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Jim Furtado
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Editor - Baseball Primer


Cubs Newsbeat

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cubs’ Baez has new magic tricks ready for this season

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — It does not take Javier Baez long to show off his magic tricks, even in a spring training game.

The Chicago Cubs star singled in the first inning on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies and stole second, escaping a tag by shortstop Garrett Hampson with a deft swim move.

“I wasn’t planning on doing it — I just reacted to it,” Baez said. “I got a good jump but I took forever to be full speed and the ball beat me. I saw it and just reacted to it. That’s my first attempt to steal a bag in spring training. I just did it. We’ll see how it goes.”

Last year, as we all remember, Javier Baez successfully caused the Cubs’ offense to disappear.


QLE Posted: March 19, 2019 at 03:29 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, javier baez, magic

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Why Willson Contreras’ makeover might hold key to Cubs’ season

The Cubs need a lot of their young players to improve this year if they hope to prove PECOTA wrong.

Jim Furtado Posted: March 12, 2019 at 09:44 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, willson contreras

Thursday, March 07, 2019

What’s cooking in the Cubs’ Pitch Lab? Come with me and you’ll see… – The Athletic

I’ve been digging into this stuff a lot recently. It’s fascinating stuff. I was clearly born too early.

“That’s something I was told this offseason,” Maples said. “Some guys, it looks like their fastball has that extra gear where it just takes off. I’m not one of those guys that has that. It’s the spin rate and spin axis. With my fastball, I know the induced vertical break isn’t crazy good, so I gotta pick and choose times when to go up. … My thing is sliders and then the fastball when I need it. So I’m staying there.”

If what he’s doing ends up not working, then perhaps the data can help him adjust.

“It can get pretty crazy when you get into the analytics of it,” Maples said. “It’s a big thing, finding someone who can simplify it. We have guys here who are really good at that, simplifying those numbers. Because it can seem crazy.”

Jim Furtado Posted: March 07, 2019 at 07:03 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, pitching mechanics

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Cubs’ reworked deal with Brad Brach underscores 2019 financial, bullpen limits

Turns out the Cubs spent even less on players during the winter than originally thought.

And the story behind reworking reliever Brad Brach’s contract after the pitcher failed his physical because of mono might offer insight into the state of their bullpen and maybe even just how close team president Theo Epstein has had to watch payroll dollars this winter.

Brach agreed to a contract that paid $3 million in base salary this year plus a mutual option for 2020 that included a $1.35 million buyout, which made the minimum value of the deal $4.35 million.
But after blood tests as part of Brach’s physical detected the Epstein-Barr virus, or mononucleosis, the Cubs renegotiated the deal down to a $1.65 million base for 2019, also reducing the club and player ends of the option, as well as the buyout (now $100,000).

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 06, 2019 at 09:45 AM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs

Monday, March 04, 2019

Crouching Schwarber, Hidden Slugger: Has a Cubs hitter found what he’s been missing? – The Athletic

“I definitely think for me, I’m going to have to be a little bit more aggressive,” Schwarber said. “Be aggressive with my pitch. I think that’s the biggest thing. Be really focused on what you want at the plate and get after it. Especially with two strikes. I can’t leave too many things up to the umpire. That’s the first thing we preached in college, if it’s close enough, you should go after it. I don’t want to be taking too many close pitches here and getting rung up. I’d rather be putting the ball in play.”

Jim Furtado Posted: March 04, 2019 at 09:56 AM | 3 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, kyle schwarber

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Cubs’ Joe Maddon stumped over grim season prediction

“I mean, to rediscover a mojo after a 95-win season to me is really difficult to jump on board with, sorry,” Maddon said. “We were disappointed we got eliminated quickly, absolutely. We had a lot of injuries. Some guys maybe underperformed. I would say we want to recapture our offensive mojo. If you look at ‘15, ‘16 and ‘17, we went to the dance and won based on the fact the offense played all the way through. … We didn’t hit at the end. So when you talk about where we’ve been over the last four years to be condescending or critical of my guys, I can’t do it.”

Seventy-nine wins?

Eh, learn to love again.

“And I really love our guys, man.”

Jim Furtado Posted: March 03, 2019 at 09:46 PM | 28 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs

Friday, March 01, 2019

Cubs have found a winning formula for Ben Zobrist

The Cubs believe they’ve found the right mix to getting the most bang for their buck out of Ben Zobrist.

The aging veteran is extremely valuable to the team given his positional flexibility, switch-hitting ability and polished plate approach, but the Cubs learned the hard way in 2017 that Zobrist needs rest to keep him healthy and spry throughout the long, grueling season.

