The Rundown: Cubs Cut Employee Salaries, Passing Time Binge Watching 1960 Home Run Derby, Trout Rookie Card Sells For $900K

Being a baseball fan and trying to find mental health breaks here and there during the ongoing pandemic is nearly impossible. Weekly jobless claims data will be released today and it’s not going to be pretty. Even baseball’s financial bubble is starting to feel the strain of maintaining operations without any significant revenue. The Marlins are expected to furlough 90 employees on June 1 and a few other organizations are going to start letting people go, too.

Of course the debate between league owners and the MLBPA continues to rage on. Scott Boras has elbowed his way to the table and, though you may think he is nothing more than a publicity-seeking blowhard, he represents many of the game’s elite players and therefore has a whole lot of skin in the game.

One thing is for certain, and that’s that fans have become an afterthought during the negotiations, which, since they will not be allowed to attend games for quite some time, seems puzzling. The league should be doing everything it is capable of to keep fans connected.

We’ve all grown tired of watching replays of past games, to the point that I even started watching versions of the old Home Run Derby just because I didn’t know going in who would win. The pace is horribly slow, especially compared to the juggernaut event that currently kicks off the All-Star break each year, but it’s at least something different. The best thing about the 1960 series is the very reserved banter between the contestants and host Mark Scott.

The series takes place at the old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, which served as the home field for the Angels during their inaugural season in 1961. The payouts for Home Run Derby seem pretty significant given the era in which it was originally broadcast.

  • The winner earned $2,000 while the loser still received $1,000 for participating.
  • A bonus of $500 was awarded for hitting consecutive home runs, with an extra half-a-grand awarded for third and fourth consecutive blasts.
  • Each consecutive homer starting with the fifth was worth an additional $1,000.

By the looks on the players’ faces when Scott goes over the prize money, those were pretty tidy sums. Adjusted for 2020, those values increase tenfold. Despite that, there’s just not the level of excitement to the series that you might expect. Also, it’s odd watching a one-on-one competition without any theatrics or trash talking. Baseball was truly a gentleman’s game 60 years ago.

I believe 26 episodes of the short-run series exist, but it’s just a little too slow to binge watch so go at it in spurts. Ernie Banks is the lone Chicago representative and the series was canceled after Scott died suddenly of a heart attack at the conclusion of filming the first season. Other contestants include Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Harmon Killebrew.

I won’t spoil too much of it for you, but Banks did go 1-2 in his battles, beating Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges while losing to Yankees legend Mickey Mantle and Red Sox right fielder Jackie Jensen. The battle between Banks and Jensen is truly epic, so save that one for last. Jensen earned $38,000 playing for Boston in 1959 and an additional $8,500 in three rounds of the made-for-TV competition.

Cubs News & Notes

  • The Cubs have cut employee salaries and have promised no furloughs at least through June. Theo Epstein, Crane Kenney, and other employees in the baseball operations and business operations departments, and those with uniform employee contracts (UECs) — including David Ross and his coaches, scouts, minor-league managers and coaches, and other non-playing personnel — are all affected by the salary reductions.
  • The majority of pay cuts are less than 20 percent, per Maddie Lee and Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • It might make some sense for the team’s front office to take a little more risk in the upcoming first-year player draft since there will only be five rounds. Cubs VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz might be persuaded to look at prospects considered to be more on the toolsy side.
  • Former Cubs catcher Michael Barrett uses his infamous fight with White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski in the 2006 Crosstown Classic to teach valuable life lessons.

Find Your Inner Hero

Believe it or not, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk is 52 years old, though he is showing no signs of slowing down. Instead of bunkering down in his home, Hawk has jumped into a flurry of philanthropic projects from Direct Relief that benefits health care workers to his own Tony Hawk Foundation. But this gesture he made to a fan who came across a very old board once owned by Hawk is pretty darn cool.

Apropos of Nothing

If you had to start your own franchise and could pick from one of the following players to start your roster, who would you choose?

  1. Mike Trout
  2. Greg Maddux
  3. Ken Griffey, Jr.
  4. Alex Rodriguez
  5. Barry Bonds
  6. Rickey Henderson

Surprisingly, at least to me, Maddux (106.6 career WAR) doesn’t even make this list of best pitchers of all-time. Randy Johnson, (101.1) Tom Seaver (109.9) and Nolan Ryan (81.3) are the only modern-day hurlers in the Fox Sports top 10.

Odds & Sods

But people are starving, yo.

MLB News & Notes

We are inching ever closer to a June go/no-go deadline for baseball to resume.

Former Cardinals and Royals manager Whitey Herzog believes baseball should scrap the 2020 season.

Breaking the .400 batting average threshold is more likely in a shortened season.

Former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez believes getting players to stop spitting is going to be one of the bigger challenges once the game returns.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler agrees with Martinez.

Indians manager Terry Francona believes that the changes and sacrifices needed to start the season will fail without a complete buy-in by everybody involved.

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman wants to analyze your swing. Bregman posted a message on his website calling out for players 17 years or younger—with their parent’s permission—to submit videos of their swings.

Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris has a love-hate relationship with retaliatory pitching.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said his team would need about three weeks of a second spring training to be prepared to start the season.

Out of Left Field

We have a new entry.

On Deck

For those of you who enjoyed ESPN’s The Last Dance, the flagship sports and entertainment network is showing Game 6: The Movie (which debuted last night and is streaming on the ESPN app). It’s a bit of a hybrid, as the viewers see every minute of the game in real time, including play-by-play from Bob Costas and analysts Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas with additional never-before-seen game footage captured by five NBA Entertainment cameras. I think Michael Jordan hit a significant jumper near the end of that game, if memory serves.

Extra Innings

Sammy Sosa destroyed baseballs. C’mon, Mr. Ricketts, let’s find a compromise and bring him back.

They Said It

  • “Today’s players are heard. Players are still competitive with one another; that’ll never change. I just think that players have the opportunities to lash back in different ways and express their unhappiness or feelings in other ways that probably are [potentially] more detrimental to their careers.” – Michael Barrett

Thursday Walk Up Song

I Love L.A. by Randy Newman – I’ll bet baseball players loved it when the game expanded to the West Coast.

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