This is just going to be one of those chock-full-of-stuff columns. I’m out of opinions on everything that’s going on with the Cubs and I’m salty that relievers are starting to come off the board and there’s no mention of the Northsiders in connection with any of them.
Before I get started I have created a three minute, 10-question survey specific to my column here at Cubs Insider. At the bottom of the survey there is information on winning a $25 Amazon gift card for your participation. Drawing will be held 12/31/2018. You can answer anonymously if you want, so be honest, please and thank you. The survey results will help to make this column better and more engaging.
This is my 275th column for Cubs Insider. I think it is only fair I deliver what the readers want. Happy holidays!
Cubs Extend Pat Hughes
“A little bouncer slowly toward Bryant. He will glove it and throw to Rizzo. It’s in time! And the Chicago Cubs win the World Series!”
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) December 21, 2018
Hughes has been with the Cubs since 1996, and at this point it is fair to say he is as iconic to the fans and franchise as Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse. Hughes is the first Cubs play-by-play man to call the team winning the World Series, considering that the previous time the Cubs won it was before the invention of radio. The Cubs didn’t even begin broadcasting games until 1924.
Before you spend hours defending the suspended shortstop in the comments section, ask yourself how you would feel if your daughter was married to Russell and this was going on. The longer the Cubs continue to keep the option open that Russell could return, the worse the organization looks.
First, St. Louis traded for Paul Goldschmidt, and now they’ve signed Andrew Miller. I don’t think they’re in on Bryce Harper, but the possibility remains until he signs elsewhere. Not only are the Cardinals strong enough to challenge the Cubs and Brewers for the Central Division crown, they are actually winning the offseason PR battle. Their winter moves, combined with the unbridled support for Dexter Fowler right now, are making St. Louis look again like the “family organization” that seemed to have disappeared over the last three seasons. Yes, Miller had an off year in 2018, but he was hurt. He’s healthy now and he fortifies the left side of a bullpen that was worst in the league last year.
With Cardinals reportedly close w/ Andrew Miller, here's what their LH RP did last year:
.389 opp. OBP
.491 opp. SLG
All last in MLB, or very close.
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) December 21, 2018
Suffice to say, they needed Miller badly. Meanwhile, the Cubs’ bullpen remains unchanged from last season. Maybe Dillon Maples breaks out this year.
The Crazy Game of Baseball
It’s apparently about to get crazier. I stumbled across an article from USA Today from a little over a week ago that analyzes the evolution of the game. The first thing that jumped out at me was this quote by Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell: “It’s not going to happen,” said Counsell in regards to the ban-the-shift movement. And that should make him pretty happy. I have a difficult time remembering when Milwaukee wasn’t in some type of shift. The article mentions the overwhelmingly negative sentiment among players polled by USA TODAY Sports last summer and managers at the past Winter Meetings and suggests that that viewpoint is detached from innovative reality. Somewhere Jason Heyward and Albert Pujols are looking for psychologists.
The article also indicates we should see an increase in bullpenning, more two-way players, and more oddly-termed coaches, such as the Rays new process and analytics coach, Jonathan Erlichman. It won’t be long before assistant coaches are wearing flat-front khakis and sporting pocket protectors.
For those against the complete modernization of baseball, hope remains that much of this is just a current fad rather than a definitive trend toward radically changing the game.
Donald Trump and MLB Agreement with Cuba
The Trump administration has signaled it has problems with a business relationship in which the Cuban government profits from a US company.
The deal aims to end the trafficking of players by smugglers, situations that have led to players being kidnapped, threatened and extorted. Players would come to the United States on work visas and teams would pay the CBF, a nongovernmental organization that runs pro baseball in Cuba, for the release of their rights, according to sources. The frightening stories of Cuban defectors – from the kidnapping of Leonys Martin to José Abreu eating a fake passport – showcase perhaps the ugliest side of MLB.
Joe Kehoskie, a sports consultant and former baseball agent who has represented Cuban players, doubted that the agreement could work in practice under current US policy.
“I don’t see how this proposal could be implemented while the U.S. embargo is in place,” said ” … I don’t see any way that MLB paying the Cuban government would be allowed under current U.S. law.”
Cubs News & Notes
- Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio joked he has an offseason interview set up with the Cubs. Perhaps he will be Joe Maddon’s new bench coach.
- Maddon is very bullish on Kyle Schwarber for 2019. The manager sees big things ahead for the slugging outfielder.
- Former Cubs second baseman Daniel Murphy agreed to a two-year $24M deal with the Rockies yesterday.
- If signing Bryce Harper meant losing Anthony Rizzo three years from now, would you do it?
- Harper is allegedly not very enamored of the Phillies. That should increase the Cubs chances of signing the slugger. Or does it?
The Nationals, Cardinals, and Rockies all made significant moves yesterday. Which one will have the most impact?
The White Sox appear to be out of the Machado sweepstakes.
Baseball’s hot stove has gone from cold to basically turned off. The five richest contracts of last offseason were awarded after Jan. 24. And only one contract so far this offseason has topped $100 million.
If you need a good laugh this morning….
— SNY (@SNYtv) December 19, 2018
Friday Walk Up Song
Freedom ’90 by George Michael. As many records as Michael sold, I have always found him to be underrated and under-appreciated. Maybe it’s because I got to work with him for a short time, but he was truly a spectacular talent.
On the video’s 25th anniversary, Harper’s Bazaar asked its supermodel stars to reveal what filming the video was really like. Said Cindy Crawford, ” I think it stands the test of time and still looks amazing today.”
Michael does not appear in the video because at the time he had grown weary of being in the public eye, a move that would later affect his career in a very negative way. Instead, each model was assigned a verse to lip-sync, while for the song’s chorus, Director David Fincher envisioned the three iconic items from the 1987 music video Faith that had come to symbolize his Michael’s image: his leather jacket, a Wurlitzer jukebox, and his guitar. Those items explode in a ball of flames, except the leather jacket, at each occurrence of the word freedom during the chorus, the point being made that Michael was free from his public persona.
Freedom ’90 is number 6 on my list of Top 20 favorite videos.