Sox Seeking $1B in Public Funding, Bellinger’s Non-Existent Market, College Batter Takes 7 HBPs on Opening Day, Bonesaber Still Best BBCOR Bat

The only noteworthy developments involving current Cubs players were Pete Crow-Armstrong dyeing his hair blue and Justin Steele sharing harmfully ignorant conspiracy theories, so it felt like a good time to tackle a few other topics. I really want to have a little fun with some more lighthearted stuff, but we need to wade through a couple other topics to get there.

As a note of warning to those who don’t share my borderline obsession with bats, the last section here may not be your jam and can be skipped.

First up is the report from Crain’s Chicago Business that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is preparing a proposal to request $1 billion in public funding for their new stadium project in the South Loop. Reinsdorf is reportedly “bullish” about about his chances, which is what happens when you’re a pampered billionaire who’s been squatting on public land for decades already.

The funds would be generated by extending the 2% hotel occupancy tax well beyond 2034, which is when outstanding bonds are slated to be paid. As if it’s not bad enough that Reinsdor is trying to get someone else to pay for his ballpark — again — getting additional funding from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority could mean the Bears would not be able to access public money. Not that I think either organization should be suckling at the state’s teet, mind you, it’s just that I’d rather see the Bears get it than the Sox.

There have been no formal meetings on the topic yet, but governor J.B. Pritzker and the ISFA will want to see a complete proposal that includes plans for Guaranteed Rate Field. If you’ll pardon my French, this situation has the potential to devolve into a serious clusterfuck for the city. I’ve been critical of the Cubs’ use of Wrigley Field’s historical landmark status to leverage tax breaks into additions like the new sportsbook, but at least they haven’t been able to access funds from the amusement taxes they generate.

Maybe if they were granted a little more of that public money, much of which comes from folks who aren’t even from Chicago or its suburbs, they could be less calculated in free agency.

Cody Bellinger‘s market

The most obvious case for stretching past their value-based model is bringing Bellinger back, but the Scott Boras client remains unsigned with full-squad report dates just two days out. This isn’t just a matter of the Cubs being frugal, of course, as no team has yet been willing to extend a formal offer to the former Rookie of the Year and MVP who bounced back last season to bat a career-best .307 with 26 homers and a career-low 15.6% strikeout rate.

Demand for Bellinger’s services has been limited largely due to an asking price believed to be well north of $200 million, not the first time we’ve heard that regarding the Cubs and a Boras client, but that’s not the only issue. Teams are wary of his poor batted-ball metrics, namely the 10th-percentile hard-hit rate, 22nd-percentile average exit velocity, and 27th-percentile barrel rate. Even if we account for a very intentional two-strike approach that sacrificed power for contact, hence the reduced strikeout numbers, evaluators are understandably concerned with how Bellinger will age over a long-term deal.

One source with knowledge of the situation told Cubs Insider last month that the Cubs have been unwilling to budge from an offer that clearly isn’t even worth discussing with Boras, an idea that has since been corroborated. Not that numbers have actually been discussed, mind you, as that’s not really how the agent does business. If a team isn’t willing to at least get close to what he’s asking, there’s no point even bothering.

That’s why, according to another source, none of the other 29 teams have exchanged figures with Boras on a potential Bellinger deal either. Barring a very abrupt change of course, there isn’t going to be a resolution anytime soon. As noted by the same source, it could be a month before Bellinger signs.

Of course, circumstances could yet conspire to get something done sooner. MLB Trade Rumors noted that his age (29 in on July 13) makes him more well-suited than his peers to another short-term deal. Signing for one year or inking a deal with an opt-out after the first season would allow Bellinger to re-enter the market sans qualifying offer penalties while he’s still younger than other top-performing free agents. Assuming, that is, he’s still considered a top performer at that point.

With the Cubs locked into a figure that may be as low as $125 million, it feels like a creative structure with at least one early opt-out and additional player/vesting options might be the only way this gets done. That sounds a lot like what was hypothetically on the table for Kris Bryant, which is something we’ve discussed before, so it’s just a matter of player and rep weighing the risks and rewards.

One other factor to consider here is that a willingness to sit out some or most of spring training could see a team get desperate due to injury. While I still think the Cubs present the best fit on more than one level, I can’t decide whether each day brings the two sides closer together or increases the chance that Bellinger signs elsewhere.

