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This Muskbox is a Month Old, and You Shouldn’t Read It

Klaatu barada nikto.

Klaatu barada nikto.

Guys, what if I bandwagon like Dolan and TMS (I just now realized how close they are to TMZ) and just start writing again now that the Cubs are good? What if I dig up a Muskbox from over a month ago to mock it in hindsight? What if my new writing style is to just ask questions aloud and never answer them? Will you forgive me? READ ON.

The Cubs now have 50 RBIs with the bases loaded. How does that compare to last year (or even the past few years)? We all know the Cubbies have been horrible with RISP, much less with the bases loaded.
— Aaron K., Chicago

Every time the bases get loaded, a reminder that YOU can get loaded on the thousands of beers available at Binny’s Beverage Depot. If you can’t find it at Binny’s, you’re probably drunk enough already, mister. Binny’s Beverage Depot. Champagne provider of the Chicago Cubs.

CARRIE: Here are the Cubs’ batting averages with the bases loaded and total RBIs in those situations:
2016: .400 (20-for-50) with 50 RBIs
2015: .284 (40-for-141) with 111 RBIs
2014: .200 (17-for-85) with 66 RBIs
2013: .231 (21-for-91) with 65 RBIs
2012: .241 (21-for-87) with 67 RBIs
2011: .296 (37-for-125) with 90 RBIs
2010: .292 (33-for-113) with 100 RBIs

The Cubs’ individual stats with the bases loaded are:
Matt Szczur (3-for-4, nine RBIs)
Ben Zobrist (4-for-6, eight RBIs)
Addison Russell (3-for-6, six RBIs)
Jason Heyward (2-for-5, five RBIs)
Kris Bryant (1-for-4, six RBIs)
Dexter Fowler (1-for-4, four RBIs)
Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3, one RBI)

Even more surprising that I’m still alive may be the revelation that clearly Ed Hartig is still alive, as there’s no way that Carrie did this research herself.

What effect do you think Stephen Strasburg’s extension with the Nationals will have on the negotiations the Cubs are having with Jake Arrieta?
— Sean M., Indianapolis

They’ll probably try to sign Arrieta instead of Strasburg.

CARRIE: Strasburg, 27, was given a seven-year, $175 million extension on Tuesday, and the biggest impact it has on Arrieta is that it reinforces the high price of pitching. Arrieta, 30, will be a free agent after the 2017 season, and he expects to be compensated. He said Wednesday he’d like to stay in Chicago, but he clearly stated that he is not going to give the Cubs a hometown discount. As of now, Arrieta is under control with the Cubs for this season and next.

You think pitching is expensive? How about the cost of living these days? It’s all guys like Arrieta or Strasburg can do to keep the lights on. AREN’T BASEBALL SALARIES OUTRAGEOUS, YOU GUYS??? THESE GUYS ARE MAKING MILLIONS TO PLAY A GAME FOR A LIVING!

Any chance that Bryant is a permanent fixture in left field with the way Javier Baez is playing?
— James M., Jacksonville, Fla.

No more permanent than Schwarber was when he was out there. HEY-O!

CARRIE: I wouldn’t say permanent.

Other things Carrie won’t say:

  1. sensual
  2. bunk
  3. girth
  4. lubricated

CARRIE: Bryant will see more playing time in left field than anyone expected at the start of the season, mainly because of Kyle Schwarber’s season-ending left knee injury.

WHAT??? When did THAT happen?

CARRIE: Manager Joe Maddon wants to get Baez in the lineup for defense and wants Tommy La Stella in for offense in certain matchups.

For example, Tommy La Stella versus the fragile bag of meat that is his human body.

CARRIE: Some fans have asked about Jorge Soler’s status because he’s not playing every day. Soler is still in the development phase of his career, and the Cubs are in win mode. The goal is to find matchups in which Soler can be in a position to succeed.

For example, Jorge Soler’s fragile bag of meat versus Tommy La Stella’s fragile bag of meat.

Do you have any updates on Schwarber’s knee? Will we see him around the ballpark?
— Jerry U., Belvidere, Ill.

Low and lazy.

CARRIE: Schwarber is at Wrigley Field for his rehab, but his progress will be slow, which is why you won’t get daily updates.

Also because the Muskbox is written almost as sporadically as HJE.

CARRIE: Chicago’s coaching staff is keeping him mentally in the game by having him chart the pitchers, which will give him a better understanding of situations and help his development as a catcher.

It’s also helping him learn Excel, which can only help his CV.

CARRIE: Schwarber is still wearing a massive brace on his left leg, which he can only take off to do his exercises and shower.

This is the only lead Carrie has ever followed up on and done some actual investigative journalism.

Just that she followed him around to see when he took off his brace.

What I’m saying is that she tried to get a sneaky peek at Kyle’s peen.

