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Category: Broadcasters & Journalists (page 1 of 24)

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.

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???

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!!!

The Muskbox Asks, “What Does the Shark Say?”

And now, a selected reading from The Impotence of Me and Earnest.

And now, a selected reading from The Impotence of Me and Earnest.

Is Keith Moreland a secret agent? Are the Muskbox submitters a secret sect of low-intelligence sentient life forms? Does anyone remember Josh Vitters? Do people in New Zealand watch the Cubs? All these questions and more will be half-assedly answered in this week’s edition of the Muskbox.

Last year the Cubs gave Scott Baker $5.5 million and now they have reportedly given $6 million plus incentives to Jason Hammel but they’ve offered Jeff Samardzija $4.4 million. That does not compute.

BEEP. BOOP. BOP.
SYSTEM OVERLOAD.
RUN SCRIPT ERROR.
404 NOT FOUND.
I DON’T UNDERSTAND “COMPASSION.”

I understand they are in negotiations over a possible long-term deal and he has yet to prove he’s an ace. But he has to have more upside than Baker or Hammel. What gives? — Billy E., Lake Katrine, N.Y.

I don’t know. I really think Scott Baker is due for a breakout year.

CARRIE: It’s all about comparables, not upside.

I’ve used that exact same line on SO MANY women.

CARRIE: Compare their service time and performance. Baker has eight seasons as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Samardzija has pitched in the Major Leagues for six seasons but only the last two as a full-time starter. The Cubs and Samardzija’s agent are still discussing a long-term deal. Hopefully, they avoid going to arbitration and reach a compromise between what the Cubs offered ($4.4 million) and what Samardzija is seeking ($6.2 million).

Actually, hopefully the Cubs just pay him what they want to pay him and he accepts. Because why the fuck should I care if Samardzija can buy the biggest house in all of Merrillville and still have $6.1M to spare?

The Cubs appear to have four starters in Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Jake Arrieta is definitely a starter now? TICKET PACKAGES ARE STILL AVAILABLE!!!

Who are they considering as No. 5? I know they have Justin Grimm, Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva as possible candidates but do you see them re-signing Baker to a reasonable deal or going elsewhere? Who’s the front-runner for the No. 5 spot? — Dustin R., Kimberly, Wis.

Let’s just say the forecast is…Grimm.

/puts on sunglasses
//YEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

CARRIE: Baker is not in the mix because he signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners. As for who gets the fifth spot among the names you listed, that’s one of the fun elements of Spring Training.

The other fun elements are the blistering heat, the absolute wasteland that is downtown Mesa, Arizona, and being the first one to get Clark’s signature.

CARRIE: Hammel, who has reportedly signed with the Cubs, pending a physical, also is a candidate.

This sentence, which was written by Carrie Muskat, using an old-timey typewriter, is a mess.

CARRIE: The right-hander was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter but missed time because of a strained right forearm. I know Villanueva would like to start but he’s so valuable as a swingman, he may end up back in the bullpen. I’d pick Rusin as a front-runner. He made a huge leap last season and the Cubs may decide they want another lefty in the rotation.

Get Terry Mulholland on the phone!

I was wondering what the future holds for both Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

WHO ISN’T? SOMETIMES I’M AMAZED I CAN GET TO SLEEP AT NIGHT!

Are they in the Cubs’ long-range plans or have they been passed up by the other prospects? — Eric L., Plantation, Fla.

Yes. ALL of the prospects.

CARRIE: Both battled injuries last season and they’ve dropped on the list of top prospects simply because of the lack of playing time.

Also, talent.

CARRIE: “They did not stay on the field long enough, first and foremost,” said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development. “We still have belief in both of them, especially a guy like Josh. He was drafted in 2007, and you’ve heard his name so much. You’d probably think he’s 26 years old or 25 years old. This is somebody who is 24. When he was on the field, the performance was pretty good. He was born to hit and he’s always hit. There were other parts of his game that we felt he had to work on.

Vitters’ career OPS+: 7

CARRIE: “With Brett, it’s the same thing,” McLeod said. “He had a tough year, even the year we called him up. … He got injured last year as well. They both took this offseason to regroup, get healthy, and they’ll both be in camp here in a couple weeks.”

Position players report to Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 18.

/checks math
All right, I’ll allow it.

It seems the rooftop owners are going to make things difficult for the Cubs’ remodel of Wrigley Field. At what point do the Cubs owners decide they are in a no-win situation and decide to relocate someplace else and the rooftop owners have a front-row seat to watch Wrigley Field be torn down? — Terry L., Sun City Center, Fla.

Not going to lie, I dig your style, Terry L.

CARRIE: Preserving Wrigley Field has been one of the Ricketts family’s goals since they purchased the Cubs but with the $500 million renovation plan stalled, don’t think leaving hasn’t been mentioned.

Yeah, but eventually everyone shot down Todd’s idea to increase Cub home runs by moving Wrigley Field to the moon.

CARRIE: “How far do you go before you say, ‘You know what? We tried and we tried to make the good effort, but it didn’t work out?'”

Apparently more than 106 years.

CARRIE: Cubs spokesman Julian Green said Saturday during an interview on WSCR-AM. “I won’t speak on behalf of the [Ricketts] family, but I’m sure this is weighing heavily on them because they want to move forward on this.”

Upward, not forward!

When will Jorge Soler be getting the call? He didn’t get an invite to spring camp. Does that mean he won’t be coming up this year? — Nate C., Orion, Ill.

