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Category: Cubs (page 1 of 88)

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???

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…

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.

BREAKING: Rooftop Contract Shockingly Not Written in Crayon

The only seats "in" the house worse than Yellon's.

The only seats “in” the house worse than Yellon’s.

Dave Kaplan got his hands on the contract the Cubs signed with the rooftop owners. Dave Kaplan wrote a 2,000+ word essay breaking down the contract. I wrote a million-word fisking of his breakdown of the contract. THE CIRCLLLLLLLE OF LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE! Thanks to Section 242 for the tip.

With all of the discussion regarding the Wrigley Field renovation plan and the Chicago Cubs’ ongoing battle with the rooftops, one thing has never been publicly discussed — the actual wording of the contract between the Cubs and the rooftops because no one has publicly acknowledged what that contract says.

Some say the contract has never ventured outside of the spooky old house at the top of Old Mill Road. Some say that on a clear night you can hear the screams of a fountain pen signing the contract. These are the stories that made Todd pee himself at Crane’s sleepover last weekend.

In a CSN exclusive I have obtained a copy of the contract, I have had lawyers review the contract and I have the exact wording used in the deal.

Oh, thank goodness some lawyers are reviewing the contract a decade after it was signed. I was a bit worried the Cubs had entered into a really terrible deal that subjected them to the whims of a bunch of freeloading assholes. I SURE HOPE THERE’S AN AMENDMENT CLAUSE!!!

You can make your own judgements about who is in the right, who is in the wrong and who might win a potential litigation…

…but one thing is for sure: This contract — signed in January of 2004 and at the time provided the Chicago Cubs with a new and significant revenue stream — has become a major nightmare for a team looking to jumpstart its business plan.

BOSS: What this plan needs is a kick in the behind, pardon my French. A shot in the arm. A jumpstart. Johnson, what do you have?
JOHNSON: Okay, what if we waive the online fees for buying ticket packages?
BOSS: You mean those bullshit fees we’ve been charging and using to pump into our sentient robot programTM?
JOHNSON: Yessir.
BOSS: Good idea. What else?
JOHNSON: Well, sir, I- No. No, it’s far too stupid.
BOSS: What is it, Johnson? I don’t have time for your wavering.
JOHNSON: What if we have a mascot, sir? You know? To bring the kids in?
BOSS: I like it so far. What are you thinking?
JOHNSON: Well, a cub is a baby bear. And the team name is the Cubs. And kids love teddy bears. And weirdos love people dressed in furry costumes. So, what about a big bear?
BOSS: CAN THE BEAR BE NAKED FROM THE WAIST DOWN?
JOHNSON: I- I guess.
BOSS: CAN THE BEAR WEAR A BACKWARDS HAT TO SIGNIFY THAT HE IS HIPPER THAN OTHER BEARS?
JOHNSON: As long as it’s a Cubs hat, I don’t see why not.
BOSS: CAN WE NAME IT WAVELAND???
JOHNSON: We can. But how about Clark?
BOSS: You’re a goddamn genius, Johnson.

If it ends up in a legal proceeding, I believe the Cubs would win, but it won’t be easy. It will be expensive and there is no sure thing. That’s why I still feel a settlement is the best solution for both sides and I believe one will eventually happen sooner or later.

This is exactly how I advise all of my clients. And then I slap them on the ass and send them to the showers.

Now, I am not a lawyer (although I did get accepted to law school way back when and my late father was a very successful attorney), but my opinion was sealed after talking with multiple attorneys who have reviewed parts of the contract at my request.

Here is the admission process for some law schools:

Q: Do you have access to $100,000?
A: Yes.
Q: Are you willing to give it to us over the course of three years?
A: Yes.
Q: Congratulations!

The agreement, which is dated Jan. 27, 2004 runs until Dec. 31, 2023…

Without even looking at the rest of the agreement, I can already tell you that entering into almost any sort of deal that spans more than five years is a terrible, terrible idea.

…and says a number of very interesting things above and beyond giving the rooftops the right to run their businesses.

“It says here that once a fortnight, the general manager has the power to claim the right of Prima Nocte.”

Among them includes a provision that says that the following:

6.6 The Cubs shall not erect windscreens or other barriers to obstruct the views of the Rooftops, provided however that temporary items such as banners, flags and decorations for special occasions, shall not be considered as having been erected to obstruct views of the Rooftops. Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section.