I was watching a Spring Training game and noticed the discussion of Arrieta’s workout and the new equipment the Cubs brought into the facility. How do players establish workout routines? Are any of the other guys adopting Arrieta’s training program after his success last year?
— Chris M., Rutherford, N.J.

THEY GET OFF THE DAMN INTERNET AND GO OUTSIDE EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, CHRISTOPHER!

CARRIE: During the season, players follow Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss’ program. In the offseason, Buss travels to meet with the players and their personal trainers to go over their workout plans and make sure they’re following his instructions.

I hope he travels around in a bus and says things like, “You want to ride your way to success, you gotta get on the Buss!”

CARRIE: Yes, more players have added Pilates to their workout routine, and Arrieta does deserve credit for that. It’s easier to do that now since the new clubhouse has a Pilates room with space for the reformer. Last year, the device was crammed in a corner of the interview room, which was shared by the groundskeepers for weather updates.

And by “weather updates,” she means that there was a hole in the roof of the interview room that they stood under. If they got wet, it was time to bust out the tarp.

What’s the status of Matt Murton? Why hasn’t he been brought up?
— Jim and Crissy B., Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Jesus Christ. Or, to put it in Murton’s now-native tongue, “イエス・キリスト.”

CARRIE: Murton, who is back in the U.S. after playing in Japan, is on the disabled list at Triple-A Iowa with a strained oblique. There’s no timetable for his return.

As soon as the groundskeepers’ feet get REALLY cold, Murton will be up.

Let’s Leave This as the Newest Post for a While

I must go now. My people need me.

I must go now. My people need me.

My hatred of Ryan Dempster has been welldocumented on this site.

And, apparently, it’s well-known in the Twittersphere, as well! Roland Johnson was good enough to inform me that one of my many mean tweets about Dempster had been read that morning on MLB Central. Leave it to Dempster to be involved in a routine stolen from fellow hack Jimmy Kimmel. My only regret is that they didn’t pick a meaner post.

I’m not saying that this is the culmination of my life’s work. I’m not saying that this will be my last post. But if this ends up being my last post, what a glorious last post it is.

WE DID IT, YOU GUYS!

10 Years

Birthday CakeIt’s HJE’s 10th birthday. This seems as appropriate as anything.

I should post something.

The Muskbox is Talking PRACTICE

She reads from the book of the dead and summons forth long-dormant blogs!

She reads from the book of the dead and summons forth long-dormant blogs!

Hey, guys. It’s been a while. Not my fault. There was once a day when Muskboxes were a weekly occurrence. When even the BEST questions were about the 25th man on the bench. Or whether Anthony Rizzo can be taught to play third base. Or what the color scheme in the clubhouse is. But after another long hiatus, the Muskbox is back! And the quality of the questions and answers has increased by leaps and bounds! Just kidding. It’s the same old shit. Let’s see if I remember how the hell to do this.

What do you think is the long-term goal for Kyle Schwarber?

Marriage. Children. White picket fences. Fiscal responsibility. Kyle wants the whole thing. The American dream. The whole enchilada.

Miguel Montero has the plate covered for some time…

I think if anyone knows how to cover a plate, it’s Schwarber.

…and, judging by 2015, outfield may not be a permanent home for Kyle.

Like, the postseason? You just mean the postseason, right? Because do you remember Moises Alou?

But power hitting should sustain him for years to come.

Not as long as fiscal responsibility will. Call me, Kyle.

Will the Cubs keep him for the bat solely? Or would they let him go to a team needing a catcher or first baseman?
— Josh T., Bremen, Ind.

For real? You’re not going to say “DH”?

CARRIE: Schwarber, 22, will work on both catching and the outfield this spring. The most important thing is to keep his bat in the Cubs’ lineup.

Second-most. Behind fiscal responsibility.

CARRIE: Montero, 32, will be a free agent after 2017, and it could be that their roles reverse at some point and Montero is the backup to Schwarber. Also, keep an eye on prospect Willson Contreras, 23, who was the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year. He’s solid at catcher and batted .333 last season with Double-A Tennessee.

Goddamn I, 37, missed the hell out of the Muskbox parenthetical interruptor.

Neil Ramirez was a lights-out setup man in 2014 before the injuries last season. He’s still listed on the 40-man roster but seems to be getting no love.

I wouldn’t say that. I’m sure someone jizzed on him at the convention last weekend.

With all the new bullpen arms the Cubs signed, where does Ramirez fit?
— Dustin J., Monticello, Utah

Between Travis Wood and Pedro Stop, unflinchingly staring down foul ball after foul ball.

CARRIE: Having a healthy Ramirez, 26, will almost be like adding a new pitcher — and the Cubs didn’t need to acquire him via free agency or trade.

JUST LIKE ADDING A NEW PITCHER. Except that it’s nothing like adding a new pitcher.

CARRIE: The right-hander did battle injuries last season, and if he can return to 2014 form, he could be a key part of the ‘pen as a setup pitcher. The Cubs will sort through their options this spring.

