Good morning Cubs fans! Welcome to Eclipse day. Our Cubbies have played three series and won two of them. We could have won all three of them if you consider how well Justin Steele was pitching before his injury in Texas. So far the lineup as produced runs and the starting pitching has been pretty good. My only disappointment yesterday is that the rain disrupted Imanga’s start against the Dodgers, which I was looking forward to seeing. Hopefully they continue to play well during the road trip this week along the west coast.

    Today is the Chicago Cub’s home opener after they completed the first series of the season with one again and two loses against the Texas Rangers. Texas is the defending World Series champion and therefore is one of best teams, so not getting swept is a bonus. In fact, the Cubs came within inches of maybe winning the first game in the tenth inning when a foul ball hit by Christopher Morel just missed being a grand slam. Steele was keeping the Rangers lineup in check before he pulled a hamstring fielding a swinging bunt. Despite this, my reaction after one series is that the current Cubs lineup seems no better than last year’s, with the same unreliable hitting, amplified by bad fielding.

    Pugnosticating The 2024 Chicago Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs have completed the 2024 Cactus League spring training “season” and will start the 2024 MLB season tomorrow at the Texas Rangers. As many questions exist about the 2024 team as did for the 2023 team, so it is hard for me to expect them to be too much better than last year. Will Greg Counsell as the new manager make a difference? Perhaps that is the main question going in to this season.

    One cannot read much into what happens at spring training, although I attended spring training games in 2016, which is when the Cubs won the World Series, and have not attended a spring training game since nor have the Cubs returned to the World Series. Read in to that what you will.

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    I saw a text message from my buddy first thing yesterday morning, telling me that the Cubs had signed Cody Bellinger. It’s a three year for $80m deal that gives Bellinger opt outs after each year, so it is basically another one year contract. In other words, we will likely see this drama play out next off season. Regardless, the Cubs now have the appearance of a complete line up, it is a matter of whether they meet expectations.

    Go Cubs Go! First day of MLB spring and the sun is shining.

    On paper the Cubs don’t look much better than last season, in fact you could make the case that they are worse. The saving grace is that no other team stands out in the NL Central, so one can claim the Cubs have as good a chance as any to win their division. More and more it looks like the Cubs owners are settled with the one World Series win and now are all about milking a cash cow like owners before.

    Today is the the first day of spring. The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox start spring at 3 PM EST today, and the Cubs have not signed Cody Bellinger. Hoyer has stuck to the plan as I saw it back in November. He did sign a pitcher to fill out the starting rotation, another pitcher for the back end of the bullpen, and a possible starting first baseman. Only way I see Bellinger back in the Cubs uni this season is if he gets anxious and decides to sign a short term, one or two year deal with an opt out to secure work for this season. In other words, Hoyer and Boras are playing a game of chicken.

    Public Service Announcement! It’s seven days until the Chicago Cubs spring training 2024 opener. Spring is only seven days away people!

    Football Fun

    Yesterday was fun for me as a football fan. I am a life long Green Bay Packer fan and really enjoyed watching the Packers pummel the Dallas Cowboys. The enjoyment not so much because I dislike Dallas but more so because Packer’s performance was so unexpected. Jordan Love had a perfect passer rating in large part because the receivers caught every ball thrown their way. The offensive line did a fantastic job of opening up holes for Aaron Jones to run through, and the defensive secondary had two interceptions and made it hard on Dak and CeeDee. I don’t expect the Packers to have the same success in San Francisco, but they could make the game interesting. My respect for coach Matt LaFleur has gone up tremendously for how the term has performed.

    Next came the night cap. I’ve lived in metro Detroit for more than half my life, and when Packers play the Lions, I am all cheesehead, otherwise I am rooting for the Lions to win. Those who have grown up a Lions fan have experienced more downs than ups, which I relate to as a Chicago Cubs fan. (Although my Packers were awful during my childhood and teen years during the 70s and 80s.) So, I really wanted to see the Lions win last night, and they hung on to do it, never trailing in their game. The Lions will have another game this season in Ford Field, and have a good chance to getting in the NFC Championship game.

