Merry Christmas, Denizens, and Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and whatever else you may or may not choose to celebrate this time of year. I've been leaning towards Festivus, myself. The original concept of this quasi-holiday seems to embody my beliefs. I've done my rendition of the Airing of Grievances with my last few posts, and am somewhat nervously awaiting the outcome of the Feats of Strength that apparently is currently being waged within our organization. I shudder to anticipate what Festivus Miracles await.
This offseason hasn't kicked off as most of us had hoped. It is becoming more and more clear that we are "re-evaluating", and the much-anticipated voyage to our Christmas stocking may yield more carbon than diamond. I've come to accept this new reality, and choose to try to focus on the positive. At the very least we have stopped the bleeding and are positioning ourselves for an extended run, rather than a dramatic crash. I guess that's hope, and it's about all I have right now.
I do have one Christmas proposal that is non-negotiable in my mind: don't take away my Javy. When we were children we sang of wanting two front teeth. We saw the loss but knew of the greater things to come. Now that we've aged, those two front teeth are gone forever. I'd like to keep what I have, thank you very much.
I'm not going to dwell on the pieces we trade away, but focus on the value brought back. I'll refrain from cussing the lost opportunity and anticipate the glory days to come. I will forever cherish the joy we have been given, and thank those who brought it to us. I can only envision an even brighter future after this bump in the road.
This community that John Arguello created has brought me great joy, even salvation, over the years. I will forever be grateful to Mr. Arguello for making me a better Cubs fan, and a better person. He taught me more than just baseball.
Like everything in life, change happens. We've followed the progress from laughingstock to an up-and-coming team to a Championship. It has been an incredible journey, and one I am not willing to give up just yet.
The writers here at Cubs Den have come and gone. One thing has remained consistent: we all love our team. Good times and bad, we bare our souls through this incredible community John created. On this holiday season, we thought it appropriate to share some messages of hope and to hear yours. We've always been in this together, and here is to the hope that continues for many successful years to come.
And, of course, lyrics:
"Dear Mister Fantasy play us a tune.
Something to make us all happy.
Do anything take us out of this gloom.
Sing a song, play guitar
Make it snappy. "
Perhaps it is easier for me to remain positive as a Cubs fan than it is for others given my focus on the Minor Leagues. Part of the mindset necessary for studying prospects is to keep the future and not the present in mind. To project. To envision possible outcomes. Sure, I see the negative, but the positive is always in sight as well.
Given that point of view, and given the talent of the Cubs core, it is easy for me to see multiple pathways to a turnaround that doesn't require a major shakeup, but rather a reworking of the roster fringes. I also realize nearly every team during every season receives positive contributions from unpredictable sources. Sometimes many. And sometimes it is enough to push a team beyond what most envision for them.
Sometimes it is comes from a much maligned player turning their career and fan opinion of them around. Sometimes it is a midseason acquisition which plugs a hole at an opportune time. For instance the 2016 champs were struggling with an unbalanced lineup after what appeared to be a season ending knee injury to Kyle Schwarber (Spoiler Warning: IT WASN'T).
Chris Coghlan didn't even appear to be a viable Major League bench player at the time. He had been one of the worst players in the league for Oakland over the 1st half (hitting a sub-Descalso .146/.215/.272 in 51 games), but he quickly rediscovered his game and became a solid platoon starter for the Cubs the rest of the year (.252/.391/.388).
No one saw that solution coming. Few predicted the impact the move would have. Many railed against the move when it occurred.
The Cubs will need a similar out-of-nowhere contribution this year to push them out of the doldrums. Maybe it will come from someone already on the roster, maybe from someone in the system, or maybe it will be from a player acquired in a move still to come.
The mystery is part of the fun. And discovering the answers as each season progresses is one of the reasons baseball retains a hold over me and so many others. Despite all the stats, all the projections available, it is still a game built around outcomes of a moving ball striking a moving semi-cylindrical bat. Minute adjustments by players, inconsistencies in materials used to construct both ball and bat, the weather... a million things or more: The game, and the successes or failures of those who play it, will always remain a surprise.
While most focus on baseball from the top-down during the off-season, it is important to note that the Cubs are solid and improving from the bottom-up.
Free agent signings, trades, and club finances grab the headlines, but no Cubs fan should ignore how important the hiring Pitching Coordinator Craig Breslow, Hitting Coordinator Justin Stone, Minor League Pitching Coordinator Casey Jacobson, and Hitting Lab Technician and Rookie League Hitting Coach Rachel Folden can become.
Last season saw a resurgence of talent from the lower half of the Cubs minor league system, including the meteoric rise of pitchers Brailyn Marquez and Jack Patterson. Hitters such are Brennen Davis, Pedro Martinez, Christopher Morel, Cole Roederer, Nelson Velazquez, and Andy Weber have joined Marquez and Patterson along with pitchers Kohl Franklin and Riley Thompson to comprise the "first wave" of new talent. The "next wave" saw the draft adding pitcher Ryan Jensen and Mike McAvene to Richard Gallardo along with Benjamin and Luis Rodriguez. Chase Strumpf and Ethan Hearn joined hitting prospects Flemin Bautista, Nestor Heredia, Rafael Morel, Ezequiel Pagan, Fabian Pertuz, Yohendrick Pinango, and Luis Verdugo.
The Cubs already have state-of-the-art training facilities in the Dominican Republic and Mesa. They go along with the Phil Knight financed/University of Oregon facilities in Eugene as well as the advanced facilities in South Bend. They have exciting young players. Now, they have the staff in place to get the most out of each to further supply the parent club.
When BP came up with the idea to do a fun, positive group post for the holidays I thought it was a great idea, but I also had no idea what I wanted to write about. This past season didn't leave me feeling the best for a lot of reasons, and the Carolina Panthers didn't do much to give me a happy football season, either.
Then I realized I had to write about the most on-brand thing of all for me: 2020 WILL BE THE YEAR OF DILLON MAPLES!
Yes, I say that every season. One of these seasons, I'm going to be right.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am an avid fan of Maples. Control issues? Fastball? What? Never heard of her. This is a positive post. He has the highest spin rate in the majors (average of 3,024 rpm compared to the league average of 2,424 rpm) and a slider that'll make your momma tell you to run to church because it's so filthy. He also has an incredible mustache, when he so chooses to sport it.
He hasn't had consistent playing time in the majors, and I think that's what he needs in order to fully figgurit out. And he will. I'm speaking it into existence, like in The Secret (I think, I don't really know, I never read that book). He has all the potential in the world and amazing raw talent, and this season he's going to harness it and become Megazord. MegaMaples.
And, God willing, we'll see the return of the greatest mustache on Earth.
Cubs baseball is a community that has brought much joy, fulfillment, camaraderie and happiness to my life. Even when the game itself wasn’t making me smile or the days when putting on my Cubs gear seemed like the bravest of tasks, I always knew I wasn’t alone, no matter my feelings. Over the past couple years, my how-and-why I consume and with whom I talk about baseball has changed tremendously. I have learned how to turn my experiences and years consuming Cubs baseball into something that people appreciate. I am also extremely grateful for the support and love from the knowledgeable and talented Cubs social media folks I have surrounded myself with whether in person or online.
This holiday season, the Cubs have not responded to my wish list (I mean it's easy, Nicholas Castellanos, a starting pitcher, a center fielder who can lead off and an everyday second baseman who mirrors Javy). I continue to wait for any one of those 'presents' to arrive. I am choosing positivity this year and I am figuring out ways to re-gift, if you will.
So join me, and instead of focusing on the 'should be’, focus on the 'we did'. Focus on the 'we got to cheer for that' and the 'that happened' instead of the ‘do something’ and ‘sign somebody’. Baseball is such a gift for those that appreciate it and celebrate it. I have made many friends because of baseball. People I'll keep forever. When I walk into Wrigley Field I relive all the memories triggered by each sight, sound and smell. Seems to me I have a lot to be thankful for at the hands of a sport and a team that I love. So this holiday season, know that I appreciate every single person in my baseball world, and I wish you all happiness, health and prosperity. You all are the reason this 'just a girl who loves baseball'......smiles (that and a good ole Cubs win).
Things have been doom and gloom all off-season for the Cubs, but when thinking of something positive to write for this piece my mind kept coming back to one thing: We are watching some of the greatest players in the history of the Chicago National League Ball Club.
Anthony Rizzo, the run producing, gold glove winning, and most importantly emotional leader of the team. The magic man Javier Bàez, who combines light-tower power and dazzling defense with a flair for the dramatic. Kris Bryant, who has more than lived up to the hype that preceded his debut, winning Rookie of the Year and an MVP award.
Beyond those big three, there are other truly all-time Cubs currently playing. Jon Lester may well be the greatest free-agent signing in team history. Kyle Hendricks has had about as good of a start to his career as any Chicago hurler in 50 years. The potential still exists for Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber to ascend to similar heights. No Cubs fans should ever become jaded about the wonderful players they have seen the last five years. Eras like this don't come around very often.
Filed under: Uncategorized