I hope they’re giving Dempster a look.

I’m going to Spring Training this year and get to experience the new Sloan Park in Mesa. I know in years past, you could go in the morning to see the players practice.

But you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could that you didn’t stop to think if you should.

Is there a way to see any of them practice at Sloan Park in the mornings or any of the practice facilities?
— Kyle P., West Des Moines, Iowa

Yep. Spy Tech. Holy shit, guys. Remember SPY TECH???

CARRIE: You can watch the early workouts at the Cubs’ complex, which is a short walk from Sloan Park. There are seven practice fields at the complex in Mesa, Ariz., plenty of parking, bleachers and restrooms. In the past, players started with a morning stretch around 9:30 a.m. Arizona time. Bring sunscreen.

And lube. Lots of lube.

Everyone seems to assume that Jason Heyward will be the new leadoff man. However, with Addison Russell’s ability to seemingly get such great leads at first, is there any chance the Cubs will work with him in Spring Training on stealing bases and possibly move him to the leadoff spot?
— Vincent H., Bloomington, Ill.

CARRIE: Manager Joe Maddon often said having Russell bat ninth gave the Cubs an extra leadoff man. Having Russell bat first may be something the Cubs experiment with in Spring Training, but Heyward and Ben Zobrist most likely will get the most at-bats at the top of the order.

And if Joe Maddon puts together the same lineup two days in a row, I’LL EAT A BOLOGNA SANDWICH!!!

Is there any chance Dexter Fowler pulls an Alex Gordon-like move and re-signs with the Cubs? What’s the price tag he’s looking for? My guess is that it’s too high, but I haven’t seen his name in any rumor articles or anything.
— Russ M., St. Louis

Oh, no. We’re on to you, Russ from ST. LOUIS.

CARRIE: A lot of the Cubs’ players would like Fowler to return, and the Cubs did show their interest by making a qualifying offer of $15.8 million. A free agent for the first time, Fowler, 29, now is waiting for teams to sort through the other options — Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are still available.

MLBTradeRumors.com speculated that Fowler is looking for a four-year deal in the $56 million to $64 million range.

Since we’re longtime frenemies, I’m going to give Carrie some fodder for the next Muskbag.

  • Castro to return to Cubs in exchange for Bryant, Schwarber, Arrieta, cash considerations.
  • Pearl Jam cancels Wrigley concert date to perform at U.S. Cellular.
  • Maddon introduces new glasses line.
  • Ross welcomes second grandchild.
  • Schwarber ball named 9th planet.

CARRIE: Whichever team does sign Fowler would have to give the Cubs Draft pick compensation, which may be part of the reason for the delay.

I love Dexter, but I hope the Cardinals sign him so the Cubs can just. Keep. Stealing.

CARRIE: Russ also asked about whether the Cubs were interested in Charlie Blackmon, who has been reportedly offered in trade by the Rockies. Blackmon can play all three outfield spots, which would be a plus for Maddon, who likes versatile players. But can he do well away from Coors Field? Blackmon thrived in Denver, batting .334 there in his career, and he hit .241 on the road.

So, why didn’t Carrie publish that part of Russ’s question? Was he cursing uncontrollably? Was this Astros revenge, and they stole the back half of his email? WERE THE MANITOWOC COUNTY POLICE RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING THE EMAIL SAFE AND PRIVATE???

An Irish Wake for the 2015 Cubs

May the wind be always blowing out.

May the wind be always blowing out.

Today we gather not to mourn the loss of the 2015 Chicago Cubs, but to celebrate their life. We knew you for a far-too-short 199 days. I remember watching your birth on a chilly Sunday night in Chicago. Even though it wasn’t that long ago, it felt like a lifetime. I remember the giddy anticipation and the subsequent frustration of losing to the Cardinals. It felt so long ago, Adam Wainwright made the start for the Cardinals. It felt so long ago, Phil Coke struck out two batters. It felt so long ago, Mike Olt started at third base. At the end of that 3-0 loss I tweeted out, “Oh, no! We suck again!” I was wrong.

You came into life shakily. You came into a Wrigley field that was a literal shitstorm. Your bathrooms were as broken as our hearts are today. It feels like ages ago that we were pissing in cups, waiting for the arrival of Kris Bryant, and hoping that Jake Arrieta could pitch half as well as he had in 2014. Crane Kenney sat upon a mountain of shit and canceled the second game of the season for “weather-related” reasons, but you wouldn’t be deterred. You got your first of what would be 101 wins in just the second game of the season, and you didn’t waste any time looking back.

You changed our lives for the better, Cubs. You became must-see television. For the first time since 2008, I made sure I was home to watch games. I played hooky from work to spend many beautiful afternoons watching you win far more often than not. You rewarded me with thirteen walkoff wins. With two young, brilliantly talented All-Stars. With a thrilling pennant race. With record-breaking home runs. With the most dominant half of baseball any pitcher has ever thrown. With helmet rubbing and bat dropping. With the third-best record in baseball. With postseason defeats of the two teams who now have no choice but to fear the team that comes after you.

We’re sad to see you go, of course. The next four months will be dreary and bland without you. But they won’t be filled with regret. Never have we watched a team who loved playing the game as much as we loved watching it. We didn’t know you personally, but you made us feel welcome. You let us be part of this wonderful, historic, exciting thing. That’s why it hurts so much more. Last night, we lost a friend.

Fear not what fans of other teams are saying on Facebook or Twitter. Some people would rather revel in our sadness than celebrate their own happiness. Soon, spring will be here, and with it, new hope. The team that takes the field on April 3 will be different. We’ll learn new names. We’ll greet fresh faces. We’ll say good-bye to old ones. Know this. We will love next year’s club with all of our hearts because of you. You’ve earned them the benefit of the doubt.

You changed Wrigley Field itself. I hope to one day explain to a bright-eyed young fan why there is a baseball sitting atop the right-field video board. “Pull up a seat, and let me tell you about a magical season that made me feel like a boy again.” The video board in left field is barely big enough to contain all of the memories you gave us, and the expanded bleachers won’t be enough to hold the swell of fans you’ve created.

You changed people’s minds. Even my die-hard White Sox fan brother-in-law learned to love you. He traveled to Pittsburgh for a doubleheader. He rooted for you in the playoffs. Your joy was infectious. Your winning was contagious. The frenzy you stirred up in this city was unavoidable. Those who insist on saying, “Wait ’til next year” now say it with nervous apprehension. Because of the groundwork you laid, “next year” is nigh.

Though we mourn the fact that it wasn’t you who finished the job, we celebrate the fact that the teams that will come after you will stand on your broad shoulders and be feared.

So let’s all raise our glasses to the 2015 Chicago Cubs.

May the ivy be always red.
May the wind be always blowing straight out to center.
May the sun shine warm upon your face even in April,
and rains never fall upon your fields during game time.
And until we go all the way,
May our wins be as bountiful as the smiles you brought us.

Thank you, guys.

What if, Though?

Someday we'll go all the way.For all intents and purposes, the Cubs are done. The average team age is around 18, so they didn’t run out of gas. They shouldn’t have realistically been here, so they didn’t choke. They’re not imbeciles, so they’re not cursed. They’ve run up against an extremely hot hitter, some elite pitching, and some very poorly-timed slumps from their star players. With the way these two teams have played, the Mets deserve to be up 3-0.

I know you’ll be watching with me tonight. Living and dying with every pitch. Cursing out the strike zone even though we’re all better than that. This team is infectious. Their unbreakable attitude has permeated the fan base. My brain knows that it’s practically impossible for them to even force a Game 5. My brain knows that it would take a miracle for them to win a pennant. And each time I think I’m ready to face the resignation of a long, boring four months free of helmet rubs and bat drops, hope bubbles up in that primal, emotional part of the limbic system.

“What if, though?” it asks.

“If there’s a team that’s been on the receiving end of the fickle wrath of the baseball gods, it’s the Cubs,” it tells me. “If there’s a magical ‘goes around, comes around’ bank, no team has made more deposits into it than the Cubs. They’ve taken devastating punches to the gut and lower. They’ve felt pain that no one should experience.”

“So?” my rational brain says. “The universe doesn’t owe me anything. Suffering isn’t a badge of honor. Rooting for this team defies all sanity. It’s a mania. It’s a disease. I should be laying on a couch once a week talking to someone about kicking my Cubs habit. I haven’t been suffering for 107 years. I have no right to want more.”

“But don’t you, though?” it replies, tears welling up in its eyes. “They’ve come this far, and you were happy to be along for every white-knuckled second of the ride. They’ve already done impossible things this season.”

“Improbable, not impossible,” my cynic replies.

“What happened to you?” my heart answers. “Are you afraid? At this point, what’s the worst that happens? They lose, you get upset, and Cardinals fans and White Sox fans are going to make fun of you for- What? For caring? For laying your feelings bare and going all in once more? Twice more? Four more times? Eleven more times?”

“Yeah,” the cynic wipes away a snot bubble just as it forms. “They don’t have any right to talk.”

He slaps me. Hard. “Of course they don’t. But who cares? Would you rather trade places with one of them? Would you rather not care about baseball on October 21? Would you rather be watching the BEARS?”

“But it’s easier to give up,” I whine.

“Of course it is. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather die with hope than live with despair,” my heart says. “If tonight our stomach has to handle the sickening sight of someone else celebrating on our field, I’ll know that feeling is only there because I dared to hope. Let me ask you something. How many wins did you predict the Cubs would have before the season started?”

“Eighty-five.”

“And how many have they won?”

“One hundred and one, so f-”

“So far?” he smiles at me. “Welcome back. Eamus Catuli.”

“Wait. We know how to speak Latin?”

I Guess There’s Only One Thing Left to Do

Takes ball. Goes home.

In the fall of 2012, Notre Dame was gearing up to play Southern Cal in the final game of their regular season. ND was 11-0 at the time, and they were playing for a shot at the National Championship. I tweeted out that I wanted the Irish to beat Southern Cal, even though it might give them nothing but the chance to get curb-stomped by Alabama in the title game. When the game came around, a few buddies asked if I wanted to go watch it at a local bar. “No,” I said. “I think I’m going to watch at home, because I feel like it’s going to break bad.” If you remotely follow college football, you’re probably aware that it did.

I’m telling this anecdote because I watched last Wednesday night’s Wild Card game in public with friends. Same with Friday’s game. And Saturday’s. And Monday’s. And I went to the game last night to watch the Cubs take a 1-0 all-time postseason series lead over the hated Cardinals. THIS Cubs team doesn’t break bad.

As Dolan and I have mentioned on the podcast, thank goodness the Wild Card game was in Pittsburgh. When the fantastically sure-handed Addison Russell made a not-an-error(?) in the 6th to load the bases for the Starling Marte, I’ll admit it. I freaked out. You probably freaked out. If you stuck a lump of coal up the ass of Wrigleyville, in two weeks you’d have a diamond. We’re conditioned to freak out. And that’s not our fault. We’re so used to disappointment, we’d be fools NOT to protect ourselves from it, right? But THIS team went ahead and subverted our expectations. They earned the right to get curb-stomped by the self-proclaimed best team in baseball, who had limped their way into the playoffs and finished the season with only three more wins than the Cubs and two more than the vanquished Pirates. Right?

I freaked out after Game One, when the Cardinals seemed to show the Cubs that they didn’t belong on the big stage. That they were still a year or two away. That they blew a good start by their 1(b) pitcher and had nothing to show for it. That a mouth-breathing whiner like John Lackey could quiet the big bats in their lineup. Kyle Hendricks was the only thing that stood in the way of a disastrous 0-2 hole and my Facebook feed being flooded with bitter Sox fans thumbing their noses at the “lovable losers.”

Then Jorge Soler went off and OH MY GOD the Cubs won the mismatched Game Two and Arrieta was scheduled to start back at Wrigley. I just assumed they’d head into Game Four with a 2-1 lead. Arrieta, after all, is Superman. And SHIT Arrieta was touchable. And the Cardinals kept hitting. And Jason Heyward is a sonofabitch. And BAEZ MADE AN ERROR AND HE NEVER MAKES ERRORS AND OH MY GOD, THEY’RE GOING TO COME BACK AGAIN, AREN’T THEY??? I freaked out. It would have been foolish not to. THIS team didn’t, though. They hoisted the man who had carried them since June onto their shoulders and said, “Don’t worry. We got this.”

And then, last night. My least-favorite Cub was set to take the mound in a clinching game against one of my least-favorite Cardinals. And four pitches into the game, the Cardinals had a 2-0 lead and DAMMIT, HAMMEL WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU AND WHY DO THE BASEBALL GODS CONSTANTLY PUNISH ME DON’T YOU KNOW THIS SERIES CAN’T GO BACK TO ST. LOUIS OR I’LL DIE? I freaked out. The buddy I was with freaked out. We would have been foolish not to, right? And then, in the bottom of the second, Hammel came up with two outs and a runner in scoring position. I jokingly said to him, “Well, at least Hammel can hit a little.” And Hammel promptly lined the first pitch he saw into center to cut the Cardinal lead in half. And bedlam ensued. More importantly, he extended the inning for Javier Baez to swing out of his shoes so hard that he scared a baseball into the bleachers. But later on, Trevor Cahill served up a single to the light-hitting guy who replaced the guy who ALWAYS KILLS US AND HOW DO THEY KEEP DOING THIS AND THEIR WHOLE TEAM IS CLEARLY ON STEROIDS. And then ANOTHER HIT AND OH MY GOD IT’S TIED AND HERE COMES THE GO-AHEAD RUN AND- Wait. Did Soler just gun him down at the plate?

Cool. I’m- I’m not freaking out. They’re going to win this one, aren’t they? Like they’ve been doing all season. Like THIS team should have already conditioned us to expect. THIS team hasn’t let us down. THIS team makes bold statements and then backs them up. THIS team hits balls off the Curiosity rover. THIS team only needed four games to knock off the best team in baseball. THIS team is the best one in the playoffs.

But we already knew that. They already knew that.

Yes, the Cubs ARE playing with house money, right? Because they were only third in their division, right? It’s okay if they lose now, because they’ve far exceeded anyone’s expectations, right? They’re ahead of schedule, right? They “shouldn’t be this good”, right? Some of these rookies “won’t pan out”, right? Arrieta “can’t sustain this success”, right? Lester is a “bust”, right? But if you’ve ever gotten up big in Vegas on house money, you’ve felt that hunger to win more. THIS team has it.

