The Rundown: CubsCon 2020 Opens Tonight, Fallout Continues in Wake of Astros Scandal, Trout Accused of Using HGH

I used to book bands at SXSW in Austin, TX every March, and it was right around this time of year that I would start finalizing deals with the venues on Sixth Street while making sure my bands got the slots that afforded them the most industry attention. I’d kick off my annual mid-January ritual with a nod to the quote I have had hanging in my office for a number of years:

“Scattered among these things are reminders that sound once existed: a metronome, a drumming pad, a guitar pick, a trumpet mouthpiece, a music stand, a tuning fork, a block of rosin…The older instruments bear the marks of those who have already played them, the scuffs and bites and dents that are the mysterious scars of sound. In their midst the house hangs, tenuous and enveloping, a sounding board waiting to be struck.” – Geoffrey O’Brien

That imagery certainly applies to the 2020 version of the Chicago Cubs.

Usually when Cubs Convention kicks off, it’s a reminder that the hot stove has basically ended and the team is ready to get the new season started. After all, pitchers and catchers report in 25 days, one would think most of the heavy lifting on roster construction would be done by now. That said, the Cubs may be launching into 2020 by simply pulling up the tarps and dusting off the artifacts they put into storage last October.

Will doing nothing be enough? David Ross certainly thinks so.

“It’s an exciting time to be [the] Cubs manager because there’s a lot of talent,” Ross said yesterday. “There’s no ceiling for this team. I really think this team can win the World Series. That’s the way I’m looking at things.”

If anything, Cubs players should be champing at the bit after two disappointing seasons, at least when compared to their magnificent run from 2015-17. They’ll have a lot to prove, not just to the fans or the front office that remains married — by hook or by crook — to its core, but also to themselves.

“We want to win,” Anthony Rizzo added. “I think winning will take care of every single question that has popped up the last couple years, because we haven’t won. It’s on us to get the culture back, get the winning mentality back. Not making the playoffs last year was not fun. It’s not easy to win, but we have the right people to do it.”

The mood during tonight’s opening ceremony should be ravenous to say the least, but for different reasons than years past. Questions from fans about the lack of player movement for a second consecutive season will certainly demand transparency from key members of the organization. It should be a weekend that’s revelatory and engaging. Than again, maybe I’m being too optimistic.

As for me, I’m looking forward to meeting my peers at Lizzie McNeill’s tonight. Though I don’t know many of the other Cubs bloggers personally, I certainly enjoy their work.

While at SXSW, all of the talent providers like myself used to hang out at Guero’s Taco Bar or Threadgill’s, where we would talk about the ups and downs of the music business. Occasionally we’d run into performers that included Beck, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, or Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band, and talk shop. One year I hung out with Ryan Gosling and I didn’t know who he was until I came home and showed the girls my pictures from the trip. I’ll tell you about that sometime, it’s actually an hilarious story.

I’m hoping a similar vibe exists tonight, even for an awkward introvert like myself.

Cubs News & Notes

Friday Stove

Alyssa Nakken, a former softball star at Sacramento State, will join the Giants coaching staff as the first female full-time assistant in Major League Baseball history.

The fallout from the Astros’ sign stealing scandal has resulted in the firing of Mets manager Carlos Beltrán, who was originally hired about two weeks before Ken Rosenthal broke the original story.

New York’s managerial opening could be filled by Eduardo Perez, who was a finalist before Beltrán was hired.

The Red Sox had every intention of sticking with Álex Cora despite an ongoing investigation into the team’s alleged rules infractions, but eventually decided it had no choice but to let him go.

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger said that the Astros’ cheating scandal has “completely ruined baseball.”

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman is expected to re-sign with the Nationals any day now.

On Deck

Baseball social media was a hot mess yesterday. Recapping:

  1. The son of former MLB infielder Scott Brosius contested on Instagram the league has known for two years that Mike Trout has been using HGH, and a few hours later issued a retraction before deleting his account;
  2. ESPN announcer Jessica Mendoza, who also works in the Mets’ front office, ripped on Mike Fiers for being a whistleblower and then she sort of issued a retraction;
  3. José Altuve was accused of wearing a wire by someone claiming to be Beltrán’s, though ESPN’s Marly Rivera tweeted that the Beltrán family doesn’t know this person.
  4. Beltrán’s niece is allegedly a burner account for a player, per Sheffield Jr. Another person alleged that the account is a burner for Incarcerated Bob, a purported Vegas insider who reported that MLB was switching back to non-juiced balls for the postseason.
  5. Several MLB players alluded to the Altuve rumor on Twitter.
  6. MLB said no evidence exists to back the Altuve rumors.

Apropos of Nothing

In 2015 I booked 217 bands at SXSW. It nearly killed me and I operated at a loss of about $4200 for the week, yet I still miss it a great deal. If you’ve ever seen the movie This is 40, I was Paul Rudd’s character, greasing on credit cards to survive, building enormous debt, and burning through what little savings I had. I’d do it all over again if I could, which is the kind of crazy that makes legends of some and hot disasters of most others.

Extra Innings

I already miss this guy. Best of luck in Baltimore, Taylor Davis.

They Said It

  • “This is like home to me and my wife and my family. But this is a business. This is as cutthroat as ever now. We’re talking about trading the MVP of the league a couple years ago [Bryant], who has done a lot for this franchise. It’s just a whole different ball game we’re looking at now.” – Anthony Rizzo
  • “I haven’t really thought about a succession plan. We got a couple more years of Theo under contract. He may want to stay at the end of that. He may not. I don’t know. We haven’t really crossed that bridge.” – Tom Ricketts
  • “It’s so funny when people say Tom is trying to duck the media or the fans because he walks the ballpark every single game. He has to be one of the most available owners in the league to our fans, and he’ll be walking around at the convention.” – Laura Ricketts

Friday Walk Up Song

Lucky Now by Ryan Adams – Baseball is almost here, and love or hate the way this offseason has played out, you can’t help but feel excited. The days are getting longer, the sun a little warmer, and hope springs eternal.

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