The blog is getting bigger and as much as I'd like to, I can't keep up with the mail as quickly as I used to (look at that staff we've had to hire!). I also get some very good questions that I think we could share with the rest of the readers, so my solution is to have a mailbag, which we will run on Mondays. I haven't yet decided how often we will do this, that will depend on volume and your response to this feature.
I apologize for the delay in starting this and some of these questions may be a bit older, but they are still relevant. I have more in the hopper but I will save some for the next time...
Q (Dipesh): I know the owners/players association don't want to lose money from have less games scheduled, but i was wondering why not schedule double headers a few times a year (a day/night game for two paid gates) and have the games be 7 innings instead of 9? I would think it will be good for a few reasons off the top of my head.
shorter game with more emphasis for the players to play for a win in shorter time frame
less stress on bullpens, especially these days w/all the over the top match righty/lefty
pitch counts for starters
more regular positional players able to play both games
A: I would love to see this and I think it is a great idea, actually. They do this in the minor league games and it makes fora great day of baseball. However, you answered your own question in the very first sentence. Not to be cynical, but it is always about the money and with the Cubs ownership constantly looking for ways to increase revenue, this would decrease it. It is especially important because the Cubs revenue is so driven by their attendance, more so than any other team in baseball. Great idea from a fan's standpoint, but I don't see MLB doing this -- and I think the Cubs would be especially reluctant given their unique dependence on attendance.
Why would the cubs trade Samardzija rather than extend him? Even with a significant overpay?
Are these assumptions wrong:
Any prospect or package of prospects will be more risky than extending Samardzija.
The Cubs don't have many (any?) first, second, or third starting pitching prospects at the upper levels.
There is no reason to grab a free agent other than Samardzija, and no free agent pitcher his age is likely to be as good.
Given those, isn't an extension the only reasonable course to pursue?
A: I agree with your reasoning and I have heard some whispers of late that Jeff Samardzija may be more agreeable to an extension than is publicized. I've always thought the Cubs would prefer to keep Samardzija and would only trade him if they got significant surplus in return that will lighten the risk and give them the MLB ready pitching prospects they lack. So far teams seem reluctant to do that and with the Cubs closer than we might think to putting a competitive team on the field, I am sure they will exhaust every opportunity to sign him to an extension rather than risk trading him.
Q (Bob): My question relates to a phrase you use often in prospect write ups. It's when you refer to a player as having 'great makeup'. I get what this means in a general sense. But I'm very curious as to how scouts quantify this. It seems like a very important aspect to this Cubs front office and you seem to value it highly as well. But, it seems very subjective, not something that can be easily quantified or graded. If you have a chance in some of your prospect writings to expound on this, it would be great.
A: That is a very good question. Mental makeup is a blanket term for a lot of things scouts look for in a player: Work ethic, aptitude for the game, how coachable he is, how well his teammates and those around him like him, leadership skills, competitiveness, etc. I think the Cubs have done a great job with this and you can see a little bit about what they mean when we look at their two top prospects: Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.
Kris is a special player and person.... Has a solid work ethic and a quiet confidence that makes you believe he will be an impact player at the next level. He comes from a great family, which is extremely supportive, and has guided him to become the person he is. Such a high character person that you immediately become a fan after talking to him. The more I watched him and spent time with him, the more convicted I became. All the background work I did turned up the same results, people that have had the chance to really know him, absolutely believed and liked him. Positive feedback across the board both on and off the field, including the classroom, dating back to high school. I’m excited and look forward to watching his continued development and career in our organization.
The Cubs also did their homework on Javier Baez and while many teams backed off a top talent because they thought he was cocky and a bad teammate, the Cubs found just the opposite. His teammates liked him very much --and still do. Here is what one of his former teammates with Daytona last season said about him,
"In my opinion he is a natural born leader. He shows that on and off the field. I can't speak for others but... I loved watching him go about his work. He is a guy that understands what needs to be done and does just that. I cannot think of one negative thing to say about him."
