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SportsMonday: All Jumbotron, No Cattle

No one was surprised, were they? Nobody who knows anything about baseball?

Because anyone who knows anything about baseball knew that a lineup with Starlin Castro batting clean-up, Mike Olt batting anywhere, the pitcher as the eighth-best hitter . . . that lineup will not generate competent short-term or long-term major league offense.

The first half of that statement began to play out in the Cubs' punchless 3-0 loss to the Cardinals on Opening Night. And just to state the obvious: if Kris Bryant had been in the lineup, Starlin would not have batted clean-up, Mike Olt would not have been in the lineup and . . . well, I guess Jon Lester would have still batted eighth but somehow I'm sure that move would have seemed a little less desperate.

I am a fan of Starlin Castro. One of the reasons I was not a fan of the Jeff Samardzija deal last year was that the guy the Cubs acquired who mattered was a stellar shortstop prospect. And if I wasn't mistaken (and I wasn't), the Cubs already had a young shortstop who has proven he can do the job at an All-Star level in the major leagues. Perhaps Addison Russell can do the job at a different position, you might argue. But then he isn't nearly as valuable, is he? And then the trade starts to look worse.

Here's a couple prop bets by the way for those who think Theo put one over on Billy Beane last year in that deal:

I bet that shortstop Marcus Semien, who the A's acquired from the White Sox in the off-season for Samardzija (along with catcher Josh Phegley and two lesser prospects) will perform better at shortstop over the next three years for the A's than Russell will perform in his first three years in the majors. If Russell plays a position other than shortstop in the majors for at least 150 games during that time, I win the bet. We can negotiate over that number of games before finalizing the wager if you'd like.

I also bet the A's will have more wins than the Cubs this season and I bet they will have more total wins than the Cubs over the next three seasons. And all of that doesn't even take into account the fact that the trade gave the A's critical pitching depth during a playoff run. Theo's Cubs don't know about playoff runs but if they ever make one (and they won't be making one this year all of you numbskulls out there who threw away money on prop bets in Vegas tied to the Cubs' 2015 success), they will probably make a trade or two that makes more sense in the short run than the long.

So now the Cubs are in perfect position to get off to a slow start. Just a quick potential scenario for all the "Theo is a genius!" dimwits: The Cubs lose 10 of their first 12 games and are reeling as they head into the final week of April. Kris Bryant will have spent enough time in the minors at that point to ensure that Tom Ricketts will save money in Bryant's seventh year (thank goodness for that! Definitely makes sense to screw with a prospect's trajectory to save the billionaire Rickets family a few million in 2022!).

So instead of allowing Bryant to start the season where he should have been, with his young major league team going through the trials and travails together right from the start, he will be called on to resuscitate a slumping major league team right off the bat.

Surely no one is going to argue that that is the best way to bring a prospect into the majors.

Back to Starlin, another problem with him hitting clean-up: Everyone saw the over-swings last night, didn't they? Castro was hyper-aware that he was hitting fourth and he was going to do his damnedest to send one out of the park. He did get a hit but he will screw up his swing if he stays in that slot in the lineup - guaranteed.

Here was perhaps my favorite part of the game: everyone in the Cubs starting lineup left at least one runner on base. That's the sort of team effort we need to see.

At least it was a great night for the Jumbotron, except for one thing: the giant scoreboard that dwarfs the traditional centerfield scoreboard (which should just come down by the way - get to work on making that happen, Rahm. After all, you're the one who makes the "tough choices") was lacking a critical ingredient. The giant screen isn't nearly as fun when there are no highlights.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Jun 24, 2017

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