Yesterday, the inimitable Pat Hughes had one of the most beautiful radio calls I’ve ever heard. Just before the final out, he said that he wished every Cub fan could have experienced Wrigley Field last night. Some folks are upset that people are jumping on the Cubs’ bandwagon. I say welcome aboard. The world would be a better place if everyone could experience the unadulterated, raw joy I felt last night.

I’m still a little hungry, though, so…

BRING ON THE CARDINALS

Jakey Roger

The 2015 Cubs Signature Moments

You're goddamn right.

You’re goddamn right.

There are dozens of reasons to love the 2015 Cubs that have already been covered ad nauseam. I’ve watched more Cubs baseball this year than I think I have in the past seven years combined. If you’re like me, you’re not going to accomplish anything before 7:08 CST tonight. One thing I’ve noticed and discussed with several friends (and on the podcast; hey, we did one!) is that it seems everyone on this team had at least one signature moment this season. Something heroic. Something humorous. Something unusual. Here’s my take on the whole roster in no particular order. Yes, even Jason Hammel. Hey, everyone played a part in getting the team here. Except for González Germen. Who really didn’t do…anything before heading to Colorado. Who’s going to be the hero tomorrow?

WARNING: ANNOYING ADS EVERYWHERE

Miguel Montero

Miguel Montero launches an opposite-field grand slam against his former team to help the Cubs to a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field. #youaregoood

HONORABLE MENTION: Waving Gary sends Miguel from first base on an Addison Russell double in Pittsburgh, and Montero needs oxygen.

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo makes a circus catch against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. A young lady swoons.

Addison Russell

Russell makes a ludicrous play to preserve a Cub win over the Cardinals at Wrigley.

Starlin Castro

I have so many good things to say about Castro. From the way he handled his “benching” to the way he’s hit since it went down. Or how about the fact that his top three RBI games from this season are against the Cardinals twice and the Pirates? I just love this kid, so I’m giving him multiple moments because it’s my list. Early in the year, he had this great moment:

Or when is the last time you saw the Cubs successfully squeeze?

How about the bomb he hit off Wacha and the Cardinals, showing the “Right Way” Franchise that the kids can play?

Kris Bryant

Pick any one of dozens of moments for Bryant. Setting the Cub rookie home run record. Hitting the left field scoreboard twice. Hitting the longest home run in the NL in 2015. How about making Pedro Strop so delirious he high-stepped? How about these three moments.

Chris Coghlan

I never thought I’d type these words: The Coghlan Game.

Dexter Fowler

Welcome to the Cubs, Dexter. And a big EFF YOU to a former team (and to LaTroy Hawkins).

Jorge Soler

Hey, Jorge, can we have a pinch-hit, 3-run homer tomorrow night?

Kyle Schwarber

The hometown kid REALLY likes hitting in Cincinnati.

Chris Denorfia

Better late than never. I really like having Denorfia on this team, despite the fact that he looks EXACTLY LIKE RYAN FUCKING DEMPSTER.

David Ross

Old Man River can even teach the Cub bullpen a trick or two.

Jonathan Herrera

Johnny Buckets gave us the helmet rub. And then he gave us this:

Helmet Rub

I love it.

Matt Szczur

Szczur drove in the winning run for one of the craziest wins of the season.

Javier Baez

Yeah. Don’t run on Javy.

Tommy La Stella

La Stella has been great, especially lately. So here’s him helping beat the Cardinals.

Austin Jackson

You could go with pretty much his entire series against the Reds last week. Hey, here is some of it.

Mike Baxter

Yes, EVERYONE contributed this year.

Junior Lake

Like, EVERYONE.

Welington Castillo

I miss Welington, and I’m glad he’s having success in Arizona. I don’t miss the dumb “Beef Castle” nickname.

Arismendy Alcantara

His first hit of the season was a walkoff against the Reds on an 0-2 pitch. Neat.

Mike Olt

You guys, MIKE OLT was on the Cubs THIS SEASON.

Taylor Teagarden

Teagarden vs. Chapman. You gotta love that matchup for the…Cubs?

Quintin Berry

Just please don’t get thrown out tomorrow, you speedy little bastard.

Jake Arrieta

Pick nearly any start all year for #scaryetta (IT’S GONNA HAPPEN!). There’s a pretty obvious one, though.

BONUS MUSTACHE ONESIE!

Jon Lester

HE GOT A HIT! HE PICKED OFF A GUY! No, this. I’m really hoping to see Big Game Lester this week.

Jason Hammel

Well, he didn’t spike himself all season, so there’s that. And I guess there’s also this.

Kyle Hendricks

The number three starter in the playoffs (PLEASE, JOE!) has made a strong case for himself in the past month.