TOM: Todd, did you sent out the invitations to Spring Training?
Todd looks sheepishly at the ground.
TOM: Todd?
TODD: Ruh-roh!
Studio audience laughs.
TOM: Oh, Todd, you’re about as reliable as a George R.R. Martin release date!

Next time on The Big Bang Theory

CARRIE: Soler is on the 40-man roster already, which is why he wasn’t included in the list of non-roster invitees. As to when he gets called up, that’s up to his progress. The outfielder was limited to 55 games last year because of a leg injury. He needs game experience.

And there’s no better place to get it than in Chicago. Unless you’re talking about baseball game experience.

What’s your pick for the starting lineup for Opening Day, including the starting pitcher, relievers and a closer? I’m from New Zealand and after seeing the Cubbies at Wrigley Field last year, I’m a fan. — Tobin D., Wellington, New Zealand

To be fair, he voluntarily lives on an island where 98% of the species can easily kill him.

CARRIE: New manager Rick Renteria has yet to write out a lineup card…

Fucking procrastinator.

CARRIE: …but here’s a guess:

SS Starlin Castro

2B Darwin Barney

1B Anthony Rizzo

LF Junior Lake

RF Nate Schierholtz

C Welington Castillo

3B Luis Valbuena

CF Ryan Sweeney /Justin Ruggiano

P Jeff Samardzija

Jose Veras is projected as the closer. In the bullpen, Hector Rondon and James Russell are the primary setup pitchers.

Second basemen gotta hit second, dude. Even if they’re terrible at hitting.

Why did Keith Moreland leave WGN Radio? I thought I heard him announcing an alumni game for the Longhorn Network. Is that his full-time job now? — Randy B., Asheville, N.C.

Here’s a better question. Why would anyone care? The broadcast got marginally better with his departure.

CARRIE: Moreland wanted to be closer to his family in Texas.

“No one asked us what WE wanted!”
-The Moreland Family

CARRIE: Former Cubs first baseman Ron Coomer will join play-by-play man Pat Hughes on WGN Radio broadcasts this season.

It’s going to be so weird when Pat introduces Ron. We went from “Cub legend, Ron Santo!” To “Former Cub star, Keith Moreland!” To, presumably, “Former Cub backup third baseman, who at least still has all of his limbs and who doesn’t reek of whiskey, Ron Coomer!”

Ticket packages are still available as of this writing.

The Muskbox Yearns for More Steals; WE MISS YOU, JUAN PIERRE!!!

"His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel... or something." THAT'S AN ACTUAL LINE FROM 50 SHADES OF GREY.

“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel… or something.”
THAT’S AN ACTUAL LINE FROM 50 SHADES OF GREY.

The Muskbox is here to solve all of the Cubs’ third-base problems… or something. What that solution is, is hard to define. But if there’s one thing our resident librarian knows how to do, it’s define words. And phrases. And idioms. And shush people. And hand out detentions. And stamp books. And keep Ed Hartig fed and watered.

But most importantly, bringing your stupid questions to the world.

With Mike Olt and Kris Bryant coming up, the future at third base looks bright for the Cubs.

With TWO third basemen playing at once, we’ll be unstoppable! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

In the immediate future, though, wouldn’t it be smart to sign a veteran like Michael Young to mentor the younger players and to provide stability at third while Olt and Bryant develop? Young seems like he would be a good fit for the Cubs. Any chance of that happening?
— Joel A., Florence, Ala.

“The future looks bright at third base. Can we please sign someone for insurance when our bright future at third base turns out to be a dull turd?”

CARRIE: Not likely, and not necessary. First, there are reports that Young is considering retirement.

“Wait, playing for the Cubs isn’t a form of retirement?”
-Fred McGriff

CARRIE: Second, if the Cubs did sign Young, he’d only be mentoring the young players for a few weeks in Spring Training, not during the season. The Cubs want the kids to play, not watch from the bench. Also, you forgot Luis Valbuena, who could be the Opening Day starter.

Remember, Cubs fans, Opening Day tickets are still somehow available!

CARRIE: That said, Olt is the player to watch this spring. During the Cubs Convention, director of player development and scouting Jason McLeod…

…whose business cards are fucking HUGE…

CARRIE: …reminded fans that Olt was untouchable when the team tried to acquire the third baseman from the Rangers in 2012 in the Ryan Dempster trade. Olt’s vision problems appear to have been resolved, and the Cubs will have a good idea of where he is once he faces live pitching in Mesa, Ariz.

The smart money is on, “In Mesa, Arizona.”

CARRIE: Position players report Feb. 18, but Olt has already been working out at the team’s new facility. Olt, 25, took part in the Cubs’ rookie development camp earlier this month.

BE ASSIMILATED OR BE DESTROYED.

CARRIE: “I don’t have anything I feel I have to prove,” he said.

…batting .152 with zero MLB home runs.

CARRIE: “I know I put in a lot of hard work. I think last year was good for me to deal with a lot of adversity to make me a better player. I know I’m going to get better.”

Bryant, who played at high Class A Daytona last season, most likely will open 2014 at Double-A Tennessee.

Now that Carrie has made predictions, is it safe to say that Bryant will be the starter, the Cubs will sign Young to back him up, Olt is completely blind, and Valbuena is going to be traded for a Motorola Razr?

What role can we expect Justin Ruggiano to fill this season with the Cubs? Is he the everyday center fielder or will he platoon with Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz?
— Matthew W., St. Peters, Mo.

When was the last time the Cub outfield wasn’t at least partially terrible? The end of the 2003 season? Someone get me Ed Hartig on the phone.

