I've just returned from three and a half days in the beautiful, greater Phoenix area, watching our beloved play some Spring Training baseball. This has always been a bucket list thing for me, and this year I decided to finally make it happen. A special thanks to Kent Dickerson for driving me around to the ball games, and attending them with me, also, thanks for letting me crash at his place and drink all his beer and vodka.
Before I check-in to Betty Ford for my quarterly cleaning, I thought I would share my observations about all things Cubs, and a few other things I was able to see these last few days.
What a fantastic facility. Easy in and out with plenty of parking, and support people who know how to move people in and out, while still being incredibly helpful and polite to fans. There is food galore for all taste buds, things to do for adults and children, and great views from any seat in the house. The only negative was the prices for food and beer. A ten ounce draft was $12 and a bottle was $13. Yikes! However, overall it was a really wonderful experience and I highly recommend you make at least one trip in your lifetime to see for yourself.
On another note, the Goodyear Stadium, home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, while a charming smaller stadium, could use some help in people moving. We waited over 45 minutes to get a parking space because they were overwhelmed by the amount of people, Cubs fans, who showed up Saturday. Knowing how many tickets they sold, you would think they would have had extra, trained, people helping, but nooooo!
Thursday Seat - Rangers at Cubs
Let's start with the good things we saw because there are some positives on this team. Starting pitching was very good. Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks looked ready to start the season. All had some issues in their first inning, but quickly settled down. The top of the rotation looks solid.
Duane Underwood Jr. also sparkled in his appearance on Saturday. He had great velocity and control and is looking like he wants to pitch fulltime on the big league roster. Jeremy Jeffress also looked solid on Friday and if he can get back to his 2018 self it would be a great thing for the Cubs.
Defensively, the Cubs looked much better than last year. There were no throwing to the wrong base issues, or, missing the cutoff man, or kicking easy ground balls. They actually looked like the 2016 version more than the 2019 version. This would be a huge improvement if they can maintain all season.
So much for the positives.
Friday Seat - White Sox at Cubs
Not So Good News
The Cubs cannot hit. Until the last three innings Saturday we saw a total of five hits in three days from the starters. Saturday the AAA team was playing the last three innings and finally scored some runs. Weak pop-ups, lazy ground balls, striking out, and on and on. While there is plenty of bad hitting to go around I would be remiss if I did not point out that Daniel Descalso is awful. I believe he is hitting .097 this spring. Why is he still here?
But in fairness he is not alone. Here is some of your opening day lineup so far.
Bryant - .250; Heyward - .250; Rizzo - .176; and Contreras - .167 The only guys hitting are Happ, Baez, Almora, and Bote, and in the last week, even they have gone into hibernation. It was very disheartening to see the Cubs bat, and you hope that this is the dog days of camp and things will improve starting next week.
Additionally, with the exception of the two guys mentioned above, the bullpen is in trouble. They can't throw strikes, and when they do, they throw it down the middle and get pounded. Also, and this is really troubling, they are really slow on the mound. Wasting time, walking around, shaking off signs, it took way too long to get through innings and you could see the defense deflate by the minute.
I know some of the main guys were sick and didn't pitch but man they need to figure something else out because these guys are a hot mess. Remember, in 2020, relief pitchers have to face at least three guys, or end an inning, so being able to throw strikes to lefties and righties is going to be important. David Ross is not going to be able to keep switching guys based on matchups.
Finally, this team has no feel of urgency to it. I know it is spring training but they looked lethargic, uninterested, and beaten down. I wanted to see some excitement, especially with a new manager, instead I saw the same things I've been seeing for three years. This needs to be fixed immediately.
Saturday Seat - Cubs at Indians
Hello White Sox fans! Get ready for a helluva season with your team. They looked like what I wanted to see from the Cubs. Great hitting, strong pitching, playing on the ball of their feet, and a liveliness to them that looked like they can't wait to get to the ballpark and play. This team will be a contender in the central division, and maybe even a wildcard possibility?
They were so much better looking than the Cubs I almost went downstairs and bought a Sox hat. Luckily Kent tackled me and told me he would punch me in the throat if I did.
The great thing about spring training in Phoenix is that there are so many options for games only a short drive away. Unlike Florida where you are driving all over the state to see games, here, you are only 30 minutes away from everyone. This should be your camp destination if you ever want to go.
Also, they have some of the best food you will find anywhere. From chains like Portillo's to hole in the wall Mexican taco stands, all are fabulous and worth the trip. We didn't get a chance because of time restraints, but on my next trip here I am definitely going to the MIM, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It is rated as the number one attraction in Phoenix and one of the top fifteen museums in the USA.
So there you have my trip report to spring training 2020. A great time over there in general but a bit of a disappointment seeing the Cubs looking down. Off to Betty Ford to see if they can get my liver repaired in three days.