Travis Wood

Like Castro, Wood lost his starting job, put his head down, worked hard, and has been a crucial part of the bullpen. He’ll probably also get a ton of playoff innings if Joe decides to go with Hammel. Here he is earning a six-out save against the Pirates while striking out everyone.

Dan Haren

Haren’s start against the Reds reminded me so much of Estes in 2003. No one expected anything from him, and he was brilliant when the Cubs needed him to be.

Clayton Richard

Even Clayton got in on the helmet rubbing! Make sure you bring your batting gloves tomorrow, Clayton.

Tsuyoshi Wada

I hope Wada gets healthy and good.

Dallas Beeler

You know the season is going well when you get a great start out of Dallas Beeler in his MLB debut.

Trevor Cahill

I’m pretty sure Cahill is only 17 years old.

Justin Grimm

Do they play “Don’t Fear the Reaper” when he comes in at Wrigley? I’ve never noticed.

Carl Edwards

CJ’s debut was terrific, as you’ll see.

But this was the best. He’s standing in Kentucky.

James Russell

I’m bummed it sort of fell apart for Russell, because when he was good, he was very good. Here he is helping Haren get his first win.

Donn Roach

This team won 97 games with DONN ROACH making a start.

Turns out, he hates the Cardinals, too.

Neil Ramirez

He throws balls that hate bats.

Jason Motte

Unbelievably, there were times this year when Motte was really, really good. I still refuse to believe he’s not a sleeper agent for the Cardinals, so thank god he wouldn’t be available for the DS if they make it that far.

Fernando Rodney

Fernando was part of the great beanball war of 2015 between the Cubs and Cardinals. To be continued this week?

Phil Coke

It was nice of him to go away and never pitch for the Cubs again, but that’s a mean thing to say.

Yoervis Medina

History will show that Yoervis Medina was a figment of our collective imaginations.

Edwin Jackson

Edwin seemed like a classy guy who had just run out of gas at the end of his career. But he still managed to help the Cubs this season.

Tommy Hunter

Hunter quickly got used to Wrigley North.

Zac Rosscup

You guys. A LOT of these highlights are against the Pirates. That’s good, no?

Brian Schlitter

A long time ago, there was a thing called Brian Schlitter on this team. He was mostly awful. But to his credit, this happened.

Pedro Stop

The high-stepping on Bryant’s walkoff was one of my favorite moments of the season, but that’s been covered. This was amazing.

I dare anyone saying Strop was disrespectful to say it to his face. That dude is jacked.

Rafael Soriano

Soriano wasn’t around for long, but he did help hold the Reds down in this game to set up Teagarden’s game-winning RBI off Chapman.

Hector Rondon

A lot of people pointed to the Cubs’ sweep of the Giants as the turning point in their season, and I’m inclined to agree with them. This was one of the best moments in Wrigley this year.

Best SO FAR. See you guys in the postseason.

MUSKBOX: Well, Look What the Cat Dragged In

It was the best of times. That says something after a  73-89 season.

It was the best of times. That says something after a 73-89 season.

Well, well, well. We haven’t seen a Muskbox for 280 days. Did Carrie take all that time off to compile a series of questions so poignant, so probing, and so insightful that tales will be told of this being the GREATEST MUSKBOX IN HISTORY?

SPOILERS:

No.

Outside of pitching (because in my opinion pitching has been the Cubs’ strong point and isn’t a need)…

In 2014, the Cubs had the third-worst team National League ERA (3.92), were dead last in complete games (1), gave up the fourth-most hits, third-most earned runs, walked over 500 batters, and had the third-worst ERA+ (98). WE SHOULD FOCUS ON GETTING RUSSELL MARTIN.

It makes you wonder, though, where would the Cubs’ numbers have been if during Spring Training Edwin Jackson were sewn into a burlap sack with Ebola-infected bees?

…what are some potential offseason free-agent signings the Cubs could make? It seems what the Cubs need are veteran players with good on-base talents, low strikeout ratios and clutch hitters. The positions that seem to be the least deep are catcher and outfield. So, what about players such as Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Nori Aoki or Brett Gardner? They seem like their at-bat numbers are good and they hit well with runners in scoring position.
— Forrest K., Lead, S.D.

Wait, “at-bat numbers”? You mean, like, the NUMBER of at-bats they take? So, they have a talent for not getting hurt, not drawing walks, and kissing their manager’s ass? Huh.

CARRIE: The Cubs are looking for more depth in the outfield…

Is that why they burned down the entire bleacher section? They’re going to push them back and make Yellon’s season tickets even MORE ridiculous?

CARRIE: …and would like players who possess the qualities you noted.

Confused Joe Maddon

CARRIE: …But they most likely are seeking players who will complement Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara and Chris Coghlan…

I knew it. The Theocracy only brought in Maddon to mold Chris Coghlan.

CARRIE: …and would be willing to accept backup roles. As for catcher, Martin, 32, is on the Cubs’ radar.

Unfortunately, it’s this radar.