CARRIE: Ruggiano, acquired from the Marlins on Dec. 12 for Brian Bogusevic, has played mostly center and left, but he will likely platoon in right with Schierholtz and share center with Junior Lake and Sweeney. We’ll find out more about how manager Rick Renteria wants to use his outfielders this spring. The reason for the platoon is the players’ splits: Last season, Ruggiano batted .248 against lefties, compared to .210 vs. right-handers, while Schierholtz batted .170 vs. lefties and .262 against right-handers. Sweeney, limited to 70 games because of an injury, batted .313 against lefties and .250 vs. right-handers.

The parenthetical interruptor, a longtime staple of the Muskbox, conveys additional information at the expense of a sentence that flows naturally.

Is there any chance the Cubs might have more speed on the bases? They need more stolen bases.
— Bruce L., Fountain Hills, Ariz.

Are there ANY Cubs fans left in the actual state of Illinois?

Also, they absolutely don’t need that. The Cardinals were 29th in the league in steals last year. You’re stupid.

CARRIE: Looking at the current roster, Lake is one player who could steal more, but that’s about it. He swiped 38 bases in 2011, 21 in 2012, and 14 last year in the Minor Leagues. I’d rather see the Cubs be smart on the bases, not necessarily fast.

They’re traditionally pretty good at neither.

CARRIE: Just a note: the Cubs ranked 13th in the National League in stolen bases with 63 last season. The Cardinals, who reached the World Series, were last in the NL with 45.

Dammit, don’t steal my thunder.

What does the future hold for Darwin Barney and the Cubs?

I don’t want to be depressing, but death, inevitably.

There are rumors that Javier Baez may snag the second base spot or Barney may get a larger offer to stay with the Cubs. Personally, Barney is my favorite player and I would hate to see him go.
— Mike A., Kenosha, Wis.

Wow. You need higher standards.

CARRIE: Barney, who batted .208 last season, is the starting second baseman for now.

HE’S STANDING AT WRIGLEY FIELD RIGHT NOW TAKING GROUNDERS!

CARRIE: He has started working with new hitting coach Bill Mueller.

“Uhh, maybe you’re actually a switch hitter?”
-Bill Mueller

CARRIE: The Cubs have limited options, including Valbuena, who played second in Venezuela this winter. The Cubs want Baez to continue to play short, and he’ll open the season at Triple-A Iowa. You may see him at third and second this spring, depending on what Renteria and the Cubs’ staff decide.

Since the Cubs already added a mascot and do all sorts of stupid stuff at Wrigley, can we add manager walkup music when the deliver the lineup cards? I’m hearing an organ rendition of Sublime’s “Santeria” as Rick struts out to home plate.

Of the Cubs’ big four hitting prospects, Jorge Soler seems to be the one with the most mystery attached. He has been ranked as high as No. 32 on prospect lists I’ve seen.

Yes, his apartment is wallpapered with prospect lists. And he’s wearing lipstick. And he’s standing behind you RIGHT NOW.

I know he battled injuries a bit. What is an update on his progress and projection? How early can we expect to see him at Wrigley Field?
— Tim B., Chicago

“Depends on whether he avoided the virtual waiting room and preordered 6, 9, or 12-ticket packages last week!”
-Tom Ricketts

CARRIE: Soler, limited to 55 games last season because of a stress fracture in his left tibia…

Man, she’s absolutely KILLING IT on the parentheticals today.

CARRIE: …says he’s 100 percent healthy and his leg has healed. He did play in the Arizona Fall League, but the Cubs told him to take it easy to avoid re-aggravating the injury. He was in Chicago during the rookie development camp and looks ready to go.

ONE OF US. ONE OF US. ONE OF US. ONE OF US.

CARRIE: Soler was recently ranked No. 49 on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects , and he has dropped because of the limited playing time. When will he get to Wrigley Field? That’s up to him.

And the front office, of course. And I think Clark has some input.

What is going on with the Wrigley Field renovations? Living out of state because of work, I’m unable to follow. Has any work been done?
— David Q., Bourbonnais, Ill.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. We don’t need your whole life story, chief. We just need to know that you really need a hobby.

CARRIE: The renovations have not begun, just maintenance work.

TOM RICKETTS: Todd, did you sign that contractor’s agreement for the renovations?
TODD RICKETTS: (smacks forehead) D’oh!

CARRIE: However, the Cubs have applied for a permit for the see-through sign proposed for right field, despite opposition from rooftop owners. At the Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney did say the $500 million, five-year renovation plan could be completed in four years once they decide to proceed. The delay is because of the threat of legal action by the rooftop owners.

Thanks to Section 242, I’m going to have some shit to say about the rooftop owners, so I’ll leave that for another day. But you know what’s obnoxious? That some litigators are absolutely champing at the bit to represent these morons.

The Muskbox Resolves Not to Talk About Uniforms, Immediately Breaks Resolution

"And now a selected reading from my upcoming novel, 'The Wolf of Waveland'."

“And now a selected reading from my upcoming novel, ‘The Wolf of Waveland Avenue’.”

Have you lost weight since the first of the year? Have you switched to e-cigarettes like an utter douchebag? Are you on the wagon? Have you been practicing guitar every day? How are your resolutions going? Probably better than the Muskbox’s, assuming her resolution was to use the Muskbox for helpful informational purposes in 2014. The new year brings a new Box. Same as the old Box.

Why would the Cubs entertain the idea of trading Jeff Samardzija?

Because SOMETHING surrounding this team has to be entertained, AMIRIGHT?

