It has been an utterly fantastic nine days down here in Arizona, but alas, it is time for me to head back to the Great Midwest. But before I let that big ol’ jet airliner take me far away, let’s take a look back at what we learned during this little odyssey through the Cactus League:
- While I’d say that the Cactus League is better than the Grapefruit League in terms of convenience and baseball-bang-for-your-buck, it does lack a bit of that event feel you get in Florida. Although, really, that doesn’t come close to outweighing Arizona’s advantages. If your team is in Florida, sure, you’re going to want to go there. But if the point is to simply consume a metric-crap-ton of baseball, you want to come to Arizona.
- Though we may never learn if it is possible for spring training facilities to be too cushy, the Diamondbacks and Rockies are pushing he envelope.
- Kirk Gibson expects you to Deal With It.
- Henry Blanco is slow, but he’s faster than you.
- Between TT Roadhouse and the place where the Giants train, there is just enough in Scottsdale to spare it from being thrown up against the wall when the revolution comes.
- But no matter what happens, this dude is gonna be up against that wall.
- Brian Wilson: corporate shill? Tim Lincecum: buying pre-weathered iPad holders? Miguel Tejada: comedian?
- Urge … to be … a fanboy … rising!
- Mike Trout is humble, Vernon Wells is Fonzie and Matt Kemp looks like a new man.
- People freak out about clouds here in Arizona.
- My lawsuit against Ryan Hanigan and the Reds over my getting hit by a baseball is in the planning stages. Hanigan said sorry, but he can stuff his sorries in a sack!
- I still have this feeling that my educating a South Korean journalist about footlong chili dogs may set back international relations decades, but if I had to do it over again I wouldn’t change a thing.
- FYI: Marty Brennaman is not Bob Uecker.
- I like Mike Quade. But seriously dude: try to keep your players from fighting, OK?
- If Zelous Wheeler gets a start, it must be spring training.
- Hey Ladies!
- A picture of a chili dog with crushed up Fritos and topped off with jalapeño peppers that was damn nigh the death of me.
- Jeff Francoeur may have been my white whale, but he ended up being pretty benign. And this caused me some consternation.
- In which I invent an imaginary conversation between George Brett and Kevin Seitzer.
- Patience, Royals fans: the future is bright.
- The place the A’s train may have been built by Communists 50 years ago, but I kind of like it.
- There is nothing quite like the brigade of Japanese reporters who cover Hideki Matsui. But at least they’re fun.
- I’m glad cooler heads prevailed, but getting my ass kicked in what would have almost certainly been portrayed in the media as a racial incident would have made for great blogging.
- Don’t look now, but I think gophers have infested the field at Camelback Ranch.
- Which, strangely enough, may actually have helped Adam Dunn’s defense at first.
- Ozzie Guillen is a cool customer and Dan Haren is a model of … well, he’s just a model.
With that I gotta catch the Super Chief back east to home and hearth. It’s been real, folks. Next time you hear from me I’ll be back in my fortified compound on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio speaking truth to power or whatever it is I like to pretend that I do around here.
See you next year, Spring Training.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that Indians manager Terry Francona has set his starting rotation for the first three games of the World Series against the Cubs. Corey Kluber will start Game One, followed by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games Two and Three, respectively.
Kluber, the ace of the staff, has had a terrific postseason. He’s made three starts with a 0.98 ERA and a 20/7 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings. The Indians won two of his starts — Game Two of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS.
Bauer was unable to make it out of the first inning of his ALCS Game 3 start against the Blue Jays after the stitches on his pinky opened up and caused blood to pour out. He suffered the injury repairing one of his drones, which he builds as a hobby. Bauer insists he’ll be good to go in Game Two, though he also insisted that the injury wouldn’t be an impediment against the Jays.
Tomlin has made two solid starts for the Indians, allowing a total of three runs over 10 2/3 innings. The Indians won both games he started, Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 2 of the ALCS. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes that if Bauer can’t go in Game Two, Tomlin will be moved up to start in his place.
It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for FOXSports.com, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.
Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.
What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.
A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.
This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.
Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.