The first draft of this section just read, “NO PERMANENT ERECTIONS,” but Andy MacPhail wouldn’t stop giggling.

7.3 From time to time during each season, the Cubs shall authorize WGN-TV or other Cubs broadcasting partners to identify a phone number where fans can call to reserve Rooftop seating.
7.4 The Rooftops shall have the right to inform the public that they are endorsed by the Cubs.

I’ve been angling for a similar endorsement of HJE. “Hire Jim Essian: The only part-time Cubs blog that uses small enough words for Todd to understand.”

7.5 The Cubs Director of Marketing shall meet with the Rooftops before the start of each Major League Baseball season to discuss opportunities for joint marketing.

And every since the agreement was signed, on March 1 of every year, the Cubs Director of Marketing climbs to the top of the scoreboard and shouts obscenities at the buildings across the street.

7.6 The Cubs shall include a discussion about the Rooftops on their tour of Wrigley Field and shall include stories positive about the Rooftops in The Vine Line.

“And just over the bleachers on both sides of the park, the fuckwads who keep selfishly hamstringing the front office’s efforts to construct a championship team can be found. And that concludes our tour. Please take your complementary dozen eggs and six rolls of toilet paper, and enjoy the rest of your day in Chicago!”

7.7 Each of the Rooftops may display broadcasts of Cubs games to patrons at its facility, including displaying such broadcasts on multiple television sets, without any infringement of any copyright owned by the Cubs or its assignees.

The fact that the Rooftops were showing the game broadcasts on multiple televisions became an issue and one of the things that spurred both sides to agree on this deal back in 2004.

Seems like the Cubs could have just cease-and-desisted them instead of jumping into bed with them, handing them a strap-on, presenting, and biting into a pillow.

Now, looking at some of the above clauses in the contract, we find some very interesting things.

“What’s this picture of Andy MacPhail putting nipple clamps on Dusty Baker doing in here?”

First, it appears to me that the Cubs were giving the rooftops an avenue to run their businesses in exchange for a significant amount of revenue, which was a new stream for the franchise.

You mean like a WAVELAND Avenue, right?

/high five

Section 6.6, the main point of contention between the two sides, can be interpreted in different ways.

THAT’S SOME GOOD CONTRACT DRAFTIN’!!!

I spoke with a noted attorney…

/looks over at phone
//SILENCE

…who reviewed the entire agreement for me.

It’s going to be hilarious when an $8,000 invoice shows up at the CSN offices.

Here is what he said about this section of the contract:

“The last line of 6.6 is the one that an arbitrator might have to decide,” he told me. “And let’s be clear that unless both sides agree, the contract does not provide an avenue for a lawsuit in the typical sense of the word. Instead, it sends both parties before an arbitration panel. The arbitration process will keep everything in the litigation confidential, as opposed to a federal lawsuit, which becomes part of the public record.

What a dickhead way to say there’s an arbitration clause.

“Now, in looking at 6.6, the question that will have to be decided is whether or not the word ‘expansion’ will apply to a sign or Jumbotron. Looking at the wording of the contract, any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement, including this section. Is a sign in right field or a Jumbotron in left field an expansion of Wrigley Field? Or is an expansion of Wrigley Field something that would have to include seating or making the ballpark bigger? This is no slam dunk win for the Cubs, although I think they would ultimately prevail, but I would say the same about the rooftops.”

What a fucking lawyer. “Depending on who’s writing the check, am I right, Davy boy???”

/drinks scotch
//fucks secretary
///threatens her with termination

Now, with the Cubs looking to expand the outfield walls, the case can clearly be made that the project is an expansion of the ballpark rather than just putting in a Jumbotron and an outfield sign. Will an arbitration panel see it that way? That remains to be seen, but by building out the walls, the Cubs have clearly made a case that by the terms of the contract, they can proceed with their renovation plans with governmental approval.

What the arbitration panel will see, is hard to define.

Other observations that I have after reading and re-reading the entire contract multiple times includes the amount of promotional exposure the Cubs are supposed to provide the rooftops.

The first time, he read it out loud. By the third time, his lips were only moving slightly.

Consider that for a moment.

The very people that you are battling against so fervently are the same people that you are supposed to promote when the season begins? That is unbelievable.

And that is SO Kap.

Sources have confirmed to me that those marketing meetings have not been taking place for the past several years and that there is no joint marketing going on between the two sides.

Contract: VOIDED. I just saved you hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, Theo. YOU’RE WELCOME. Now please fire Crane.

Another very important part of the contract is Section 6.2 which could be an integral part of any potential litigation:

This is just how I like to read my contracts: out-of-order and only partially revealed.

6.2 If the Cubs expand the Wrigley Field bleacher seating and such expansion so impairs the view from any rooftop into Wrigley Field such that the Rooftop’s business is no longer viable even if it were to increase its available seating to the maximum height permitted by law, and if such bleacher expansion is completed within eight years from the Effective Date (1/27/2004), then if such Rooftop elects to cease operations before the beginning of the next baseball season following completion of such expansion, the Cubs shall reimburse that Rooftop for 50% of the royalties paid by that Rooftop to the Cubs during the time between the Effective Date and the date of expansion of the Wrigley Field bleachers. The Cubs shall pay such reimbursement to the Rooftop within 30 days of receiving notice from the Rooftop it is no longer viable and has ceased operations. Any Rooftop receiving payment from the Cubs pursuant to this provision shall cease operations for the remainder of the term and shall not seek or accept any compensation or benefit related to activity on a Rooftop on a day of a game.

Holy shit, that’s a horrible clause. If the Cubs had expanded the bleachers during that time frame and blocked the view, they would have essentially had to buy out the rooftop owners? Was Crane Kenney not aware that the 17% of revenue the Cubs were making off the fucking rooftop owners could have EASILY been made up by adding bleacher seats inside the park that they actually owned and controlled? And they wouldn’t be dealing with this miserable contract for the next ten years?

Also, this clause is terribly written. If the Cubs expand the bleachers next year, the expansion wasn’t completed within eight years from the effective date. Does that mean they don’t owe the rooftop owners a dime? The way this clause reads, I think that’s an easy argument to make.

The legal opinions on this clause look at the eight-year period that the Cubs are liable for potentially having to refund royalties and believe the Cubs could possibly win on an arbitrator’s opinion of this section of the contract. Are the Cubs only liable for damages during the eight-year period that the agreement states? Or are they liable for the entire 20 years of the contract? It certainly seems that the Cubs have a solid chance to have an arbitration panel agree with them that the eight-year period (which expired on Jan. 27, 2012) was the only time in the contract that the Chicago Cubs were on the hook for a financial penalty or a return of royalties.

I don’t see how there’s any other way to read that clause. The idiots were guaranteed revenue from this horrible deal for the first eight years of that contract. That time period expired. Fuck ’em. If they want to sue over it, I’m sure they can pay the legal fees from all the money they made freeloading off the Cubs’ product for decades before.

Finally, to wrap up everything that we have discussed and analyzed in this agreement, I turned back to one of the attorneys who I had review the contract and here is what he said:

“Please stop calling me until you remit payment for my invoice dated January 15, 2014.”

/smokes cigar in conference room
//hands new associate a file up in front of Judge Flanagan

“I can see this case from both sides of the argument. The Rooftops feel they signed a contract to run their businesses without having their views obstructed in any way for a period of 20 years from Jan. 27, 2004 through Dec. 31, 2023 and that they have paid the Chicago Cubs a significant amount of money for that right.

Then either they or their lawyers are fucking idiots. Maybe both?

Now, they feel the Cubs want to violate that contract because a significant renovation to the entire Wrigley Field campus threatens to impede their views and their ability to earn a living.

Without seeing the rest of the contract, there is absolutely no argument here in favor of the rooftop owners other than, “THAT’S UNFAIR BECAUSE WE DIDN’T READ OR DRAFT THE CONTRACT CAREFULLY!” Good luck in arbitration, dummies.

“From the Cubs perspective, they believe that they have lived up to the contract and that the written agreement says that with governmental approval, any expansion of Wrigley Field shall NOT be a violation of this agreement. The Cubs also believe the eight-year period for returning royalties has expired, which means there is no avenue for damages. The Rooftops would proceed at their own risk, so to speak. The Cubs also have been careful to phrase everything that they have done to the park over the past several years as an expansion rather than as a renovation or remodeling of the park and the surrounding area.

Good. Because that’s the correct legal argument. Based on the face of the contract. Which, though terribly-written, can really only be interpreted one way.

