Winter tree

What season is it?

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As I wait for the NL MVP to be announced — likely the only real news that will be had today — I find myself struggling with something:  when do we start calling 2010 “last season?”  When do we start calling 2011 “this season.”  More importantly, what do we call them now?

Let’s start easy: it’s probably safe to call 2010 “last season” now. The only possible issue with this will be when we talk about who just won the awards — I still think of Felix Hernandez as “this season’s Cy Young Award winner” — but that will end soon, and the award winners will be just as much a part of “last season” as Dallas Braden’s ridiculous references to the area code whence he came.

2011 is much harder.  My quick broaching of the topic on Twitter has made it pretty clear that people do not yet feel comfortable calling 2011 “this season.” Indeed, the consensus is that we’re in a dead zone when we can only have a “last season” and a “next season” and nothing in between.  This saddens me, because it just underscores how bereft of baseball we are.  What’s more, it’s not 100% accurate inasmuch as teams are assembling rosters as we speak, laying the important groundwork for 2011. Something is happening that part of me feels must be considered as a component of the active season.  Though the tree has shed its leaves and appears dead to the world, it still lives.

But my emotional needs aside, I’ll grant that 2011 is not yet “this season.”  But when does it become “this season?”

  • I will not be subject to the tyranny of the calendar. January 1st is a non-starter as far as I’m concerned, as it has no organic relationship to baseball, which has its own calendar that can be easily navigated without reference to the names of the months (“October” being the only possible exception).
  • Someone in the Twitterverse suggested Opening Day. This is far too late for me. We are way, way too invested in actual on-the-field activity before then.
  • Pitchers and catchers reporting, then?  It may be the majority position. It still feels too late for me, though. And it’s not like we’re sticking with it: “truck day” has become an increasingly big thing, and if we’re marking the departure of equipment, it must be significant.

I could go earlier than that, though. Sometime between now and early February is when the rhetorical calendar has to flip.  The sooner the better for me, as I dislike constructions such as “this upcoming season” or “the current offseason” or “that time, far off, when baseball begins anew and the long dreary winter has left us at last.”  Which comes up all the time, don’t you know.

Here’s my take:  I’m going to the Winter Meetings in a couple of weeks. When I’m down there, I’m going to perform a little pagan ceremony, the specifics of which will be between me, the beverage I am drinking and whoever happens to be within shouting distance.  When it’s over, 2011 will be referred to as “this season” on this blog.

Well, at least by me.  I’m guessing Gleeman, Pouliot, Short and Silva all feel differently about it.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Kirk Irwin/Getty Images North America
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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?

Jose Bautista had a courtside view of Saturday night’s epic NBA Slam Dunk Contest

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …

Its a wrap!!! #BackToBack #SlamDunk #Champion @zachlavine8 🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽🙌🏽

A video posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …

Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.

Cubs expected to host an All-Star Game in the near future

A general view of Wrigley Field and the newly renovated bleachers during the second inning of a baseball game between the the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 11, 2015,  in Chicago. Chicago won 6-3. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
AP Photo/Paul Beaty
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The 2016-18 All-Star Games are spoken for, but the Cubs could play host not long thereafter according to commissioner Rob Manfred, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports.

The Padres are hosting at Petco Park this year, the Marlins will host at Marlins Park next season, and the Nationals will host in 2018 at Nationals Park. That will make four consecutive National League hosts and five if the Cubs get it in 2019. In the past, the National and American Leagues have alternated hosting privileges. That is sort of important now since the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series.

The Cubs last hosted the All-Star Game in 1990 and have hosted a total of three times (1962 and 1947 being the other years) since its inception in 1933.

Wrigley Field has been undergoing renovations which are expected to be completed by the 2019 season. Manfred said that the Cubs hosting the All-Star Game “will provide the Cubs and Ricketts family a chance to showcase the unbelievable renovation they are in the midst of doing for Wrigley field.”

Update: Here’s a table showing the last time each team hosted the All-Star Game.

Team Park Last Hosted Yrs Since Notes
Dodgers Dodger Stadum 1980 35
Nationals Olympic Stadium (Expos) 1982 33 2018 host
Athletics Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum 1987 28
Cubs Wrigley Field 1990 25
Blue Jays SkyDome 1991 24
Padres Jack Murphy Stadium 1992 23 2016 host
Orioles Oriole Park at Camden Yards 1993 22
Rangers The Ballpark in Arlington 1995 20
Phillies Veterans Stadium 1996 19
Indians Jacobs Field 1997 18
Rockies Coors Field 1998 17
Red Sox Fenway Park 1999 16
Braves Turner Field 2000 15
Mariners Safeco Field 2001 14
Brewers Miller Park 2002 13
White Sox U.S. Cellular Field 2003 12
Astros Minute Maid Park 2004 11
Tigers Comerica Park 2005 10
Pirates PNC Park 2006 9
Giants AT&T Park 2007 8
Yankees Yankee Stadium 2008 7
Cardinals Busch Stadium 2009 6
Angels Angels Stadium of Anaheim 2010 5
D’Backs Chase Field 2011 4
Royals Kauffman Stadium 2012 3
Mets Citi Field 2013 2
Twins Target Field 2014 1
Reds Great American Ball Park 2015 0
Marlins Never Hosted 2017 host
Rays Never Hosted

Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren will compete for No. 5 spot in Cubs’ rotation

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the National League baseball championship series against the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Expect Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation this spring, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Clayton Richard could serve as a fallback option as well.

Hendricks, 26, pitched well in his first full season in 2015. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and a 167/43 K/BB ratio over 180 innings. That was a solid follow-up to his rookie campaign in 2014, when he posted a 2.46 ERA over 13 starts.

The Cubs acquired Warren, 28, from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade. He contributed both out of the rotation and the bullpen in the Bronx this past season, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 104/39 K/BB ratio.

One through four, the Cubs’ rotation is solid with defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel.