The Rundown: The Cubs’ Underrated Rotation, Potential Project for Beer Geeks, Contract Craziness, Trump
Top Of The First
I would like to thank Evan Altman for the opportunity he has given me as a writer with Cubs Insider. I have been offered a consultancy position based on the strength of my writing abilities and it is directly related to my work here. Most bloggers do not get paid for contributing. It is an exercise in passion and semi-opinionated expression and not much else. But doing something you love sometimes opens the door to serendipity, as in my case. Now I want to pay it forward and you’ll see how a little further into today’s Rundown.
The Underrated Chicago Cubs Pitching Staff
The New York Mets have baseball’s best pitching staff and it’s not even close. But the Cubs staff is sneaky good too.
In 2015 the Cubs finished first in FIP, second in strikeout rate, and third in ERA. With the additions of John Lackey and Adam Warren the team is even better on paper this season. True, Jake Arrieta’s stats were right out of a video game last year (22-6, 1.77 ERA, 238 strike outs in 229 innings with only 48 walks and 10 home runs allowed) and though I think regression is likely it is not necessarily a given.
But it is the depth of the Cubs rotation that makes it so formidable. Jon Lester is as dependable as any starter in baseball. I know he was 11-12 last season but pitcher wins mean next to nothing. John Lackey still strikes out a batter an inning and finished ninth in Cy Young voting last season. Kyle Hendricks was dominant after late season adjustments. Of the candidates vying for rotation spots this year, all project to a sub-1.22 WHIP. If you don’t put guys on base, you tend to give up less runs.
I know there are sexier staffs out there — Cleveland, Tampa and San Francisco come to mind — but the Cubs pitchers are incredibly proficient at their jobs. To many, proficient means “just not dominating.” Don’t be that guy (or gal). The Cubs have a dominating staff, arguably second best in all of baseball.
Beer Geeks and Baseball
You like baseball. You love craft beer and chances are you discover a life-changing brew at least three times a year. You shop thrift instead of retail. Your eclectic taste in undiscovered music is so under-the-radar that even indiephiles have no clue as to what you listen to. Your ego identifies you as an enthusiast but to the rest of the world you’re a snob, and that somehow validates everything you stand for. You are part of the millennial culture that takes joy in discovering things that nobody else likes. Jake Arrieta is your spirit animal.
You belong to a fascinating culture. And now Major League Baseball wants to be your drinking buddy.
One of my favorite shows is Beer Geeks, created and produced by Page Productions, the same nice people that gave the world Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It’s not on television yet, but it is available online and Beer Geeks is coming to Jivewired TV when it launches later this year.
Beer geek chic has it’s own space within the confines of Major League Baseball. It’s true. Every ballpark now boasts a microbrew and craft selections, usually labels that are provided by a local brewery. Wrigley Field offers Goose Island products — and I am sure if you are a hophead or craft enthusiast you are probably thinking “soooo not craft beer” — while some stadiums offer some truly under-the-radar selections. Sadly, Wrigley Field pales in comparison to U.S. Cellular when it comes to diversified craft options.
I’m not really a craft beer guy. I suppose I lean toward mid-size retail microbreweries like New Glarus or an occasional Harpoon, but I realize the market for craft beer and the market for baseball stuff is pretty massive. So we are hoping to marry Beer Geeks and baseball for future episodes. The synergy is too perfect.
If we can pull it off and get MLB approval, I’d love to pursue something here at Cubs Insider that allows readers a chance to participate in the filming at a stadium of their choice. This is my “pay it forward” project. I am not exactly sure how to do this logistically but I have a few ideas. There is, however, a catch. Maybe two. As I pare down my checklist to get closer to making this a reality, I’ll share details in future columns.
It is important to note that MLB is very protective of their product and even more protective of their brand so there is a lot of work and even more negotiating ahead. But there is viability here and a lot of inertia. Baseball nerds and craft beer nerds are my favorite nerds. I can’t see how this wouldn’t be anything less than a grand slam, pardon the deplorable pun, please and thank you.
Passion projects are often the least profitable. But this one may have legs. Stay tuned.
Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor
The Baltimore Orioles signed Yovani Gallardo to a three-year deal. Now there is an issue with his medicals. Have we heard this story before? Indeed the Orioles have backed out of three or four deals in the past, including the highly-publicized Grant Balfour signing. At some point it has to become embarrassing. I’m not a GM, but I’d have the medicals in line before I offered any contract. Just sayin’.
Jimmy Rollins signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training.
Jose Bautista threw out a contract number, allegedly $150M over five years. Will the Blue Jays or anybody else pay it?
Dexter Fowler is still unsigned. It has become nearly excruciating to watch this unfold. I am starting to wonder if Fowler is a little too laid back in his pursuit of employment. He makes so much sense for a number of teams. Maybe we should start a GoFundMe for the former Cubs CF. He’d have to do better than Kanye, right?
Cliff Lee is not expected to pitch this year. Lee was reportedly looking for a perfect fit scenario, Perhaps it would have helped Lee land that kind of contract if he had thrown for even one front office or scout.
Harold Reynolds was taking hockey instruction from Kevin Weekes on MLB Hot Stove today. This is traditionally the time of the year when Hot Stove jumps the shark and today was that benchmark for 2016. Interestingly, it was only two seasons ago that Reynolds theorized that Canadians lack the ability to catch a baseball.
Pete Rose has opened the Hit King Baseball Academy in Houston, TX. I smell franchise opportunities here. Also, and I apologize, but when I hear Hit King Baseball Academy my mind immediately races to Homer Simpson as Mr. Plow.
I would nominate Pete Rose as baseball’s Most Interesting Man, but Daniel Norris is the runaway favorite for that title and Rose isn’t even a close second.
It ain’t happening: There was a rumored three-way trade involving the Blue Jays, Reds and Angels with Jay Bruce headed to the Blue Jays, Michael Saunders going to Anaheim and Angels prospects going to Cincinnati. Talks are dead according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, maybe because the Angels legitimately have no prospects.
Bottom Of The Ninth
I really didn’t want to mention the Donald Trump/Chicago Cubs tiff that broke on social media yesterday because I just prefer to avoid political conversation in this forum. So I won’t link it as I am guessing everyone here knows how to use a search engine. I really don’t know why some people do the things they do. I’ve met Donald Trump and he is really nothing like the insane demagogue he portrays himself as publicly. Egomaniacal, yes. But this?
The election process in 2016 is all about grabbing headlines no matter how sensationalized the attempt. Calling individuals out publicly sets a scary precedent, even if it is a semi-public person or, as in this case, a family. I watch a lot of World War I and World War II documentaries and I see historical parallels which I will also not specifically reference. I’ll say no more.