#wearegood – Episode 7.14

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IyvEnvy_Color_blogpodcastOn this, the 311th episode of The Ivy Envy Podcast, we start things off by talking about the 4-2 road trip the Cubs have just finished.

Many of these games were close, half of them were 1-run games. We have a strange and alien feeling during these close games. It’s something called confidence. We discuss the positives and negatives of these close games.

Fans are having fun watching this team and it’s easy to see that the players are having fun, too. Not only can we see the chemistry on the field, but Twitter has allowed players to communicate with fans and at the same time, display their excitement about the team. #wearegood

We also answer lots of listener questions on these 2015 Cubs.

Addison Russell! – Episode 7.13

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Photo Apr 21, 8 57 08 AMIn just a matter of a few days, the Cubs have called up their top two prospects. Late last week, it was Kris Bryant and then late on Monday, the Cubs called up Addison Russell to join the club on Tuesday.

On this episode, we’ll talk about how bad we’ve been at predicting when the front office will call up prospects.

We look at how this team will line up defensively and how the pieces will fit together. We also take the opportunity to (again) evaluate this team and reconsider our expectations for the 2015 Cubs.

Though there is no official Scary Stat of the Week, we do share a few stats that are pretty scary in showing us how far the Cubs have come, and how bad things were.

Cubs Promote Addison Russell

Addison Russell at Cubs Convention

Addison Russell at Cubs Convention

On the most recent episode of the podcast, we guessed that we most likely wouldn’t see highly-touted prospect Addison Russell with the big league club until after the Super Two cutoff at the earliest.  We were a little off.  The Cubs are bringing Russell up, and he will start in tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Due to the timing of their call-ups, both Russell and Kris Bryant will now be arbitration-eligible four times instead of the usual three, and that will cost the Cubs more money as the years of team control go by.  With these promotions, the club is showing that they want to field the best team they can, and right now that means Addison Russell at second instead of Arismendy Alcantara or Herrera.  For now, Alcantara has been optioned to Iowa.

In January, ESPN’s Keith Law put out his list of the top 100 prospects, and he had Russell ranked at number four.  Kris Bryant was number one, and Jorge Soler was number fourteen.  Now, they’re all in the Cubs lineup.  God bless us, everyone!

Kris Bryant! – Episode 7.12

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Photo Apr 19, 10 27 16 AMWelcome to the 309th episode of The Ivy Envy Podcast.

Kris Bryant…folks! The Cubs called Kris Bryant up right at the deadline to hold the extra year of control and Wrigley Field was buzzing this weekend. Bryant looked out-matched in his first game and then recovered in his second game by seeing a lot of pitches, working counts and ultimately taking walks.

On this episode, we talk about the Kris Bryant call-up, including the timing and the causes that led to it happening when it did. We also discuss what this means for the 2015 season. At the end of series with the Padres, the Cubs sit a game over .500 and the line-up looks pretty nice. What will the rest of the season look like?

Addison Russell is next in line and we walk about how he’s doing in Iowa and when we might see him in Chicago.

The Cubs are facing quite a few injuries right now and it’s having a pretty big impact on the team, specifically the bullpen. We comment on this last week in Cubs baseball.

We answer a listener question, read some internet muscle flexes and Kurt gives us a Scary Stat of the Week.

Click here to check out our Patreon campaign.

Interview with Nathan Barnett of Myrtle Beach Pelicans – Episode 7.11

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myrtle-beach-pelicansOn this week’s episode of The Ivy Envy Podcast, we have discussion with Nathan Barnett of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans for you.

Myrtle Beach joined the #CubsFamily in the off-season and this is our opportunity to get to know Nathan and the Pelicans.

You can follow the Pelicans on:
Twitter – @PelicanBaseball
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/myrtlebeachpelicans
Instagram – @PelicansBaseball

Your Belated I-Cubs Preview

This is a little late as the I-Cubs are already three games into their season, but for at least the next month, the Iowa Cubs will again boast the most exciting roster in MiLB. The talent roaming the infield is unmatched with three guys poised to terrorize Pacific Coast League pitching in Bryant, Baez, Russell (all have been named top-5 prospects in baseball within the last two years) until Chicago and the Big Leagues come calling.