Zobrist played in 128 games in 2017 but was plagued by a wrist injury for most of the year, hitting only .232 with a .693 OPS. But he returned to finish second on the 2018 Cubs in position-player WAR (Baseball Reference) behind only MVP runner-up Javy Baez.

*Considers going with either a Panama Lewis or a David Ortiz reference; realizes that either one could get him in a world of trouble here*


QLE Posted: March 01, 2019 at 06:15 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: ben zobrist, cubs

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Why doing interviews in English is part of Yu Darvish’s comeback plan

Speaking in a second language is much tougher than understanding what’s being said.

“I want to speak better English,” Darvish told later. “I understand what you guys are asking, but when I get nervous—like now—my English gets stuck a little.”

Darvish’s decision to speak English during interviews this season is part of a bigger “reset” to his career after a year to forget in 2018. He simply doesn’t need an interpreter, and so this season there will be no extra layer between him and the media—and, by extension, the fans.

“Dealing with reporters and the public in English takes away a level of protection,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “It’s an attempt to make a more genuine connection and is very much in keeping with how open, genuine and eager Yu has been with everyone this spring training. I think not using an interpreter is a brave thing to do. I’m not sure I’d be able to do it.”

Jim Furtado Posted: February 26, 2019 at 10:43 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, yu darvish

Sunday, February 24, 2019

No matter how much money the Cubs and White Sox spend, it’s never enough for their fans

White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was criticized for offering free agent Manny Machado only $250 million in guaranteed money intead of the $300 million it took for the Padres to sign him, while Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts was forced to defend his spending habits despite a $212 million payroll, the biggest in franchise history.

Whether the hustle-is-optional approach by Machado would’ve been a good fit on a young, rebuilding team, or the Cubs’ chemistry would’ve suffered with the addition of a high-maintenance player such as Bryce Harper, seems to be irrelevant. To paraphrase late Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just spend, baby” is the motto most fans live by.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 24, 2019 at 03:38 PM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, white sox

Cubs’ Kris Bryant on critics entering 2019 season: ‘Bring it on’

It’s no secret that Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant struggled in 2018.

While dealing with a shoulder injury that limited him to just 102 games, he batted .272, hit just 13 home runs and had 52 RBIs — all of which were career-lows. He was even sent to the disabled list for the first time in his four-year career last season.

Naturally, that caused plenty in the baseball world to start doubting the former Rookie of the Year and National League MVP.


QLE Posted: February 24, 2019 at 08:49 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, kris bryant

Friday, February 22, 2019

Cubs have sixth-best 2019 World Series odds, according to Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

Las Vegas’ oddsmakers are high on the Cubs’ chances of having a successful 2019 season.

Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released its over/under win total, World Series, pennant, division and playoff odds for each MLB team for the 2019 season. In comparison to the rest of MLB, the Cubs have the sixth-best odds to win the World Series (second-best in the National League).

When did Dave Cameron become a bookie?

QLE Posted: February 22, 2019 at 06:43 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, las vegas, odds

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cubs still wide open with leadoff spot in 2019: ‘If somebody wants to take it, take it’

MESA, Ariz. — Rickey Henderson isn’t coming through that door for the Cubs, no matter how much Joe Maddon would like it.

Dexter Fowler isn’t, either.

Almost three years to the day since Fowler surprised everybody by walking onto the backfield at Cubs camp in Arizona, the Cubs are still searching for his replacement — a “you go, we go” presence atop the order.

Well, if they’ll really accept anyone for the job, I’m available….


QLE Posted: February 21, 2019 at 04:17 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, leadoff

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Chicago Cubs: Tom Ricketts addresses father’s racist emails

When asked directly why the Cubs didn’t spend any more money this winter, Ricketts said the answer was simple:

“We don’t have any more,” he said. “We have to have flexibility in the future. ... We’ve been in the top five spending the last few years, and we put our money back onto the field. You can’t have a high-profile free agent every single year.

“The way we look at it, you got to think long-term, it’s not just one season. We think we have a very, very good team. I think we’ll win our division.”

The Cubs have signed Jason Heyward ($184 million), Jon Lester ($155 million), Yu Darvish ($126 million) and Ben Zobrist ($56 million) since the end of the 2014 season. They also realize they are going to have to keep providing substantial raises to young stars Kris Bryant and Javier Baez through arbitration, before determining whether to sign them to long-term contract extensions.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 19, 2019 at 05:51 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ian Happ trying to force his way into Cubs second base picture

MESA, Ariz. — Don’t write the obituary on Ian Happ’s career as a second baseman just yet.

The versatile young player started 28 games at second base during his rookie year in 2017, but did not see a start in 2018 and played just 3 innings at the position the entire season.

Thats not a trend that typically bodes well for Happ’s future at second base.

Rumors that he removed second base from Wrigley and is hiding it in a cold-water flat on the West Side are, as of yet, unproven.


