The Rundown: March Madness, Bring Your Kid to Work Every Day, and Scouting John Lackey (From a Distance)

Top Of The First

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. I was trying to decide if I was going to wear green into the office today and decided probably not. Just seems that once you become a man of a certain age you stop doing things like binging on White Castles, photocopying your buttocks, and dressing according to a designated holiday.

Also, today and tomorrow represent the greatest days annually in sports television (March Madness!) and I am going to have to miss all of the games. I suppose I could work from home, but I would be too tempted to not put in the effort required by my employers, so why tempt myself? It sets a bad precedent. I hope my boss is reading.

March Madness

I know nothing of college basketball so I don’t do bracket pools. I do have a few favorite teams so if you wouldn’t mind keeping me posted via Twitter pings I would appreciate that. To me, March Madness means baseball is almost here. Opening Day usually coincides with the crowning of the NCAA champion, so the tournament, to me, serves as the official sports prequel to Opening Day.

I don’t know one single college basketball player by name, but I do know the names of almost every player fighting for the last roster spot on every MLB team. And my bracket pool ends with the Chicago Cubs in that middle slot beneath the header “World Series — NL Champion vs. AL Champion.”

Who do I have the Cubs playing? Who do I have winning it all? You will have to wait until I post my predictions on April 2.

As far as college basketball, these are the teams I am tracking in this year’s NCAA’s: Indiana, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Seton Hall, Holy Cross, and Xavier. I am picking Michigan State to go all the way because it’s my boss’s alma mater. You know, in case he is still reading.

It’s Bring Your Kid To Work Day — Every Day! 

I’m not going to sugarcoat this but yesterday’s announcement that Adam LaRoche was retiring from the White Sox was one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read. I am sure you know by now that LaRoche walked away from $13 million dollars because the White Sox told him they didn’t want his 14-year old son Drake hanging around the team every minute of every day. Actually, they changed team policy, but were willing to make some exceptions for Drake, and that just wasn’t good enough for LaRoche, so he bolted.

So, okay, LaRoche is a tool. Parts of the wonderful MLB compensation packages available to many players include ridiculously high salaries and perks that most of us common folk probably could never imagine. MLB understands that as athletes and entertainers, players are required to spend the majority of their time away from their families and they are compensated quite well to make those sacrifices.

And I guess Drake has been his dad’s MLB shadow for a long time because traveling with dad takes precedence over everything except Little League, including school and hanging with his friends. The laundry list of questions that comes to mind in a scenario where your child goes to work with you every single day is too long to fathom, but, in general, it seems beyond bizarre and incredibly unhealthy in a way that reminds me of other strange father-son relationships in sports, like Todd and Marv Marinovich.

Fathers play an important role in our lives from birth through adulthood. They protect, feed, and shelter us. They prepare us for future relationships, employment, and the capacity to know right from wrong. For sons, a boy sees his father carrying significant dignity and power. Some examples include: how he treats women; the pride he takes in his work ethic, how to be invested in the difference between what is right and what is wrong; how to be a good winner and a better loser; the value of teamwork; the value in making smart decisions; the avoidance of male narcissism.

Unfortunately — and I am only viewing this incident from all of the media reports — the only thing Drake LaRoche is learning is entitlement. And with dad walking away for this very reason, Adam LaRoche has reinforced that sense of entitlement that Drake will carry with him for the rest of his life. If you don’t get your way, son, you quit.

The smart PR spin would have been to say “I am retiring from Major League Baseball and the Chicago White Sox organization because I want to spend more time with my family.” Period.

The White Sox should take that $13 million dollars they’ve saved and instead of buying an OF, maybe donate to a charity such as Big Brothers and Sisters, orphaned children or foster family programs, or the Ronald McDonald House.

Scouting The Cubs — John Lackey

Coming off his best season since 2007, at the age of 36 no less, Lackey signed a two-year deal with the Cubs to solidify, strengthen, and help create depth in the team’s starting rotation. Lackey exemplifies The Will To Win as he will often find ways to beat you even when his stuff is barely marginal, though that is a rare occurrence. Lackey has been a model of consistency since missing the 2012 season due to injury.

As with the other pitchers I’ve profiled, I look at certain key factors: Command, Swinging Strikes (SwK), First Pitch Strikes (FpK) and Dominance (K/9IP). Lackey’s best quality is that he gets ahead of hitters immediately. His FpK last season was 71%, which is elite. However, he doesn’t generate a lot of strikeouts. He relies primarily on his four seam fastball (93 mph with heavy sink), slider, sinker and curve. He also throws  an occasional changeup (84mph). The repertoire generates a lot of ground balls and his change is a genuine worm killer, a pitch I expect Lackey to go to more often to add a little life to his fastball.

Lackey will keep baseballs dirty and infielders busy. He gives up less than one home run per start with a K-rate of about 7.2. There is no sign that his skills are diminishing at this point. Expect 200+ innings with a mid-3.00 ERA and a WHIP around 1.20. Solid SP3 numbers, no doubt.

5 – 6 – 4 – 3

The Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Oakland A’s remain interested in Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Most analysts expect the Brewers to eventually trade their all-star catcher. Brew Crew Ball looks at possible trade scenarios.

Viva El Birdos scouts potential outfield prospects available in this year’s Rule 4 Draft. The Cardinals have 4 of the top 100 picks.

Dylan Cease had scouts buzzing yesterday and Cubs Den’s John Arguello was there to witness all the excitement.

Pittsburgh infield prospect Cole Figueroa is an analytics and physics guy, hoping to use those cerebral tools for an edge in making the Pirates’ roster. Bucs Dugout projects the Pirates infield for 2016.

Michael Lorenzen has tendinitis and a mild UCL sprain, and that’s just the beginning of the Cincinnati Reds’ pitching woes. Reds Reporter has the details.

Fact, Fiction, Truth, or Rumor

The U.S. Treasury Department is taking steps to allow Cuban players to sign directly with MLB teams. Legally, it is open market, but I am sure that MLB and the MLBPA will need to agree on how the process will work first. My guess is that a posting system similar to the one used to sign players from Japan and Korea will be put into place. The new law takes effect today and baseball should respond quickly.

Camden King, a seven-year-old from Ohio diagnosed with cancer got the surprise of his life Wednesday in Kodak when he was made an honorary Tennessee Smokies baseball player for the day by the Chicago Cubs minor league affiliate.

Chicago White Sox CF Adam Eaton paused the other day to give a 6-year-old blind White Sox fan his bat and gloves.

Tyler Dunnington wants to get back into baseball after spending one season in the Minor Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. He quit in 2015 after hearing a coach and teammates talk about killing gay people.

The Stockton Ports will wear asparagus uniforms on Asparagus Night, May 21. I am not making this up.

Bottom Of the Ninth

With the NCAA’s colliding directly with St. Patrick’s Day, today is one of the biggest bar days of the year. Please drink responsibly if you choose to partake in those types of festivities, be considerate to others, and remember that you’re no good to any of us if you’re not with us tomorrow. Before you go out today, maybe read a recap of last year’s Wrigleyville St. Patrick’s Day police blotter.

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