Baseball

This was an incredibly frustrating series as a Cubs fan, as it seemed like this weekend nothing went right. Davies and Williams threw clunkers, the Cubs can’t hit, the umpires gave us no help, Ross doesn’t know when to pull his starters, the defense gave up 13 runs to a team projected to be one of the worst in the league, and the Cubs now sit with a 4-5 record for 4th place in the Central. At least our bullpen was pretty solid?

In case you (correctly) traded in Cubs games this weekend to watch the Masters, here’s what went down:

April 8, 2021
Cubs 4, Pirates 2
WP: Arrieta (2-0) LP: Anderson (0-2)
Box Score

The Cubs went into this series with the lowest batting average in the league, and the lowest batting average for a team by far in recent memory. Despite this, the Cubs had an astounding 11 hits, a season-high for this team by four. It may be a season-high, sure, but for the league we are still sitting in the basement when it comes to hits and offense, so I’m still not impressed or satisfied with this number.

They got on the board early thanks to a Kris Bryant solo shot homer in the 1st inning, as he continues to make his trade value go up and up. Bryant had two hits, an RBI, and a .982 OPS for this game, one of his better outings so far this season.

The score stayed put until the fourth, where a couple of big hits off Arrieta helped the Pirates score 2. By the 6th, Anthony Rizzo hit a homer that allowed a Javier Baez run to put the Cubs ahead 3-2. Baez also had a hit in the 1st, two RBIs, and a walk — the walk being the most exciting news because he had seriously gone 100something at-bats without drawing one.

Arrieta was able to pitch through 6 innings thanks to a solid defense behind him cleaning up after any Pirates contact. By the 8th inning, Rizzo hit a solo homer to end the game 4-2, but whatever you do, don’t re-sign him. Totally not necessary.

Craig Kimbrel is back to his ways of old, and it seems as though the disaster that was his 2020 season was far behind him. He came out with the save for the night, getting a huge final two outs of a huge bases-loaded situation he inherited in the 8th and putting down three batters in the 9th with a little help from the outfield.

April 10, 2021
Cubs 2, Pirates 8
WP: Keller (1-1) LP: Davies (1-1)
Box Score

This game has got to be the biggest disappointment of the entire year by far, maybe in the past two years. Certainly in my recent memory.

I am finding it difficult to express how ridiculous this game was. It all happened in one half-inning, where Zach Davies and the Cubs’ defense completely collapsed to the worst team in the league. I tried to give Davies his day on the mound — it’s not his fault he got traded for Yu Darvish, who had been the best pitcher in the NL, after all — but the 2nd inning was completely inexcusable and a total nightmare.

In the 2nd inning, Davies gave up 5 hits and 3 walks before he got pulled after his 10th batter of the inning for Alec Mills. Davies only had 1 strikeout. In addition to being unable to throw strikes and reduce the contact rate, all of the hits went right past everyone on defense.

By the time Davies was pulled in the 2nd, it was time to throw all of our bullpen pitchers into the fire. Mills and the defense kept things under control until the 5th, where Dillon Maples gave up a mighty unfortunate home run to dig our grave deeper to 8-1, and by this time all Chicago sports fans had turned to watch the Blackhawks beat Columbus.

In case you wanted to know how the rest of the game turned out, it was pretty terrible. The Cubs had 3 hits for the rest of the game. Jason Adam was able to get a lot of Pirates swinging at a lot of crappy pitches but was able to end an inning with three strikeouts. The Cubs in the 8th got rocked by a pitcher who throws a fastball 63% of the time, because it’s no secret our Cubs can’t hit a fastball if their lives depended on it. The only Cub that hit off him was Joc Pederson, who knocked in the Cubs’ second and final run. At least he can hit fastballs.

April 11, 2021
Cubs 1, Pirates 7
WP: Brubaker (1-0) LP: Williams (1-1)
Box Score

Although Trevor Williams had a good 1st inning, things started going haywire quickly in the 2nd. An overturned out call at 2nd base put the Cubs in a tie game situation with the dreaded runners in scoring position on second and third base, even after Javier Baez hit a home run the half inning before to put the Cubs up in the game. Williams was completely unable to throw strikes, and when he did throw strikes they were getting rocked to the outfield. He allowed 5 hits on the half inning, none of them home runs. He did try to end the inning on a more positive note with a pretty nice strikeout, but things wouldn’t get better from there.

The Cubs were able to make some magic happen in the 3rd after an Ian Happ single, Willson Contreras sacrificing himself to a hit by pitch walk for the 64th time this season, but none of it mattered because Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play. Originally, Happ had scored on this play to make it 3-2 with Rizzo out at 1st, but the Pirates challenged their second call of the day for slide interference. He was kind of sliding into Kevin Newman when trying to get to 2nd and Newman had to jump over him to make a throw to first, which went right past Colin Moran. Who knew the rules of baseball?

Williams didn’t make things any easier on the Cubs in the 3rd inning, either, as he had only one strikeout and gave up a hit, an RBI, and two walks. More umpball confusion continued into the 4th as the umpire ejected…someone. We eventually learned it was catching coach Mike Borzello, but because umpires for some reason do not have microphones and are for some reason not forced to answer or explain any of their rulings or calls to anyone watching, this ejection was not immediately clear.

For the second Trevor Williams start in a row, Ross kept him in an inning too long. By the 5th inning, the Pirates had completely taken control of the game, getting three straight hits against him before he finally got pulled for Brothers. Brothers immediately got the two strikeouts Williams couldn’t get and ended the inning. Ross needs to get a lot better at managing his starting pitchers, because “squeezing all you can” out of Williams when he’s thrown three bad innings in a row is certainly not the answer. Know when to pull ‘em, Rossy.

The bullpen did well to stop the scoring until Ryan Tepera gave up a 2-run homer in the 7th, but by that time the game was over anyway.

The Cubs turn around and play three more games against the Brewers starting up tonight. The Brewers have won two of their last three games against the Cardinals since we saw them last week, and are sitting in 2nd place in the division. What could possibly go wrong?

Baseball

The leadoff spot for the Cubs has been an overhyped black hole for a few years now. It was never that hard, but the Cubs kept making it so. And they made it so by sticking hitters that are either bad altogether (Almora, Descalso, whatever other idiot you can think of) or were struggling at the time that only made it worse thanks to the attention it got (Schwarber, Heyward, Happ). It also didn’t help that Dexter Fowler is a distinctively cool and handsome man whom we all loved and quite frankly no one was going to compare. You can’t really have Dex’s swag in the leadoff spot if you never get on base.

Still, the recent trends in baseball have been to move your best hitter in the #2 spot, because they get more ABs over a season that way. So it stands to reason that if you put your best hitter in the leadoff spot, he’ll get just many ABs and perhaps even more. The Red Sox won 108 games with their best hitter in the #1 spot in 2018. The Dodgers are going to bat that same guy in their leadoff spot this year. It’s not that revolutionary of a move.

Now you may say, “Hey there Fels, you stupid weak baby, Kris Bryant isn’t Mookie Betts!” And I would say, check this out, chumley:

.284/.385/.516  139 wRC+

.301/.374/..519  135 wRC+

I’m not going to tell you which is which, because as you can see, it doesn’t really matter. You might say that Betts has four seasons of 20 steals or more where Bryant only has one with more than 10, but are we really going to worry about stolen bases at this point in our lives? We are not, dear reader. Especially given that Bryant is a great baserunner without the steals.

Sure, if you only have a couple big time hitters, you probably don’t want to waste one at the top of the lineup and hope he can just hit a bunch of solo home runs before the next three guys make outs. That’s not the case for the Cubs. If we take Kris Bryant out of the equation because he’s leading off now, there’s still Rizzo, Baez, Schwarber, Contreras behind him, and all of them have been run producers at various times in their careers. And again, if Happ can come good and Heyward is restricted to the #6 or #7 spot and never see a left-handed pitcher, the lineup extends.

