The Night the Lights Went on In Bushville

Like an obedient child emulating a revered parent the Iowa Cubs are at work on the installation of a new state-of-the-art HD video board in time for their home opener on April 17th.

At 24x64 or 1,536 square feet the magic screen will pale in comparison to the 42x95, 3990 sq. ft. colossus that’s being erected to tower above Wrigley Field’s left field bleachers and Waveland Avenue. It will be less than half the size but is certainly imposing enough to be viewed, let us say, as a Triple A scale model.

It’s high time for an upgrade. Depending on the vantage point and the mood of the sun the new board’s predecessor could be effectively invisible and in recent years has displayed more marketing and promo filler than, for instance, player stats. Not that that trend’s likely to change.

Speaking of trends at America’s ballparks, you know of course that all of this modern malarkey traces directly back to an event that happened right here in Des Moines, long a baseball hotbed, on May 2, 1930, right?

On that date the first professional baseball game ever played under permanent lights was won by the Class B Western League Des Moines Demons by a score of 13-6 over the Wichita Aviators. Were it not for the novelty of the nocturnal experiment the last eight innings would have been anticlimactic after the Demons hung an 11-spot in the bottom of the first. That’s right, 11. And no, it wasn’t at all because the visitors had no visibility. They played an errorless game and everyone agreed at game’s end that the lights were more than bright enough, thanks to a design by GE engineer Fred Ralston. Depending on where you look, Ralston is variously referred to as the father and the inventor of nighttime ballgames.

Lee Keyser was the Demons’ owner and the man who actually flipped the switch by deciding to take the considerable chance on primetime game times. What did he and his counterparts across the country have to lose by then? Not much. As the Great Depression was kicking into gear the minor leagues seemed doomed. But after that game in Des Moines, which drew a crowd in excess of 12,000 to watch a team that typically attracted no more than several hundred, light standards quickly went up at bush league parks across America. Eventually, the Opening Night game came to be called The Game That Saved Baseball in some quarters..

It also marked the night when Shorty Irslund was born, according to the opening pages of a book entitled . But that’s another story.




3-headed catcher monster gains some Theo traction...

In other words- Hurry the f' up and make us an offer for Welington.

I can only think of 2-3 teams (Phils, Tigers, DBacks) with any need and DBacks aren't going to raise their offer. Unless O's get nervous about Wieters, but they survived last season with what they have. Phils aren't in a position to give a lot right now. And Tigers seem content with Avila and whatever. I'm sure he'd get scooped up on a waiver claim, but still don't think anyone is going to give up much. He's still a short side platoon hitter with questionable defense.

Does Welly have any options? If so Welly vs Olt come 4/24 aka Kristmas?

if he did, we wouldn't be discussing this...


Assuming we're stuck with Ross, which we are, I still believe the best 13-man hitting group out of camp is going to be: Rizzo, Castro, Alcantara, LaStella, Olt, Fowler, Soler, Coghlan, Denorfia, Lake, Montero, Castillo, and Ross. And if you make the argument that Baez needs to make the team, I still think the best guy to drop down (again, assuming we have to have Ross, which we do) is Lake. So I don't really see this as a problem. That provides versatility both with handedness and defense. This only becomes a problem in my view once you need to make room for both Baez and Bryant. Having a Swiss army knife like Alcantara gives you flexibility at an awful lot of positions.

Well, the big problem with that initial set of 13 is that Alcantara is your back-up for 2B, SS, and 3B. La Stella can play 3B but then Alcantara would HAVE to play 2B those innings. That makes pinch hitting and giving guys days off nearly impossible. Adding Baez for Lake makes that much easier and the roster far more flexible, but he may need reps in AAA to continue his development. So you may see Jonathan Herrera, who can play 2B and SS, begin the season in the majors (for Lake), with Baez in AAA to get reps.