He has a solid arm and many years ahead of him.

What are you, an actuary?

They have the young talent that they have been trying to obtain. It looks to me that you add just one or two more power hitters and the Cubs are in contention.
— John P., Swifton, Ark.

Sure, as long as those power hitters are Ruth and Gehrig, the Cubs are going to be ACES in 2014! Speaking of which, has Ernie Banks, godlovehim, come up with a terrible slogan for 2014? If not, I have some suggestions.

THE CUBS WILL SMELL CLEAN IN 2014!
THE CUBS WON’T SUCK PEEN IN 2014!
WE’LL RUN OUT EPSTEIN IN 2014!

CARRIE: The Cubs are listening to offers because they’ve made it no secret that they are trying to restock the Minor League system (look at the deals at the Trade Deadline the past two years).

Aw, do I HAFTA???

CARRIE: They also are trying to keep Samardzija, and have talked to his agent about a possible long-term deal, which would be more cost effective for the Cubs.

The Cub front office is like every woman I’ve ever dated.

CARRIE: The reason teams want to acquire the right-hander are the same reasons the Cubs want to keep him — he’s durable with a power arm, and is under team control for two more seasons. He’s projected to get about $5 million in arbitration, which is a great price for a starting pitcher these days. I think they need more help than one or two power hitters, as you say.

Fine. They’re a middle reliever and a backup catcher away.

With Javier Baez on the rise and Starlin Castro “sputtering” at the plate, what are the chances that Castro can be dealt for pitching prospects? Seems the Cubs should do so now while he’s still very young and under contract.
— Jason C., Elk Grove, Calif.

Why is “sputtering” in quotes? You kids help me out. Does sputtering secretly mean something dirty? Like twerking or date raping?

CARRIE: How do you know Baez won’t “sputter,” too?

Well, now I really hope it’s NOT something dirty. Gross, Carrie.

CARRIE: It’s clear Baez and the Cubs’ other top prospects have talent, but they have not been tested at the Major League level.

Some might say that none of these guys have ever taken a test at all.

CARRIE: It’s a little early to give up on Castro. Be patient.

Breathe in through the nose. Out through the mouth. Close your eyes. Focus on your bellybutton. Imagine your nipples are moving toward one another. And now they’re moving apart. You’re floating in a giant bowl of Bisquick. The Beach Boys are playing softly in the background.

CARRIE: Baez, 21, has 828 Minor League at-bats total. Derek Jeter totaled 1,751 Minor League at-bats before he was promoted to the Yankees. Gary Sheffield, to whom Baez has been compared, collected 1,228 at-bats in the Minors before he got the call.

Yeah, but the 2014 Cubs are more ready to win now than the 1995 Yankees.

Why do the Cubs want Masahiro Tanaka? They will have to pay the $20 million posting fee and then tons of money for the signing. And I know the Draft has a lot of pitchers. Aren’t the Cubs sixth in the Draft? Who do you project they will get?
— Dan C., Orland Park, Ill.

Because the Cubs have had a ton of success with Asian players.

CARRIE: The reason the Cubs and others are interested in Tanaka is because by all accounts, he’s Major League ready.

Unlike STUPID JAVIER BAEZ!!!

CARRIE: He was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan and he’s 25 years old. Yes, the Cubs have the fourth pick overall in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. They could select a high school or college pitcher and then wait years for him to develop, not knowing for sure if he’ll even get to the big leagues. In talking to scouts who saw Tanaka, they feel the right-hander is worth the investment.

They could also select an 80-year-old! Or a monkey! Or a Clemens!

Will the Cubs ever change their look, even just a little? They need new uniforms. It’s time for a change.
— Lisa M.

Thanks, Obama.

CARRIE: You will see some new looks this year as part of the Wrigley Field 100th anniversary celebration. The Cubs have partnered with Majestic Athletic to recreate throwback uniforms from significant events at the ballpark during each decade of Wrigley’s history.

Where the stitching is SLIGHTLY different from the current uniforms. Isn’t the cool thing about the Cub uniforms is that they’re already pretty classic?

CARRIE: The first is a copy of the 1914 Chicago Federals uniform, which will be worn on the 100th birthday game, April 23 against the D-backs. The remaining uniforms will be worn on a “Throwback Sunday” game for the corresponding decade. Visiting teams also will wear retro uniforms on those games. The Cubs also will feature an alternate road jersey for 2014 that pays homage to the road jersey worn in the 1920s.

Except for Welington Castillo, who will play topless.

With a huge offensive hole at second base…

I thought Theriot retired?

…why didn’t the Cubs look at Robinson Cano? Darwin Barney is solid at defense, but the Cubs could have used a big bat in the lineup.
— Chris L., Appleton, Wis.

Ruth, Gehrig, and Cano. World Series-bound.

CARRIE: There are 240 million reasons why the Cubs didn’t sign Cano.

START LISTING THEM!!!

THE MUSKBOX IS BACK! /BEARHUGS A NON-EXISTENT DEAD FRIEND

"And now a selected reading from my upcoming novel, '50 Shades of Jeff Gray'."

“And now a selected reading from my upcoming novel, ’50 Shades of Jeff Gray’.”

Christmas came early this year, my friends. Dumb questions about the Cubs have gone unanswered for ages. They’ve been building up in the brains of those people still actually thinking about a 66-96 team in November. Have no fear, simpletons! Carrie has returned from on high with a new picture, new answers, and, inexplicably, two stone tablets! Get ready for a lot of questions about third base which probably could have been combined into one answer, but were NOT!