Shit, it’s just not as much fun making fun of Cub ineptitude when they’re no longer inept.

CARRIE: Welington Castillo has done well defensively but he didn’t pick up where he left off in the second half of 2013 offensively when he batted .288. Castillo did set a personal high with 13 home runs, but catchers like the Giants’ Buster Posey are rare. Most catchers will tell you their No. 1 priority is the pitcher, not their on-base percentage.

I suspect that’s because most catchers can’t hit. It’s like me telling a girl, “Making money isn’t my No. 1 priority. Believing in myself is.”

CARRIE: Martin is the best catcher among the free-agent candidates, but if you sign him, who are you getting?

Presumably, Russell Martin. Unless you’re Kenny Williams.

CARRIE: Is it the catcher who batted .290 overall and .360 with runners in scoring position this year with the Pirates? Or is it the one who batted .211 with the Yankees in 133 games in 2012?

Or is it Russell Crowe, star of such epic films as Gladiator and Noah? Or is it Russell Brand, who will bring his grating, punk-rock sense of in-your-facedness to the Cub clubhouse? Or is it Keri Russell, former Felicity star who still has a bit of heat on her fastball at 38?

CARRIE: Also, I’ll have to disagree with you that pitching isn’t a need for the Cubs.

Because of the stats I quoted? I totally agree, Carrie!

CARRIE: Pitching is always a need, and the Cubs are definitely in the market for at least one if not two starting pitchers.

Oh, anecdotal bullshit. Never mind.

Is Hunter Pence a possibility for the Cubs next year? I think he would be an ideal veteran for the team. His “100 percent all the time” attitude would be great leadership for the young guys.
— Wayne L., Ottumwa, Iowa

He’s only a possibility if the new bleacher plans don’t include sliding doors.

CARRIE: Yes, Pence is the type of player the Cubs would like to add, but he just finished the first year of a five-year, $90 million contract with the Giants. The answer is no.

That was concise and not remotely confusing.

/checks URL

Interesting.

CARRIE: The addition of Joe Maddon hasn’t changed the Cubs’ plan to acquire veteran players who can help youngsters such as Soler and Alcantara.

Sigh.

CARRIE: “The coaching staff and the manager will never have the same relationship with the players that a peer will,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think a lot of leadership is the day to day — how a guy prepares, how he maintains his body, how he thinks about the game, the energy he brings. A coach or manager can’t bring that.”

Dusty Baker B.S.

CARRIE: The Cubs would like to add multiple players — a starter, a bench player, a reliever, a starting pitcher — who can provide that leadership.

So, wait, they’re going to add players like Pence, or they’re NOT going to add players like Pence? MY HEAD HASN’T HURT THIS MUCH SINCE FEBRUARY.

CARRIE: “It’s hard to lead 25 guys,” Hoyer said.

Patton

CARRIE: “A Major League team is divided into segments and having someone in each segment who can contribute that kind of leadership is important.”

Human Centipede

The construction around Wrigley Field is making me nervous.

Reasonable reasons for this statement:

  1. She’s terrified of loud noises.
  2. Her grandfather was a union boss who crossed the wrong person and ended up buried in the cornerstone of the Sears Tower.
  3. She’s the douchebag owner of Murphy’s, and the construction is ruining business (oh, how I hope).

What is going to happen to all of the brick pavers around the perimeter of the ballpark that fans paid for?

Oh.

Nothing has been said or written about them so I’m hoping they remain where they’re at. I’m not in favor of destroying the mementos put in place over the years by true blue Cubs fans.
— Doreene C., Chicago

I PROVED MY TRUE-BLUEDNESS BY PAYING $160 FOR A $0.39 BRICK!!!

CARRIE: The brick pavers are being protected and preserved.

Somewhere, a California condor just died.

CARRIE: They may need to be moved but the Cubs plan on providing updates to owners closer to Opening Day. If you have any questions, contact Cubs Fan Services at 773-388-8270. You can follow the Wrigley Field renovation project at wrigleyfield.com.

MEMORANDUM

FROM: Cubs Fan Services
TO: Muskat, Carrie

RE: 11.11.14 Cubs Inbox Article

Fuck you.

Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez were both starting pitchers in the Minor Leagues.

Can’t argue with that.

Is there any talk about having them stretched out so they could be part of the Cubs rotation?
— Larry A., Seattle

AND BUMP EDWIN JACKSON???

CARRIE: The plan is to keep both Grimm and Ramirez in the bullpen. Grimm, 26, finished ninth in the National League with 73 appearances in his first full season in the big leagues and had a 2.60 ERA after the All-Star break. Ramirez, 25, posted an impressive 1.44 ERA in 50 appearances. They are valuable arms.

Here’s what happens when you take a whole season off your Cubs blog. You find out in November that Justin Grimm not only pitched for the 2014 Cubs, but he pitched a LOT for the 2014 Cubs.

WELCOME BACK, MUSKBOX!!!