The Rundown: Opening Day Arrives, No Extension for Happ, Torrens Makes Team, League Announces Historic MiLB CBA
“Here’s to you my little loves with blessings from above, now let the day begin, let the day start.” – The Call, Let the Day Begin
“Next Starts Now.”
That’s the marketing slogan for the 2023 iteration of your Chicago Cubs, except for Ian Happ, whose farewell tour officially starts today. Nico Hoerner got his three-year extension, but no announcement regarding Happ is forthcoming. The Cubs have a pipeline of promising outfielders that includes Pete Crow-Armstrong, Brennen Davis, Kevin Alcántara, Owen Caissie, and Alexander Canario. One could assume Happer needs to accept a steep hometown discount to remain in the royal blue pinstripes. He’s a player rep in a thin upcoming market, so that ain’t happening.
I was thinking about my favorite Opening Days of all time, and I don’t think any of them top the Mitch Williams game in 1989. The Cubs beat the Phillies 5-4 that afternoon, with Williams making his first appearance as a Cub to close it out. He walked two batters, added a balk to put the home crowd on the edges of their seats, and then struck out the side with the bases loaded to earn the save. Wild Thing, you make my heart sing. By the way, the Cubs traded Rafael Palmeiro to get Williams. Could you imagine the 1998 Cubs with Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa?
Don Zimmer was the manager in that opener, Rick Sutcliffe started that game, and Andre Dawson hit a home run. I watched the final inning from a bar at Union Station in Chicago and some folks missed their trains to see it all unfold. It’s hard to believe that day is already half a lifetime away and then some for me. Like that 1989 team, our 2023 Cubs enter the season with mildly high hopes after an offseason of much change. Let’s hope Jameson Taillon has a better first year in Chicago than Paul Kilgus did.
I sat in on the Ranter’s Roundtable last night and begrudgingly predicted Chicago’s North Side baseballers would win 86 games. I have a personal conundrum in that I want the Cubs to make the postseason but I don’t want them to be buyers at the August 1 trade deadline. Jed Hoyer will have assets to move in Happ, Cody Bellinger, Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly, Marcus Stroman, and others. Fighting for and barely missing out on the playoffs is the worst possible outcome if it includes parting with future Wrigley Field fixtures.
With that in mind, I’ll gladly trade wins for losses as long as the Cubs play exciting baseball and add to their blooming farm system at the expense of other pretenders and contenders. Don’t get me wrong, I want our Boys in Blue to go to the World Series every year, but one more season of trading away veteran assets is better for long-range planning. If a trade is inevitable, I’d rather see Happ get a ring with a team like the Dodgers this year if it also means the Cubs are positioned the same way that Los Angeles is season after season. And I’d instead Hoyer free up enough money to take a run at Shohei Ohtani this winter.
Cubs News & Notes
- According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, the skies will be partly to mostly cloudy with rain likely holding off until the game ends. The temperature is expected to be 42 degrees when Stroman throws his first pitch, presumably to Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.
- Chicago and Milwaukee are both hoping to supplant the reigning NL Central champion Cardinals this season. William Contreras, Jesse Winker, and Brian Anderson are among the Brewers’ top offseason acquisitions. Rookies Garrett Mitchell and Brice Turang were also added to the roster, and both are expected to start today.
- One of the reasons a handful of projection systems have the Cubs in the 78-win range is the simple fact that there are so many aspects of the roster that are challenging to predict. Chicago is counting on a group of comeback candidates and steps forward from a cast of younger players.
- The Cubs officially added catcher Luis Torrens to the big league roster.
- Happ conceded that he’s mentally prepared to enter free agency at the end of the season.
- Torrens was a shocking addition to the roster. The front office envisions him in a role similar to what P.J. Higgins played last season.
- David Ross told reporters the other day that Javier Assad will begin the season in the bullpen. Don’t be surprised if he’s in the rotation by the trade deadline, if not sooner.
- Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins have turned pitching depth into an expected strength.
- Dansby Swanson is ecstatic about making his official debut with the Cubs this afternoon.
- Taillon, Bellinger, Trey Mancini, Eric Hosmer, and Tucker Barnhart are some of the other high-profile players who will also be making their Cub debuts this week.
- Bellinger is hoping to recapture the magic that earned him Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in Los Angeles.
- Nomar Garciaparra is the shortstop Swanson has always hoped to emulate.
- The Cubs will finalize their roster before today’s game, and it looks like LHP Brandon Hughes may start the season on the injured list.
Odds & Sods
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer prefer that you do not refer to the two as “Scherlander.” I’m going to, though.
Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander don't need to be best friends — just win Mets a World Series https://t.co/T4a5hsbi0r 22 years ago, Johnson and Schilling won a world series competing With one another, not Against
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) March 30, 2023
Climbing the Ladder
“Here’s wishing you the bluest sky and hoping something better comes tomorrow. Hoping all the verses rhyme and the very best of choruses, too. Follow all the doubt and sadness, I know that better things are on the way.” – The Kinks, Better Things
By the way, Pearl Jam does a great cover of that Kinks song, too.
Today marks the first time in 30 years that longtime radio personality Lin Brehmer will not be part of Chicago’s Opening Day festivities. Brehmer, the morning drive-time host at 93 WXRT-FM, passed away two months ago. His passion and joie de vivre for the Cubs were second to none.
Brehmer moved to Chicago in the 1980s after growing up in New York and attending Colgate University. He took over as WXRT’s music director in 1984 and started on-air in 1991, hosting the popular radio station’s morning show. He was a fixture at Clark & Addison for the first home game of the season every year since.
I don’t like posting two videos in one column, but this is a special and sad occasion. You’ll also want to check out Brehmer’s tribute to the 1984 team. I promise it will give you goosebumps. Rest in peace, Lin, and I hope the Cubs honor your memory with a win today.
- St. Louis: It’s officially “Willson Contreras is the enemy” season. I hope he finishes the campaign hitting .217 with five taters and 23 RBI.
- Milwaukee: It’s a do-or-die season for the Brewers. That $33 million rotation is about to get pretty expensive. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Eric Lauer are in their final two arb-eligible years. Freddy Peralta will also be a free agent after the 2024 season.
- Cincinnati: The Reds are in the 2012 Cubs stage of their rebuild. It will be interesting to see how a smaller market team in the same division attempts to rise from the ashes of a scorched earth rebuild.
- Pittsburgh: Andrew McCutchen is going to finish his career with the Pirates. I hope Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Báez aren’t interested in a similar type of reunion one day.
How About That!
The minor leagues and MLB have reached a tentative deal on a historic CBA. The devil, however, is in the details. If ratified, the league will be entitled to reduce the Domestic Reserve List by 15 players per team. The guaranteed pay for players also remains too substandard.
Today marks the first time since 1968 that every team in the league is scheduled to play on Opening Day. Unbelievably, no games are expected to be delayed or postponed due to inclement weather.
MLB rookies will wear “debut” patches on their uniforms today.
The Dodgers are the weakest favorites to win the World Series in years, according to FiveThirtyEight’s metrics.
Rule changes will dominate the headlines for most of the first week of the new season, and then some.
The origins of MLB’s pitch clock are anything but new.
In fact, the league may be a little too obsessed with its history.
Game times are expected to average about 2:45 this season, while stolen bases are expected to jump 30% or more. Talk about your old-timey baseball.
You’ll have to scroll down a bit in the article linked directly above, but CBS Sports predicts Assad will emerge as a relief ace in 2023.
It’s Opening Day.
— Mitch Rosen (@MitchRosen670) March 30, 2023
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- For Frankenstein reasons, Elon Musk and other tech leaders signed an open letter calling on developers to “pause giant AI experiments.” The petition, which more than 1,100 AI experts have signed, warns that artificial intelligence poses “profound risks to society and humanity” and asks AI researchers to put their projects on ice for at least six months.
- If you’ve seen the show Billions, you’ve probably figured out that chief protagonist Bobby Axelrod is based on Mets’ owner Steve Cohen. If you didn’t know that, now you do. I suppose that means Rob Manfred is Chuck Rhoades.
- Damian Lewis, who plays Axelrod, is returning to the high-stakes financial drama for its final season.
- I’m in the minority, but Houses of the Holy is my favorite Led Zeppelin album. It was universally panned by the press at first, including Rolling Stone, where it was dubbed “one of the dullest and most confusing albums ever.” The long player has since achieved a deservedly epochal status in the rock pantheon.
- Harrington jackets are back in style, so it’s cool that men can dress like Steve McQueen again. I imagine Member’s Only jackets will become trendy again, too.
- Twitter hot takes never cease to amaze me.
They Said It
- “There are opening day pitchers and pitchers who start on opening day.” – Roger Craig
- “It’s like Christmas Day, only warmer.” – Pete Rose
- “When I saw Santa Claus sitting in the front row I know it was going to be a strange Opening Day.” – Paul O’Neill
- “An Opener is not like any other game. There’s that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. You know that when you win the first one, you can’t lose ’em all.” – Early Wynn
- “My club’s bad. My knee hurts. I can’t putt no more. I’m off my diet. My wife is nagging me. Other than that, everything’s great.” – Zimmer
Opening Day Walk-Up Song
It is officially a tradition thanks to our Wrigleyville friends Wally Dogger.