College baseball fluke

College baseball has officially started and it wasted no time providing us with a little wildness. Literally. Over the course of an Opening Day doubleheader against Loyola Marymount, Sacemento State outfielder Matt Masciangelo was hit by seven pitches in eight plate appearances. For what it’s worth, the MLB record for HBPs in a doubleheader was set by Cubs legend and Hall of Famer Frank Chance on May 30, 1904.

What makes Masciangelo’s feat even more extraordinary is that he’s a left-handed batter and was hit each time by right-handed pitchers. Most players probably would have been heated after two, but he didn’t even show displeasure until the sixth one. I’d probably just have been laughing by then due to the absurdity, until I got done with the game and had to hop in the cold tub to alleviate all the bruises on my legs.

Best BBCOR bat on the market

As you probably know, college players swing metal bats with the BBCOR — batted ball coefficient of restitution — designation, which have a drop-3 weight and less trampoline effect that the bats at youth levels. Just to make that clear, the weight is three ounces less than the length of the bat, so a 34-inch stick can weigh no less than 31 ounces. The USSSA-certified bats used at youth levels have a ton more pop and can have drop weights of -5, -8, or -10 based on age and/or governing body.

If you don’t already have experience in this market because your kids are too old, too young, or you simply don’t care, believe me when I say it is uber-competitive. While you can always get good deals, especially now when 2023 inventory is being clearanced to make room for the next run, some models retail for as much as $500. You’d think the regulations would create a level playing field, but there’s a lot that goes into differentiating one bat from another and it can be very difficult to find the best fit.

That’s where Will Taylor of the Baseball Bat Bros. comes in. Dude has put in countless swings with pretty much every bat out there and has detailed them across hundreds of videos on his YouTube channel. The Bat Bros. also have rankings of the top 54 BBCOR models based on a combination of sweet spot, power, and swing weight. At the top of the list is the Warstic Bonesaber Hybrid from a company founded by a guy named Ben Jenkins and featuring primary investors like former MLB All-Star Ian Kinsler and Jack White of The White Stripes.

Though they will tell you it’s the warrior not the weapon, the Bonesaber has consistently taken out all of its competition since Warstic came out with the hybrid version — composite handle, alloy barrel — of its popular one-piece alloy bat. The hybrid retails for $380 while the one-piece is at $350, and I’d say the difference is well worth the price. Also of note, Warstic manufactures their bats in half-inch/half-ounce increments for an even more tailored feel.

My son had been swinging Axe bats since 10U, so the transition to the “Pommel Precision Knob” was easy. I picked up a Black Cobra one-piece USSSA a while back on clearance to try it out and now his gamer is a 33.5-inch, 30.5 ounce Bonsaber Hybrid.

Warstic just released a new version of their Gunner, a hybrid power-hitter’s bat with an end-loaded feel and tapered handle to update what had been a skinny handle with a pronounced knob. The video below is Taylor’s review of the Gunner, which quickly turned into an ad for the Bonesaber.

I wish I could say that’s what this was, since it’d be pretty cool to be compensated for this with a new Black Cobra version, but I’m just a nerd for this stuff and wanted to share my passion. Other than Cubs baseball, I probably spend as much of my free time as anyone out there researching bats. That comes in handy with our 15U team and other parents throughout our organization who are looking for new equipment as each new level forces a bat change.

I’m convinced that’s as much about making people spend more money as it is about safety, but we’ll save those thoughts for another day.

The one knock I’ve heard and experienced with the Bonesaber is that the stock “Tsuka Warrior’s Grip” isn’t very durable. It’s super thin and doesn’t have much tack, so it will wear out quickly with heavy use. The ridges can also create hot spots on a hitter’s hands, so I’d recommend being ready to replace the grip in relatively short order. At the risk of pimping more product, Bruce Bolt’s new grips are fantastic. They are tackier than most and have a very soft feel, though they aren’t cheap at $20 a pop.

It’s probably time to shut this down not that I’ve exceeded 1700 words, but I’m happy to talk bats in the comments if any of you are so inclined. Oh, one last note: Warstic will typically give you a 10% off code if you put an item in your cart and then leave the site. You can also join their rewards program to earn points you can redeem for discounts.

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