The Rundown: Cards on Pace to Finish 162 Games Back in Central, Cubs Literally Look Good, Baseball in Rolling Stone

Top Of The First

Good morning baseball fans. I’m back from my travels across this great country and numerous birthday celebrations in almost every time zone.

Have you enjoyed Opening Week thus far? Trevor Story has been simply amazing, which doesn’t bode well for my NL fantasy team because I am stuck with a long-term contract on Jose Reyes.

The Reds are 2-0. In fact, the Central Division has three undefeated teams and two winless teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, who I predicted to finish with 84 wins in my column last week.

It feels good to say “the winless St. Louis Cardinals.”

Real good.

The Good Face

Have you ever noticed how good-looking the 2016 Cubs are? Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, and on and on and on. I was at the Cubs Convention this year, and there were more than a few attendees who were just as excited about the aesthetic beauty of this ballclub as they were about the team’s overall talent.

“Beneath an unruly mop of dark brown hair the boy had the sharp features the scouts loved. Some of the scouts still believed they could tell by the structure of a young man’s face not only his character but his future in pro ball. They had a phrase they used: ‘the Good Face.’ Billy had the Good Face.”

– Michael Lewis, Moneyball

“You ever hear of ‘the good face’? Well, I never used to sign a boy unless I could look in his face and see what I wanted to see: drive, determination, maturity, whatever. And when I was the Dodgers’ scouting director, we used to have a real thing about that. Some scout would give me a report on a boy, and I’d say ‘Tell me about his face,’ or ‘Does he have the good face?’”

– Al Campanis, Dollar Sign On The Muscle

“We aren’t selling jeans here.”

– Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in the movie Moneyball

The modern scouting world doesn’t pay a lot of attention to The Good Face anymore. That being said, the Cubs do have some pretty talented players who could certainly moonlight as models or television actors. What a deadly combination for a team that is going to get an awful lot of national press this season.

The Cubs Are On Pace To Win 162 Games

Come on. You know you are already projecting stats scaled out to a 162-game season. You wouldn’t be a baseball fan if you weren’t. A lot of writers will tell you to temper expectations, that the “season is a grind” and that you have to play them “one game at a time.”

Why should you? This is a talented team, and one that played very well on the road in a season-opening series against a team that isn’t as bad as the Cubs made them look. I have a few takeaways, and you probably knew I would:

  1. The Cubs worked the count and wore out the the Angels starters. It was torturous what the Cubs hitters did to Garrett Richards. This team fully believes that wins come by getting to bullpens early and if that trend continues — and I see no reason why it won’t — the Cubs will win a lot of games.
  2. When the season ended, I was against the Cubs signing Heyward and Fowler. Two games into the season I will admit I may have been very wrong. Fowler looks relaxed defensively and offensively, he’s more self-aware of his talents and he has sneaky-fast bat speed. Heyward and Fowler anchor that outfield and provide stability that any other combination not including the two would not.
  3. Admit it. You were waiting for the other shoe to drop on Jake Arrieta and secretly feared that last season was a fluke. It may very well be when all is said and done that 2015 was a career year for the Cubs ace. But he is still a top 5 pitcher in the National League.
  4. When Trevor Cahill pitches, it is impossible to believe that he can get his fastball up into the mid-90s. I think his success as a reliever stems from the fact that he is so deceptive. You just don’t expect that body and that motion (and especially that follow-through) to generate that much heat. I think that actually adds an extra foot or two to his fastball and makes his offspeed stuff that much more effective. If anything ever happened to Hector Rondon, I would have no problem with Cahill closing.
  5. Matt Sczcur is a beast.
  6. Jon Lester is about to embark on the greatest season of his career. You read it here first.

Games Without Frontiers

I had my AL Dynasty League fantasy auction last night. It’s a $260 salary cap league where we get to keep up to 13 keepers. My keepers are in bold highlight. Here is what my 2016 team looks like:

C – Caleb Joseph BAL $1

C – Hank Conger TAM $1

1B – Travis Shaw BAL $9

3B – Yunel Escobar LAA $5

CO – Adrian Beltre TEX $27

2B – Robinson Cano SEA $35

SS – Didi Gregorious NYY $5

MI – Eduardo Escobar MIN $13

OF – Oswald Arcia MIN $10

OF – Jackie Bradley BOS $5

OF – Carlos Gomez HOU $32

OF – Corey Dickerson TAM $25

OF Michael Saunders TOR $3

UT – Alex Rodriguez NYY $4

SP1 – Cole Hamels TEX $32

SP2 – Matt Moore TAM $15

SP3 – Daniel Norris DET $5

SP4 – Scott Feldman HOU $1

SP5 – CC Sabathia NYY $1

SP6 – Mat Latos CWS $1

SP7 – Cody Anderson CLE $11

CL – Huston Street LAA $17

RP – Matt Barnes BOS $1

RP – Koji Uehara BOS $1

As you can see I spent very little money on pitching. I would have liked to get another closer but closers regularly become available during the season when teams make changes. I should get 40 saves out of Street anyway so it’s not like I punted the statistic. I do like my offense. It’s a 12-team league, so that’s a decent offense with a good mix of power, speed and OBP.

My guess is I finish somewhere in the middle of the pack unless I can improve my pitching staff. That’s far too many $1 pitchers on my team, though my strategy going in was to pay for offense and bargain hunt for pitching. I’m not really sure that CC Sabathia defines “bargain,” even at a buck.

5 – 6 – 4 – 3

The Brewers are winless and all is lost. Brew Crew Ball breaks it down.

The Cardinals are also winless as they chug toward .500 baseball mediocrity. A deeper bench and more interchangeable parts will require Mike Matheny to manage differently this year. Viva El Birdos provides some analysis and wonders if he is the right person to man the task.

Juan Nicasio could be the Pittsburgh Pirates next great reclamation project. He’s off to a strong start for the 2-0 Pirates, and Bucs Dugout has the full story.

Break up the Reds. Cincinnati is 2-0 after two come-from-behind-wins against Philadelphia. Brandon Finnegan was very strong in his debut start. Redleg Nation bulletpoints the season opening series.

Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor

Trevor Story and Robinson Cano are on pace to hit 200 home runs. In fact, there have been a lot of home runs hit this week.

The truth is revealed: Alex Rodriguez never bothered to learn the rules of baseball,and that explains so, so much. So here is a list of all the rules A-Rod has broken.

Simply a great article from Time Magazine detailing baseball’s new school vs. old school culture wars, which, like America’s current culture wars, can be explained by racial divides and antagonism. This is truly fascinating and a great topic for debate.

A baseball article from Rolling Stone Magazine. And it’s good. I am not making this up.

Your Presidential candidates may soon be bringing their messages to your favorite baseball telecasts. Naturally the FOX Network is behind these shenanigans. Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so.

Bottom Of The Ninth

I was in Tampa this past weekend and I was surprised at the large fanbase the Cubs have there. A lot of it has to do with Joe Maddon being a Tampa resident, plus I think a lot of the snowbirds have yet to re-transplant themselves back into the Midwest for the warm months. Still, it was pretty cool to have people point out my Cubs hat and give me the thumbs up sign and tell me that this is the year. Time will tell. I do like this team quite a bit.

Uh, one other thing. Tampa loathes the Cardinals. And really, who doesn’t?

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