In 2013, denim is in!

Almost a new year, and a new, confused Muskbox picture!

Ordinarily, the Muskbox works thusly: (1) people ask terrible, ridiculous questions; (2) Carrie writes a terse, uninformative response; and (3) I point out that Carrie failed to answer the original question entirely. In this week’s Muskbox, however, Carrie rambles on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. And it’s glorious. I guess.

How many players have the Cubs signed that are coming off Tommy John surgery? Is it just me or does it seem like they are starting a rehab facility? — Ryan W., Fishers, Ind.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you ever find yourself starting a sentence with either, “Is it just me…” or “Am I the only one…” NO YOU’RE FUCKING NOT.

Also, if you ever get really drunk one night and find yourself compelled to write in to the Muskbox, don’t try to make a joke. And if you do, use this one: WHAT IF THEY MADE THE REHAB FACILITY OUT OF THE SAME MATERIAL AS THE BLACK BOX???

CARRIE: New head athletic trainer P.J. Mainville will be busy.

I love that the Cubs finally hired a trainer who sounds like he should be selling elixirs, tonics, and potions off the back of a stagecoach in the late 1800s in the American Southwest.


CARRIE: So far, pitchers Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino and Chang-Yong Lim are coming back from Tommy John surgery. Hector Rondon, acquired in the Rule 5 Draft, had elbow surgery in August 2010 and a second procedure in December 2011 to repair an elbow fracture.


CARRIE: “You don’t set out looking for Tommy John guys,” Theo Epstein said when Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal.


CARRIE: “The reality is it’s not exactly a buyer’s market for pitching so you have to take your risks. Do you want to take a risk on a guy with bad makeup? Do you want to take a risk on a guy with bad command?

Are we getting Carlos Zambrano back?

CARRIE: “Or, do you want to take the risk on a guy you really believe in who is coming off Tommy John surgery and has appropriate value points? I think we’re very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker.”

Is the bet that Scott Baker won’t make 30 starts? Because, if so, I want in on that action.

CARRIE: Is it a risk? Yes, but one the Cubs feel is worth taking. If Baker or Vizcaino were coming off shoulder surgeries, it would be a bigger gamble.

Signing guys after Tommy John surgery has worked out hilariously well for the Cubs. HILARIOUSLY.

CARRIE: “If you have to sign a pitcher who is coming off surgery, Tommy John is the one you want him to come off,” Epstein said, “because it’s a very predictable rehab with a very strong success rate — upwards of 95 percent.”

Of course, you don’t HAVE to sign a pitcher who is coming off surgery. So that’s where the hypothetical breaks down a little bit.

I’m trying to understand the signing of Chang-Yong Lim.

It’s written vertically!

He sounds talented but he is 36 years old and unavailable until 2014. Why would the Cubs spend $5 million under these circumstances? — Billy E.


CARRIE: Lim didn’t sign a $5 million deal. His contract, which was finalized Monday, includes a $100,000 signing bonus, and he will get monthly Minor League salaries for up to the next two seasons, unless his contract is purchased. Look at recent signings, and he’s a bargain.

It would be a lot easier to compare his deal to recent signings if Carrie had actually told us what his deal is instead of snidely telling us what it isn’t. But maybe she’ll get to that in the next couple of paragraphs. Or maybe not. CLIFFHANGER.

CARRIE: Setup pitcher Mike Adams, 34, has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract.


CARRIE: This also is an investment for the future. The right-hander has pitched the last five seasons for the Yakult Swallows in Japan and was released after needing a second Tommy John surgery in July to repair a torn ligament in his elbow. Despite that, he said he received offers from teams in Japan and the U.S., including the Cubs, Red Sox and Rangers.

And no one has EVER postured about receiving offers.

CARRIE: A power pitcher with a sidearm delivery, “Mister Zero” was a closer in the Korea Baseball Organization for four years.

I’m assuming Korea banned any nicknames other than Mister Zero.

CARRIE: “The Cubs expect to see me back on the field in 2014, rather than next year,” Lim told reporters at Incheon International Airport last week. “Once the deal is signed, I will move to Arizona where the Cubs operate a rehab center. My goal is to continue to rehab and get back on the mound by mid to late season next year.”

Just in time for the Cubs’ World Series run!

Should there be any concern that all five of the Cubs starters are right-handed pitchers?

No. Perhaps some concern that none of them are #1 starters, though.

Or that we have only one proven left-handed reliever (James Russell) in the bullpen? — Grant B., Naperville, Ill.

Nah. Now that the Astros are out of the National League, the Cubs don’t have to worry about Brian Bogusevic anymore.

CARRIE: Lefty Travis Wood is projected as a starter in 2013.

Forgot about him. I take back what I said about no #1 starters.

CARRIE: In a perfect world, teams would love to have a mix, and hopefully, lefties Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley can become options down the road. Is it a concern? No. A bigger concern is cutting down on walks issued.

When the Muskbox doesn’t ask you enough good questions, ASK AND ANSWER YOUR OWN QUESTIONS.

My problem with the exaggerated defensive shift and Dale Sveum’s 90 percent guideline is that good hitters can make adjustments to take advantage of big holes in the infield.

I feel like I walked into the middle of a conversation. A very boring conversation.

Do the Cubs have access to hitting stats and spray charts for when opposing hitters hit against the shift versus against a traditional arrangement? Shouldn’t that be the key stat to work from? — Ben Z., Chicago

That’s ridiculous. If the guys the Cubs were using the shift against were really capable of taking advantage of it, they’d just bunt down the third-base line every time. Do the Cubs even use the shift that much?

CARRIE: The Cubs have access to so many statistical breakdowns on players’ hitting tendencies that first-base coach Dave McKay could tell you where certain players hit on Tuesdays nights in May against left-handers after they’ve eaten at Chicago steakhouses.

I take it back, Muskbox submitters. Please don’t leave the jokes to Carrie.

CARRIE: They do have hitting stats, spray charts and video clips that address shifts, and they apply them. If you watched how well second baseman Darwin Barney was positioned in 2012, I think you’d agree the Cubs coaches know which stats are key.

He was positioned so well that he never had to dive. Isn’t that right, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg?

Damn straight!

With the Cubs signing Nate Schierholtz, I’d imagine this would leave little playing time for Tony Campana unless Alfonso Soriano is traded.

Yes, thank god.

After leading the Majors in stolen bases for a while last season, you’d think they’d try to find a full-time position for Campana. — Todd, Johnsburg, Ill.


CARRIE: As of Monday, the Cubs had not officially signed Schierholtz — they reportedly have an agreement in place.

Is Nate Schierholtz holding out for more money? That’s hilarious!

CARRIE: That said, if added, he is considered more of an extra outfielder. The Cubs are still in the market for another outfielder. I understand why fans want to see the speedy Campana play more, but unless he can show that he can get on base more, his role is pinch-runner/extra outfielder…

In Iowa, hopefully.

CARRIE: …not full-time player. Campana has finished his winter-league assignment in Venezuela and finished with eight stolen bases, a .231 batting average and a .322 on-base percentage.

Why do I suspect that Campana’s OBP is higher than his SLG?