QLE Posted: February 18, 2019 at 07:25 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, ian happ, second base

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Did The Cubs Miss Their Chance To Be A Dynasty?

In addition to being one of the great sports stories of the 21st century — breaking a 108-year championship drought in extra innings of World Series Game 7 — the 2016 Chicago Cubs were legitimately one of the best baseball teams of all time. With a championship core of young talent that included Kris Bryant (age 24),1 Anthony Rizzo (26), Kyle Hendricks (26), Addison Russell (22), Javier Baez (23), Kyle Schwarber (23), Willson Contreras (24) and Jason Heyward (26), Chicago seemed poised to follow up that magical run by becoming a dynasty in the coming seasons.

That’s not quite how things have played out. The 2017 Cubs stumbled out of the gate and never quite clicked, eventually losing to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. The 2018 version squandered the five-game division lead they held over the Brewers on Sept. 1, lost the division tiebreaker in Game 163 of the regular season and then promptly lost the wild-card game against Colorado. And the Cubs’ grip on the Central figures to loosen even further this season. According to a preliminary version of our 2019 MLB Projections, we give Chicago only the third-best projected record (84 wins) in the division, with a mere 24 percent chance of winning it.

How is it possible that the Cubs went from dynasty in the making in 2016 to a team struggling to stay atop its own division in less than three years? The answer lies in part with the team’s declining core and team president Theo Epstein’s inability to supplement it with effective reinforcements from the outside — particularly when it comes to pitching.

Then again, dynasties are very hard to form- what’s the closest we’ve had to one in the National League since the Big Red Machine?

QLE Posted: February 16, 2019 at 06:25 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, dynasties

Friday, February 15, 2019

O’Donnell: Could this be Theo Epstein’s finale with Cubs?

“Tearing at the seams” sounds like an exaggeration.

Critical core: At age 45, Epstein is approaching the prime of his career. In MLB, he is universally acknowledged as being as good as it gets. So why should be continue to work for anyone else, especially an organization tearing at the seams on multiple imaging fronts above a roster era that could quite likely be arced out?

If he is not somewhere on the trolley toward becoming chairman and managing partner of another MLB team—in a perfect scenario with a majority ownership stake—he is doing himself, his professional ceiling and his family a disservice.

And intellectual omission has never been a fungo on any field of possibilities overseen by Theo Epstein.

Jim Furtado Posted: February 15, 2019 at 06:25 AM | 17 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, theo epstein

Will the Cubs really finish last in 2019? Say it ain’t so, PECOTA - Chicago Tribune

The PECOTA computer can’t look in anyone’s eyes to see if that “look” is there.

Does it know something we don’t?

“It is entertaining,” Maddon said. “Who knows why or how they arrive at that stuff. It really means nothing.

“You’ve got to go out and play the game. You’ve got to compete. I have zero interest in something like that.”

Jim Furtado Posted: February 15, 2019 at 06:22 AM | 20 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Brewers trying to keep rival Cubs fans out of Miller Park again

The Milwaukee Brewers have made it clear: They would prefer the least amount of Chicago Cubs fans to fill Miller Park as possible.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Brewers announced presale tickets for their 10 home dates against the Cubs, tickets that will only initially be made available to residents of Wisconsin.

“If last season’s Game 163 taught us anything, it’s that every single game matters - especially in a rivalry like this. And, while we don’t dislike all Cubs fans, we just really prefer when Miller Park is packed to the brim with Brewers faithful,” the team’s statement read.

Rumors that the Brewers are plotting to have the Hiawatha Service shut down on game days is currently unproven.


QLE Posted: February 14, 2019 at 05:15 AM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: brewers, cubs, miller park, tickets

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

End of free Cubs games on local TV: Team partners with Sinclair to launch regional sports network in 2020

The Chicago Cubs are teaming with Sinclair Broadcast Group to launch a regional sports network in February 2020 that will become the exclusive television home of the Cubs.
The Marquee Sports Network will air the full regular season schedule, expanded pregame and postgame coverage, classic broadcasts from the archives and other local sports programming.

It marks the end of more than 70 years of over-the-air broadcasts for the Cubs, and the beginning of an ambitious endeavor to sell cable and satellite providers on the value of the carrying the new regional network — no sure thing in an increasingly fragmented world of cable TV.
But if all goes according to plan and cable providers from Southwest Michigan to Iowa — Major League Baseball’s designated home broadcast turf for the team — agree to carry the new network, viewers will have no choice but to watch local Cubs games on pay TV.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2019 at 08:49 PM | 34 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs

Baseball is back — except for the 100 or so remaining free agents. Is this the new normal? - Chicago Tribune

One of the *fixes* I’ve seen mentioned is players getting to free agency sooner. That might help a relatively small percentage of players. It will only make things worse for the middle of the road players. Having more of them on the market won’t drive up their salaries.

Asked whether it’s a problem for MLB to have so many free agents unsigned as spring training begins, Epstein predicted things would be “re-ordered” by the time the next collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon by MLB and the players’ union.

The current five-year contract runs through 2021.

“I do empathize and feel for the players who are still out there, who don’t know where they’re going to be with spring training starting, and how tough that is on their families,” Epstein said. “It’s not easy to get to free agency. … There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that goes into that. It’s a moment guys have been looking forward to their whole lives, and when it doesn’t pan out exactly the way they’d imagined (it’s difficult).

“I know we’re talking about millionaires here and everything. It’s not one of society’s great problems, but I still feel for these guys.”

General manager Jed Hoyer said the offseason signings have been “creeping later and later” over the last decade and that something needs to change.

“We’ve probably reached a point where it’s gone way too far,” he said. “Certainly it’s not in anyone’s best interests to have animosity, labor strife, talk of work stoppage, things like that.”

Jim Furtado Posted: February 13, 2019 at 10:23 AM | 23 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, free agents

Joe Maddon explains ‘own it now’ slogan for 2019 Cubs

MESA, Ariz. - Joe Maddon had an extra month to work out his standard slogan for the new year ahead, but he probably didn’t need it.

Maddon’s phrase for 2019 - “own it now” - could’ve been hatched in mid-October and that’s not at all critiquing the slogan. It’s just that the main narrative around the Cubs hasn’t changed since the first hour of the offseason when stunned players hung around at their lockers and talked about the lack of urgency at times throughout the season.

The Cubs’ main talking point all winter has been trying to find that “urgency” and “edge” every single day in 2019 and showing up to the ballpark every morning/afternoon with a mission in mind. We saw this team accomplish that feat in 2016 but haven’t seen it consistently in the two years since.

Are we sure this isn’t just a pitch for a timeshare?


QLE Posted: February 13, 2019 at 04:49 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, joe maddon, slogans

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

5 spring training storylines you’re going to be real sick of in a month

Look, I don’t blame anyone in Chicago for getting excited about baseball this week. It’s been 20 degrees every day since early October. We’re getting our third ice storm of the year this week.

If you want to put all your eggs into the baseball-starts-this-week basket, go right ahead. There are probably worse ways to spend winter’s last leg than living vicariously through 15-pitch outings and ranking non-roster invitees based on their baserunning skills.

With that said, any professional sports pre-season is objectively torture; the Cubs’ first home game is still eight weeks away. Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, and the first game isn’t for 10 days *after* that. There’s a LOT of time between now and then to hammer the same half-dozen narratives into the ground. What narratives, you wonder? Glad you asked! Let’s dive in

These are all Cubs-related- feel free to add other ones in the comments.


QLE Posted: February 12, 2019 at 05:44 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, spring training

Monday, February 11, 2019

A healthy Yu Darvish: ‘I really want to do something for Chicago and the Cubs’

On this day last year, Yu Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million contract with the Cubs.

One year later, the 32-year-old is healthy and looking to have a bounce back season.

Here’s what the right-hander had to say after throwing 45 pitches on Sunday.

“For”, or “To”?


QLE Posted: February 11, 2019 at 05:39 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: chicago, cubs, yu darvish

Friday, February 08, 2019

Cubs hope internal improvement leads to more success

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Cubs took a long, hard look at themselves over the winter.

There was nowhere else to go.

Chicago begins spring training with largely the same group of players who blew a five-game lead in the NL Central last September and lost to Colorado in 13 innings in the wild card game. On consecutive October days at Wrigley Field, the Cubs watched as Milwaukee celebrated its win in the tiebreaker for the division title and then the Rockies put a bow on the disappointing finish for the 2016 World Series champions.

Does this mean the Cubs are going to build a canal?


QLE Posted: February 08, 2019 at 04:13 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, internal improvements

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Junichi Tazawa agrees to minor league contract with Cubs

CHICAGO (AP) — Reliever Junichi Tazawa has finalized a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs and will report to big league spring training.

If added to the 40-man roster, Tazawa would receive a one-year contract paying $800,000 while in the major leagues. He could earn $450,000 in performance bonuses for games pitched and $750,000 for games finished.

The 32-year-old right-hander was 1-1 with a 7.07 ERA in 31 games last season for Miami and the Los Angeles Angels. He was released by Miami on May 21, signed a minor league deal with Detroit on June 3, was released July 9 after seven games with Triple-A Toledo and signed with the Angels four days later.

QLE Posted: February 07, 2019 at 04:41 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, junichi tazawa

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