The Rundown: Recapping CubsCon, Cubs-Cardinals Rivalry Erupts, Case For Signing Bryce Harper, Sweet Swing of Ernie Banks

Long post today, lots to recap.

Apparently all it takes is a three-day love fest to change the offseason vibe 180 degrees. Cubs fans no longer want to burn the offices at Clark & Addison to the ground and are back in love with the organization. A big assist is owed to Kris Bryant, who called St. Louis a boring city while simultaneously breaking Twitter’s MLB feed for about a day and a half. Yadier Molina is owed an assist of his own.

Side note to Milwaukee fans: the Cubs and Brewers do not have a rivalry that can touch the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. Also, St. Louis fans have been infiltrating Wrigley Field for seven decades, so please stop crying about Cubs fans who come to Brew City, buy the tickets you willingly sell them through ticket brokers, and proceed to turn Miller Park into a sea of Cubbie blue.

The rivalry erupted into the social media stratosphere during the Late Night With Ryan Dempster feature at CubsCon. Bryant was asked by Dempster about hip-hop artist Nelly recruiting Bryce Harper. Though he was born in Austin, TX, Nelly calls St. Louis his hometown, so naturally the Cardinals are awarded his allegiance.

“[Nelly] was trying to work the magic on Bryce [Harper],” Bryant joked. “Who would want to play in St. Louis? It’s so boring. I always get asked, ‘Where do you like to play, where do you not like to play?’ And St. Louis is a place I don’t like to play.”

Molina was incredibly butt-hurt by Bryant’s opinion, but then again, when isn’t he hemorrhoidal about something?

Marcell Ozuna also chimed in with a comment directed at Bryant. The outfielder is a free agent after this season so we’ll see what he thinks about playing in St. Louis next winter. And I think it’s safe to assume Harper won’t be roaming right field in home whites at Busch Stadium for the next 10 years. It’s also interesting to note that on Friday, Bryant reiterated the team’s company line regarding Harper.

“He’s not signing here,” said the Cubs’ third baseman.

Where, at the team’s annual fan fest? Good to note, Kris.

Despite everything we’ve heard from the Cubs, I still think they have a legitimate shot to sign Harper. Let me break it down for you, and I apologize for getting all Hot Take Tommy from Tinley Park (long time listener, first time caller) on you:

I still don’t think the Cubs need Harper, though he would provide a great marketing opportunity for a new network. And as long as he remains available, I don’t think you can count Theo Epstein out. The Cubs president of baseball operations would love to sign the slugging right fielder, according to a number of baseball insiders. I’d say it will come down to the Nationals, Phillies, and Cubs, with the White Sox likely signing Manny Machado.

What a coup that would be for the city of Chicago. Cardinals fans would seethe in envy, though I’m sure Epstein would be more than happy to send Brandon Kintzler their way as a peace offering.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Cardinals pitcher John Brebbia, who has held Bryant hitless in four at-bats, said the Cubs’ third basemen could “cry me a river” in response to Bryant’s remarks about St. Louis. If the hottest take of this winter is Brebbia goes viral, consider this offseason a success.
  • Yu Darvish is throwing pain-free and is very excited about the upcoming season.
  • Zobrist is a self-aware 37-year-old utility man who has one year and $12.5 million left on his contract, so it makes sense he’s been following trade rumors that mention his name (subscription to The Athletic required). “I’m one of the pawns,” Zobrist said while talking to reporters Saturday. “You kind of recognize where you’re at as a player and then you own it. I don’t have a no-trade clause at this point, so I could be traded. But I’m not going to give it too much thought. I’m thinking about preparing myself for the upcoming season and connecting with my teammates.”
  • Javier Baez admitted that the pressure of possibly winning the National League MVP Award got to him a little bit toward the end of last season. He finished the final week with no homers, 1 RBI, 11 whiffs in 8 games and a .607 OPS, as the Cubs watched their division lead slip away.
  • Epstein believes that Joe Maddon will continue to manage the team after the 2019 season. “My bet is that it goes extraordinarily well with Joe and the whole group and that he’s here for a long time to come,” Epstein said.
  • Somehow, Epstein made it through an entire hour-long panel on Saturday facing somewhere around 20 questions from fans without anybody bringing up Harper by name.
  • Epstein used a dining metaphor to describe his desire to acquire a premium free agent this winter and says the organization still believes it can find improvement from its current roster.
  • The Cubs feel an urgency to develop more homegrown pitching. Throughout the organization, velocity numbers have been down in comparison to the rest of baseball.
  • Addison Russell’s continued tenure with the team is a tentative proposition at best, but it was nice to hear that the front office consulted Melisa Reidy for her input regarding her ex-husband’s future with the organization. “I was engaged with Melisa Russell, the victim, who deserves our support every bit as much if not more than Addison given the circumstances,” Epstein said, “and she was supportive of our decision as long as it was truly a conditional second chance. She felt like this was Addison’s best chance to get his life in order.”
  • As far as Russell’s teammates, Bryant said it best this weekend:

Monday Stove

Donald Trump wants Curt Schilling in the Hall of Fame. Of course he does. I don’t think Schilling has a chance, but Hall of Fame announcements come Tuesday.

The White Sox and Dodgers have discussed a trade involving Los Angeles outfielder Joc Pederson.

The Brewers have considered re-signing Mike Moustakas. The Padres are also interested in the veteran third baseman.

Brewers GM David Stearns really likes his core group of starting pitchers.

According to reports, the Yankees have agreed to trade right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray to the Reds in exchange for infield prospect Shed Long and a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft, though the trade has yet to be finalized.

Many Cardinals contracts, including Paul Goldschmidt’s, are up at the end of the 2019 season. That means this team, which many in the St. Louis organization believe is good enough to compete for a World Series, may have but one shot as it is currently constructed.

Dexter Fowler participated in his first Cardinals’ fan fest this weekend and said he is on board for the 2019 season after having productive offseason meetings with John Mozeliak and manager Mike Shildt. Fowler suffered through his worst season as a pro in 2018.

Nashville businessman John Loar has put together an advisory board with the intent of bringing a major league baseball franchise to the city.

Harper was incredibly impressed with Tony Romo’s ability to predict plays during the AFC Championship game yesterday.

Extra Innings

Other than abnormally large hands, Ernie Banks may have been the least imposing player to ever hit 500+ home runs in his career. He was 6’1″ and 180 pounds for most of his playing career. By comparison, Cal Ripken Jr. was 6’4″ and played north of 200 pounds throughout his career.

But consider the six years from 1955 to 1960:

Considering his build, Banks may have had the most technically perfect power swing in all of baseball.

Monday Walk Up Song

Willie, Mickey & the Duke (Talking Baseball) by Terry Cashman. Fun weekend to follow Cubs baseball on social media.

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