We all knew someone was going to the bullpen to make room for the returning Matt Garza (Turns out that was Carlos Villanueva). The question not asked as often was, “who leaves the ‘pen?”
We found out today, in what is somewhat of a stunner, that the answer is apparently Michael Bowden. For my money, I was betting the answer was going to be Shawn Camp. After all, Camp and the 13 earned he’s given up in 16.0 innings of work, and the .378 OBP allowed don’t exactly bring back shades of the lightning he caught in a bottle last season. And when one of Camp’s balls gets put into play, it often times lands harmlessly. A .370 BABIP
against is not good by any measure (and that doesn’t count the three that have landed harmlessly in the bleachers).
Bowden hasn’t been a world beater by any means, but his numbers are better. He’s at a .308 OBP allowed, a .269 BABIP allowed, and more respectable 3.78 ERA in 16..2 innings. He hasn’t allowed a home run or committed any balks, both of which Camp has done. In comparison, Bowden’s ERA+ is 52 points higher than Camp (107-55). Save a rough outing in a 14th inning in Cincinnati, Bowden’s been nothing short of good. He went 1.2, and gave up the three runs to blow the game in his second inning of work. Otherwise, he’s not given up more than one run in any other appearance, and has shown the ability to be effective for more than one inning of work. Camp, on the other hand has given up multiple runs in an outing five times thus far, in 19 appearances.
From my perspective, whatever assessment was done to make this decision wasn’t as cold as the decision will be to sell off in July. It would almost appear that Dale Sveum’s undying devotion for the guy he called on in just short of half of the miserable 2012 season is getting extra credit for being good last year. Really, there’s no justification beyond that for keeping an older reliever who’s been less effective. By a lot. Actually, Michael Bowden has been the most consistent reliever not named James Russell that’s been in the pen all season. Marmol, Fujikawa, and Camp were all supposed to be more reliable and more depended on than Bowden, and none has been through the first quarter of the season.
At this point, we should hope that the Cubs are able to keep Bowden by passing through waivers and accepting an outright assignment to Iowa. I can’t be sure that happens, though. There are enough teams looking for young, inexpensive, effective relief pitching that I wouldn’t put the odds above 50/50 that Bowden makes it through waivers and accepts an outright to AAA.
Last night, we saw something new. Not new to the game or to this season, but to the Cubs. They drove in runs without the aid of the long ball. It was magical. More importantly, it was about damn time.
This season, the Cubs lead the NL in doubles, are 3rd in the NL in home runs, and 4th in slugging percentage. They are also 12th in on base percentage, 11th in batting average, and 11th in runs scored.
There is really only one thing to take away from these numbers…the Cubs either hammer the baseball or don’t get hits at all. There isn’t a middle ground for them at this point. And that is not how to win ballgames.
That’s what made last night so nice to see. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo each had two run singles in the fourth inning after Scott Feldman’s RBI single. Five runs, none driven in with the extra base hit or home run. When you add Alfonso Soriano’s RBI ground out in the first and Nate Schierhotz’s sacrifice fly in the sixth, that’s a nice night of offense. The Rizzo HR in the eighth inning served as a cherry on top of an atypically productive night of offense for the Cubs.
The early problems with the Cubs have been the bullpen, the defense (at times), and the offense. One night does not solve the problem, and some players are still trying to figure out which end of the bat to hold. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Darwin!) With that being said, it appears that Alfonso Soriano and Anthony Rizzo have figured out their early season struggles. Soriano isn’t freezing. Rizzo is using the entire field and looks like the Rizzo we met last season. Both are good things. The Cubs need that production in the middle of the line up.
As we await the inevitable trade deadline activity, there are a few things we can take for granted as fans…the subtractions will not be as deep as they were last year, and the meat and potatoes of the current line up is going to be left intact, for the most part. The only significant losses that are in the realm of possibility are Darwin Barney being flipped to a contender for prospects, and David DeJesus being flipped for small pieces. Aside from that, there is not a lot of likelihood for big changes. Nate Schierholtz could find himself on the way out, too, but he’s on a one year deal, anyway. He is a rental in every sense of the word, even if the Cubs don’t flip him.
What we’re seeing is probably what we’re going to get this season. And probably a big portion of next season. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are not coming anytime soon. Watching the current cast of characters is the show we’re going to get for at least the foreseeable future. It would be nice if there were more nights like last night.
First, an explanation of the title… It’ll become clear that this post is regarding Matt Garza’s absence very soon. The Billy Goat reference is to the beard he’s sported. And it’s not a knock at all. I think it’s awesome. And I’m a bit jealous that my employer’s dress code doesn’t allow me to have it. Moving on…
Some would consider it overstated if I were to say that the Cubs really, really miss Matt Garza. After all, how can they miss a guy who hasn’t pitched since last July while the rotation is in the midst of one of the best runs on the north side in quite some time?
Garza may not be the sole source of energy on the Cubs’ roster. Darwin Barney hustles and plays with enthusiasm. David DeJesus is a workman everyday. And being a starting pitcher, what Garza can do on the field is pretty limited to one game in every five. The on-field component is only a part of the story, though. Matt Garza does things that don’t usually get caught by cameras, but when they do, boy they stand out. He’s really good at delivering a shaving cream pie. Leaning over the rail in the dugout is a particularly nice trait he features.
Enthusiasm is a tough thing to bottle. As I mentioned, a number of players on the roster play with enthusiasm. Matt Garza does damn near everything with enthusiasm. He tweets with enthusiasm, completing every win by tweeting “Raise ‘er up” with the white flag with trademark blue W in the middle. At the Cubs Convention, he was so laid back that he looked like he nearly fell out of his chair laughing, by my count, three times. Once when Scott Feldman referenced an “upper decker” when he was in Texas. Once when a fan I know fairly well asked Scott Baker for tickets after he’d mentioned in a panel discussion that it was awkward to say no to fans who ask for them. And another at what was a seemingly benign joke from Scott Feldman. I don’t even recall what the joke was. I just remember Garza’s reaction. That personality, which may exist in a less public form within the Cubs clubhouse while Garza gets back, is something the Cubs need. From my view, no team can have enough Matt Garzas.
As I’ve been working on this piece, Pat Mooney put one of his own out with some great stuff from Garza directly. It actually set up the point I was going to make before I made it, so if Pat Mooney or Matt Garza feel like wasting time reading my hobby, thanks a lot for beating me to the punch. Since I came to make a point, I won’t let them stand in my way, though. Garza, in all of his enthusiastic glory, is about the most positive person I can think of. I can’t say I’ve seen him acknowledge the negative. He’d been outspoken about progress and tackling his rehab from the stress reaction last summer. The same thing with the strained lat. And he wants the same out of the fans, which is well highlighted in the Mooney piece. He either really loves the fans or he’s a really good actor (and I think it’s the former). And he wants us to have his (and his team’s) back as much as he’s shown that he has ours over the course of the last few years.
With the free agency climate changing, I, too, could see Matt Garza sticking around with a qualifying offer. If he comes back and pitches as well as he has since he’s been with the Cubs, there’s no good reason not to lock up a legitimate front line starter, to go with Samardzija, Jackson, et al to make a run at the postseason down the line. We know what he’s capable of in October. He was quite good in his appearance with the Rays in 2008 and 2010. And, as positive as he is, it would be nice to see him winning a playoff game, series, and championship with the Cubs when that day comes.
For the last day, the general agreement among fans and the media is that Tom Ricketts is bluffing. There have been comments ranging from “The Cubs without Wrigley are the White Sox,” to, pretty much, “LOL.” Nobody seems worried that Tom Ricketts might actually be the owner to leave Lakeview. It seems in part because of how much he loves the ballpark. It also seems that the PR blitz afterward was to walk back to rhetoric of moving. After all, you can’t “remain committed” to fixing up your fixer upper park AND be willing to move away from it, can you?
The reality of the his comment is that the Cubs can leave Wrigley. And if this deal falls through, the odds shift to about 50/50 that they will.
I don’t have any insider knowledge of the thinking of the ownership. All I have is what the media has reported. And what has happened since the Ricketts’ bought the majority of the team. The fact that this card hasn’t been played until this point tells me that Tom Ricketts and his family are committed to renovating Wrigley Field. It also tells me that their patience is not unlimited. He’s been fighting this battle since he took control of the team in October, 2009. Since then, he’s managed to work out a new complex in Mesa and get a baseball academy in the Dominican ready to open. The last domino to fall is Wrigley Field. But the hurdles at Wrigley are much, much different than the hurdles in Arizona and the Dominican. In Chicago, he’s got neighbors and “hand out” politics at play. Honestly, at this point, can anyone give a good reason why the team has to fight to spend a half of a billion dollars to fix its own park? It’s preposterous by any measure that they should have to work this hard to spend that much of their own money.
So why not order the Code Red? Maybe training just isn’t enough. Maybe it takes an ordinary rag stuffed into the mouth of some unsuspecting neighbors. And maybe, while the Cubs deflect the negativity of what Ricketts said yesterday, he gets a little more upset with the fact that nobody seems to understand that he’s the one who makes the call, and it doesn’t matter that he has to eat breakfast 500 yards from a bunch of neighbors who want to kill him. At some point, Ricketts is going to be on the stand, and he’s going to scream on the top of his lungs that he’s going to take his team to the ‘burbs if he damn well pleases, and there is nothing the neighbors, the mayor, or the alderman can do about it. Unless they decide to play ball…
“A Few Good Men” references aside, the most powerful person in this battle is Tom Ricketts. I tweeted this morning that it was a mistake to think a man who is in a family that is worth north of $2 billion would resign himself to nothing but the emotion of loving Wrigley Field. That family did not get that wealthy by making emotional decisions.
Calling Ricketts’ bluff might be a mistake. He has all of the cards. The entire deck. So if he wants to pull out all four aces and drop them in Rosemont, Naperville, or any other suburb willing to give him a sweet deal on land and public financing for a new park, he very well can if he wants to. And it is absurd to think he won’t, merely because he can’t.
My feelings on the Wrigley Renovation have been pretty simple…either make Wrigley work, or move on. Based on today, it seems that Tom Ricketts is at that point, too.
There was a lot of information released last night, including the renderings of what the agreed upon deal will actually be. I think I speak for everyone when I say it was nice to get a visual idea of what the video board and signage will be. With Tom Ricketts having a news conference today, a lot of information came out, which, for the most part, I came across tweets by Patrick Mooney and David Kaplan. So I’m just going to share it with some of my own thoughts, with quotes being attributed to Tom Ricketts.
- “We have tried to minimize the impact on the rooftops.” I think this is a pretty intuitive statement, since the team and the rooftop owners have a revenue sharing agreement place in future for the next decade. There’s not really a lot to add to this, other than Ricketts acknowledging the rooftops means they’ve mattered to the process, in spite of the rooftop owners claims of not being included.
- “We anticipate increasing spending on the baseball side as soon as we know what we can do with this plan.” and “We need this revenue to compete. That is a fact.” These are pretty significant statements. They say that the Cubs are not going to spend significantly more on the on field product before the plans are finalized, but will once they know they have the additional revenue streams in place. The unrest about waiting until the renovation is complete flies out the window, you would think, with the comment about spending as soon as they know what they can do with the plan. It certainly appears that all the team is waiting for is some certainty in what revenue will be coming in as the renovation progresses, which allows them to spend more money on the Major League product. It also says that the team thinks its current revenue is what is holding back the front office from fielding a more competitive team at the moment. While not mentioned here, Ricketts did mention that they were building a minor league system, and I think that’s important, too. As those players come up, they are going to earn more money. Not only will the revenue help the team bring new players in, but will allow them to retain the talent they’re developing for the long term. It’s worth a mention, because teams like the Rays have produced a lot of talent over the course of the last few years, and have not been able to retain much of it because of their midsize market (which is basically what the Cubs are working at right now), and because of the lack of revenue that their ballpark brings them.
- “We are very confident in the legality of our signage plan. We are not making a threat to move. The fact is we want to win in Wrigley Field.”; “Keep my talk about moving in context. We want to win at Wrigley. We also need to run our business.”; and “Moving is not a threat. It is a fact that if we don’t have outfield signage we cannot make the financials work. That’s it.” I am pretty surprised by these comments, which were the first of their kind, at least to my recollection. I, and none of the other blogs, reporters, or writers I follow for information, have recalled an instance where Tom Ricketts has said publicly that moving to another location is on the table. There is a lot of buzz about whether it was substantive or not. At this point, I would figure, it almost has to be. The renovation of all of the facilities has been one of the priorities of this owner since taking over, and if the team and the city can get this close to a plan to improve Wrigley, it stands to reason that it may be time to explore other alternatives if this deal doesn’t work out. I think this is Tom Ricketts’ “put up or shut up” call to the neighborhood. And, as I’ve said before, it is long overdue. He cannot wait around forever to have only a few more restrictions than every other team, as opposed to the current load of oppressive ordinances and rules that inhibit the Cubs from playing on a level field with the rest of the league. If this deal falls through, the Cubs, in my view, will be forced to look elsewhere. In the long run, that may be their best option because a new location outside of the city would eliminate all of the ordinances, regulations, and restrictions on signs, night games, and renovations that affect the historic landmark designation of the park.
- In a piece from David Kaplan this afternoon, Ricketts said that naming rights and seat licenses are not in the immediate plans because of fans coming from all over to see “Wrigley Field.” From a fan’s perspective, that’s great news, and if I were a season ticket holder, the seat license news would also make me happy. For the time being, the Cubs seem intent on raising revenue through sponsorship and using corporate partners in the proposed plaza and outfield signage. All of that to me seems like a good way to do it, as long as it’s possible. I doubt he’s slammed the door on the idea. This post by Kaplan comes from an interview which will air at 5:30 CDT on CSN Chicago.
Last night there was some chatter about making Wrigley “old.” To me, none of the renovation drawings and proposals seem to do that. They don’t make it old again. Hell, it’s already old. The falling concrete, worn paint, and small concourses being topped off with troughs in the bathroom make it old. What the renovation does, in my eyes, is leave the charms that we all love about the park…the ivy, the scoreboard, the intimate feeling of the park…intact with some more modern amenities that every other team has. Nothing I’ve seen ruins Wrigley. In fact, from what I’ve seen, it’ll make Wrigley even better than it is now as a park to watch a ballgame.
Today was an important day in the history of the Chicago Cubs. It is either the first day of a new era of baseball at Wrigley Field for our children and, potentially, grandchildren to enjoy. Or, it is the first day of the end of the Wrigley Field era in baseball. Either way, this day is an important one for the Cubs and us, as their fans.
(h/t to John Arguello and Cubs Den for being the place where I found these images in one place)
Sometimes, things aren’t as bad as they seem.
The 2013 Cubs are a pretty good example of that. They’ve had no offense to speak of. The back end of the bullpen was an unmitigated disaster for the first two weeks. The defense let the Cubs down on a number of occasions; yet the Cubs are 10-15, and have won five out of seven.
Record wise, the team isn’t far off of expectations. We knew this team was not going to compete with the Reds and Cardinals this season. We knew the offense was going to struggle at times. And we knew the early season was going to be a strong test because of the good teams the Cubs were going to play. The results of the test are in, and the Cubs passed. They may have only passed with a 65, but they passed. And they missed a lot of opportunities to really improve on that grade.
It isn’t all that difficult to understand why we, as fans, are so disappointed, though. The interaction in Twitter is a good indication of what most of us are feeling. It could be so much better. The Cubs played well enough to win three of the games with the Giants. They shouldn’t have been swept by the Braves. Or the Brewers in Miller Park. They’ve shot themselves in the foot more times that we should have expected, especially after the steps forward in fundamental baseball that the team took last season.
That’s what young teams do. I’ve said this a number of times to folks on Twitter. Winning is a learned behavior. There aren’t many players on this team who have a lot of experience with winning. There’s Alfonso Soriano from his days with the Yankees and first couple of years with the Cubs. Nate Schierholtz was with the Giants when they won the World Series in 2010. Scott Feldman was with the Rangers the last couple of years. Carlos Villanueva went to the playoffs with the Brewers in 2008. Edwin Jackson’s been on his share of winners. So, two position players, who play on a regular basis, and three starting pitchers. That’s not a whole lot.
Here’s my point. There is a time coming for winning. It’s not here, yet, but it’s coming. Teams like the Braves, Rangers, Brewers and Giants all know how to finish games at this point. There are veteran players on those teams who have tasted success at the major league level. They know how to take advantage of young, impressionable teams like the Cubs. And they take those advantages. In the end, the fans feel violated. But the team grows up, figures out how to avoid the killer mistake, and hangs on.
Nights like last night, where the bullpen is good and the defense makes some plays to hold on to the game, become more prevalent when a team is good. The value of last night’s game is huge. Because unlike the standard for the early season, the Cubs found a way to win. It was only 1/162 of the season, but that was the most valuable win of the season, thus far. This time, when the Cubs closed the door, they kept it closed. And that is a big step in the right direction.
We can’t hang onto games past. First, because our hearts can’t take the stress. But mostly, because with this team in its current form, everything is a day to day process. After every game, lets move on to the next one. That’s the great thing about baseball. All summer long, there’s always tomorrow to try again, regardless of today’s result.