Who’s available in free agency at third base? Also, I’d like to know who has the best shot at starting there next year.
— Francois C., Montreal

Nice try, Franklin Correa. I dug for that one. You’re welcome.

CARRIE: The list of free agent third basemen include Wilson Betemit, Eric Chavez, Mark DeRosa, Jerry Hairston Jr., Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Mark Reynolds, Juan Uribe, Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young. Reynolds is the youngest at 30. Since those names probably don’t excite you, keep Mike Olt in mind. He was acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal and could win the job with a strong spring.

If you can’t get excited about Jerry Hairston Jr., then it’s no wonder you live in Canada.

Do you think Kris Bryant sticks at third base? I do. Every time I hear “corner outfielder,” he takes another 100 ground balls before batting practice.
— Gary J., Chicago

That’s a coincidence, because every time I hear “middle reliever,” Kyle Farnsworth tricks a girl into pulling his finger.

CARRIE: I’m sure a lot of people wanted to move Bryant after Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game…

Imma let you finish, but no one watched the AFL Fall Stars Game, and not just because calling them “Fall Stars” is the stupidest fucking thing since WCIU broke out the “Hyundai Night Football Post-Game Show” last night.

CARRIE: …when he made two errors at third, but as of now, he’s a third baseman. Bryant, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and the Cubs’ No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com, has heard the talk about a possible switch.

OMG HE READS THE MUSKBOX!!! HI, KRIS!

CARRIE: “I try not to read into that stuff because it really is a distraction,” Bryant said in early October. “You can’t focus on what other people have to say about you. You can only think about what you think about yourself. I believe I can play third base. If the Cubs want me to play right field, I’ll play the heck out of it.”

And if you just believe hard enough, this guy can go on living until he has a massive heart attack.

I’M TRYING TO THINK OF A WONDERFUL THOUGHT.



The Cubs seem to have an overload at shortstop (Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez) and possibly third base (Olt, Christian Villanueva, Luis Valbuena, Josh Vitters ). Any ideas on who might be moving to another position or another team?
— David D., Memphis

This reminds me of when Bob Davie recruited 70 quarterbacks to Notre Dame and then he had to turn them into tight ends and receivers and accountants. Except all of those quarterbacks were awful and some of these guys might turn out to be pretty good. What was I saying, again?

CARRIE: You can remove Vitters from the list because he’s…

Terrible?

CARRIE: …focusing on the outfield.

Oh.

CARRIE: I’ve optimistically penciled in Olt for Opening Day.

She subsequently placed that pencil back into her bun, where it was lost until the end of days.

CARRIE: Valbuena could platoon at third and also be a utility player. Villanueva, who played at Double-A Tennessee last year and is playing in the Mexican Winter League, needs more time.

I hope they call Villanueva and he says, “If you’re going to pull this shit, at least you could’ve said you were from the Yankees.”

CARRIE: Alcantara split time between second and short, playing more second in the second half. Being versatile is a huge plus and it will be interesting to see if the Cubs move Baez around this spring. If he can play second or third, he might get up to the big leagues quicker. It may seem like too many infielders, but there’s a baseball cliche that these things sort themselves out. Let’s wait and see.

Totally. Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. If these guys can just stay within themselves, and act like they’ve been there before, they’ll get their cups of coffee before the Cubs find themselves in any must-win games. They show a lot of heart, but even the best hitters fail 70% of the time. They just have to keep fighting and play through it.

Can you make sure that by the time people hear from Alcantara, they know how to properly pronounce his last name?
— Wally C., Orlando, Fla.

FINALLY. A question a librarian is actually equipped to answer.

CARRIE: I’ll try. It’s al-KAHN-tar-ah.

I’m guessing he probably meant Arismendy, too. Jesus, Carrie.

With Anthony Rizzo’s stats dropping, I was wondering how his 2013 stats compared with Bryan LaHair’s in ’12? Do the Cubs retain any rights to LaHair and do they have any thoughts about bringing him back? What kind of year did LaHair have in Japan?
— Steve M., Albuquerque

And then the Cubs can move Rizzo over to third base to compete with Valbuena for the starting position!

Also, I think the Cubs sold their rights to LaHair for one laser tattoo removal session for Dale Sveum.

CARRIE: In 2012, LaHair batted .259 with 16 home runs, 17 doubles, 40 RBIs in 130 games and was replaced as the starting first baseman in the second half that season. This year, Rizzo’s batting average dropped and he batted .233, but he also hit 23 home runs, 40 doubles and totaled 80 RBIs in 160 games and was a finalist for a Gold Glove.

In Japan this year, LaHair batted .230 in 111 games with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, and hit 16 home runs, 19 doubles and drove in 57 runs. LaHair turns 31 on Tuesday; Rizzo is 24. The Cubs do not have LaHair’s rights. No disrespect to LaHair, but I’ll take Rizzo.

And make a goddamn MAN out of him in the third-floor stacks.

With all the talk about Wrigley Field renovations, I have not seen any information regarding what is going to happen to the pavement bricks around the ballpark that are inscribed and paid for by Cubs fans. Are these going to be saved or are they not part of the new “Wrigley Field?”
— Doreene C., Libertyville, Ill.

I’m really sorry you were dumb enough to pay $160 for a $.39 paver, Doreene, but the Cubs can’t be held responsible for your irresponsible spending.

CARRIE: I am assured by the Cubs that the bricks will be saved.

Sure. They’ll be crushed into powder and used as diamond dry.

