in control, this time in eager role as Blue Wahoos manager. “I think there is a lot of talent on this club,” he said. “Obviously, coming into a season, that’s the first thing you look for. I think we’re going to be consistent all year long at at this level, that;’s really all you can ask for.”
  • The Daily Freeman {$}: Cubs promote Kingston High grad Zack Short to Double-A Tennessee. “Short had been working out in the Cubs’ minor league facility in Phoenix...”

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading!