The Rundown: Kipnis Excited For Opportunity, Bryant Holds Court, Hendricks Praises Ross, Sunday Baseball Notes

I’m probably not in the majority, but I love that the Cubs are going to give Jason Kipnis every chance to win the starting second base job. I know everybody wants to see Nico Hoerner get his shot, and he will as long as he keeps progressing in his development, but Kipnis could be an underrated and savvy signing.

The first thing a lot of Cubs fans need to do is to stop comparing him to Daniel Descalso, who was never signed to be a starter. Statistically speaking, Kipnis is in another stratosphere, having hit 70 home runs over the last four seasons while earning  two American League All-Star selections. Descalso has 48 home runs in his 10-year career as a utility infielder. Comparisons are demeritorious at best. My dad would say “That’s French for horseshit.”

And before you write Kipnis off as over the hill, he’ll be just 33 years old in April, which is hardly ancient even though baseball’s ecosystem holds that anyone over 30 is considered to be playing on the back nine. And though he signed a minor league deal, the former Indians second baseman is has a good shot to start the season at the major league level, and could very well be Chicago’s starting second baseman on Opening Day, March 26 in Milwaukee.

As far as Hoerner, who performed more than admirably after a surprise September call-up last season, it’s worth pointing out that he has only 339 minor league minor league at-bats under his belt. Right now he’s still a diamond in the rough, and the last thing the Cubs want to do is have him fail often enough against baseball’s top pitchers that he needs to be sent down midseason. Both Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ struggled as their weaknesses were exposed and bad habits developed. That’s the last thing anybody in the front office wants to see happen to Hoerner.

The best possible scenario would be for Hoerner to continue developing and Kipnis to have a bit of a comeback. If the Cubs are competitive and playoff-bound in 2020, and they should be, Kipnis will play a big part. If the team stumbles or stalls, Theo Epstein has a decent (and cheap) asset to flip at the trade deadline.

“I don’t have to hate the ‘Go Cubs Go’ song anymore,” Kipnis said yesterday. “I don’t have to cringe at looking at all these championship banners. It’s fun. It’s really exciting to be on this side. I’m going to enjoy it.”

Cubs News & Notes

Apropos of Nothing

Have you ever wanted to cover the Cubs as a beat writer for a major newspaper like the Chicago Sun-Times? Here’s your chance. I’d throw my hat in the ring if I wasn’t currently sick. Sigh…always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I do think our own Evan Altman would make an excellent candidate, however.

Updates On Nine

  1. Tony Fernández, one of the greatest players in the history of the Blue Jays’ organization, passed away yesterday according to multiple reports. The five-time All-Star had dealt with polycystic kidney disease since 2017, and had been in critical condition after suffering a stroke earlier this month. Fernández was 57.
  2. Expectations in Boston for new Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo are extremely high, which I suppose is a byproduct of being traded for Mookie Betts. Verdugo indicated he’s up for the challenge and said he feels no pressure at all. Fort Myers, FL is a long way from Fenway park, son.
  3. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred weighed in yesterday as to why Astros players weren’t punished for their role in the team’s sign stealing scandal. In an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech, Manfred explained that player discipline likely would have resulted in a grievance filing from the MLB Players Association because former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow didn’t relay a 2017 memo outlining the league’s updated policy on technology use during games.
  4. New Astros manager Dusty Baker hopes the league will do something to prevent any type of physical retaliation against his players this season. “I’m depending on the league to try to put a stop to this seemingly premeditated retaliation that I’m hearing about,” Baker said, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan. “And in most instances in life, you get kind of reprimanded when you have premeditated anything. I’m just hoping that the league puts a stop to this before somebody gets hurt.”
  5. Houston shortstop Carlos Correa indicated that former teammate Mike Fiers is a bit of a hypocrite and owes an apology to the team. “Did you see the smile that he had when he got that ring at Minute Maid (Park),” the shortstop said. “Did you see when he was celebrating when we won the championship? He was part of the team. He didn’t say anything about it back then. He definitely should apologize as well.” Every time an Astros’ player opens his mouth, it digs that hole a little deeper. I have no idea how Houston fans tolerate the organization’s constant deflection.
  6. Ten years ago, the Royals made Gardner Edgerton High School outfielder Bubba Starling their first pick in the minor league draft and gave the young star a $7.5 million signing bonus, a dream come true for a kid who grew up a Kansas City fan. Starling finally reached the majors last year and still struggles to live up to the hype, though he is finally at peace with those expectations after years of struggles.
  7. Major League Baseball plans to increase minor-league salaries in 2021, though even with the much needed kick, most players will continue to earn salaries below the poverty line. Players at rookie and short-season levels will see their minimum weekly pay raised from $290 to $400, and players at Class A will go from $290 to $500. Double-A salaries will jump from $350 to $600, and Triple-A from $502 to $700. Minor league players not on the 40-man roster receive no compensation during spring training or after the minor league season ends. For players on 40-man rosters on option to the minors, the minimum pay is now $46,000 annually.
  8. The A’s have acquired Burch Smith from the Giants for cash considerations. Though that seems like a pretty insignificant deal, it is the first trade between the two Bay-area franchises in 30 years. Smith, 29, made his debut in 2013 with the Padres and has also spent time with the Royals and Brewers. He was designated for assignment by San Francisco on February 10.
  9. Angels starting pitcher and DH Shohei Ohtani successfully earned his first US Driver’s License. No drinking and driving, young man.

Extra Innings

Noah Syndergaard took a playful swipe at the Astros after his Mets teammates trolled him by working out shirtless during Saturday’s workout at Port St. Lucie. The right-hander retweeted a video posted by the Mets of the team working out shirtless with the following message: “Some assembly required. Buzzers not included.”

They Said It

  • “The only thing that matters is what comes out of my mouth.” – Kris Bryant
  • What a disgrace that was. Watching [Houston’s apologies] … there’s no sincerity, there’s no genuineness when it comes to it. I certainly know that if I messed up big in that way, I’d be the first one to let you know just how big of a mess-up it was. It’s just hard to believe.” – Bryant
  • “That’s what we’ve been looking for, that’s what we’ve needed, is one unifying voice. Someone that’s going to say what needs to be said, keep the accountability around here. And it’s clear as day already that Rossy’s doing that. I think that’s why there’s so much excitement this early in camp.” – Kyle Hendricks

Sunday Walk Up Song

Lonely Boy by The Black Keys. It’s obvious that Bryant is pretty tired of everybody talking about him all winter.

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