There’s not much left unsaid about All-World third baseman Kris Bryant at this point, but he is a must-see talent in PCL action until service time rules are satisfied he gets enough defensive reps at the hot corner and in left field to be ‘Big League Ready.’ Once he’s called up, it wont be long before you’re checking this page daily.

The length of Javier Baez’ return trip to Des Moines will be dependent on his ability to improve the contact issues that led to him batting well under the Mendoza Line during his stint in The Show last year. The other tools are all where they need to be but until the hit tool comes around, the speed, power, and glove will be on display at Principal Park instead of Wrigley Field.

This spring, Addison Russell showed that he is ready to man shortstop at the big league level now, but he’ll refine his game in AAA until trade or injury open a spot for him in Chicago.

The Iowa infield will be rounded out by organizational depth in Jonathan Mota and Chris Valiaka.

As for the outfield, Junior Lake is the headliner for now and he will look to continue the progress he made over the winter in regards to plate discipline and pitch recognition in the hopes that this development will allow him to reach some of his yet untapped potential. Other outfielders will include John Andreoli and Rubi Silva, plus depth guys in Mike Baxter and Adron Chambers. More prospecty excitement is on the way to Iowa in short order with CF Albert Almora and LF (and part-time catcher) Kyle Schwarber tabbed as short-timers for Tennessee.

Speaking of catchers, Rafael Lopez won’t offer a ton by way of the bat but he has a major-league-caliber glove and is ready whenever the Cubs may call upon him. He will be backed-up by Taylor Davis.

Pierce Johnson and Eric Jokisch, both pitchers capable of having Kyle Hendricks-esque seasons, if things break right, headline the arms in Iowa to start the year. Johnson wields more upside, but Jokisch has the polish to fill in for Chicago now if they develop a need. Zac Rosscup is a reliever who pitched well enough this spring to earn an MLB bullpen spot but the roster just didn’t shake out in his favor, though he will be up before long.

Armando Rivera is yet another power arm who may well be the heir to ‘Closer of the Future’ title, though guys like Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm aren’t going anywhere soon. Either way, the train of high leverage RHP coming from the Chicago bullpen won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Drake Britton is another former Oriole pitcher who the Cubs hope to turn into the player scouts hoped he would be, and although Jake Arrieta he is not, Britton has a chance to be a quality big league arm.

Other intriguing pitchers include Blake Parker, Joe Ortiz, Carlos Pimintel and Barret Loux but once again there is more fire-power on the way- CJ Edwards is starting his 2015 campaign in AA, but will be joining the squad in Iowa before long.

This year’s edition of the Iowa Cubs once again looks poised to be the most talked about minor league team in baseball, and even as top names like Bryant, Russell, and Baez graduate, there are high quality prospects in AA-Tennessee who will be champing at the bit to take their places in the minor league spotlight.

 

 

 

 

“Give me my cans of corn everyday over BABIP” – Episode 7.10

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IyvEnvy_Color_blogpodcastWhile the Cubs have only played one game since our last episode, we have several Cubs topics to discuss. We talk about the disappointing start to the series in Colorado the Cubs inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

We answer several listener questions, give a Scary Stat of the Week and read some internet muscle flexes.

The Cubs are .500! – Episode 7.09

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IyvEnvy_Color_blogpodcastIn our first mid-week episode, we talk about the first two games of the 2015 season.

The Cubs dropped the Opening Night game to the Cardinals. We talk about Jon Lester’s performance and the national dialogue on his unwillingness/inability to throw to 1st base. The Cubs managed to get runners on base, but just couldn’t knock anyone in. They finished the game 0-13 with runners in scoring position. We also can’t avoid talking about bathroom-gate.

Tuesday’s night’s Cubs/Cardinals game was canceled due to weather.

Wednesday’s game was more pleasurable for Cubs fans. Strong pitching performances by Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn kept the offensive production down, but the Cubs managed to capitalize on Cardinals mistakes and win the game 2-0. The bullpen has looked very strong in the first two games already.

