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Kris Bryant and the #1 Ranked Chicago Cubs Farm System

Posted on 05 February 2015

.Kris Bryant

ESPN’s Keith Law has released his yearly preseason farm system rankings and your very own Chicago Cubs are Numero Uno with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell leading the charge. This should come as no surprise after the year the Cubs just had off the field in assembling what Law described as “ the strongest collection of top-shelf hitting prospects I can remember since I started working in baseball”.

Last July the Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for an excellent prospect in the shortstop Russell to pair with overall top prospect Kris Bryant. These two alone are what get Cubs fans giddy but add in other recent callups, Jorge Soler and Javy Baez, and young talents, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora and it’s plain to see that the Cub’s cupboard is stocked. Now obviously farm system rankings don’t translate into World Series wins and although loaded with hitting prospects they can’t all take the field at the same time. There will be moves made over the course of the next year that remove some redundancies and hopefully bring in Major League-ready pitching.

Year Four with Theo Epstein at the helm appears to be the year the Cubs will make a big leap back into contention and Cubs fans have Epstein’s baseball acumen and talent evaluation to thank.

Addison Russell

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Bleacher Construction Behind Initial Schedule; Set to Open in Early May

Posted on 30 January 2015

Wrigley Bleachers

As most have already heard the Budweiser Bleachers will not be ready for opening day (or the first month and half of the season) due to delays in construction caused by unforeseen expansion issues and a bitterly cold December. While it was a bit optimistic to think that a project of this magnitude could be completed within a handful of months, fans have to be a bit surprised that it’s not just the opening series that will be affected with the target date for re-opening the famed section being May 11 for now. That’s 15 games and five home series for those counting at home with the possibility of more trending closer to the probable than possible as it stands now, at least in terms of having the entire Bleachers section completed.

The Cubs have offered full refunds for the affected games for Season Ticket Holders with the option of account credits or seat relocation a possibility. While this does dampen the enthusiasm generated from off season signings a bit, a big picture focus is needed to see just how beneficial this renovation will be for both the fan experience and generating revenue. A revamped bleacher section with state of the art amenities, not to mention a sound and stable infrastructure will transform one of the oldest ballparks in America into a much more accessible and fun environment. The giant jumbo-tron planned for left field along with various signage will allow more advertising opportunities as well as allowing fans better access to information, statistics, game day promotions, etc. All good things.

No one likes to be kept waiting but in the grand scheme of things this is better done right then quick. A month and half more may be a mild annoyance but a necessary one to ensure that the team and fans both win down the road.

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Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks Passes On As Cub’s Fans Remember Him Fondly

Posted on 30 January 2015

Ernie Banks

Cubs Legend Ernie Banks, known affectionately to the Cubs faithful as “Mr. Cub”, passed away last Friday January 23 as a result of a heart attack. The news trickled into bars around the city late Friday evening as television stations picked up the story. Banks, while 83 years old, behaved like a man half his age brandishing that trademark smile at every public appearance, interview, or game he frequented over the years. His famous saying, “Let’s Play Two” became the de facto motto for the Cubs especially during the lean years, embodying the spirit of the game no matter the final result on the field.

As the tributes poured in it became clear that there really isn’t a bad thing to say about Ernie Banks. He was a hell of a player, winning two NL MVP awards (‘58, ‘59) along with 14 All-Star game appearances but was by most standards an even greater man. For all the stories Cubs fans have after meeting him over the years, this blogger in particular was lucky to have such an occurrence and can tell you that everything you’ve heard is true. I found myself seated two seats over at an empty bar while a small fundraiser went on the in background. With little to no reason to speak with me, he immediately engaged me asking my name, my profession, where my girlfriend was, etc. I barely had time to ask him about himself as the questions rolled in. We shared some laughs, he asked me when I would be marrying my attractive girl friend, and told me he had to get back to watch the Cubs that afternoon.

The man loved baseball but his friendliness and charm led me to believe he loved entertaining people just as much, on the field or off. Our conversation only lasted twenty minutes or so but it’s not often one finds themselves alone with a Major League Hall of Famer, and certainly not one from their favorite team. I thought about this encounter upon hearing the news Friday night and much more on Saturday scrolling through the obituaries and eulogies.

With all the excitement building around the team this year it’s a shame that Mr. Cub won’t be there to see it, to hear the crack of the bat, smell the fresh-cut grass, and listen to throngs of people cheering on his beloved Cubs. His spirit will live on with the fans who remember that larger than life smile, the indomitable optimism, and the calls for a second game on a warm summer’s day.