In fact, one reason Javier Baez wouldn't commit to a college early before the 2011 draft is so that college scouts would keep coming to the game -- but Baez didn't want them to keep coming to see him, he wanted them there to give his teammates another look and a chance at a baseball scholarship.
And perhaps no piece speaks better to what kind of person Javier Baez is then this article by Carrie Muskat. Confident, maybe even cocky on the field? Yes? Bad person or teammate? Nope, you won't find one person close to him-- past or present -- who has bad things to say about him.
Mental makeup alone doesn't make the player, that is mostly decided by talent -- but think of mental makeup as that intangible tool that makes it more likely that a player will make the best of the physical talent he has.
Q (Randy): Please, Please, Please write a story that rips apart Telander's article. First he starts out by comparing Ricketts to Putin. I find many similarities to Donald Sterling, Prince Charles comparing Putin to Hitler or for that Sheriff calling Obama the N-word. Then he demeans Ricketts by comparing him to a "man with a hot dog caught in his throat" running around like an idiot trying to save himself. Telander really exposes his and the Sun Times agenda right here in this article. It is time to squash this type of personal attacks on Ricketts and the entire Cub World!
A:I did consider doing this but it struck me I would bring attention to the article, which is the one thing Telander wants. He and the Sun-Times have stopped writing interesting, insightful articles a long time ago, so their strategy is to write inflammatory pieces that draw attention to themselves and increase readership. The next time I link a Telander piece will be when he actually writes something worth reading. That may be awhile.
Q (Nick): Would it be reasonable or possible to "punt" the #4 pick in the draft? For example, if they don't have the option of snagging Rodon or Aiken, then they grab BPA and play hardball to sign underslot. If it doesn't work, then the Cubs would be looking, baring a big change to the rest of the season, at 2 of the two four picks in 2015 draft. I am sure the preference would be to get the guy in the system as early as possible, but if the "right" guy isn't available then it may be an interesting strategy.
A: Obviously this question came before the draft but I didn't get a chance to do the mailbag segment until now. It is still relevant since this kind of question gets answered all the time. The answer is teams don't like to do this for a couple of reasons. One is that they loose that pool money and a lot of flexibility as to what they can do later in the draft. We know now that the Cubs had big plans among their first 7 picks so they will need that pool money. If you punt that first pick, then you essentially also punt the opportunity to use that pool money to get high ceiling talent later. The second reason is more simple, nobody likes to throw away a year of investment and also lose a year of development. If this ever happens, I imagine it will be a team with a lower pick in a weak draft -- not just in the first round, but also in terms of high ceiling prospects who might fall later. This strength of the draft was the high school pitching and the Cubs got 3 of the best prospects in Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and Dylan Cease. Had they punted this pick, not only would they have lost the chance to draft a hitter they really liked in Kyle Schwarber, but they also would have missed out on significant overslots like Sands and Cease. That's 3 great prospects in exchange for the unknown of next year's draft.
Q (Thomas): Is Rafael Lopez for real?
A: That depends on what you mean by real. Lopez has always been a good hitter with a solid approach and a line drive stroke. He was the most advanced of the 3 offensive oriented catchers they drafted in 2011 (Justin Marra and Neftali Rosario were the others). He is limited in size (5'9") and that may affect his power numbers at the MLB level and while he is a good athlete (a former middle infielder), he is still relatively new to catching and is still improving at the position. I think he can be a backup, perhaps what we hoped Steve Clevenger could have been -- a complimentary lefty off the bench who can provide a little offense.
Q: (Marty): Were your links taken off Bleacher Report? Not a big deal as I read regardless, but it was often my avenue to your articles.
A: I do not know, but thanks for bringing it to my attention. I was informed recently that my articles are often linked on Bleacher Report but I think the is best way to get access to our articles is to subscribe. You can do so with the subscription box at the right hand corner or through the link below. Subscription doesn't cost anything and your email is not sold to anyone else. It's just a way of getting articles sent to your email as soon as they are published.
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