As you may know by now, I’ve spent the last several days on the island of Maui. In years past the time difference and spotty internet connection would have been but a mild nuisance, a mosquito to be shooed or swatted as I hiked through jungles and along streams to view waterfalls. The results of Cubs games would have been quite ancillary to my time at the pool. I guess that’s all still the case, but the urgency with which I’d check my phone for even a single bubble of 4G coverage on Sunday afternoon was heightened.
So too, it seems, was the heat of the taeks [sic] to which I was exposed. Absent the time or desire to consume much in the way of fully-fleshed thoughts, my limited connection to the world of Cubbish goings-on consisted primarily of tweets and article snippets. So as I prepare to leave this island paradise for the familiarity and omnipresent connectivity of Central IN, I offer up my own take on a few different topics from the last few days.
Bryce Harper’s F-bomb
Everybody gets upset from time to time and we’ve all done or said things in the heat of the moment that we perhaps regret later. Of course, most of us don’t have cameras trained on us and aren’t the subject of various magazine cover stories. Which is to say that Bryce Harper isn’t, like, a normal dude.
There are certainly various schools of thought on the idea of whether a professional athlete has a greater responsibility than the rest of us when it comes to his or her public comportment and I think I fall somewhere in the middle. My basic philosophy on the subject comes from something my friend Pete’s Uncle Ben once shared, which is that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
It’s all well and good to go with the Chuck Barkley stance and say that athletes aren’t role models, but that’s just not realistic. It’s also not realistic to expect these people to be perfect. We’re all flawed and we all screw up. At the same time, Harper has willingly taken up the mantle of poster boy and has been vocal about the importance of faith in his life. I don’t feel that pointing at the home plate ump and screaming “F— you!” in the midst of his team’s celebration was a true representation of either Bryce Harper’s true nature or the persona he’s created.
Harper seemed less than contrite in the aftermath of the event, which is to be expected.
“I was pretty upset. I think I was right to do that,” the reigning NL MVP explained. “Let him hear what I have to say, let him hear it again, and so what? Couple choice words. If I do [get fined], I do. I’ll pay it. So I think it deserves to, you know, maybe he’ll get fined, too. So we’ll see.”
Here’s the thing though: just because I thought Harper’s actions were bush league, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to conduct a full-scale indictment of his character. But as a noted fan of his, I’m also going to call this out for the immature and unnecessary act that it was. In the end, his overall body of work (which includes things like giving jars of money to homeless people) will overshadow this and we’ll forget it ever happened at all, which is as it should be.
For me, the worst part of the whole mess was how folks all seemed to want to point accusatory fingers at each other online. Not that that’s anything new, but I had just had a conversation with a friend about how people just get so defensive over perceived slights. Hey, it’s okay for someone to have an opinion that differs from yours. I’m sure some of you reading this were fine with what Harper did. Maybe you even cheered him on. That’s cool.
I’m not saying he’s a bad person for eff-bombing an ump and I’m not saying you’re a bad person for eff-yeah-ing it. I just didn’t like it and I won’t care about after I hit “publish.”
Ryan Braun as a trade target
I’ve got a big bag of nopes I like to carry around for occasions such as this, so let me reach in right quick and take one out for this topic. Jim Bowden of ESPN dropped Braun’s name (others included Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Nick Markakis, and Josh Reddick) as one of several corner outfielders the Cubs might covet as the trade deadline approaches.
The idea of adding a corner OF in general makes sense, particularly if we’re talking about a rental without a great deal of acquisition cost. But in Braun, you’re talking about a 32-year-old who’s still locked in for four years and $76 million after 2016. That ain’t cheap, and I don’t just mean the payroll. Would the Cubs be willing to ship a good chunk of their coveted farm system north of the Cheddar Curtain in order to land a guy who doesn’t really fit the mold they’ve established when it comes to makeup?
Then you’ve got the whole thing of what to do once Kyle Schwarber returns. I can’t believe this was anything more than Bowden throwing out random names of good players on bad teams in order to get a rise out of folks. There’s another rumor, however, that might have some legs.
Jorge Soler as trade bait
I wrote somewhat recently that Soler’s best shot at regular playing time might be as the result of a trade out of town. He certainly seems to be on the outs with Joe Maddon at this point, and his removal from the roster would give more credence to the thought of adding a veteran COF at or prior to the deadline. Then again, why would they trade a bat for a bat? And would it really make sense to try to improve an offense that already looks like a legitimate juggernaut?
The pitching has been great as well, but given that arms can be so much more fickle, it seems to reason that targeting another starter or a top-end lefty bullpen pitcher would make more sense.
Mike Trout as a trade target
Let’s just chalk this up under, “Well, yeah.” I don’t really think the Angels will put Trout on the block and I don’t think the Cubs would/could/should meet the required price. That said, you have to kick the tires if and when one of the games top players, an all-timer, becomes available.
Maddon and Da Coach
With the Cubs rained out again (Mother Nature appears to be the only force more powerful than the Cubs these days), Patrick Mooney had a little extra time on his hands. Hence the piece he wrote comparing Joe Maddon to Mike Ditka in the wake of the two having a little tête-à-tête the other day.
But with roots in blue-collar Pennsylvania, all those must-see press conferences and his own restaurant/endorsement portfolio, Maddon is already this city’s hardball version of Ditka, someone with a look distinctive enough to inspire Halloween costumes.
It’s not Mooney’s portrayal that was hot take-y, just the responses to it. The number of fans shaking fists and decrying the comparison on the basis that Maddon and the Cubs haven’t won anything yet was just…well, it was something, alright. On the other hand, you had plenty of folks taking the other side and face-palming the notion of Maddon as anything similar to a crusty old codger who’s maybe not the greatest human being on the planet.
Like him or not, though, Ditka is iconic in Chicago and Maddon is fast becoming larger than life in his own right. Mooney wasn’t saying that they’re similar people, just that it’s hard to deny the similarities in stature. It’d be nice if Maddon can complete the comparison by hoisting a title here soon too.
I’d love to stay and chat some more, but this is already longer than I’d anticipated and I’ve got to shut down and hop a cab to the airport (sorry for the typos, this didn’t go through edits). Things should get back to normal around here once I’m back on the mainland and I appreciate you bearing with the dearth of phenomenal content.