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Chicago Cubs, Chicago Cubs Management

Cubs Acquire Dexter Fowler From Astros For Luis Valbuena & Dan Straily

Posted on 19 January 2015

dexter_fowler_chicago_cubs

Theo & Co. clearly have a vision and they continue to make moves to improve the major league ballclub just about each and every day.  Today the Cubs announced a trade with the Houston Astros – CF Dexter Fowler for 3B Luis Valbuena and Pitcher Dan Straily.  This adds a proven hitter to the Cubs top of the lineup with Fowler – a career .271 hitter with a great .366 on-base percentage.  In 2014, Fowler boasted a phenomenal .375 on base-percentage with 120 hits and 66 walks in just 434 at-bats.

The Cubs ranked 28th in all of baseball in on-base percentage in 2014, so adding more consistent, patient batters was a clear mission for Theo & Co. this off-season.  The Cubs previously added reserve infielder Tommy La Stella from the Atlanta Braves (.328 on-base percentage in 2014) and Catcher Miguel Montero (.329 on-base percentage in a down 2014).   The addition of Fowler makes the lineup that much better, especially at the top of the order to set the table for the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and eventually Kris Bryant.

Current Cubs hitting coach who came from the Astros this winter raved about Fowler’s plate approach: “He understands the strike zone so well, but it doesn’t take the attack out of him. He doesn’t just take pitches to take. He takes them because he recognizes the strike zone.”  Gotta love it.

It will be interesting to see what Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs do with the rest of the lineup.  Fowler bumps Arismendy Alcantara out of the CF starting position and pushed him to more of a “super sub” role.  Alcantara could even make noise back in the infield with the 3rd base position wide open.  Or will we see La Stella share some time at 3rd base with Alcantara or Mike Olt until the arrival of Kris Bryant in late April.  This is just the kind of move that Maddon probably loved.  Maddon has a knack for moving his players around and getting the most out of his players, so having a “deeper” lineup to play around with in 2015 will sure make things more interesting.

The other interesting news was Max Scherzer going to the Nationals for $210 million over 7 years.  Does that mean the Nats will make one of their other “ace” starters available via trade sooner rather than during the course of the season.  We’ll write more about that over the next few days as it impacts the Cubs…

Miguel+Montero+Chicago+Cubs

 

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Chicago Cubs Management, Chicago Cubs Players

Sold Out Cubs Convention Kicks Off Today

Posted on 16 January 2015

Anthony_Rizzo_Cubs_Prediction

The Sold Out Cubs Convention kicks off today at the Chicago Sheraton & Towers.  Wish I was there to get a glimpse at Manager Joe Maddon and ace Lefty Jon Lester — there will probably be a lot of buzz surrounding the team this weekend.

Here’s a good little schedule of what to expect this – the “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster” would probably be pretty entertaining too.  That guys is a riot and now that he’s no longer playing, he can probably be even more candid than he usually is.

Not sure how thrilled I am that Anthony Rizzo predicted that the Cubs would knock off the Cards and Pirates for the NL Central Division title this year.  I’m sure Maddon and Theo & Co. are even less thrilled than me.  But you gotta like the confidence: “It’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to to play and we’re going to win the NL Central, you can quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team, we’re going to do some things this year. That’s what we’re going to put our sights on and we’re not going to accept anything else.” WOW!

It will be interesting to see if anyone else makes some bold claims like Rizzo during the course of the Cubs convention weekend.  We’ll keep you posted and Go Cubs Go!

Anthony_Rizzo_Cubs_Prediction_2

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Chicago Cubs Management, Chicago Cubs Players

Starlin Castro’s Off-Season Incidents Pile Up: Will It Hurt The Cubs?

Posted on 30 December 2014

Starlin-Castro

While the Cubs have been seemingly quiet since the David Ross signing a week and a half ago, they entered the news cycle in a negative way shortly after the Christmas holiday as Starlin Castro was questioned by police in his native Dominican Republic regarding a shooting at a nightclub on December 27th that left one person in serious condition. Police believe Castro may be close to those that were involved in the shooting. This comes on the heels of a report earlier this month that Castro had been cleared of any involvement in another shooting that occurred in Santiago Caballeros. While Castro was not arrested, the Cubs can’t be pleased that his name keeps popping up in incidents like these, especially given the positive buzz the Cubs have fostered as of late, not to mention potential trade impact should the Cubs find a deal for Castro that bowls them over.

Castro’s agent Paul Kinzer, in speaking with MLB Network radio, confirmed that Castro may be trying to find a permanent residence in the US to avoid issues such as these. These incidents coupled with the death of Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras in a car crash this past October, where Taveras had a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit, has to have teams and executives around the league considering their options in protecting their investments in these players as they return to the DR in the offseason.

Either way, let’s hope there are no lingering issues as we turn the calendar page and embark upon the 2015 season which is setting up to be quite exciting. Hopefully we will be hearing about more deals to bolster the rotation and locker room, and less about off-field incidents and problems.

david-ross-chicago-cubs-jon-lester-boston-red-sox

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