The Rundown: Fans’ Attachment to Front Offices, Kris Bryant and Cole Hamels Anxious to Get Started, Mets GM Pushes for Executive Home Run Derby
Sometimes I think that baseball fans have become a little too attached to their favorite front offices. So in that respect, it’s nice to see Cubs fans pressing Theo Epstein a little this winter. The Cubs have a few question marks right now and they’re pretty much the same each year, or so it seems.
- They still need a true leadoff hitter
- The bullpen needs the same type of length the everyday lineup sports
- A backup catcher with the experience to handle a veteran rotation would be nice
- They haven’t been able to develop any quality big league pitchers
- Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, anyone?
It’s been an especially trying offseason for Epstein and Jed Hoyer because of their decision to retain Addison Russell. I suppose we can add the fact that Joe Maddon is entering his walk year as the team’s manager but that’s been addressed, and it seems like all parties are on the same page entering spring training.
This despite the shade Maddon’s son threw at the Cubs in December.
I just wish Joseph felt comfortable expressing his thoughts more clearly. pic.twitter.com/EpXd8Gu8nS
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) December 3, 2018
For the most part, however, Cubs fans have trusted almost every word that comes out of Epstein’s mouth since he bolted the Red Sox for the biggest gentrification project in Lake View – rebuilding the entire Cubs organization. If you take a look at the state of the franchise from top to bottom, the 2011 version of the Cubs seems almost unrecognizable. Epstein was the preeminent executive in baseball when the Cubs hired him, and he still may be.
Further, he essentially broke the mold for the stereotypical big man on campus for major league teams. Most teams now employ young, analytics-driven front office executives who manage all facets of the organization to some degree. That includes their direct reports, many of whom have similar backgrounds. Indeed, the typical MLB front office boasts an executive hierarchy that would make many governments or billion dollar corporations jealous. And that makes sense because baseball is a $10 billion business now.
With the unsettling news that the player/owner divide is expanding rapidly, it seems that, for the most part, front offices remain devoid of criticism on that front. They’re an extension of ownership, no doubt, but that perception seems to be lacking in the battles being waged with respect to the future of the game.
We view our front offices as rock stars. As fans have grasped the analytics side of baseball, general managers have become as idolized as some of the best players in the game. The image that our front offices may employ a type of slimeball similar to Matthew Lillard’s character in Trouble With the Curve doesn’t exist. Fantasy baseball is as big as the game itself and those of us that play fancy ourselves as the true heroes of today’s game: the guys that make all the decisions.
Baseball looks to be headed for its first work stoppage since 1994-95, when the game went into forced hibernation for 232 days, causing the cancellation of 938 games plus the 1994 playoffs and World Series. It took a judge’s ruling to force the players to go back to work and for the owners to allow that to happen. As with every work stoppage, the players union and ownership bore the brunt of fan criticism while front offices seemed to reside far away from the battlefield.
When we speak of collusion among ownership, we’re really talking about the guys that make all the operational decisions. They’re in the trenches, yet they take none of the shrapnel. Back in ’94, most GMs were of the old-school variety, ex-players or baseball lifers that worked their way up through the coaching ranks and into the front office. Dallas Green is a prototype of the GM that we most recognize from that era. But those dinosaurs died off a long time ago. They escaped our wrath because, frankly, we were not as invested in their day-to-day operations back then as we are with modern front offices.
There’s a great line in the movie The Right Stuff: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.” Without players, there’s no baseball. It would seem to me, particularly in this age of news overload and social media, that owners and executives would do more to appease players. The impending work stoppage, at least as I see it, is on the individuals entrusted to run organizations as much as it is the owners.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs took a look at former closer Drew Storen this winter. Storen was injured and didn’t play in 2018.
- Jeff Burdick would like to see the team conduct a deeper review toward the updating of development approaches in order to improve the position-player talent pipeline.
- As publications release their top prospects lists, the Cubs organization has been largely neglected.
- Albert Almora Jr. has plenty of room to grow as a big league hitter and hopes a new perspective can help him get to the next level.
- Kris Bryant really wants a chance to redeem himself. The slugging third baseman has his least productive season last year thanks to shoulder injuries.
- Ryan Davis looks at five Cubs players who could benefit by being traded, including Russell.
- On paper, the Cubs have as good a team as any other MLB club and are built for a 2019 championship.
- Tab Bamford takes a look at the ongoing influence of the 1988 Cubs in today’s game.
- Cole Hamels has been working to continue the success he had after being traded to the Cubs last season.
In '18, Cole Hamels worked to correct landing open & setting off negative chain reaction. With Cubs, things started to sync up again. CH: "That's what I've been focused on this offseason."
Two things jump out from '18: Steady rise in FB velo and jump in horizontal release point. pic.twitter.com/DN7oOtbihF
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) January 30, 2019
Darius Rucker of Hootie & The Blowfish predicts the Reds will emerge as 2019 champions. Someone should remove the grip he has on Thom Brennaman’s Kool-Aid.
Former Giants manager Frank Robinson, the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues, is in failing health. Robinson was the first African-American manager in the National League and the first to manage in both leagues. He has been dealing with health problems for months and last appeared at a major baseball event in July, when he traveled to Washington, DC, to take part in All-Star Game festivities.
Machado’s timeline to decide on where he wants to play has left the Phillies and White Sox, and to some extent, the Yankees, in free agency limbo. The 26-year-old shortstop is said to be the preferred free agent for each of those teams.
Former Padres draft pick Chris Nunn is getting a second chance at a major league career thanks to a viral video posted on Flatground App, a new platform designed by the engineer behind the Pitching Ninja Twitter account.
Greg Holland signed a one-year deal to pitch for the Diamondbacks.
Yasiel Puig is happy in Cincinnati. The Reds acquired the slugging outfielder, along with Matt Kemp and Alex Wood, from the Dodgers in the biggest trade of the offseason.
Danny Farquhar hopes to resume his playing career with the White Sox. The reliever nearly lost his life at Guaranteed Rate Field on April 20 last year when he suffered a brain hemorrhage after pitching an inning of relief.
Major league teams have incorporated the lessons from sabermetrics about the aging curve and are acting accordingly. That’s the company line regarding free agency this year.
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has challenged his fellow GMs to a home run derby. Who wants to see Hoyer take a few cuts? We already know Epstein can go yard on Ryan Dempster.
Almost ready for #SpringTraining. Who wants to have some fun?! pic.twitter.com/qLZ11oyScg
— Brodie Van Wagenen (@GMBVW) January 30, 2019
Peter Moylan is pissed and he wants everybody to know why.
Hows my offseason going? This guy had a lifetime ban and still signed before me!!! #wtf https://t.co/NhzCAiePbT
— Peter Moylan (@PeterMoylan) January 30, 2019
Thursday Walk Up Song
The Weight by The Band featuring the Staple Singers. What a perfect version of this song. Rick Danko is spot on and Mavis Staple’s groan at 1:24 is goosebump-inducing. But the best part of the song is Levon Helm.