In your summary of prospects, you failed to include Dan Vogelbach. Only two years out of high school, he has demonstrated an exceptional talent for hitting. He not only hits with above-average power, but shows real discipline at the plate with relatively low strikeout numbers and high walk numbers. At 6-foot, 250 pounds, he’ll never be the defensive player Rizzo is, but he works hard and he may ultimately be a better hitter than Rizzo.
— Jan P.

Plus, he could kick Rizzo’s ASS in a pierogi-eating competition.

CARRIE: I focused on the players I saw in instructional league or had talked to coaches about, and did not mean to slight Vogelbach or anyone else. You can add Christian Villanueva, Wes Darvill, Gioskar Amaya, Dustin Geiger, Bijan Rademacher and Shawon Dunston Jr. to the list of names to watch, and there are more, which is a nice change from years past.

Is the Theocracy just trying to collect guys with hilarious names? Because if that’s the plan, I LIKE it.

What have you heard about Brett Jackson? Is he just taking the winter off to rest or playing somewhere? Do you think a lot of issues last year might have been thinking too much about not striking out?
— Apollo C., Estes Park, Colo.

“Hey, Apollo Creed, wanna play for the Cubs?”
-Theo Epstein

CARRIE: Jackson had some nagging injuries last season, which were more annoying than the strikeouts.

Not to me. The strikeouts were WAY more annoying.

CARRIE: He’s not playing this winter and was given an offseason program to work on. In talking to some Cubs’ Minor League coaches, they were very encouraged by what they saw from Jackson at the end of the season.

“Let’s give him credit. At least he didn’t spike himself.”

I remember the Cubs having a radio broadcaster by the name of Bert Wilson back in the late ’40s or early ’50s. Am I dreaming or is that true?
— Louis B., Bloomington, Ind.

“I remember this. Do I remember this?”

Christ, someone please shoot me before I get old(er).

CARRIE: Wilson was a play-by-play broadcaster for the Cubs from 1944-55, and one of his favorite sayings was, “I don’t care who wins, as long as it’s the Cubs.” He was the last announcer to call a Cubs’ World Series game in 1945.

Some other hilarious Bert-isms:

“It ain’t over until one team has outscored another team, and the other team has used up at least 27 outs.”
“Grape is a flavor. Purple is a color.”
“Yes dear. You were right. I’m sorry.”
“It ain’t rape unless she’s unwilling to have sex with you!”

Do the Cubs have any interest in Ozzie Guillen for manager?
— Dave B., Lake in the Hills, Ill.

Honestly, do YOU? Does anyone? That choice would be so bad, Kaplan would endorse it.

CARRIE: No.

Best Muskbox answer ever.

Phil Rogers Needs a Fact-Checker, So We Let Him Borrow Ours

Mostly, we'll miss your sense of style.

Mostly, we’ll miss your sense of style.

HJE pater noster TJ forwarded me an email he sent to Phil Rogers after Phil posted this piece of garbage over the weekend and wrote, “With the Pirates’ 20-year losing streak finally over, it’s time to turn our national attention to the Royals, who last went to the playoffs in 1985. Their 28-year streak without a postseason trip is the longest drought in the history of MLB and longer than any in the NFL, NBA or NHL.” Today is Phil’s last day at the Tribune, presumably because of this very article. He’s heading to MLB.com, so I guess I’m NOT going to buy MLB.tv next year. Presumably, OUR GOOD FRIEND Paul Sullivan will get Phil’s gig, which is nice, because Chicago’s national baseball coverage will no longer be hilariously inept. Anyhow, I’ll let TJ speak for himself (and us ALL):

You mentioned the Royals’ 28-season postseason drought is the longest in the history of Major League Baseball. Not true. Not even close.

**The 1995 Cleveland Indians ended a 41-year drought.
** The 1984 Chicago Cubs ended a 39-year drought.
** The 1959 White Sox ended a 40-year drought.
** The 1944 St. Louis Browns ended a 43-year drought that started when they were the Milwaukee Brewers
** In 1971, Vida Blue took the mound for Charlie Finley’s Oakland Athletics against Dave McNally’s Orioles. It was the Athletics’ first postseason game since Connie Mack wrote out a lineup card that had Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons and Jimmy Foxx in the middle of the lineup in Game 7 of the 1931 World Series.
** The 1950 Phillies’ World Series team was only the Phils’ second first place team in history. The first was in 1915, giving them 35 seasons between postseason appearances. The Phillies began play in 1883, so if you want to count that, that’s a 32-year gap.
** The Pirates’ 21-year streak is nothing compared with the 33 years it took for Mazeroski, Clemente and Vern Law to exact revenge on the Yankees for the 1927 World Series loss.
** The 1948 Boston Braves might have prayed for rain when it wasn’t Spahn or Sain, but they might have also thanked Spahn and Sain for not sucking like 34 years of Braves teams had after their 1914 World Series win.
** The 1965 Minnesota Twins ended a 32-year streak, started when they were the Washington Senators
** The 1981 Montreal Expos maybe should have beaten the Dodgers (Rick Monday saves America again!), and the franchise would not return to the postseason again until 2012 (I know it’s hard to jog your memory that long). That was 31 years.
** And finally, Another Washington team started another ignominious streak in 1961 when they entered the American League as an expansion team. The Washington Senators’ futility lasted from 1961 and followed them to a place probably unknown to you, Arlington, TX. Not until 1996 did the Rangers introduce postseason baseball to North Texas.

Oh, and by the way, Washington Senator/Senator/National fans went from 1934-1960, 1961-1971 and 2005-2011 without seeing playoff baseball.

