Anarchist's Brunch- Time to build.....

Anarchist's Brunch- Time to build.....

 

So Last year was kind of a night mare for Cub fans. Ninety six losses, the sacking of the manager and the regression of its two young building blocks. This was followed up by an off-season that was......hmmm.....what's the word.........quiet?..........maintenance filled?.............cruddy?........economically viable.......... I think I like cruddy. This was followed up by a fairly cruddy off season. A platoon right fielder was acquired, so was a LOOGY and a bullpen arm. So now the Cubs have the look and feel of a ninety four loss team.

But that, as they say is in the past. Maybe it's because it's a new year. Maybe it's because there's yet ANOTHER layer of snow making everything white and new. Maybe because it's freezing and I just want to think warm thoughts. But it's time to start rubbing a couple positive sticks together and see if we can't start building a season worth believing in again. While the Tanaka chase still goes on, (and on and on. How is this guy coming to America? By canoe?) and there are still some stragglers FA's out there, this primarily looks like the team that's going to the new camp in Arizona. But there is reason to believe and watch.

1) The new manager. Rich Rent struck me as the best of a mediocre bunch. It certainly wasn't an outside the box hire. And I'm not sure if he's the one to take the Cubbs to the promised land. When Dale Sveum was canned, certain reporters claimed that Dale was always a point A to Point B guy. Rich Rent maybe here simply to get them to Point B. But he's clearly a positive person. He has his own set of ideas and he certainly doesn't lack confidence. There won't be any "feeling his way around the manager's office".  New voices have a way of sparking some immediate returns. Perhaps that's the case here.

2) 3rd base. Pop pop pop goes the weasel, the weasel. Pop goes the weasel cause the weasel goes pop. Sorry, did say it was cold outside. Anyway, I think 3rd base is won by a rookie. Probably Olt. But I'm not going to be shocked if it's Christian Villanueva either. It's entirely possible that Cub management believes in Olt's "upside" that they let him perfect it in the minors first. Or Rich Rent might want to go with an all around safer play ( Yes yes, I know, Olt plays pretty good defense too.). But 3rd base is where Rich Rent says "this is MY team and I choose the players I want...." and management is fine with it as it is an example of the Cubs system providing players. And of course Kris Bryant is coming tra-la, tra-la.

3) The Kids. Oh these wonderful and precious kids. I can read 5 minor league experts, ask them which of the "precious kids" is coming up first and which one will have the most impact, and I'll get four or five different answers. Baez might just hit his way on to the roster by June. Maybe. Bryant will be here by September at the latest. That's not based on any info or plan that I know of. That's simply what's gonna happen dictated by the fact that minor leaguers are gonna have a hard time getting the two out.

4) Bounce back years. Castro has to bounce back to a more Starlin Castro type year. Rizzo can certainly do better against lefties. Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija can bounce positively too. Yes, I think Travis Wood won't be a 27 quality start pitcher or whatever he was last year, but other than him who do you see regressing?

5) The Bullpen. There's a second lefty in there. Possibly a third. The closer can be either Veras or Strop. And there's youngsters like Skulina and Masek who might be available later in the year for depth. Bullpens are always a shaky proposition, but after last year's disaster which seemed to cause the Cubs 40 games last year, I like how this one is currently constructed.

6) Jake Arrietta. Probably the most important Cub this year. Either Arrietta continues to Jackson Pollack his release point and he becomes a reliever, or he finds whatever it is and becomes a dominating, strikeout getting starter. I think he's headed to the pen. I think every pitcher not named Samardzija, Wood, and Jackson (hopefully Tanaka) is headed to the pen in some way.  But I would love to hold a viewing party at Sheffield's in August and have everyone remind me how wrong I was as Arrietta goes for his 13th win and his 150th strikeout.

So that's 6 things I think can bounce right. Let's say each one is worth 2 games. Two lousy games. Suddenly we're looking at a team battling for .500. It's something to build on right? And hey, it's only January.

ODDS AND SODS

I keep warning you guys about #NERDFLU and now Moody is lying in a dark room. When will you people ever learn? Moody, for  Buckner's sake, take care of yourself and feel better. And stop looking at all those stats.

Did someone say Nelson Cruz isn't gonna get the 4 year 75 million dollar deal he's looking for and he might be better off accepting a one year, market correcting deal?......Thought I heard that somewhere.

Not that I've ever understood Bear fans. But the Bears finished exactly where I thought they would, but with more reasons for optimism than I ever thought. The first year coach is good, They Bears drafted and developed a possible superstar in Jeffery. The GM is proving to be a good scout and financial guy ( the Cutler deal was amazingly advantageous for the Bears) why is everyone upset? Was there thinking that this team could go to a Super Bowl? I' m very bullish on the Bears future.

And Bearish on the Bulls future. What a mess.

Here are couple of Tanaka articles from New York writers. This one isn't very positive.  Of course, Bill Madden has always been kind of loopy to me. And perhaps he's just putting it out there because he doesn't think the Yankees are gonna win the bid. Premature strike kind of thing.

Really like Morrissey's cover of Lou Reed's "perfect Day"

I know time marches on and change is good and all that, but WXRT without Tom Marker doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

With the emptiness of Chicago on a wintery Storm day, I'm gonna suggest side 2 of the Rolling Stones last great album Tattoo You as your listening music this Sunday.

Spring Training can't get here fast enough.

 

Comments

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  • fb_avatar

    You might want to save this story to post again next off-season, felzz.

  • The exciting thing is Theo/Jed want to win this year. If we are around .500 at the deadline, I could definitely see them being aggresive. It's not crazy to think the Cubs could push for a wild card in 2014, or maybe it is crazy..

  • fb_avatar

    One man's crazy is another man's kool-aid.

  • If this were true, Ellsbury would be in a Cubs uniform already. They have done nothing but nudge the team forward and protect their assets this year.

    If they don't plan to go all out next winter, they'll need to protect their asses instead. But I think it'll be time. 2014 will be excruciating for a while, but the arrivals of Baez and Bryant will finally give us a taste of what's to come, not to mention a legit middle-of-the-order.

  • Ye of little faith.....

  • Not that this stuff matters, but it was pretty jarring: only 5 Cubs made the top 250 ESPN fantasy players, and no, none of them are ranked very high, and one of them is a journeyman average closer. That's about right. Then they add links to the top 30 at each position, and we see the addition of only Welly C at 28th. Barney doesn't even make the top 30, ha... Schierholtz doesn't rate a top 90.

    The offense is so feeble, it finally helps me understand why HoyStein passed on Choo and Ellsbury. Adding 3-5 wins just gets you about under 90 wins.

    Castro doesn't need to bounce back to a typical Castro year, he needs to progress beyond that. If he doesn't demonstrate that level of ability, he's not much of a cornerstone, is he? Better leave Baez at short, I say.

    Tanaka would suffer a lack of run support in 2014. I would focus on protecting his arm for the years that follow.

    If the Cubs do ANYTHING else this winter or spring, how about a trade for Ethier or Pagan to provide a bat and some veteran presence? There is not much left to consider. Grady Sizemore? Yikes.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    "Tanaka would suffer a lack of run support in 2014. I would focus on protecting his arm for the years that follow"

    That would be he smart thing to do, but imagine how it will play in Wrigleyville.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    "Cubs Talk" changed his name!

  • In reply to Zakh:

    Huh? Me?

    I'm not mean to people.

  • In reply to Zakh:

    Hack isn't Cubs Talk.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Startling Castro was a 2 time all star with 2 uniforms in the HOOD, led the league in hits... All of that before turning 23 years old where most prospects are breaking into the bigs...

    I'd like to see him surpass that but t lo demand for him to be better than that or cast him out of the core if he's not better than a 2x all star with uniforms in the HOF is really unfair imo.

  • In reply to Caps:

    wow I just noticed auto correct did it again... Castro has 2 uniforms in the HOF, not the hood...

  • In reply to Caps:

    I also like his new name "Startling Castro". Maybe auto-correct is on to something.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    I hope that's startling improvement.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Wouldn't mind Ethier if the Dodgers eat most of the salary and don't take much in return (similar to Cubs trading Soriano). I wouldn't want to pay too much or give up a top prospect for him.

  • I'm convinced bears fans have been so shell shocked by years of mediocre or worse QB play they can't live without a QB controversy. That's why so many want McCown as a soon to be 35 year old to be the long term starter.

  • Ay, Felzz, spring training cannot get here fast enough.

    Sigh.

  • Don't want to be a pessimist and hope it doesn't happen, but whar if Rizzo and Castro hzve the same season as rhey did in 2013? What then?

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Well either you're in or your out. And the Cubs are in. If Castro has another bad year, which I don't see, then we're still talking about a 24 year old SS with more good years than bad. Rizzo will still be a young hitter with power. These years aren't defining years. They're important, but good or bad, they're just one year in what is going to be a long career......

    So I wouldn't overreact one way or the other.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    I think it just means they just haven't figured it out yet. Chris Davis spent years in Texas failing to live up to expectations, then went crazy Baltimore. Josh Donaldson finally broke out this year with Oakland.

    I don't think we NEED to have them break out next year. It would be best if they improve and make strides to live up to their talent.

    I don't want to give up on any players when they are down for a year or two.

  • Interesting take on the 3B situation. Everybody seems to realize how well we did with the spare-parts platoon of Valbuena/Ransom/Murphy. We got better than avg production/power from that position, but we are set for a major regression there. We really need Olt/Villanueva to step up and take that job. Everyone speculates Olt, you're the first I've seen give Villanueva a shot. I think Villanueva's glove is a half tick better, but both are plus defenders. If the 2012 version of Olt @ AA shows back and the eye issues are behind, he could be an offensive monster for us. Villanueva's bat pales in comparison. He does some good things, but he didn't exactly dominate at AA last year and is sucking balls in the Mexican Winter league right now. That boy needs a full year of AAA. oly may not be a finished product yet either so while we have three 3B that are close... this thing is far from settled.

  • I think Rizzo may only be a .240 hitter but otherwise
    his stats looked decent. (If not Vogelbach?) I also
    think Castro will rebound to at least hit .280 but if he
    does fail we have options at SS. Thank goodness we
    are stacked at the minors for prospects because most
    dont end up being very good.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Could be worse - assuming he's not doomed to hit less than 0.200 against lefties for his career.

    A 0.240 hitter with a decent walk rate, a GG on defense at 1B, and who hits 25-35 HR/year (assuming that is his ceiling) is a better than average thing to have on a team.

    And I agree with your assessment of Castro. Assuming he reverts back to the Castro of 2 years ago (or better yet, 3 years ago) he's a keeper as long as his defense continues to advance.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Agreed...especially since every one of my back-of-a-napkin dream lineups of 2015 have Castro and Rizzo batting 5th or lower. They don't need to be the best hitters on the team with all the you-know-whos coming up.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to drkazmd65:

    If that's his ceiling now. I disagree as I think he can be at least a .275 hitter, but if your right I rather have Andrew Cashner.

  • Why doesn't the Pessimists Club just charge the Bastile and cut off some heads! "Don't want to be pessimistic..." You guys feed off pessimism. In fact, if your dreams came true, the Cubs would look just like the Yankees do now after all their bad contracts and raped farm system. "What the Cubs need is a stimulus plan!" You whine about bad contract players, then advocate for the same poison.

    Hold the line boys, the the rebels are carrying butter knives!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I'm not pessimistic about the future. I'm not even pessimistic about our rotation or bullpen.

    It's the 2014 offense that grosses me out. That's just being honest. There's nothing there, and you can't put all your faith in bounceback years and Mike Olt.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    As I said, I don't want to be a pessimist but this coming year is critical for both of them. That's reality. If they turn it around this year that would be great. if they don't then the FO may have to take another look at the core that they are trying to establish and there may be movement in the minors that wasn't foreseen. My question still revolves around what would happen next. It may be too soon for some of the players to move up the ladder. Then, do we go the trade route or wait? Can the Cubs afford to wait until 2015? or will the Cubs be forced into action ahead of their timetable?

  • I don't think I see Nate progessing. Don't think he will put up same numbers. Hope I am wrong.