“So, if the case goes to court and ends up in front of an arbitration panel, it could and most likely will hinge on the interpretation of the word ‘expansion.’ Is adding a Jumbotron, another outfield sign and moving the walls to limit the blockage to the Rooftops an expansion or is it simply a phrase being used to try to allow a Jumbotron and more outfield signage? This one could be tied up in court for a while and I think it is probably going to go the Cubs’ way, but it is not a slam dunk. The fact though, that City Hall and Mayor Emanuel wants this to happen and that the Cubs will be bringing more jobs and more taxes into the City of Chicago (which desperately needs the revenue) leads me to believe both sides will be highly motivated and encouraged to settle this before it gets caught up in a lengthy court case that will cost millions of dollars for both sides in legal fees and will keep the Cubs from starting their renovation project. And, just to be clear, I understand why the Cubs don’t want to start parts of the project without total approval. Should they begin digging and the case drags on, they will have no leverage at all to reach a settlement.”

It could also hinge on the definitions of “barrier” and “windscreen.” The only thing a scoreboard showing Darwin Barney’s batting average serves as a barrier to is him getting a new contract.

Finally, in doing significant research on this dispute, I was able to read the following public document which is the result of a City Council of Chicago meeting and subsequent vote on July 24, 2013 which passed 49-0 by the Chicago City Council:

“Specifically, but without limitation, Applicant shall have the right to expand the Wrigley Field bleachers to install (i) a new video board in left field, which may include an LED sign, a neon illuminated sign above it and two light towers to assist in outfield lighting; and (ii) a neon sign in right field, which signage has been approved by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and, in addition to being part of the bleacher expansion, and along with all other signage contemplated by this Planned Development, is integral to the expansion and renovation of Wrigley Field and the development and redevelopment of the Property as contemplated herein.”

I could totally be missing something, as I don’t pay as much attention to Wrigley renovations as some people, but could this just be papering the trail for the modifications that already happened? Especially considering it passed unanimously?

Thus, the argument can be made that the City of Chicago has granted the Cubs a permit to expand the bleachers, to add signage, lights, etc. and they have called it an expansion. Further, the economic protection period of eight years has lapsed.

“I rest my case.”

/mic drop
//trips over swinging door leaving courtroom

“Mr. Kaplan, court is still in session!”

The Cubs’ position in the rooftop agreement appears to be as follows: The Rooftops pay the Cubs 17 percent for 20 years with no guarantees their views won’t change. The Cubs feel they offered economic protection for the first eight years, which lapsed Jan. 27, 2012. The Rooftops depended on the City never approving a change to the landmark ordinance or approval of a subsequent bleacher expansion. Both of those approvals came in July 2013.

Again, I go back to the lawyer that I had review the contract and this City Council document:

“After looking at the wording that the Cubs have used consistently and that the City Council of Chicago also used and approved by a 49-0 vote, I believe it strengthens the Cubs’ position against the Rooftops in a potential lawsuit,” he added. “Again, no one can predict what an arbitration panel could decide, but it certainly seems the Cubs have done all they could do to demonstrate and prove that the entirety of the project — which includes a Jumbotron and signage — is indeed an expansion. If that is what it is and it ends up in front of an arbitration panel and they agree, then that will remove the roadblock standing in the way of the entire Wrigley renovation project.”

ESQUIRED, MOTHER FUCKERS!!!

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 2013 Essies

Essies TrophyWhat a year the 2013 Cubs had! They avoided 100 losses, they fired their dull manager, they hired a new dull manager, and they watched Tony LaRussa get voted into the Hall of Fame. On this, the day after you drank alcohol and probably said something stupid to a hot girl, let’s give out some inaugural year-end awards. WELCOME TO THE ESSIES!

Best Cub Player: Travis Wood

Despite the fact that Cubs fans ever-so-patiently waited through another rebuilding year, it’s nice watching some occasionally honest-to-goodness talent at Wrigley Field. Scott Feldman pitched well and (along with Steve Clevenger) landed the Cubs some apparent talent in Pedro Stop and Jake Arrieta. Matt Garza’s solid pitching and miraculous ability to stay uninjured for three consecutive starts may have helped the Cubs land their third baseman of the future. But those guys are gone, Wood is still a Cub, he made 32 starts, and the majority of those starts were great. Despite my love for SeanBearPig, it made sense for the Cubs to swap him for Wood. The trade really paid off for the Cubs in 2013. THEY WERE ACTUALLY WATCHABLE WHEN WOOD STARTED.