I’ll never cease to be amazed by the amount of discontent that occurs during a losing streak. And, at the same time, how quickly it disappears when the team wins four out of five.
As we were reminded this week, however, the roster is not complete, and will not be that way for quite some time.
- Matt Garza had a “setback,” in that his arm got tired. I wasn’t terribly concerned at the time because “dead arm” is something a lot of pitchers go through in Spring Training (which is pretty much where Garza is now). While it makes the news, and subsequently makes fans fall all over themselves about the guy being fragile and not worth the trouble, it’s really nothing. Until it has a reason to be something. Garza is now scheduled to pitch on May 1, so while his rehab from the lat strain may not have been as quick as we, as fans, would have liked, it does seem like the progress is good. When it comes to strains like that one, it is better to get it completely healed, and from everything we’ve been told, that seems to be the case. Now, it’s just a matter of getting him stretched out sufficiently to start at the major league level.
- Ian Stewart had a real setback the other night when he got hit on the elbow. He missed last night’s game, and is playing tonight. I get it. Most of you out there think Ian is a bum, and he’s not worth the peanuts the Cubs are paying him this season, you want Tyler Colvin back, etc. I’m going to continue to defend him, and the front office for bringing him back. At least until he’s had time to finish a cup of coffee with the major league team. His numbers aren’t good at Iowa, but he’s in the same boat as Garza. He’s getting his timing back and working through the Spring Training process. Unlike everyone in these games he’s playing, he’s still working the bugs out from not playing in about 11 months. Let’s see him healthy and for a while in the bigs before we write him off. We, as Cubs fans, should know that if he hits the streets before he gets all the way back, he’s going to go somewhere else, and be the third baseman we want him to be at Wrigley.
Neither of these players is going to be the savior to what is sure to be an uncompetitive season. They do, however, make the Cubs deeper (in spite of your feelings for Stewart). Getting Garza back will likely push Scott Feldman (because Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva have earned the right to be in the rotation thus far) to the bullpen, as a long reliever. Since he’s been good for three or four inning stretches this season, maybe being the long man will add to his value. The same with Luis Valbuena. If Ian Stewart can come back and take hold of the third base job, the Cubs will have two versatile infielders who can play all over in Valbuena and Cody Ransom, who hit from each side of the plate. With Scott Hairston, Julio Borbon, and Dioner Navarro rounding out the bench, suddenly the Cubs don’t look quite so sad.
There are a lot of ifs in those statements. I’m sure not all of it will come true. Ian Stewart could come back, lay an egg, and be designated for assignment within a few weeks. We don’t know. But that is what the 2013 season is for. Finding out who’s got value and who’s not going to be with the team moving forward is what the plan was for this season.
In the mean time, just enjoy the winning streak.
There is no denying that it’s been tough to watch at times in the early going. The errors, the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, the lack of patience at the plate, the base running blunders…it’s all been quite frustrating. There is a bright side, though. It can’t get any worse.
In my Central Division Preview, I called the Cubs an 80 win team. I made my predictions, intentionally early, based on the on-paper roster. It actually looks pretty good right now. *Hold on, meatball…before you call me a moron and tell me to watch the games, you’re right.* But hear me out. The Cubs are losing games, which is to say they are not being beaten by the other teams, but by themselves. We can agree they played well enough to win one against the Braves, two more than they did against the Giants, and probably the first two of this series against the Brewers without the mistakes which have cost them early. There are five wins in there the Cubs don’t have, that they could have. And really, if they win two or three of those five games, nobody’s saying anything about the errors or struggles with runners in scoring position because an 8-8 or a 7-9 record would be acceptable based on what we were expecting this season.