The case for Bryant at leadoff is easy. One, he gets on base (cue gif of Moneyball scouting table and pointing at Pete). He had the second-highest OBP last year even with the injury problems at .382. His career-mark is .385. That’s better than Rizzo’s .373, in case you wanted to see Rizzo up there (which would have been fine with me as well). Second, he’s fast. Probably the second-fastest player on the team behind Baez. That doesn’t mean he’s stealing 30 bases or something, but you can see a lot of innings starting with no one out and 1st and 3rd after Rizzo singles. Or scoring from second for Baez or Schwarber. Third, it plunges the pitcher right into it. Not time to “find it.” You have to be ready from the off. There’s going to be a fair amount of leadoff walks here.

Mostly, it gets someone else out of the spotlight. I think Schwarber is a decent solution up there too, given his OBP skills, but we’ve seen that movie and it’s the question he has to answer all the time. Let him be in the middle, and his only concern is to smash the shit out of the ball. That’s all he should worry about. It’s all he should have worried about batting leadoff, but here we are. It doesn’t add something to Ian Happ’s burden of trying to cement himself in the majors for good. Same goes for Hoerner if he’s actually here.

Bryant won’t care about that. One, he just doesn’t care about any of it, probably because not much sticks in that beautiful head of his (and he will match Fowler for handsomeness in the leadoff spot, which apparently is important). And also he’s got a track record. And it’s something the rest of the team doesn’t have to worry about.

This was an easy decision, but it was at least a departure from Joe Maddon for David Ross, as the former kept trying to crowbar anyone else but the guy it made the most sense to put up there. Ross will face bigger hurdles than this, but at least he’s getting this one right by quite simply, not getting too cute about it. And too cute was Maddon’s mantra basically.

 

 

 

Baseball

There’s such a defeated feeling when talking about on-field matters with the Cubs. They don’t seem too interested in making the actual play on the field all that inspiring, so why should we feel all that inspired about it. Cubs Insider’s Evan Altman kind of nails it here, where the Cubs haven’t chosen any path this or last offseason and hence it’s hard to get excited about a team that’s sitting in the middle of the sidewalk like a tired and whiny toddler.

But you know, it’s better than talking about what size tomato I’d throw at Tom Ricketts these days, so I’m going to try again before we actually get to spring training, which is very close. I’ve gone over how the lineup could actually be good, even really good, if Ian Happ can be more what his numbers look like after his last week of the season than just being what he was before that last week. It’s not a great idea to have an entire team’s offensive fortunes hinge on a barely third-year player, but this is where we are.

The rotation…should at least be solid. Everyone hates Jose Quintana, which makes me empathize with him because hey, been there, but he’s a solid piece at worst. Darvish and Hendricks are good, if not better than that, and Lester is at least going to take the ball and sweat. But even with his contact-rates against starting to turn ugly, it’s hard to believe the Lester will go through another season with a .347 BABIP against. He should be, basically, fine, especially as a #4 starter.

So the Cubs have a hole at #5. And I’m fairly sure what they’re going to do is the very easy, uncreative, stuff Tyler Chatwood there and pray he doesn’t walk a marching band to first. But it doesn’t have to be this way, especially with teams most likely carrying 13 pitchers for the whole season with the rosters going to 26 now.

The Cubs should use that fifth day as an “opener” day, because it keeps some pitchers as available the rest of the schedule which the Cubs will need. I’m looking at the model for this, which is Tampa. Granted. Tampa has to use an opener and be creative in their usage because they might actually not be able to afford a whole rotation whereas the Cubs simply won’t afford one. But hey, again, here we are.

So last year, the Rays used Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks, as multi-use and multi-inning weapons out of the pen. The first two has more than 10 starts, and sometimes were just used as starters but sometimes just once through the lineup. Basically, what we’re looking for is two or three guys who can throw 100 innings, both from the bell and out of the pen. And the Cubs have these guys.

I’ve bleated on about Chatwood, and the only way the Cubs could keep Adbert Alzolay healthy is to use him for no more than 100 innings. But using him as a simple one-inning guy also seems a waste. Duane Underwood Jr. is another candidate, as he threw 100 innings combined last year between Iowa and the Cubs, though he very well might be the definition of a “4A” guy. Alec Mills or one or two other punters the Cubs trot out in Mesa/out of their system might find success merely burning through a lineup once.

It would also be how you sequence this. Lester is unlikely to pile up six and seven-inning starts, so you might want to slot him between Darvish and Hendricks for the season (if you assume that Darvish is going to gobble up the innings, which you shouldn’t). That way your multi-inning pieces can get a couple days between Lester’s start and that fifth slot that is nebulous at this point. But they have enough to get through that fifth spot by just throwing shit to the wall.

The whole roster is going to need creative use to maximize what it is even to just get to July 31st and force the front office into some decisions. Heyward can’t play against lefties, but then really Schwarber shouldn’t either (though you can get away with it), so who the fuck is gonna play the outfield then? When do you use Bote? What happens if Hoerner isn’t ready? Now my head is spinning.

One of the (few) disappointments with Joe Maddon was that he was pretty straight-laced when it came to managing a pitching staff. Starters, then set-up guys, then closer. Sure, he didn’t have a problem shuffling the lineup and rotating guys in and out, and that’s cool. But it would kind of suck if the Cubs punted Maddon aside only to bring in Ross to be as boring, especially when they clearly have a hole they need to cover up.

Here’s hoping.

Baseball

Gathered the three baseball wisemen here to go over the offseason again. The Sox appear to be done…and so do the Cubs, but in wildly different fashion. How are we all feeling?

So we’re just over a month away from pitchers and catchers, and it feels like the Sox are pretty much done. Everyone feeling their oats?

Air Traffic AJ: It’s pretty hard to look at this off-season and not feel positive about it, especially considering the absolute duds the previous two had been. The Twins signing Donaldson last night in a clear response to Hahn’s moves makes me think the Central may not be as up for grabs as I originally thought. The ceiling of their starting pitching is lower than the Sox staff, however, so it’s gonna be interesting. Most importantly it’s gonna be fun and watchable.

Wes French: Echoing AJ, the Donaldson singing takes some air out of the sails. The White Sox did a lot of work towards becoming a viable AL Central threat, but looking at that Twins lineup leaves you feeling like it’s all a 2nd/3rd place effort even with a lot of the remaining uncertainties becoming positives – How Robert starts, what Kopech gives, how the rotation looks after Giolito/Keuchel/Gio.

AJ: Sam, you’ve been pretty vocal thus far about the off-season the Cubs have had. If the ultimate goal for them is to be under the luxury tax cap this season and it costs them Quintana is there enough pitching to keep them up with the Cards and the newly resurgent Reds?

Sam: Fuck and no. 

I’m not wholly in on the Reds yet because I don’t think the lineup is that good as Joey Votto is continuing to decompose. They’ll still beat the Cubs 13 of 19 infuriating times though. The only hope if Q were to be moved is that Lester discovers something that can make him more effective at 36 than 35, but everything is trending the wrong way and he’s not exactly the most flexible guy when it comes to changing what he does. Not only does Chatwood in the rotation make it more volatile, but it robs them of an at least an interesting bullpen weapon. He and Alzolay together would have given the Cubs two possible multi-inning pieces out of there which could have covered for some of the shortness of the rotation. You could easily see Lester continuing to decline, Chatwood being the Pollock painting he’s always been as a starter, and some combination of Alec Mills and other goofuses getting continually rocked without Q. 

 That said, a Q trade is more palatable than a Bryant one. 

 Speaking of starters and bullpen switching, is Reynaldo’s future as something of a Hader-type? Come in and fire smoke for two-three innings 50 times a year or so?

 AJ: I think Reynaldo has a three month audition window to show he belongs in the rotation. I want to see what his numbers look like with a premier pitch framer like Grandal scoring him a few extra strikes per game. One of Lopez’ biggest issues is nibbling once he gets ahead in counts, and if Grandal can turn some of those nibbles into Ks he could be a viable 4th-5th starter easy. If that’s not in the cards for him, I very easily could see him coming in the 7th and just unleashing devastation for an inning and a third. He’s gotta have that chance to be a starter, however. Rodon coming back healthy is no guarantee, and it’s never a bad thing to have too many young viable starters.

 Wes: I think I would already have Lopez ticketed for such a role if i were making those sort of decisions. Alas, I have not been given any kind of say in the matter and I think that they’ll bring him along and keep working with him like he’s a viable starter at least until June this year. If everyone can stay healthy and show signs of success outside of Lopez, Cease/Kopech/Dunning/Lambert/Steiver (at various levels of the org), and Lopez doesn’t show any kind of consistency or improvement I think it needs to be strongly considered. The bullpen is going to need a power arm from somewhere, and the other internal options like Zack Burdi, Ian Hamilton, and Jayce Fry aren’t exactly encouraging at this point. It’d be ideal to not have to spend a truckload on the bullpen as this thing starts trending in the right direction and Lopez is the easiest to transition to that type of role, especially being the farthest removed from his debut and having plenty of shots at sticking in the rotation. 

 AJ: What’s the expectation for David Ross this season? Is he an advanced stats guy, or is he the more media friendly reincarnation of Robin Ventura? I personally think the Cubs could benefit from the use of an opener, especially if Quintana is traded for a pack of Topps cards and a copy of MLB the Show 2014. Also what kind of leash does he get from ownership?

 Sam: We were just talking about this on the podcast. First off with Ross, no one has any idea and if they say they do they’re lying. He’s obviously exactly in tune with how the front office sees the team, but who knows what that means given the restraints. I think they feel like players walked on Maddon a bit or tired of his shtick or both, and Ross definitely commands respect from the vets so you’d think the younger players will follow. I hope/suspect he’ll be a little more advanced in-game than Ventura, but again, no one can be sure. 

 I’m with you on the opener. The Cubs do have two intriguing, multi-inning possibilities out of the pen in Chatwood and Alzolay. The latter certainly can’t take on a starter’s share of innings this year, if he ever can. They both have electric stuff, though with varying problems with that stuff. You don’t know what you’ll get out of Lester, but if Q were to stick around you’d have three dependable (at least innings-wise) starters and Lester. You could easily have each of Chatwood and Alzolay throw 2-3 innings twice a week to cover for what you don’t get from Lester and a hole at the #5 spot. 

 But the reality is that they’ll trade.Q merely to save money, slide Chatwood into the rotation where he’s yet to prove he can be, and now both the rotation and pen are short. 

 Maybe I’ll just get on the Mariners train now and enjoy the fruits in three years. 

 Wes: Julio Rodriquez is gonna be a monster, we’d all be smart to buy shares now and revel in our intelligence in 2022-23. 

 I have a feeling the Cubs are gonna struggle to pitch the ball all season long and we’re in for some “fun” 14-10 type games. I think the NL Central is full of flaws, so 84 wins might just do it, but from the way you’ve spoken all winter, Sam, it seems you believe the Cubs could have trouble breaking even that number. 

 Of course, Yu, Hendricks and Q could all throw 175+ masterful innings and then you just need to survive the Lester clunkers and get to .500 in 5th start spots. Craig Kimbrel being his pre-2019 self would go a long way, too. 

 AJ: Question for all of us: If Lopez advances in his skills and both Rodon and Kopech come back healthy, what do the Sox do with their rotation?

 Wes: Assuming the rest of the staff is healthy/effective, I’d think that Gio G switches to a swing man/relief role that he was very effective in with Milwaukee last season. But you’re still looking at six guys with Giolito, Keuchel, Kopech, Cease, Lopez and Rodon.

 They’re going to want to bring Rodon along quite slowly, I’d think, being that he’ll come back in the 2nd half of the season, so he’d probably spot start during some long stretches where a 6th could be introduced to help rest everyone else/be used in longer relief situations to better control his workload and keep his innings as effective as possible. Cease is also going to top out around 160-175 innings, so I’m sure having too many SP options come August wouldn’t be too much of an issue. 

 This would be a very awesome problem to have. 

 AJ: I think at the end of the season if Rodon comes back healthy, Lopez advances like we all hope he does, and Kopech comes back in good shape you would have a six-man rotation from August on. You would be able to manage Cease, Kopech and Rodon’s innings as need be as well as give Gio Gonzalez some time as well. If September comes around and the playoffs aren’t an option Dane Dunning could conceivably be thrown into that mix as well. Like Wes said, it’s an excellent problem to have. 

 Sam, what’s your take on the Sox this year as a Cubs fan (for the time being, at least)?

 Sam: I think they’re exciting and am looking forward to watching them but I don’t think they’re a sure thing. Neither do I think the Twins are either, to be fair.

 I’m not as high on the Keuchel signing as some. He was regressing last year and his margin for error is so small. The batted ball numbers aren’t encouraging. Which still makes for something of an iffy staff. Giolito is great, but we have no idea what Cease is and it’s all questions from there on out, be it health or development. Wes, you may get your share of 14-10 games on the Southside, too. 

 That said the Grandal signing seems perfect for them, and even though I think Mazara sucks when Robert and Madrigal are up it’s hard to find a true hole in the lineup. It’s also hard to see anyone regressing, though I guess I could see where Abreu’s age kicks in a bit along with playing the field every day. Maybe TIMMY! can’t keep his BABIP around .400 again, which will really hurt his output because he never walks and still hits too many grounders (though that’s trending the rifht way). But again, this feels more around the edges than the heart of it. 

 They definitely need Kopech to come back healthy and contribute. You’ll never get me to believe in Rodon and I think his future is a lot like Reynaldo’s in that he’d be a great reliever. He just walks too many guys right now. 

 All that said, I feel like this will be the most fun season on the Southside in a very long time. And now with no Hawk around, I can watch comfortably!

 

 

 

Baseball

I’m with you, dear reader. I know you’ve come here of late, perhaps the past couple months, and all you find is anger and despair. That’s not very fun. And we could sit here and say it’s not our fault. We didn’t make the Hawks, Cubs, and Bears so frustrating, and the White Sox a bit confusing. Thank god we don’t cover the Bulls yet! There’s probably a more reserved tone we could take at times, maybe see the long view a bit more. Find the positives. Find the path to happiness again and such.

But then I read this like this.

Let me help you out with the hammer:

Trading Schwarber and Bryant would seem excessive for a team that intends to contend in 2020. The Cubs, however, are hellbent on avoiding the fates of teams such as the Phillies, Giants and Tigers, who entered down cycles after going all-in for extended periods in recent times. The Giants and Tigers are headed for their fourth straight losing seasons. The Phillies have not had a winning season since 2011.

The Cubs are three years removed from their World Series title, and their window is starting to close. Left-handers Jon Lester and José Quintana are entering the final guaranteed years of their contracts. Schwarber, Bryant (assuming he loses his service-time grievance), shortstop Javier Báez and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are under club control only through 2021, Contreras through ’22.

The clock is ticking. A recalibration is in order. Let’s not forget, the Cubs are changing managers from Joe Maddon to David Ross. If the front office does nothing, it would place unfair expectations on Ross to win with Maddon’s team, a team that was less than the sum of its parts in finishing 84-78 last season.

I don’t even know where to start. And this isn’t Ken Rosenthal’s doing, he’s just reporting what he hears. So let’s just take it in order.

First of all, the “intends to contend in 2020” is goddamn laughable when you’re out here so publicly flogging your best player, the best player you’ve had in a generation, and the best player you’re going to have in a generation. Even more so when you’ve made it clear you’re not trying to trade him for help right now. I would argue until my dying day, which the Cubs seem intent on bringing about sharpish, that this is still a team that needs more minor tinkering and moves around the edges to win the Central again, but we’ve been down that road.

It’s the “hellbent on not being the Giants, Phillies, or Tigers” that is just…I mean galling doesn’t even get there. Enraging? Exasperating? Utterly incomprehensible? Pure nonsense? You can mix and match your own adjectives and see what you come up with.

I really shouldn’t have to point out that the Giants won three World Series in five years, and their being bad now is a trade I doubt you’d find any Giants fan unhappy with. We all know there’s a price of success, especially success at that level. And the Giants certainly made their missteps afterward and maybe even during, though anything built on that level of power pitching has an itchy foundation. The Giants also had another playoff appearance two years later (you may remember it), so in total they had seven years of being a relevant team at worst. Seven, keep that number in mind.

So to the Phillies. They won a single World Series, just like the Cubs have and seem intent on only doing. Except they went to two consecutive Series, made the playoffs five straight years, and weren’t all that far from adding a second consecutive title. Yeah, the crash was hard, but the core of that team when it was all over were all in their mid-30s, something NONE of the Cubs current core will even be in 2021 or 2022. The Phils’ success came later in their careers. The oldest at that time of reckoning for the Cubs–or so they seem hellbent on telling you it will be– will be Rizzo at 32. The youngest of the Phillies was Utley at 33 when their cycle came to a close. It’s just not a clean comparison.

Right then, the Tigers, who don’t come with any of the flags that the previous three teams mentioned have. They do have two WS appearances, which the Cubs have yet to manage, but fine, no one cares when you only win a total of one game in them. The Tigers were competitive for seven season out of nine. A couple dice rolls here or there and they add a third or maybe fourth Series and maybe even win one. Again, nine seasons. Seven competitive.

The Cubs have managed five. That’s if you even include this past one, which I will because they were better than their record, or should have been. But you don’t have to, which makes it four. Five. How is five years an acceptable run at it? Especially what’s already here? And why would we assume punting on this one and maybe the next one guarantees anything beyond that, given that you still might see the Ricketts not pay whoever’s left or whoever develops into another piece in that time?

Rosenthal mentions their window closing, and uses Quintana’s and Lester’s contract situations as reasons why. Except they’ve pitched themselves to the bottom of the rotation and also their contracts ending opens up $35M+ of payroll that you could, oh I don’t know, improve the team with? I know, I’m fucking nuts and should be locked away from society for your safety. Out here with ideas like that. I mean, starting with Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Contreras, Schwarber, Hendricks, and Darvish with $35M in space to use however you see fit seems like a nice base to me, but again, the sky is plaid in my world.

The last sentence is just weird and paradoxical, because if last year’s team was less than its parts it would seem that David Ross is kind of in a sweetheart spot as the team would have an excellent chance of improving simply because of market corrections and health. Not that you’d want to count on any of that, but still.

And again, this is all horseshit, a word that’s becoming synonymous with everything Cubs right now. The Cubs aren’t trading Bryant because they think it improves anything, short-term or long. It’s because they don’t want to pay him what he will earn in two years, and they don’t even want to pay him what he will get this year in arbitration. It’s not a “strategy.” It’s simple greed. The new buildings are up, the luxury suites are in, and Ricketts doesn’t have to do much to watch the money flow in. So he’s not going to.

I recognize that Ryu at $23M a year or so is a risky investment, and he’s just about the only difference-making starter on the market right now. And I will accept a baseball trade of Contreras to find another starter, if possible. What I won’t accept is the idea of an extra $20M-$25M breaking the Cubs financially. There is nothing the Yankees have, or should have, that the Cubs don’t.

So fuck off with all of this.

Baseball

It doesn’t fit for this front office to say they put on a show to justify making the choice they wanted to make the entire time anyway. Maybe they did, but while they don’t always get it right, I would be hard-pressed to ever accuse Theo Epstein’s regime of not being thorough. I don’t think there’s any move they’ve made where they were just tossing a football around the office, never even looked at a sheet or screen, and said, “Yeah sure whatever.”

So I don’t think the two interviews for David Ross were just for the sake of doing it because they gave Joe Espada two interviews. I don’t think they were just making it seem like they were doing their due diligence while they actually just got drunk with Ross and made fun of ESPN personalities (which probably did happen in addition, to be fair). My guess would be they put Ross through a pretty heavy ringer to be comfortable giving him the manager’s job.

Does the familiarity help? Sure, of course. But that goes both ways. The only thing I’m sure of with the Cubs’ manager search is they wanted a guy who will run the team in the same vision they have for it as they put it together. That doesn’t mean they’ll be calling down to the dugout during the game and telling Ross or whoever else they might have hired what to do. But when they put together this team this winter, whatever and however that’s going to be, anyone would have a clear idea of how they want the pieces moved on the board. Whether that vision is correct or not…well, that’s what a baseball season is for.

So yeah, they probably want their bullpen used more creatively than 7th- and 8th-inning guy, and then closer. Especially as it’s likely to have at least two guys–Alzolay and Chatwood–who can be used for multiple innings. They probably want that in close games, not just mop-up situations or when there’s no other option. They want a different environment for younger players, as this one kind of stalled out for some (assuming they can actually play). They probably don’t want Albert Almora leading off ever again. They want things to definitely be tighter than they were this year.

But for anyone to say, “Oh Ross will do this or that. Or he’ll bring this or that to the clubhouse…” We don’t have any idea. He doesn’t have any idea. Neither does Theo. We can guess and they might have a stronger inkling thanks to the interviews and their relationship with him, but no one knows.

Sure, he doesn’t have any experience. But he also spent his entire career as a backup catcher, which means he spent most of his career watching from the dugout, seeing how things play out. And if he thought he wanted to be a manager at any point, which he obviously did, it was probably in that context at some point long ago.

Yes, he has a relationship with some of the players, and all of the core. Maybe that means he holds them accountable better. Maybe it means he thinks he’s still their buddy. Maybe it means he knows exactly how to get through to them and immediately get on board and bring the rest of the team with them. We don’t know, and probably won’t until July.

Maybe he sets a harsher tone. He was a great clubhouse leader as a player. I mean, everyone says so. Except that all of those things that made him so are things we never saw. We take their word for it. The volume of it makes it probably true, but how does that play as a boss? He acted as something of a conduit from the manager to the players in both Boston and Chicago, so he’s not unfamiliar. But I’m not going to take him yelling at Anthony Rizzo one time in spring training as a basis for how he’ll run an entire team for an entire season and more.

But the tangible stuff? We don’t have any idea. Can he get players to change their approach at times? A few hitting coaches have failed at it now, so why will Ross be any different? He could. He might not. We don’t know. Can Ross make Quintana discover a new pitch or new way of delivering one of the ones he has to find more success? Maybe? Who knows?

Ross will probably look like a good manager if he gets a starter to slot either right below or right in the middle of Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish and definitely above Q and Jon Lester, along with two more bullpen arms. I bet he looks pretty smart then. Oh, and Ian Happ hits out of center and Nico Hoerner is ready to take over at second by no later than Memorial Day.

All we can say for sure is that in those interviews, the outline or vision Ross had for how this team should look and be deployed lined up with what the front office sees. But we don’t know what that vision is, they’re not going to tell us. We’ll find out during the season.

My fear is that Ross’s name and esteem amongst Cubs fans and media is part of the appeal, in that he’ll buy some breathing room and time for the rest of the organization in case they have plans they know we won’t like. That’s probably some of the appeal, but not all.

But in the end, we don’t know. We’ll fill this vacuum of nothing with our thoughts and opinions and most of all our guesses because there’s nothing else to do and you can’t leave a vacuum a vacuum, duh. But you don’t know. I don’t know. They don’t know.

And by the time we do know, it could be too late. Or it could be perfect. It could be anything. That can be exciting. That can be daunting. Again, anything.