I read your column this evening, and stopped the shaking of my head and laughing as I normally do when I read your columns when I got to the sentence in question, and stood up and said. “That’s not true! Cubs! Indians! White Sox! Browns! Phillies! Senators! Nats!” I then did a little research and confirmed that my first guesses were correct. And I unearthed a few more.

So, you’re a national baseball writer for the Tribune. You got so wrapped up in the fact that the Royals have not won a World Series since Otis Wilson and Richard Dent were aced out by Prince for a Grammy, that you forgot about these easy-to-overlook footnotes of history:
** The two teams that play in the city for whose largest newspaper you write.
** A team that broke a long drought last year, when you were still (unfortunately) national baseball writer.
** One of the most memorable teams of the 1990s, and one of the rivals of one of the teams that plays in the city for whose largest newspaper you write.
** Definitely the most colorful (literally and figuratively) team of the 1970s, whose owner hails from the metropolitan area for whose largest newspaper you write. (The front end of that drought was only managed by Connie Mack; maybe Brad Biggs can call Neill Armstrong the winningest coach in Bears history, and omit Lovie, Jauron, Ditka and a easily forgotten George Halas).. Oh, and it was another &^%!#&!^* Kansas City baseball team!
** A team that plays in your hometown. Was it a big deal when the Rangers went to the playoffs? Oh, that’s right. It was Cowboys season.
** Five other franchises.

So yes, the Royals’ drought places them barely in the top 40 percentile of the league. And their streak just surpassed the Red Sox 1918-1946 streak. The Royals don’t have the longest drought post-division play, whether you measure it as the drought continuing into division play or starting only after the beginning of division play. In case you were wondering, I am here to help:

Longest postseason drought by franchise since formation of AL in 1901:
1. Milwaukee Brewers I/St. Louis Browns: 43 (1901-1944)
2. Cleveland Indians: 41 (1954-1995)
3(tie) Chicago White Sox: 40 (1919-1959)**
3(tie) Philadelphia/K.C./Oakland A’s: 40 (1931-1971)
5. Chicago Cubs: 39 (1945-1984)
6(tie) Philadelphia Phillies: 35 (1915-1980)
6(tie) Washington Senators II/Texas Rangers: 35 (1961-1996)
8. Boston Braves: 34 (1914-1948)
9. Pittsburgh Pirates: 33 (1927-1960)
10. Washington Senators I/Minnesota Twins: 32 (1933-1965)
11. Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals: 31 (1981-2012)
12. Kansas City Royals: 28 (and counting) (1985- )
13. Boston Red Sox: 28 (1918-1946)
14. Milwaukee Brewers II: 26 (1982-2008)
15. St. Louis Cardinals: 25 (1901-1926)
16. Detroit Tigers: 23 (1945-1968)
17(tie). Cincinnati Reds: 21 (1940-1961)
17(tie). Brooklyn Robins/Dodgers: 21 (1901-1922)
19. Toronto Blue Jays: 20 and counting (1993-)
20. Baltimore Orioles I/N.Y. Highlanders/Yankees: 20 (1901-1921)
21(tie) Los Angeles/California Angels: 18 (1961-1979)
21(tie) Seattle Mariners: 18 (1977-1995)
21(tie). Houston Colt .45s/Astros: 18 (1962-1980)
24. San Franciso Giants: 16 (1971-1987)
25. San Diego Padres: 15 (1969-1984)
26. New York Mets: 13 (1973-1986)
27. Colorado Rockies: 12 (1995-2007)
28. Florida/Miami Marlins: 10 and counting (2003-)
29. Tampa Bay Devil Rays/Rays: 10 (1998-2008)
30. Arizona Diamondbacks: 5 (2002-2007)

** The drought could be considered 42 years between postseasons in which said participant was trying to win rather than permanently shame the game of baseball.

Phil, the point of this exercise is to demonstrate the importance of double checking your facts. Who told you it was the longest postseason drought? Were there any qualifiers? Did you stop and say, “Gee, the Cubs went from World War II to 1984 without making it to the World Series, and I even wrote a book about Ernie Banks and his 19 years with the Cubs without going to the World Series, and maybe I should, you know, look it up?”

LOOK IT UP, CHECK IT OUT, VERIFY are the things reporters do. It’s sort of like running out a ground ball or a pop up. Scratch that. It’s sort of like touching every base upon hitting a home run. You do it, or people wonder how the hell you made it to the Big Leagues if you cannot even be bothered to do that.

I think I just hired you as my Hire Jim Essian campaign manager, TJ.

Good Luck, OUR GOOD FRIEND PAUL SULLIVAN

Holy shit, Paul, really?

There’s a reason I enjoy swapping lies and drinking beers with Paul Sullivan, yet I had to grit my teeth buying a fucking Dewar’s on the rocks for Gordon Wittenmyer. Whether Sullivan makes you laugh or makes you slam your keyboard in frustration, he’s honest, he’s fair, and unless you’re an angry, combative imbecile, he’s obviously not racist.

So I’m sad to see that he’s off the Cubs beat in favor of Mark Gonzales. While I’m sure Mark will do a nice job, only Sully sent me funny pictures from Spring Training. Only he did a mailbag as sarcastic as the Muskbox. Only he let me wear his jacket and hat at Shitty’s that one year and boot up his laptop for 45 minutes.

I don’t want to insult Sullivan’s writing by saying he’s a blogger’s writer. But he’s a blogger’s writer. His voice is snarky, fun, and unafraid of pissing off fans and front office alike. Despite the assertions of some bloggers, he became a Cubs fan through his beat, and he did a great job covering the Cubs through lots of bad and a little bit of good.

