It’s easy to romanticize baseball as a child’s game played by men, but that soft-focus schtick goes out the window when those men make millions and their employers make billions. Major League Baseball is a business, one that aims to generate as much collective revenue as possible, and sometimes we are reminded of that reality.
This winter has made Cubs players and fans acutely aware of just how much of a business the game really is, with the team ratcheting down the budget in a presumed attempt to save tens of millions in revenue sharing and tax penalties. No new players are being signed, at least not to guaranteed MLB deals, and existing players have seen hopes for extensions disappear like so many cup-snakes in the bleachers.
One of those is Anthony Rizzo, whose attempts to talk about a new deal were rebuffed by Cubs brass this winter. Jed Hoyer went on to explain that “conceptual talks” had taken place and that the two sides “were pretty far apart in terms of length,” but that they still hoped to find a way to make Rizzo a Cub forever.
Rizzo himself had remained silent on the topic, as has been the case with the rest of the Cubs players during their offseason. But now that they’re coming back to Chicago for Cubs Convention this weekend, media availability leads to a bevvy of quotes.
Speaking at a community service event Thursday, Rizzo declined to offer any commentary on his non-existent extension, saying only that he’ll keep it “in house.” He did, however, lament the “cutthroat” nature of a business that has the Cubs “talking about trading the MVP of the league a couple years ago.” That would be Kris Bryant, just in case you hadn’t figured it out.
Anthony Rizzo said he’ll keep his reaction to not getting an extension this off season ‘in-house.’ Called the business end of baseball as ‘cut throat’ as ever. An example: “We’re talking about trading the MVP of the league a couple years ago.”
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) January 16, 2020
I was not there when Rizzo made these comments to members of the Chicago media, so I want to be careful to note that his tone and body language could have been far more upbeat than his words. But just taking his quotes at face value makes it seem as though he’s in the same boat as legions of fans who’re upset about the way the offseason has progressed.
While a lot can change in a very short period of time, we’re now less than a month away from spring training report dates and the Cubs have done literally nothing to make the team better. I mean, sure, there are a few guys on minors deals who could very well bounce back and have an impact. Unless you’re able to view everything from Theo Epstein’s perspective with all the context available to him, though, it’s easy to see how players would be upset.
Far be it for me to tell anyone in the front office how to do their job, since many readers have told me I’m far too dumb to do such a thing, but it sure seems like it’d be a good idea to sit down with some of the stars and lay things out. If extensions are off the table due to budget restrictions, tell them that those conversations can be picked up later in the season. Maybe it’s a matter of letting them know that no new money can be added until next year, I don’t know.
What I do know is that it’s not a great look to have your captain essentially bad-mouthing the team’s moves on the eve of Cubs Convention. That’s not on Rizzo, it’s on the Cubs.