Then in a few weeks Bryant will be called up. If Olt is struggling that will be a 1 to 1 swap, with Olt going to AAA. Herrera will stay until Baez does well enough in AAA to be called up to replace him. If Olt is doing well, then Bryant will come up to play LF. That's a bit more tricky. If he replaces Herrera that again makes Alcantara the only back-up for SS or 2B, though at least it allows for Bryant to play 3B in place of Olt, which is slighly more flexible. Otherwise Bryant would have to replace an outfielder, but all four are veterans. And even if that happens, Baez would then have to replace an outfielder when he is eventually called up. So I don't see a huge issue starting the season with 3 catchers, but if Olt and Bryant and especially Olt, Bryant, and Baez all are playing well at some point, there is likely to be a roster crunch and they may have to find a way to drop to two catchers. Of course, at that point someone is likely to be injured anyway and so this will all be a moot point.  

one thing they can try to open up a roster spot is option Kyle Hendricks to start season and bring him up before he's needed on April 15th vs the Reds. Technically that makes him the 5th starter, but it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Or if Maddon is really feeling frisky, start season with Lester, Arrieta, Hammel, Wood and Jackson as the top 5 (Jackson or Wood not needed until the 15th for just one start), and then call up Hendricks for the April 21st start vs. Pirates (presuming they don't want to miss anymore starts with him). It would certainly buy some decision time.

Swapping Lake for Herrera makes sense as well, and perhaps is even a better alignment. Alcantara essentially becomes your fifth outfielder at that point. You gain infield depth with only a minimal hit to outfield depth. If one player or another is tender and needs a few days, they are essentially interchangeable on the 25-man. The reason I prefer Lake to Herrera is the offensive upside. I still think offense is the single biggest reason why the Cubs will miss the playoffs this year. As for the defensive backup, selecting Lake definitely limits Maddon's ability to use the fourth non-Rizzo infielder (Castro, Olt, LaStella, and Alcantara) as a pinch-hitter, but there would be plenty of bench options for bats otherwise (Ross, Lake, and your choice of Denorfia/Castillo v. righties, Coghlan/Montero v. lefties). Between Lake and Herrera, I don't see a wrong answer. But I concede that the choice is essentially Lake v. Herrera and that Maddon may have his reasons to prefer the extra infielder.

I guess we're just presuming R. Sweeney is getting cut at this point?

If it isn't Sweeney, I'm going Herrera or Szczur. Lake hasn't shown anything interesting and the team defense is already a problem imo. While you think offense is there biggest problem, I'm guessing up-the-middle defense/run prevention is their weakness. Fowler, Castro, LaStella/Alcantara, Montero is pretty weak imo, passable, but average at best and not gonna help the pitching staff much. Arguably the 2 best defenders on this team are Soler and Rizzo.

C: Montero, Ross, Castillo

INF: Rizzo, Alcantara, LaStella, Castro, Olt, Herrera

OF: Coglhan, Denorfia, Fowler, Soler

If they go 3-headed catcher monster, then I suppose last spot is between Herrera, Lake, Szczur or Sweeney. And in about 2 weeks, it'll be different.

Yeah I think the 3 catcher thing squeezes Sweeney, otherwise I think they will keep him. I still think a trade of some sort happens this spring.

if I'm reading AZ Phil's info correctly, Sweeney can refuse an assignment and become a free agent but would forfeit his deal, he may choose to take the assignment to keep his contract.

Or I'm reading that wrong.

I've seen or listened to at least parts of 10 games already this spring, and I forgot all about Sweeney. He does seem entirely superfluous at this point.

ROB: Because he has accrued at least five years (5+000) of MLB Service Time, Ryan Sweeney must give his permission in advance before he can be sent to the minors, either by Outrright or Optional assignment (he has two minor league options left). In order to convince him to give his permission to be optioned, the Cubs would probably have to guarantee his 2016 contract (which right now is a $2.5M club option with a $500K buy-out). So he MIGHT agree to an Optional Assignment to the minors under those circumstances. But I doubt very much that he would accept an Outright Assignment, because he's not going to give his permission to be outrighted just so he can elect to be a free-agent (and forfeit his 2015 salary AND 2016 buy-out), and he wouldn't agree to an Outright Assignment and have free-agency deferred until after the season because then he would lose his 2016 contract (and potential $500K buy-out).  

If Sweeney does not give his permission to be sent to the minors (and again, he might agree to an Optional Assignment if the Cubs give him something back like guaranteeing his 2016 club option), then the only choices the Cubs would have are keep him on the 25-man roster, trade him, or release him. If the Cubs release him, they would be on the hook for his 2015 salary ($1.5M) minus whatever salary he might receive if he were to subsequently sign with another club (usually for the prorated MLB minimum salary, with the Cubs paying the balance), plus his 2016 buy-out ($500K). 

