Diving into the depths: Chicago Cubs

2 Comments

This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.

Rotation
1. Ryan Dempster
2. Matt Garza
3. Carlos Zambrano
4. Randy Wells
5. Carlos Silva
6. Andrew Cashner
7. Todd Wellemeyer
8. Braden Looper
9. Casey Coleman
10. Thomas Diamond
11. Jeff Samardzija
12. Jay Jackson
13. Chris Carpenter
14. Trey McNutt

The rotation should be a strength if Silva can perform like he did last year and stay healthy. There is some pretty reasonable depth around, too. Since Cashner didn’t pan out as a setup man last year, I’m guessing the Cubs will have him return to Triple-A to work as a starter. If things go well, he could be a big factor in the second half of the season.

Bullpen
1. Carlos Marmol
2. Kerry Wood
3. Sean Marshall
4. John Grabow
5. Marcos Mateo
6. Esmailin Caridad
7. James Russell
8. Andrew Cashner
9. Jeff Samardzija
10. Braden Looper
11. Angel Guzman
12. Todd Wellemeyer
13. Scott Maine
14. Thomas Diamond
15. Justin Berg
16. Jeff Stevens
17. Polin Trinidad
18. Jeff Beliveau
19. Rafael Dolis
20. John Gaub
21. Scott Rice

The Cubs decided against spending to upgrade their pen, and they only ended up with Wood because he passed up bigger offers to return to Chicago. I like Mateo’s chances of being useful, but beyond the top four, there shouldn’t be any locks for the pen. … Being out of options probably won’t help Samardzija, since his big contract would seem to guarantee that he’ll clear waivers unless he pitches well enough to earn a spot on merit.

Catcher
1. Geovany Soto
2. Koyie Hill
3. Max Ramirez
4. Welington Castillo
5. Chris Robinson

First base
1. Carlos Pena
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Bryan LaHair
4. Scott Moore

Second base
1. Blake DeWitt
2. Jeff Baker
3. Scott Moore
4. Augie Ojeda
5. Darwin Barney

Third base
1. Aramis Ramirez
2. Jeff Baker
3. Bobby Scales
4. Scott Moore
5. Augie Ojeda
6. Darwin Barney

Shortstop
1. Starlin Castro
2. Darwin Barney
3. Augie Ojeda
4. Matt Camp

Baker hit .350/.395/.550 in 140 at-bats against lefties last season, so the Cubs should go with a strict platoon at second base. … Barring an acquisition, the newly signed Ojeda will likely battle Barney for the last spot on the Cubs bench. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Cubs to grab Cristian Guzman or Julio Lugo as another middle-infield option.

Left field
1. Alfonso Soriano
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Fernando Perez
4. Reed Johnson
5. Lou Montanez

Center field
1. Marlon Byrd
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Reed Johnson
4. Fernando Perez

Right field
1. Kosuke Fukudome
2. Tyler Colvin
3. Reed Johnson
4. Brad Snyder
5. Fernando Perez

The Cubs failed to move Fukudome in an effort to free up money and playing time for Colvin, so he’ll probably start in right field against right-handers, at least early on. Colvin, who figures to get more work at first base this spring, will be the top backup at four spots. He’ll probably end up with more at-bats than Fukudome if he keeps hitting like he did last season.

Hunter Strickland says he doesn’t have an anger problem

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
4 Comments

Giants closer Hunter Strickland struggled in the ninth inning Monday against the Marlins, surrendering three runs en route to a 5-4 loss. Strickland took issue with Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who tied the game with a single and celebrated as he rounded first base. When Strickland was yanked from the game, Brinson was on third base, so Strickland had some parting words on his way to the dugout. Then, in the clubhouse, Strickland punched a door in anger, breaking his pitching hand. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result.

Strickland posted to his Instagram on Tuesday, taking responsibility for his actions. He wrote, “To my family, my teammates, my coaches, this organization, and our fan base, I am truly sorry that one split second, stupid decision has caused so much harm and now set me back from being out there with my team to pursue our goal.”

Speaking to the media for the first time since breaking his hand, Strickland said (via Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports), “I don’t think I have an anger problem, but sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me.”

Well, if that emotion is anger, and you let it get the best of you, then you have an anger problem. This isn’t an isolated incident.

In the 2014 NLDS against the Nationals, Bryce Harper had Strickland’s number. In Game 1, Harper hit a solo home run ioff of Strickland, putting the Nationals on the board trailing 3-1. Strickland gave up another home run to Harper in Game 4 which tied the game at 2-2. Though the distance made it a no-doubt home run, the ball went down the right field line, so Harper was watching the ball in the air and didn’t immediately run the bases, which irked Strickland. The Giants still went on to win the game and advance to the NLCS, but Strickland carried the grudge with him into the 2017 season. The 2017 season! It just so happened that Strickland never faced Harper at all in the 2015-16 seasons, which makes sense because the two clubs only meet for two series per season and Strickland only pitches one inning per game if he gets into one.

The Nationals and Giants met in San Francisco at the end of May last year. In the first game of the series, Strickland entered with the Giants trailing 2-0 in the eighth inning. He got two quick outs, bringing up Harper for their first meeting since Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS. With his first pitch, Strickland nailed harper on the hip with a 98 MPH fastball. Harper didn’t like it, so he charged the mound and the two threw punches at each other as the benches and bullpens spilled onto the field.

In the 2014 World Series, Strickland had a beef with Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Strickland gave up a double to Perez, then a two-run home run to Omar Infante. As Perez crossed home plate, Strickland started yelling at Perez. He appeared to yell, “Get in the dugout, boy.” The term “boy” carries a racist connotation when used by white people towards men of color. It’s unclear why Strickland was upset with Perez, but Perez said Strickland started jawing at him when he was on second base after hitting his double.

So here’s what we know about Strickland:

  • He gets angry when players look at their home run balls in the air, even if that player is unsure if it will stay fair
  • He gets angry if you get a double off of him in an important game
  • He gets angry when players pump their fists and yell in celebration after getting a big hit in the regular season
  • He gets angry a lot
  • He sometimes gets violent when he’s angry

Short of hitters not showing any emotion at all and not getting hits off of him, it’s not clear what kind of behavior satisfies Strickland and won’t make him angry. So, essentially, anything a batter does could potentially set Strickland off. I’d call that an anger problem. If this weren’t in the context of sports, Strickland’s behavior would be problematic.

Strickland’s behavior doesn’t come off as particularly unique because he’s far from the only player to injure himself punching something in anger. He’s far from the only player to get ticked off when batters get a hit off him and celebrate. This anger is part of baseball culture, part of sports culture at large, and embedded in masculinity — what it means to be a man. We teach men, particularly athletes, to repress a wide range of emotions. As a result, many men resort first to anger — one of the few emotions we allow men to express openly — when dealing with any type of adversity.

If Strickland were a well-adjusted person with high emotional intelligence, he would realize that throwing a baseball close to 100 at someone with the intent to injure them is not a good way to resolve a conflict. Strickland could have gone to the Marlins’ clubhouse after the game and had a level-headed chat with Brinson, saying, “I felt embarrassed and emasculated when you got a hit off of me and celebrated the way you did. Perhaps in the future, you could tone it down.” But we don’t teach men and allow them to discuss and express their emotions in healthy ways, so Strickland lashes out at Harper and Perez and Brinson instead.