  • The 3B situation is interesting. Villanueva should go to AAA. I don't think he can skip it. His bat is still a question mark. He didn't dominate the AA level the way Olt did a couple of years back. Of course, Olt has other questions to answer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed! John what understanding do you have about Villanueva's ceiling? I understand the impact of his defense, but do they speculate about his filling out, or mechanical skills that raise his ceiling projections, or is he what he is?

    Potential trade material?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm curious to see what happens if both Olt and Villanueva need to be in Iowa this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think they should let Olt stand next to the third bag in Chicago unless he absolutely bombs in spring. Villanueva is ready for Iowa, Bryant will start in Tenn, and Candelario should be pushed to Daytona. Olt going to Iowa messes up all three of the other guys development.

    I know the front office isnt about rushing guys, but with three or four potential 3B right behind Olt,It would seem like a low risk gamble to see what he can do knowing you have others If he fails.

    Also if he doesnt handle the bigs,you can always swap him out with VVillanueva or Bryant and continue his development in the minors.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Is Villanueva a spring training invite?

  • Felzz, I desperately want to chug some Kool-Aide. Cruddy is a huge understatement -- or so I felt until Xmas Eve when we learned Tanaka would be posted. That's when I reached for that good old smiley faced Kool-Aide pitcher (see what I did there).

    So if we get Big T, I really feel we turn the corner in a big way. And even if we don't get him, it'll be interesting following all the points you list above, plus the box scores at milb.

    Cruddy no more. P&Cs report soon.

    Lets go Cubs!

  • The offense - to use the terms I think I was using last off-season,... is going to sputter,.... again.

    They still don't have a good option as a leadoff guy with a decent OBP and some speed. They still really don't have a good #2 hitter either. Without table-setters all the HR power behind that poor starting 2 (and we don't have tons of power either) isn't going to do much good.

    Assuming Rizzo rebounds to a >0.250 hitter with 30+ HRs, and Castro rebounds back to a >0.280 hitter with 15+ HRs, they have nobody else on roster who seems to be a lock on >0.250 BA, and 20+ HRs other than maybe a platoon combo of Schierholtz and Ruggiano.

    It's not an offense that is going to scare anybody,.... and still no real footspeed or base-stealing threats unless Sczuzr or Alcantara push their way onto the roster in Spring Training.

    Defense should be solid. Relief pitching should be at least league average, and could be a strength. Starting pitching should be decent even without Tanaka - although no one dominant pitcher jumps out at you. But run production will be 'sad'.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks for the well wishes in your own inimitable style, Felzzy.

  • Hi Felzz, really sorry to hear about your family loss, hang in there.

  • In reply to Dave S:

    Thanks Dave.

  • I thought I was "the Ultimate Cubs Fan" but the optimism on this site is beyond astounding.

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    I think it's pretty straightforward. Maybe you were looking for something pessimistic, so something objective and balanced looks optimistic by comparison.

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    I don't view it as optimism, as much as it is a realization that - while the team is very likely to be bad, and at best (if absolutely everything falls right) a near 0.500 team for 2014,....

    That the 'plan' that has been implemented is leading towards somewhere better.

    The last two seasons (in fact the last 3-5 seasons) have been hard to watch. BUT - the fact that the pieces have been starting to be put into place for a better and more consistent future - are hard to ignore despite that 'bad' that has been seen on the field in Wrigley since the last contending teams' wheels came off the tracks.

    It could still very well go wrong (we are talking about the Cubs after all) - but it does seem to be heading the right direction.

  • Finally some realistic honesty on here. I'm all for optimism of the prospects & how the farm is coming along & all. But I'm also for honest to goodness realism as well.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    What's realistic is that some prospects will make it and some won't -- and that of those who make it, only a select few will reach their ceiling. The Cubs have built up so much depth in terms of prospects that they can afford it if a few players don't make it. That is a radical departure from past situations where everything hinged on one player such as Felix Pie or even more recently, Brett Jackson.

    Prospects are going to fail. It's inevitable. So you do three things to mitigate that: 1) You scout better and get players who have high floors to go with high ceilings, 2) You install a development plan to maximize potential as much as possible and 3) You get a lot of prospects so that you aren't relying on one or two guys.

    I think the Cubs have covered those bases pretty well.

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