The Opening Day rosters are set for the minor league teams in the Cubs organization. We go through and highlight some of the most interesting names on each team.

The photo caption contest returns. Here is the photo and listen to the episode to hear the entries and the winner.
4:8:15 Photo Caption

Ivy Envy Introduces New Daily Cubs Podcast

TheNorthside ReportThe 2015 Cubs season is underway and Ivy Envy is introducing a new daily Cubs podcast, The Daily Northside Recap.

Episodes of The Daily Northside Recap will be available first thing, Monday through Friday mornings. This podcast will recap the previous day’s games in the Cubs organization. You will hear the results and statistical highlights for the Chicago Cubs, Iowa Cubs, Tennessee Smokies, Myrtle Beach Pelicans and South Bend Cubs.

Because the 2015 season has not started yet for the minor league teams, the Opening Day rosters will be discussed on the podcast.

You can listen to this daily podcast on it’s page on our website.
You can also subscribe for free in iTunes and Stitcher.

“Next Year” is here, no matter what

Chicago Cubs – 2015 Hype from Jay Tuohey on Vimeo.

It’s a strange thing being a Cubs fan. We’re used to the disappointment, used to the failed youngsters (The Corey Patterson All-Stars sponsored by Jerome Walton), used to the jokes. And there’s the lowest of the low: the pity. Since moving to the San Francisco Bay area at the end of 2013, I’ve made a point to buy tickets to the Giants-Cubs series out here every year. Last year, as I was wading through the crowd after one of the games, a Giants fan passing by did a double-take at my blue hat, thinking at first it was for the rival Dodgers. His scowl melted into a look that screamed, “Bless your heart.” As he passed by, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Sorry, man.” This after the Cubs had actually beaten the Giants. The losing team’s fans were apologizing to me.

What’s even stranger is the feeling of having, well, hope. I talked before about the “cycles of hope” we’ve been through as fans of this team. But this year, it’s different. There’s a different feel, a different look to the team. Maybe it’s the ongoing renovations at Wrigley, finally updating an aging (wonderful) relic into something that can continue on into its next 100 years. Maybe it’s the attitude of the new skipper, Joe Maddon, and the track record of success he brings with him. Or maybe it’s because there’s so much chatter around the team and the recent demotion (and impending promotion) of Kris Bryant. But the Cubs matter again and as Opening Night approaches, the first pitch just hours away, to be hurled by the team’s big free agent pick up, this season feels important for the first time in ages.

If you’re a regular listener of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast or at least a regular reader of Buster Olney, you’ve had the Kris Bryant storyline nearly crammed down your throat. It’s hardly the first time a major prospect has started the season in the minor leagues. And it won’t be the last. But all the conversation around what seems to be a sure-fire Rookie of the Year winner… involves the Cubs? Scott Boras railing against the treatment of a star client… involves the Cubs? And these cover stories: The Sporting News chose the Cubs to win the World Series. The cynical side of me sees this as some Grade-A trolling by a St. Louis publication but a friend pointed out the recent cover of Bloomberg Business Week featuring guess who? (You Can read the entire story here).

There’s honest-to-God buzz around the Cubs. They’re in the playoff conversation. Most predictions have the Cubs on the outside of the NL playoffs looking in but that’s mainly because of a loaded NL Central with the rival Cardinals and the Pirates leading the bunch. The ESPN MLB preview offers the most concise version of the sentiment surrounding the Cubs right now.

From David Schoenfield: “The Cubs won’t win it all in 2015, but few teams are better-positioned to do so in the near future.”

And from Dan Szymborski: “A wild card in 2015 is possible, but ZiPS still thinks the Cubs are about a .500 team. But the best is mostly yet to come.”

It’s a fair assessment and one that makes sense to Cubs fans who have watched this rebuild (in every sense of the word). But it’s also what makes this season so exciting. When the Cubs last made a playoff push in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, it was clear that it would give way to a crash. Aging stars and few prospects were utilized, the team spending copious amounts of cash to contend (sorta like the Padres this years except that squad has a more solid pitching staff). But now? There’s that hope. That hope that no matter what happens, the future is still bright. There are so many terrific prospects the Cubs literally do not have room for them all.

