Diving into the depths: Chicago Cubs

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Chicago Cubs
Rotation
1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Ted Lilly
4. Randy Wells
5. Tom Gorzelanny
6. Carlos Silva
7. Sean Marshall
8. Jeff Samardzija
9. Mike Parisi
10. Andrew Cashner
11. Mitch Atkins
12. Jay Jackson
13. Chris Carpenter
Lilly hasn’t been ruled out for Opening Day just yet, but all signs point to him missing the first month after shoulder surgery. That could leave room for both Gorzy or Silva in the rotation, but it’s also possible that the Cubs will go out and sign Ben Sheets or another starter.
With a healthy Lilly, I think they’d still have adequate depth, but that’s largely because I’m fonder of Gorzy and Marshall than most.
Bullpen
1. Carlos Marmol
2. Angel Guzman
3. John Grabow
4. Sean Marshall
5. Jeff Gray
6. Carlos Silva
7. Esmailin Caridad
8. Jeff Samardzija
9. David Patton
10. Justin Berg
11. Mike Parisi
12. Jeff Stevens
13. Scott Maine
14. John Gaub
15. Jeff Kennard
Kiko Calero would look pretty good in between Grabow and Marshall. The Cubs have plenty of options, but no one beyond the front four qualifies as trustworthy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Caridad, Stevens and Maine emerge as decent choices this year, but I wouldn’t want to have to count on any of them on Opening Day.


Catcher
1. Geovany Soto
2. Koyie Hill
3. Chris Robinson
First base
1. Derrek Lee
2. Micah Hoffpauir
3. Jeff Baker
4. Bryan LaHair
Second base
1. Jeff Baker
2. Mike Fontenot
3. Andres Blanco
Third base
1. Aramis Ramirez
2. Jeff Baker
3. Bobby Scales
4. Mike Fontenot
Shortstop
1. Ryan Theriot
2. Andres Blanco
3. Starlin Castro
The price tags only figure to keep falling, so the Cubs may yet wind up with Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez at second base. Landing either would provide a big boost. Baker can hit, but he’d be a liability defensively in the process. Ideally, he’d return to a reserve role.
Left field
1. Alfonso Soriano
2. Sam Fuld
3. Micah Hoffpauir
4. Bobby Scales
5. Brad Snyder
Center field
1. Marlon Byrd
2. Sam Fuld
3. Kosuke Fukudome
4. James Adduci
Right field
1. Kosuke Fukudome
2. Sam Fuld
3. Micah Hoffpauir
4. Tyler Colvin
5. Bobby Scales
If the Cubs sign a second baseman, then Baker will become another option in the outfield and a nice complement to Fuld as a backup in the corners. If not, then the Cubs need to go get themselves a fourth outfielder with some pop, particularly since manager Lou Piniella doesn’t trust Hoffpauir anywhere other than first base.

Ron Darling rips Mets trainers after yet another player goes down with an injury

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Last night starter Robert Gsellman became the latest Mets player to go down with an injury when he strained his hamstring while running out a ground ball. He’s certain to go on the disabled list, making him the sixth Mets starter to go down this year. He’ll join Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares, Neil Walker, Matt Harvey, David Wright, Jeurys Familia and many, many other Mets on the DL.

Mets broadcaster Ron Darling is fed up with it. Last night, after Gsellman went down, he went off on the Mets trainers, who he believes to be enabling all of this:

“[These] trainers, get them in a room with some of the old trainers and people that took care of baseball players and how to keep them healthy. And get them in a room and try to tap into their knowledge on how you train baseball players — not weightlifters, not six-pack wearers — baseball players. They’re doing a disservice to their million-dollar athletes that they’re paying. It’s a joke to watch this happen each and every night.”

Here’s video of his rant:

Darling is certainly tapping into a frustration a lot of Mets fans feel. For years the Mets injury issues have vexed the fanbase, less so for the sheer number of them — other teams have had more DL trips for their players — than for the manner in which they were handled and/or discussed by the team. They’ve often been loathe to use the disabled list even when it makes sense to and have, at times, run guys out to play despite there being serious red flags which would counsel most teams from doing so.

But is he right about why the players are getting injured? It’s a commonly held bit of conventional wisdom that players using weight training and being muscular makes them more brittle, but I’m unaware of any science that backs that up (if you have some, please pass it along, I’d genuinely be interested in reading it). Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t, but Darling seems so certain about it.

He could be right. But I also suspect that Darling may be falling prey to some back-in-my-dayism that retired players often exhibit. Are players getting injured more or are they merely being diagnosed better? Are they getting more seriously injured, or are they just taken out of action more quickly rather than be left to play through injuries like so many old timers have claimed they had to back in the 50s, 60s and 70s? Fireballers used to try to hang on as junkballers after suffering elbow injuries that today would send a guy to surgery. There was a much greater tolerance for lumbering slow dudes who might take it easy with a bad hammy as opposed to getting shut down now.

None of which is to say that Darling is wrong, necessarily. Like I said, maybe there is something to the idea that weight training and musculature makes a player more brittle. But I am always loathe to nod along with an old player who says the science and medicine surrounding sports has regressed compared to where it was back in his day. It may be true, but it’s counterintuitive given how science and medicine usually work. And when you offer a counterintuitive take like that, I think you need more evidence than your frustration at an injury occurring in front of you in real time.

Bryce Harper is pretty clearly messing with people

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Not too long ago some rumors popped up about Bryce Harper wanting to sign with the Cubs when he hits free agency following the 2018 season. Such rumors are sort of silly this far out — and they almost always tend to be non-predictive of where the player eventually goes — but they tend to get folks excited or concerned, depending on who they root for.

With the Cubs in town to face the Nationals, Harper was asked about those rumors again. He wisely dismissed them, saying he had no idea where that stuff comes from. Which is what someone in his position should say.

Not that he’s not going to have some fun with it. Check out his Instagram post with friend Kris Bryant. Specifically, check out the hashtag:

#Back2BackOneDay is, of course, an implication that he’d be hitting behind Bryant in the same batting order.

Harper is no idiot. He’s not going to use social media, in the middle of a season, two seasons before he could even potentially play elsewhere, to send genuine signals about wanting to leave the Nationals and join the Cubs. He’s just messing with the rumormongers. As he TOTALLY SHOULD by the way, because rumormongers deserve to be messed with.

Not that the rumormongers won’t take this a genuine evidence of his intent. The rumormongers aren’t big on subtle humor.