The Rundown: Stories Getting Stale as Spring Training Approaches, Ross Mentions Chemistry, Players Expected to Veto Reduced Schedule Offer
It’s a struggle to find relevant topics when writing about the Cubs these days because it seems like we’ve been rehashing various forms of the same news for months. I’m not sure if there is an organizational mandate to keep things close to the vest, but we’ve rarely heard from Jed Hoyer and David Ross this winter; Tom Ricketts is in deep cover; and Ian Happ is just about the only player with the fortitude to speak up about the state of the team and the league. As Chicago’s player rep, that comes with the territory.
Farm director Matt Dorey has been a bit of a godsend, but let’s face it, we weren’t really prepared to be this invested in the current state of the farm system and the long-term future of the parent club. The Cubs won the division last season and, with the exception of 2019, they have made the playoffs every season since 2015. There just hasn’t been any postseason success since the Dodgers ended Chicago’s hopes for a repeat in ’17.
Though it feels so premature to speak about if and when, this is the end of the current core’s great run. It’s not easy letting go, yet here we are.
Speculation and rumor are sometimes fun to write about, but player and management quotes drive the news cycle. And let’s face it, we’re all tired of clandestine innuendo by professional writers, though they’re struggling to find compelling content, too. As a writer, one has to be careful not to get lazy when the news cycle is as diminished as its been.
Ask ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, who failed to properly credit our EIC Evan Altman for breaking the Trevor Williams signing. That came on the heels of his clickbait headline that made Kris Bryant look like he was going full emo on us. I’m not sticking up for Rogers by any means, but I do understand the struggle.
Finding a new Bryant rumor has been a daily occurrence and I suppose it’s plausible to spice things up by attaching Kyle Hendricks to said speculation or by pivoting to the immense value in the team-friendly contract of Willson Contreras. I’m guilty of it too, which is why today presents more of a challenge than usual. I have nothing of general interest to write about that I haven’t already covered and I really don’t want to prostitute myself with a cheap headline or opaque hypothesis.
The point is, until pitchers and catchers report, and barring an unexpected trade or free agent signing, we are in an awful dry spell. I do find great intrigue in the Kohl Stewart signing, as he’s someone who has been on my radar since the Twins drafted him 4th overall in 2013. Here is what analysts said about Stewart ahead of that draft:
- Mark Anderson, Baseball Prospect Nation: “Huge risk associated with him because he is so raw and there are unknowns with the developmental path once he focuses on baseball. Boom or bust type.”
- Keith Law, ESPN: “He hit 96 mph and sat 92-94 consistently, showing a plus slider at 85-88, a hard curveball at 79-82, and even a few changeups at 83-84 with decent arm speed.”
- Matt Garrioch, Minor League Ball: “The highest ceiling arm in the draft.”
It’s fair to call Stewart a huge bust so far, but it’s equally fitting to say Minnesota failed to properly develop the young starter. He’s still just 26 years old and he has no history of significant injury, so maybe Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy can find something there.
It’s more than a little disappointing that that’s the best I can come up with today. Everything else has been beaten to death and the tried-and-true fallback options like the Top 10 Best Baseball Movies just aren’t that motivating. When was the last time Hollywood put out a decent baseball flick, anyway?
Still, spring training is drawing ever closer. Somebody nudge Ross and ask him to start talking about the state of his ballclub and his expectations for the upcoming season. The 2021 season could really use a bit of a jumpstart.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ross spoke about team chemistry and managing players who were once his teammates in an interview with the ABC affiliate in Tallahassee, FL, where the skipper lives during the offseason.
- If you were hoping a Cubs-Jake Arrieta reunion was in the cards, you may want to check yourself this morning.
- Jon Lester exemplified the type of leadership associated with some of Chicago’s most iconic sports legends, including Andre Dawson, Dan Hampton of the Bears, and Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks.
- In consideration of guaranteed contracts, raises for pre-arbitration players, the recent additions of Williams and Joc Pederson, and pending the result of Happ’s arbitration hearing, Chicago’s payroll sits at about $141 million with just about two weeks until the start of camp. One would think that leaves plenty of room for Arrieta and perhaps Kolten Wong. The current roster sits at 39 players.
- The Cubs have crazy organizational depth at shortstop and no shortage of young talent. CI contributor Todd Johnson breaks it down.
- Game 5 of the 2016 World Series tops the list of Greatest Wrigley Field Moments.
Odds & Sods
CubStop is apparently a thing and allegedly a “phenomenon.” Now I don’t feel too bad about struggling to find relevant topics for this space.
The Cubs offseason has been chaos: How can a company estimated to be worth $3.2 billion be out of money, forced to trade stars and sign bargain-bin replacements?
It’s complicated, but here’s a primer from @PWSullivan on the phenomenon known as CubStop.https://t.co/v6BllJJtup
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) January 30, 2021
Major League Baseball, again trying to stage a season through a pandemic, made a pitch to the Players Association on Friday to delay the start of spring training by a month, followed by a 154-game schedule with expanded playoffs.
The expectation is that the proposal will be rejected by the union when the official response is delivered Monday, according to sources.
The Cardinals are getting rave reviews for acquiring Nolan Arenado and $50 million for the Rockies.
Ryan Braun has yet to make a permanent decision regarding retirement. It’s unlikely the free agent would play elsewhere if the Brewers don’t offer a contract, though I bet he’d be a great fit in a part-time role for the Padres.
MLB The Show may have accidentally leaked its 2021 cover, and if so, a Fernando Tatís Jr. bat flip will get the honor.
Apropos of Nothing
It is my belief that the owners would love nothing more than a permanently abbreviated spring training that starts a month later, a 154-game season thats starts mid-April, and expanded playoffs. All of those things cut costs while increasing revenues. How long before they split 7-inning doubleheaders into separate events to double the gate?
Has your favorite celebrity been immunized for COVID-19? Have you?
Got my first dose. No nightmare on Moderna Street pic.twitter.com/JNLfTFO5rK
— Robert B. Englund (@RobertBEnglund) January 31, 2021
They Said It
- “A lot got made of how are you going to manage your friends, but I think it was something as their teammate I did already. We talked, communicated and I tried to give advice and experience. I haven’t stopped doing that as a manager. We have to have some tougher conversations at times but these guys respect me and I respect them and I think it’s actually a lot easier because we are able to have an open dialogue because they know it’s coming from a place of wanting to help and love.” – David Ross
Monday Walk Up Song
Jigsaw Puzzle by The Rolling Stones – The Cubs roster, particularly when it comes to pitching, still feels like it’s a few pieces short, and the ones they do have don’t really seem to mesh all that cohesively. All that aside, some great slide guitar on this vastly underrated Stones song.