ESPN’s Keith Law recently named the Cubs as the top farm system in the league and Baseball Prospectus agrees. And it goes beyond Baez, Bryant and Soler. There’s Schwarber, Russell, McKinley, Torres, Almora and on and on and on. What Theo & Co. have done is essential to long-term success: build a system from the ground up, putting the team in a place to improve and maintain a high level of quality with a flow of players internally or via trade. If the team needs a key player to complete a run, we now have a front office we can trust to make the move that won’t be a detriment to the team.

And it’s a front office who has been through this exact cycle before: rebuilding, adding via trade and free agency, a renovation of an ancient stadium. And it’s a front office that has made the tough cuts before. We know that something will have to give with that crowded infield. Theo did the same thing in Boston; Cubs fans will remember the Nomar trade because, well, we got him in the deal. For the Red Sox, losing a name synonymous with team hurt at the time, but the players they got in return, Doug Mientkiewicz and (especially) Orlando Cabrera, contributed to the Sox winning the 2004 World Series title.

Oh yeah. That. The end of an eternally long (in that case, 86 years) World Series drought. Theo’s done that, too. Huh.

I know I cautioned against hope in that previous story, pointing out all those times just within my 36 years on this Earth that the team has been through similar bouts of optimism. But this does feel different. I can’t remember a time when the team was this loaded from the big league team all the way down the line. I can’t remember a time when there was this much talk around the Cubs, a team with the kind of depth that makes other squads envious. A team with an ownership dedicated to the long-term rebuild of the team and stadium. A team with a front office that’s made the moves before to win a title, that knows the pressure of winning a title after a long drought in a big baseball town. A team with a manager that’s been to the World Series, that’s made the tough calls in tight spots.

No, the odds are against the Cubs making it to the playoffs this year even if it’s a possibility. The Cards and Buccos are tough. They’ve got the experience and there’s a good reason they’re picked to top the division this year. But this team, this Cubs team, is built for the long haul. Maybe not this year, but soon. And that’s why this season is so important: not because “107 years” may finally reset to “zero.” But because this team matters again. This team is going to matter for a long time. We’re talking about whether or not Kris Bryant will leave the team when his contract is up in 2021. There are three Olympics between now and then! That’s an eternity. And with the talent that can be cycled up or traded away for more talent, we finally have what we didn’t have 5 years ago. Or 10 years ago. We have a brain-trust we can, well, trust and a team that’s capable of fulfilling the goal.

So what if this team doesn’t make the playoffs? It doesn’t mean the season will be a failure. What we need is a .500 or better season. Since the 2012 nadir of 61-101, the team has improved the win totals in each of the last two seasons. A final tally if 81-81 or better will set the stage for next year (I know, I know) when the team can make one or two more off-season moves (trading one of those infielders? Bringing in Cueto or Zimmerman?) and put them at the forefront of the National League.

But that begins tonight. When Lester takes the mound at a stadium that’s missing the 5,000-plus seats in the under-construction bleachers, it’s no less significant. It’s symbolic of the the last seven years since this team last made the playoffs, of the tumble down the hill and the slow, long climb back up. For the Cubs, the future is finally here and it begins when Lester fires in that first pitch. Whether it’s this year or next year or five years from now, the future we’ve been waiting for, the “Wait til next year!” we yelled every season when the Cubs were officially counted out (which got earlier and earlier in the season), it’s here.

The naysayers will continue to laugh and mock and poke and show pity. “107 years! How about 108?” they’ll say as they pat us on the head. But there’s reason to believe again. There’s reason to look upon tonight’s starting lineup and know that it’s just the starting point, that by Father’s Day, it’ll feature a few different names but that it’ll be better for it. And that it’s just the beginning.

It’s okay to think this is team. It’s okay to admit that we’re buying in. It’s okay to think about the day when it finally happens.

Starting right now, it’s okay to hope.

Because without hope, what’s the point?