Best Cub Debut: Junior Lake

Remember when Junior Lake came up and people were comparing his numbers favorably to Yasiel Puig’s? Probably not. Because that was probably on Sportsnet Central and no one was watching. But Lake had a 1.274 OPS after his first seven games, so everyone in Chicago was FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. Lake finished the year with a respectable-enough .760 OPS and allowed Epstein to dump his entire outfield. HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, DAVID DEJESUS.

Most Disappointing Season: Starlin Castro

Castro came into the 2013 season after back-to-back All-Star seasons. Cubs fans were hoping his plate discipline and pitch recognition would improve. It didn’t. It got worse. Castro had a .167/.204/.250 slash line in the month of June. Woof. I’m not saying the regression of Castro (and, to a lesser extent, Anthony Rizzo) is the reason Dale Sveum was fired. Other people are saying that. And I just might agree with them.

Most Successfully Played His Way off the 2014 Roster: Dioner Navarro

Dioner Navarro was once a super-hot-shit catching prospect for the Yankees. Then, he became a journeyman backup catcher. He’s built like fat Geovany Soto, but he can actually hit, so the Toronto Blue Jays signed him away from the Cubs about a month ago. Congratulations and best of like to Dioner, as it was actually a lot of fun watching him rejuvenate his career in Chicago.

Most Boring Winter Meetings: The 2013 Winter Meetings

Good lord, I don’t think Yellon could even manage to muster more than 10,000 words about this year’s Winter Meetings. The Cubs acquired Justin Ruggiano for Brian Bogusevic and…that’s it. I wasn’t expecting fireworks, but that- That was tedium.

Biggest Albatross Unloaded: Alfonso Soriano

I loved Alfonso as a Cub, but Epstein was finally able to actualize Chuck’s wettest dream when he shipped Soriano off to the Yankees just before the 2013 non-waiver trade deadline for a halfway-decent pitching prospect. Alfonso became the Yankees’ entire offense, and they were basically getting him for free. I hope Alf has a ton of success in 2014 back where it all started. Oh, by the way, this was also the year that Epstein turned Carlos Marmol into someone who was not Carlos Marmol. Only four years after the Cubs should have actually traded him. Oh, well.

Best Facial Hair: Carlos Villanueva

GIF courtesy of Fangraphs.

GIF courtesy of Fangraphs.

Biggest Waste of Money: Kyuji Fujikawa

$4.5M this year for 12 innings of shitty pitching and a 67 save percentage. Oh, and he’s under contract for next year with a buyout for 2015. I like that Theo occasionally reminds us that he’s not perfect.

Guy You Most Likely Forgot was Even on the Roster: Brent Lillibridge

Yes, it was just this past season that we “had” to watch Lillibridge collect a lone single in twenty-four at-bats. His OPS+ was -77.

Best Replacement of Keith Moreland: Anyone But Todd Hollandsworth

I was so excited when Moreland “quit,” but then when I heard Hollandsworth might be an option to replace him, I was right back to my usual state of rampant disappointment. Fortunately, Ron Coomer got the job. I have no idea how he’ll do, and I feel like at some point Pat will walk in on Coomer stuffing his face with Jed Hoyer’s birthday cake and have to yell, “Coooooooomerrrrrrrr!” but at least he’s not Hollandsworth.

Most Coveted Non-Cub Player: Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen is the coolest goddamn guy in baseball, and he helped lead the Pirates not only to an above-.500 record, but also their first playoff appearance in over 20 years. His efforts earned him the 2013 NL MVP Award, even though he was better in 2012. His Pirates did us all the favor of knocking of Dusty’s Reds in the Wild Card game, though sadly they couldn’t knock the Cardinals out of the playoffs. He’s also just absolutely slaying it personally.

Biggest Dickhead Team: Boston Red Sox

Isn’t the “WE’RE SO ANTI-YANKEE THAT WE ALL HAVE TO HAVE RATTY BEARDS” shit just a little pathetic? Thanks for beating the Cardinals. Now please go away.

Ryan Dempster Award: Brian Wilson

This is how you treat the CEO of the team who made you? I don’t care if it’s wrong to root for a guy’s elbow to explode. I’m rooting for this guy’s elbow to explode.

Worst Fans: San Francisco Giants

Every team has its fair share of idiot fans, but holy shit, Giants fans. You don’t deserve to celebrate those titles. Also, just so you’re aware, no one else on the planet gives a shit about West Coast baseball. Also, IT’S A GODDAMN GAME.