More silver lining: the mistakes are inexcusable. They are not, however, uncorrectable. Change can happen with the defense, especially when the vast majority are effort mistakes. Anthony Rizzo is a very good defensive first baseman, and has made two uncharacteristic plays in the last two nights. Both of them were because he was trying to rush. Friday, on a play against a speedy Nori Aoki, and last night trying to get an out and throw home on a play he wasn’t going to make. Ultimately, the play last night didn’t matter. Sure, he bobbled the ball, but they still got the out at first base, and he wasn’t going to hold Logan Schafer at third anyway. That’s a “no harm, no foul” play. The misplay was not relevant to the outcome of the play. Starlin Castro is our favorite whipping boy, and it probably has a lot to do with his off the charts talent. His issues have not been concentration related, either as much as they’re publicized as. Say what you will about an error with the pitcher running, but that was a physical mistake, not taking his time and making the play. Stop with the garbage “you have to be aware of who’s running” stuff. Last night was no different. Actually, it was the same play. Two outs, and making the play ends the innings and ends the scoring threat.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be disappointed or frustrated or cover our eyes while we watch yet another defeat being snatched out of the jaws of victory. At the end of the day, though, who cares? The front office, and Theo Epstein, in particular make no qualms about “playoffs or protected pick.” He said that they’re going to take the “cold assessment” in the middle of the season. There is no valor in winning 78 vs 73. He’s absolutely right, too. Hell, I’ll take it a step further. When you watch the game today, look across the field at the other dugout. They won 83 last season. Our guys got 61. Everybody finished on the same day. Their fans get to talk about the magical “winning season” and we get mocked for “101 losses.” But in June, the Cubs get a prize. They get Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray. They get a chance at a college arm who can be teamed with Jeff Samardzija for years to come. The Brewers coughed up a first round pick for three years of Kyle Lohse, and with it, stay stuck in mediocrity. They can have their 75-84 wins each year. If the Cubs go down with another 100+ losses this season, that’s alright. *Cue Meatball fan throwing closing the browser window…NOW* It’s not like tthe Cubs have had a difficult time attracting free agents. Edwin Jackson was one of the prizes of last winter’s class, and he came.
The Cubs are in the midst of culture change. A welcome one. Look across the field at the Brewers, again. Now think back to 2011 and what the Cubs were. In 2011, the Cubs didn’t have anybody but Starlin Castro who would actually be improving over the course of the next 4-5 years. Everyone on the roster was either in or past their prime. They won 71 games. It was miserable. It was worse than we have now because it was hopeless. We wanted to think adding Carlos Pena and trading the farm for Matt Garza would be enough to have another magical winning season. We hoped Carlos Zambrano wouldn’t be a complete headcase, and with him, Garza, and Ryan Dempster, there would be a rotation worth running out each day. We had Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall setting up for Carlos Marmol, which turned out to be a decent pen when the Cubs actually led. Aramis Ramirez was still at third and it didn’t look like an endless abyss of suck. The reality of that team, though, is that the only player who played any considerable amount of time with any potential to grow was Starlin Castro. *Meatball, if you’re still with me, I’m talking to you again…yes, Starlin is getting better. No, we shouldn’t trade him unless we get a lot in return, and yes, his defense is above league average.* Now, look at the Brewers. Lucroy is pretty good, but at 26 is probably not going to get much better, if at all. Ryan Braun is in the twilight of his 20s, and is in his prime. Jean Segura is a young and talented player who will improve. But apart from that, who else is there? Their minor league organization is bare, and Aramis Ramirez is two years older than the past his prime Rami we saw a couple of years ago. Corey Hart can’t stay healthy, and is starting to get to the point of decline. Rickie Weeks is a laughable shell of his former self. It all looks very familiar to our situation a couple of years ago.
The point of all of this is that, like Wrigley Field, the product on the field was a real mess a couple of years ago. That’s who Jim Hendry was fired, that’s why Theo Epstein was given the reigns, and that’s why we are where we are. It needed to be done. Like any massive renovation, some things are going to be broken down, some things are going to be ugly and tough to handle, but in the end, the foundation will be stronger and the finished product will look better. If you take anything from this series, take it as progress. Two short years ago, the Cubs may have won some games because a less talented team made some silly mistakes against a team of aging veterans who weren’t going to be better than 71 wins, but wouldn’t beat themselves as often. Honestly, I would rather the Cubs throw the ball around the diamond and beat themselves than get run day after day. That’s not happening. What is happening is a young team learning to play together, and learning to win together. It’s hard to watch. It may result in being swept out of Milwaukee.
We knew what 2013 was coming in. It still is. A bridge to next year.
Oh, it’s not over. Not by a long shot.
Call me a cynic, but I’m not buying the self congratulatory press conference from Monday. I’m not buying that the public process is a formality that won’t yield a significant change to what is expected to be done. I’m not buying any of it until the last details of the renovation are finished and the job is declared done.
Why, you ask? Well, the rooftop owners want their piece of the pie. That’s why. And it’s fair. The Cubs did negotiate a deal with the rooftop owners that allowed them to be contractual parasites. Maybe parasites is the wrong word, although the fact that their business of selling the Cubs’ product is parasitic, in a sense, maybe that’s not the right word, since they don’t seem to like it. Maybe the rooftop owners are the bugs that live on farm animals, and eat smaller bugs living on the same animal. That seems to be a more fitting analogy. The Cubs and the rooftops are after the same “food,” in any event. It seems curious that the Cubs last regime would sanction others to directly compete with the team for business…but that’s another issue entirely.
“We are partners, so there is a business relationship. There is no question about that. I am part of the community too. Let me be clear, we want the Cubs to do their renovation and we want them to win the World Series. The first step of their renovation is to do their clubhouses and training facilities. They should go ahead and build them because that is the main reason they have given that they are not competitive.” – Beth Murphy, via ESPNChicago.com
I take a ton of issue with this entire quote. First, I dismiss the partnership notion off-hand. They’re not. They have an advantageous location in relation to the park. No more, no less. If they were true partners, they should be chipping in a little extra to help shore up the end of game relief problems. Second, competitive facilities are an issue in attracting players, but the biggest reason the Cubs are not competitive is because they don’t have equal footing with the other 29 teams in ad revenue, night games, and concessions because of their woefully outdated ballpark. The clubhouses and player facilities are an issue, but they are not the single greatest disadvantage the Cubs have when it comes to their ballpark. That notion is absurd on its best day.
My personal favorite argument about the park and the increased signs is not the “don’t mess up Wrigley” stuff. My personal favorite is the “The Cubs are the most profitable team in baseball” BS. The profit is almost a nearly perfect subtraction from the big payrolls run up by the previous ownership group. It’s a false narrative. And it’s not relevant to the ballpark discussion. The fact that the Cubs made money does not change anything about the fact that their ballpark still puts them at a revenue disadvantage and continuing to exist under the thumb of the city’s ordinances makes it tougher on the Cubs than on any other team in baseball. Making money or not isn’t relevant to that fact. Even with the deal that was announced, 40 night games is still a restriction, and it is a restriction that will cost the Cubs money in TV revenue. Let’s face it…people don’t want to (or can’t because they have jobs) sit down and watch that much day baseball.
My point is that this deal is far from done and, as fans, should be treated as though it was never acknowledged. There is too much that can happen to mess it up. At this point, I would still bet even money that nothing happens in beginning the project this off-season, and that we’re far from the end of all of this. We should hope that all of the public hearings and talk about the plans are a formality and the plans move forward and Mr. Ricketts’ promise of a championship is delivered.
We should also hope that he still has the cell phone numbers of mayors in the suburbs, just in case something happens to stop the deal in its tracks. We’re talking about the Cubs here, folks…which is to say anything is possible, and we probably won’t like it.
All of us who are on Twitter probably reacted the same way when we saw that Cubs prized international prospect Jorge Soler went nuts with a bat in Daytona last night. I think my reaction was, “Say wha na…huh?” I think we all had nothing but negative thoughts when we read that he assaulted an innocent dugout. And I think we all wondered what it meant for his future.
Of course, given time, we find out that no dugouts were harmed in the making of a national news story from the Florida State League. We found out that Soler himself feels terrible about what happened. And we found out that (reportedly) Clearwater’s second baseman, Carlos Alonso, said something about Soler’s family. Whether that’s true or not, I have no idea. But when everyone who spent time with Soler this spring seems genuinely surprised it happened, I would bet there was more than “just normal back and forth at second base,” which is what Clearwater Manager, Chris Truby said about what led up to the incident.
My take is simple: I don’t have a problem with what Soler did. That’s not to say he can charge opposing players and dugouts with a bat and beat the stuffing out of people. He is a human being, though, and I know I’m not a mistake free member of society. He made a mistake, and according to Theo, “Jorge is tremendously remorseful about what happened.” That’s good enough for me.
As fans, we have an easy view on this. I’m sure he was told by the organization that he would accept any punishment handed down. He’s going to sit out five games. He made A MISTAKE. He didn’t come out of the game and complain to the media, no Gatorade coolers died last night, and no catcher is on his way out because the organization is picking sides. He’s not Carlos Zambrano. Heck, Big Z had to be poised and pitch well in the WBC to get a job this spring…and failed. Jorge Soler is not Carlos Zambrano. And questions about “make up” are premature, as well. Keith Law tweeted it best, and I paraphrase, one incident does not change someone’s make up.
From our perspective, as far as big stories go, this should be pretty much a non-story.