This of course means the Cubs are going to win the World Series next year, and Sully’s going to miss it. Good luck, Paul. Don’t be a stranger!

The Muskbox is a Commercial

Carrie fits in the Wrigley seats just fine. It’s the bun that struggles.

This week’s Muskbox is filled with wonderful Cub fan stereotypes. There’s the fan arguing which bad catcher is less bad. There’s the guy obsessed with speed over all else. There’s a 500-pound monster. It’s not the Muskbox we want. It’s the Muskbox we need.

Q: I’m a stats kind of guy.

“I put my pants on one leg at a time. Some guys are into sexy things like ‘uniform colors’ and ‘how hot is his wife?’ but not me. Nosir. I’m a stats man. And that’s why I wear Old Spice. Old Spice. For the stats guy in you.”

Q: I noticed that Welington Castillo is a much better hitter in the daytime (.305) than at night (.219).

“I guess my question is: Is he a reverse vampire?”

Q: Yes, it’s a small sample…

…he said as he handed the cup to his fertility doctor.

Q: …but most of Dioner Navarro’s starts come in the daytime. I would assume that Sveum has a valid reason for this but perhaps Navarro’s starts should come more often at night? Just an observation. — Travis C., Cedar Rapids, IA

I’m a stats guy, and I approve this message.

A: My first reaction was that Castillo had played more day games, so the numbers may be lopsided but that’s not the case. Through Tuesday, he’s played 27 games in the day time, 26 at night. The splits aren’t too far off — he’s 29-for-95 during the day, 21-for-96 at night. I’ll ask him tonight before the game, and update later.

And then ask him the same question during the day and see if his answer is different.

Q: Why doesn’t Cody Ransom get more playing time?

-No One, Ever

Q: He’s solid and can produce some big hits, I feel. — Jacob B.

And now YOU can own all of Cody Ransom’s big hits for five simple payments of $19.99 each! That’s right! “Ransom My Heart: The Cody Ransom Definitive Collection” is available exclusively by calling the number at the bottom of your screen right now! Don’t miss out on this exclusive TV offer! And, if you call within the next sixty seconds, you get TWO copies of the album, plus a one-of-a-kind DVD of Cody’s Wrigley Field concert, “Livey in the Ivy: Rounding Third and Heading for Home”.

A: Since you wrote, Ransom has gotten more playing time. Sveum has used him in a platoon at third with Luis Valbuena, inserting Ransom against left-handed pitchers.

Dolan weeps.

A: Ransom was batting .293 vs. lefties compared to .167 against right-handers.

But at night, or during the day? WE STATS GUYS NEED THIS INFORMATION.

A: On Tuesday against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, Ransom did connect for his first home run off a right-hander, and was batting .304 (7-for-23) this month after a .200 June. One of the reasons Ransom bats high in the order is to give him more at-bats.

This team is so good, you guys.

Q: I was pleased with the Cubs Draft this year.

Oh, thank goodness.

Q: How soon will we see Kris Bryant? Any chance he could be called up in September even just to give fans a look at him? Thanks. — John L., Portland, Ore.

Isn’t there something else on the internet you can masturbate to?

A: If you want to watch Bryant play, you’ll have to go to one of the Cubs’ Minor League teams, possibly Kane County. He won’t be called up in September. First, the Cubs have to sign the third baseman, who is represented by super agent Scott Boras.

I wonder if superagent Scott Boras had a chance to howl at the supermoon this weekend.

A: The Cubs have a signing bonus pool of $10,556,500, and an assigned value of $6,708,400 for Bryant. Talks are ongoing.

“Just offer him a full no-trade clause and the rest of this cruller!”
-Jim Hendry

Q: With Steve Clevenger coming back from injury and seeming to get a hit in every rehab game, I would assume he will be brought back to the Majors once he’s ready. When this happens, who do you think will be sent down with most of the backups playing well? Would the Cubs consider sending a bullpen guy down for an extra bat? I’m afraid you’ll say Julio Borbon but I don’t want to see that late inning speed sent down. — Michael F., Raleigh, NC

What the FUUUUUUUCK is with Cubs fans and their obsession with speed? Speed is the most useless tool in baseball.

A: Clevenger does give the Cubs some versatility. With three catchers available, Sveum could use Dioner Navarro or Clevenger as a pinch-hitter, and not worry about losing a backup catcher if something happened to Welington Castillo. Right now, Clevenger is getting at-bats at Triple-A Iowa and playing some infield there. Sveum was asked Tuesday about the left-handed hitter, and there’s no date set for his return. Part of the problem is that they have plenty of left-handed bats right now.

“Guys, I know it would be great to get Clev up here. He’s a great man, he’s a hell of a hitter, and he’s a leader of men. But we just have too many great left-handed hitters on this team already. There just ain’t a spot for him.”
-Dale Sveum, laughing hysterically

Q: With the upcoming renovation of Wrigley Field, are they going to address how small the seats are?

What is this? A stadium for ANTS???

Q: People were a lot smaller back in the early 1900s and these days, you feel like you’re jammed in there like a sardine on both sides with no leg room. — Jeff, Calgary

Sincerely,
A Gigantic Fatass

A: The renovation plan includes installation of new, wider seats at Wrigley Field. It should be a more comfortable way to watch the game.

I guarantee these same gargantuas will bitch that the Cubs aren’t selling as many tickets after the renovation.