Starling Marte: leadoff-hitting strikeout machine

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Before fanning yet again to open Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, Starling Marte had amassed a major league-high 35 strikeouts in 24 games this season. He led the majors by two strikeouts over American League rookies Abraham Almonte and Marcus Semien and the NL by three over Justin Upton.

That put him on pace for 236 strikeouts for the season, which would easily outdistance the major league record of 223 set by Mark Reynolds in 2009. He’s probably not going to stay in that territory, but perhaps he could join Reynolds, Adam Dunn, Chris Carter and Drew Stubbs as the only players to fan 200 times in a season.

If not, there’s another record he could reach. One of the few strikeout records not set in the last 10 years is Bobby Bonds’ 184 from the leadoff spot in 1970. It’s been approached several times since, with Rickie Weeks finishing at 179 in 2010 and Austin Jackson racking up 169 and 178 in back-to-back years in 2010-11.

Of course, the Pirates could relieve Marte of leadoff duties, but they really don’t want to. Even with his struggles so far this year, he’s scored 14 runs in 24 games. He doesn’t walk much at all, but he does get hit by pitches, which has allowed him to amass a respectable .331 OBP in 206 career games. He’s also 7-for-8 stealing bases this year after going 41-for-56 last year.

So, the Pirates will simply hope Marte cuts back on the strikeouts a bit and gets his OBP back up. As is, they still have bigger concerns about the second spot in the lineup, which has yet to be secured by either Travis Snider or Jose Tabata and was actually manned by Josh Harrison and his career .279 OBP on Saturday.

The Cubs are considering a sportsbook at Wrigley Field

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With the nationwide ban on sports gambling gone — and with sports gambling regulations slowly being implemented on a state-by-state basis — any number of businesses are considering getting in on the action. Among those businesses are the Chicago Cubs.

ESPN reports that the club is considering opening gambling facilities in and around Wrigley Field which might include betting windows, automated kiosks or, possibly, a full, casino-style sportsbook. They’re characterized as preliminary discussions as the team awaits the Illinois governor’s signature on recently-passed legislation allowing gambling. The Cubs aren’t commenting, but a source tells ESPN that nothing has been done yet. It’s just talk at the moment.

If the Cubs move forward from the talking stage it will cost them a pretty penny: a four-year license will, under Illinois’ new law, cost them $10 million.

Now: let’s see the White Sox take some action this year. I can think of nothing more fun than sports gambling at what was once Comiskey Park on the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal.