The Rundown: Tank You Very Little, Rizzo’s Leadership, Darvish Debuts
Nine games into the Cactus League season and the Cubs are already cruising through their schedule like they’re playing a video game. All that’s left to do is save the princess. They are 7-2 after yesterday’s win and, though spring training games mean absolutely nothing, it just seems too easy for the Cubs right now. Which makes me wonder about the upcoming season.
If there is no shame in tanking and losing 100-plus games, how many teams will actually win 100-plus games this year? In the NL Central, the Reds and the Pirates don’t look like they will win much. The Cardinals and Brewers look like 80-85 win teams and with tanking teams in both the NL West and NL East it’s feasible that one or all of the Nationals, Dodgers, and Cubs could notch triple-digit wins this season, especially if 20 percent of the top 50 free agents remain unsigned.
In 2000, Bud Selig said “Every fan has to have hope and faith. If you remove hope and faith from the mind of a fan, you destroy the fabric of the sport.” Is tanking good for the game and its fans? Absolutely not.
The notion that the Cubs tanked when Theo Epstein took over the team is not entirely correct. Many of those early Epstein-era teams were at least somewhat competitive until the trade deadlines, when the team moved expiring and/or declining assets to contenders in speculation trades. We’re witnessing a different type of tank now, where teams are beginning each season with no intent to even compete, let alone win.
That may hinder those strategies. High draft picks are not a guaranteed precursor to winning the World Series. The Cubs didn’t just maximize the performance of flippable players, they did just as well in trading for young players such as Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arrieta while also drafting Kris Bryant, Ian Happ, and Kyle Schwarber. Despite popular belief, the Cubs did not sign Edwin Jackson nor trade for Ian Stewart with the sole intention of losing.
Deadline deals in the first years of the Cubs rebuild included:
- 2012 – Hendricks for Ryan Dempster
- 2013 – Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman; Carl Edwards, Jr and Justin Grimm for Matt Garza.
- 2014 – Russell for Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija
You also have to consider the trade of Andrew Cashner for Anthony Rizzo in January of 2012.
League attendance last season declined for the third consecutive season, to its lowest level since 2002 and down 8.6 percent from the record high in 2007. If Rob Manfred truly wants to sell the game to a younger generation, using a number of pace-of-play objectives to create interest, how can he look the other way when at least one-third of the league — if not more — 82344464has no chance to win? Shaving three minutes per game isn’t going to increase attendance the way that league-wide competitive baseball will.
Cubs News & Notes
Anthony Rizzo is really emerging as the team’s leader. Rizzo’s hallmarks with the Cubs have always been amazing consistency on the field and admirable leadership off it but it seems that this season he is really taking a step up.
Yu Darvish will make his Cubs debut today against the Dodgers. The new Cubs’ starter was supposed to pitch in a spring game last Thursday, but the Cubs were worried about dehydration, as Darvish had been battling stomach problems for several days prior.
I am not comfortable with Jon Lester’s new strategy of throwing to first. The “Jordan-to-Pippen Bounce Pass” will give me anxiety all season long and I dread seeing it in the playoffs. Lester has been elite or near-elite for most of his career despite his yips. Just let him pitch.
Tommy La Stella took an executive’s parking spot yesterday and paid a big price for it.
Maddon on front office taking La Stella's uniform and replacing with khakis: "I guess the pants were tight in a crucial area so he had to take scissors to them."
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) March 5, 2018
How About That!
The Angels have announced plans to alter the dimensions at Angel Stadium, and according to MLB’s Statcast technology those alterations could increase the home run output in 2018 and beyond by about 8.5 percent.
Ichiro is nearing a return to the Seattle Mariners. The team is working out the details of a one-year contract with the 44-year-old outfielder.
The Cardinals agreed to a six-year contract extension with shortstop Paul DeJong, the largest such deal ever for a player with less than a year of service time.
Outfielders Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana of the Brewers continue to draw trade interest.
Future Cubs OF Bryce Harper hit his first home run of the spring yesterday.
Hot Takes & Syrup
- Pardon my hot take: Tommy Pham feels underappreciated by the Cardinals after his breakout season in 2017. The team renewed the outfielder’s contract at a salary of $570,000 for the 2018 season. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, the Cardinals actually offered Pham a two-year contract, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old refused the deal, claiming he “wouldn’t sell himself short like that.” Pham will be a 34-year-old free agent after the 2021 season. That should work out well for him.
- Pardon this obligatory hot take: Gotham looks to Return of the Dark Knight to save the Mets’ season.
- Pardon this obvious hot take: San Diego 1B Eric Hosmer believes there is something wrong wth free agency. Hosmer recently signed an 8/$144M deal with the Padres.
- Pardon this head-scratching hot take: Free agent 2B Neil Walker can’t seem to generate more than a minor league contract, even though the Brewers will start the season with the same infield that was so bad last year that the team actually traded for Walker.
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Delusional Waste by SPC ECO. Tanking is a bad thing.