    I’ll just put it out there. If the Lions win and the Packers beat the 49ers then these two NFC North Division foes would play each other in Ford Field for the right to play in the Super Bowl. Possible, but not probable, but on any given day anything can happen.

    It’s another MLB offseason, deep in to December, during which the Chicago Cubs have yet to sign any free agent. By this time last year the Cubs had signed Dansby Swanson after seeing the other top tier free agents go to other teams. Back in November when people were reacting to the Cubs hiring Gregg Counsell as manager I was skeptical that that hire was a sign that the Cubs were going to be aggressive in the free agent market. I believe that Hoyer most likes Counsell’s success without having top tier players, so I expect more of the same. Really. of such free agents only Cody Bellinger remains and I suspect the length of contract he wants is not what Hoyer is willing to give. I don’t see the Cubs returning to the World Series as long as Hoyer is in charge.

    Finished reading: The Franchise: Chicago Cubs by Bruce Miles 📚I enjoyed reading this one about my favorite baseball team.

    I keep reading articles that are interpreting the hiring of Gregg Counsell is a sign that the Cubs will be aggressive in the free agent market this year. I believe people might be overlooking something important. Jed Hoyer has stated that he has admired Counsell’s success in Milwaukee given the budget constraints. I believe that Hoyer is convinced that his way of NOT paying a lot of money for free agents is the correct path, and signing Counsell enables him to continue that strategy and be successful. Counsell might have signed with the Cubs thinking he is stepping up to a big market team, but in practice the Cubs have more in common with the Brewers. It is more than likely that the Cubs do not sign the likes of Bellinger and Ohtani and instead stick to their history of signing bottom top to top mid tier players. None of the players the Cubs signed after hiring Joe Maddon were top tier at that time, including Jon Lester. Until proven otherwise, I am not convinced the signing of Counsell is a signal of a change in how Hoyer will make decisions. I still think the Cubs fired the wrong man.

    I realize that what I wrote below and how I relate what the Chicago Cubs have done (sports) to the state of the world may appear to be overly dramatic. What I think is incredible dangerous is a world in which there are no lines, and that is appearing more and more frequently. Some time soon there will be another mass shooting in the United States, this is guaranteed because there is no line, no limit on the amount of death that a gun advocate has in the U.S. to convince them that there is no good reason to have an AK-47. The very principle of liberty for all in the United States, nor the democratic republic instituted for the sake of that liberty no longer appears to be a line. My question to Republicans is, what is the line that Donald Trump cannot cross to either get re-elected or while in office, that will lead you to no longer support him?

    I have read The Athletics’s articles on the firing of David Ross and the hiring of Gregg Counsell that confirmed that the decision went down as expected, and no matter how the Cubs front office wants to sugar coat it, they stabbed Ross in the back. Cub fans who have problems seeing this decision as I do likely are in the camp that the ends justify the means. Ends justifying the means is “the” scourge on our society today in things little like what happened to David Ross and large like the support for and voting for Donald Trump as POTUS. No principles, values, or guard rails (ethics) are considered to be in place that lead one to the conclusion that even though one could do something they won’t do it. When the ends justify the means there is no democracy.

    Another Chicago Cubs Scapegoat

    Whenever a general manager/front office of a professional sports team fires a good coach, or in baseball manager, I am suspicious of the true motivations behind the decision. I tend to think such decisions are often deflections of attention away from the front office. Today the Chicago Cubs dismissed David Ross and hired Gregg Counsell and many will note similarities in this decision with how they dismissed Ricky Renteria in 2014 to hire Joe Maddon who unexpectedly become available. I personally do not think the two situations are the same.

    Renteria had been on the job for only one year, had not really proven himself as a manager, and did not have any history with the Cubs. Ross is one of the heros of the 2016 world championship team and had taken the Cubs to the playoffs as a manager. Counsell is a good manager and had taken the Brewers to the playoffs five of his six seasons with them, but did not have success in the playoffs. I do not think Counsell is as good a manager today as Joe Maddon was in 2014.

    More important, David Ross was not the reason why the Cubs did not make the playoffs this season. The Cubs did not make the playoffs because of a depleted bullpen and in my opinion bad offseason acquisitions that were eventually released during the season, and those decisions were made by the general manager and president of baseball operations.

    Ricketts might have bought Hoyer’s argument that jumping on the opportunity to get Counsell is similar to when Epstein jumped on the opportunity to get Maddon, but if Ricketts really wants to address the root cause for why Cubs did not meet expectations this season he ought to be questioning the decisions made by Hoyer and hold him accountable. If the Cubs have decided to completely move on from 2016 that means moving on from Jed Hoyer. In my opinion, the Cubs released the wrong person from their team.

    Oh, and by the way, if the Cubs make this move of stabbing one of their own in the back, they darn well better be aggressive at signing free agents during the off season.

    Seven years ago the greatest game ever played was played, on a Wednesday, in Cleveland.

    I thought that the Arizona Diamondbacks were going to win the World Series, but I guess I forgot to take into account the fact that the middle three games were in Arizona and how the Rangers won every road game during the playoffs. It’s the first World Series that the Texas Rangers have ever won. Here is something overlooked, Aroldis Chapman helped the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years, and now has helped the Rangers win their first World Series in 63 years. I think that Chapman does not get enough credit for the Cubs winning game seven in Cleveland. He gave up the tying home run to Raji Davis in the 8th inning but then came back out in the 9th and held the Indians to no runs with the potential for let down from the 8th inning being huge! The Indians could have walked off in the 9th inning, instead the game played on, the Cubs went ahead in the 10th inning and then won, and Ben Zobrist was named MVP.

    If you think you are not religious then you don’t know what is religion. I think Americans are more religious today than ever before, but don’t recognize it because we equate religion with a specific association to specific organizations or specific beliefs in deities.

    Religion is much more fundamental to who we are as humans. For example, if you identify yourself with an NFL team, like I say I am a Packers fan, you are religious. The religion, which is that to which you connect or bind yourself (re-ligio) is professional U.S. football. Republicans? Democrat? Conservative? Liberal? Progressive? All religions. Yes, even atheism is a religion. Religion is an aspect of our ego.

    The problem in all of this is we have no understanding of our true selves, and the decisions we make are to maintain all these false selves that don’t really add value to who we are and what we truly need. It is the stranglehold of our religions that is driving decisions that we make against our own best interests.

    All of the MLB wild card series games of both leagues are done with sweeps of each. The NL wildcards that I preferred to advance won. The Diamondbacks play the Dodgers and the Phillies play the Braves, and I look forward to watching both series. The Brewers, who finished the regular season nine games ahead of the Cubs to win the NL Central division, were swept in two both games by wide margins. Had the Cubs hung on to the third wild card they would have played the Brewers, who I am sure wish that had happened.

    My 2023 MLB Playoff Preferences

    I am not as crazy as to pretend that I can predict what will happen in this year’s Major League Baseball playoffs, but I did want to go down on record about what are my preferences given that the Chicago Cubs are not in the tournament.

    Given I closely follow the Cubs, I am more emotionally invested in the National League games, so I will start with the easy part, which is that my preference for the American League champion is any team other than Houston. Houston has won it recently, most of the others have not, and that is the bottom line. For some reason I find myself drawn to the Baltimore Orioles, so I will prefer they play in the Word Series for the American League.

    Wild card teams seem to excel in the tournament and do so at the expense of the higher seeds who are division winners. I think the wild card teams have the advantage of actually having played under playoff pressure for weeks up to the tournament just to make it in to the postseason. Of the the wild card teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Arizona Diamondbacks made it to the NLCS, and I think a championship between them and Atlanta would be very fun to watch.

    My emotional preference is for Philadelphia to represent the NL in the World Series because of Kyle Schwarber, but I expect Atlanta to make it to the World Series and win it all because they are the best team in all of baseball. A big part of me likes the idea of Schwarber having the most success of the former Cub players after the 2016 World Series given how the Cubs front office gave up on him waaaay too soon.

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