BTW, the Cubs have a similar situation with Tsyuyoshi Wada, who as a vested international player cannot be sent to the minors without his permission. Wada (like Sweeney) does have minor league options left, and in fact he gave his permission to be optioned to AAA Norfolk when he was with Baltimore in 2013, and then he did again last year with the Cubs when he was optioned to Iowa after he was added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster prior to his minor league opt-out date. There probably was some unwritten agreement in place both times, and this time he might agree to be optioned if the Cubs guarantee some or all of his performance bonus (he has a $4M base salary in 2015 plus another $2M in performance bonuses). 

Something to keep in mind about Matt Szczur is that he gets a 4th minor league option in 2015, but he will NOT be eligible for a 4th minor league option in 2016 even if he spends the entire 2015 season in the big leagues. So if the Cubs want to option Szczur to the minors, they need to do it this season (2015), because he will be out of minor league options in 2016 even if he doesn't use one this year. (Same thing happened with Hector Rondon.... he was eligible for a 4th minor league option last season, but it wasn't used. and now he is no longer eligible for a 4th minor option). 

On the other hand, Jorge Soler is eligible for a 4th minor league option, and it can be used in either 2015, 2016, or 2017. 

A player who has accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time and an international player exempt from ISBP restrictions cannot be optioned to the minors without his consent. The player can waive this right, but the waiver cannot be signed more than ten days prior to MLB Opening Day, the player has the right to designate in advance which minor league team to which he can be assigned, and the waiver automatically expires if the player is not optioned to the minors within 45 days or by the 45th day of the MLB regular season (whichever is later).


Also, because he was a post-2014 Article XX-B MLB free-agent who signed a minor league contract at least ten days prior to MLB Opening Day, Phil Coke will receive an automatic $100K retention bonus and an automatic 6/1 opt-out if he is not either released by the Monday prior to MLB Opening Day or added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster by MLB Opening Day.

While the Cubs could send Coke to Iowa (with the 6/1 opt-out) and pay him the retention bonus, in actual practice clubs almost always either release the player or add him to their MLB 40-man roster. Last year, the Cubs released Tsuyoshi Wada on the Monday prior to Opening Dsy, and then re-signed him to a new contract the next day (a contract that was signed less than ten days prior to MLB Opening Day, so that the Cubs did not have to pay Wada the $100K retention bounus). Also, the opt-out date was changed from 6/1 to 7/1.

The Cubs did subsequently add Wada to their MLB 40-man roster on June 22 (about ten days prior to the new opt out date), and then immediately optioned him to Iowa (and Wada would have had to give his consent for that to happen), and then the Cubs recalled him on 7/23. All of this was very likely pre-arranged (albeit not in writing), and the process probably had something to do with the Cubs ultimately re-signing Wada for 2015.  

Since there is no game today, what do you think the Cubs could get in return for a package of Wellington, Wood and Coghlan?

considering the roster crunch, it would all be minor leaguers with options. I'm guessing of the pitching type and probably not a lot of upside. They're pretty good with the scouting so maybe they luck into a Kyle Hendricks. In the "you can't have enough pitching", they could use a few AAA filler arms that can do the Iowa Express. Otherwise the usual A-ball relievers with nice K rates.

on a related note, noticed this today

Coghlan 280/412/440 (6 BB's in 25 AB's)

Olt (7 BB' sin 30 AB's)

Fowler (5 BB's in 27 AB's)

I noticed that about Olt, too. They're not giving him a lot to hit but at least he's not reaching for a lot out of the zone. I've seen him fooled on a few pitches but that's not out of the norm for any player.

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  • Arizona Phil 29 min 26 sec ago (view)

    The fact hat the Cubs have not run him through waivers by now tells me the Cubs know Duane Underwood Jr is a lock to get claimed and so they are hoping to find a club that would be willing to give the Cubs something more than the $50,000 waiver price in return for Dunderwood (either more $$$ and/or a player). 


  • Arizona Phil 1 hour 11 min ago (view)

    Today's pitchers, most of them the same guys who threw last Tuesday: 

    Alec Mills:
    FB: 89-91 
    SL: 81 
    CH: 81-82 
    CV: 67-70 
    COMMENT: This just in: Mills heater now sitting at 91!!!!... had two easy innings and looked very good... threw only a handful of his "Bugs Bunny curves" but they are fun to watch because hitters don't know how to deal with it... ... 

    Craig Kimbrel: 
    FB: 93-96 
    CT: 87-88 
    SL: 82-84 


  • Arizona Phil 1 hour 45 min ago (view)

    DJL: Jason Adam sustained a right elbow fracture a few years ago and missed two full seasons, and when he returned to action he started using a "short-arm" delivery. 


  • crunch 1 hour 45 min ago (view)

    baez "soft tissue injury"'s spring.  he'll be back in a day or 2.


  • crunch 3 hours 55 min ago (view)

    kimbrel...K, single, HBP, 3 more hits...inning called due to pitch count.  4 earned.

    also, baez removed after being HBP on the hand.



  • First.Pitch.120 10 hours 7 min ago (view)

    Cotton McKnight: In 23 years of broadcasting I thought I'd seen it all, folks. But it looks like Peter La Fleur has actually blindfolded himself.

    Pepper Brooks: He will not be able to see very well, Cotton. 


  • First.Pitch.120 10 hours 9 min ago (view)

    Yes! Exactly... I'd love to be able to watch coverages in football or just key-in on a great WR to watch them work.


  • First.Pitch.120 10 hours 11 min ago (view)

    Wow... this is the most engagement I have ever received on any topic on social media platform. Please stay tuned for my opinions on the Oxford Comma, the APA Style Manual for Academic Writing, and the auto-correct on my iPhone.  

    I am an awesome guy at parties.... 


  • bradsbeard 20 hours 35 min ago (view)

    I watched some of the Puerto Rican Winter League games that Miguel Amaya played in this winter. At least one broadcast had a super wide shot for balls in play that let you see the OF and the baserunners at the same time. It was awesome. 


  • Wrigley Rat 23 hours 41 min ago (view)

    3 dots on this evening's Cubs-Dodgers game - makes sense & they do color in the 3rd dot as they're going to commericals (Spectrum Sportsnet).


  • crunch 1 day 1 hour ago (view)

    3 dot crew represent.  i didn't have an opinion, but now i'm 100% on board.


  • Charlie 1 day 2 hours ago (view)

    I agree on most of this, but I especially support three fillable dots for the outs--and fill in the third before cutting to a commercial!

    Not doing homework on the players in a Spring Training broadcast is pretty forgiveable, but ESPN is really bad about it pretty much all year. It would be nice if they made a habit of picking up a local color commentator and sort of interviewing them throughout games.


  • George Altman 1 day 6 hours ago (view)

    The single thing I want in a sports broadcast is to become smarter about the sport,  to learn something from the broadcast crew.

    Stone does that, Romo does that, Eddie O on hockey, and that's about it. I watch sporting events with the sound down very low or off. I forgot more about baseball than most broadcasters will ever know, and I'm always shocked when I see something in a football game that the crew doesn't,  and I know about NOTHING about football. 


  • First.Pitch.120 1 day 8 hours ago (view)

    Also... what is with only having 2 dots as the outs counter? I know that you don't really need the 3rd dot, but I find it counter-intuitive. If the dots fill in, then only having 2 throws me off b/c it's natural to subitize "3" associated with outs. You quickly see 0/3, 1/3, 2/3.  If the graphic does not have fill-in dots, then just put the #.  eg - OUTS: 1  It's minimalism for the sake of minimalism, not graphic design for effective communication.


  • crunch 1 day 8 hours ago (view)

    tight shots + insane amount of screen real estate being taken up with graphics is a bit of a plague...especially the ones with a non-stop bottom news ticker.


  • First.Pitch.120 1 day 9 hours ago (view)

    General comment on baseball broadcasting... I think that the color comentator (CC) needs to talk about 30% more & the PBP about 30% less. I would love a more stream of consciousness from the CC outlining what they would be looking for in a given situation. To that end, why not have 2 CC for national broadcasts - one a pitcher & one a position player. Would love for them to banter back & forth on micro strategy from their perspectives. I think this would turn the game's pauses between action into more of an asset.