In many ways this offseason has been spectacularly dull. In all ways it has been deflating. The lack of activity has triggered anger in some fans, apathy in others. The intensity of the anger and apathy only increased as a series of baffling and embarrassing off-field decisions/leaks rocked the club and the ownership group on a regular basis this winter.
It has been difficult for me to muster the necessary energy to condemn their inactivity, let alone dig in and try to provide insightful coverage of the Cubs offseason strategy. They've bet on internal improvements and better health among their key players next season. It is sound reasoning for the most part, especially for a squad coming off a 95-win season beset by injury and down performances. But the fact is when your biggest acquisition is Daniel Descalso there isn't going to be much positive press coverage. When journeymen relievers are your only other player acquisitions over the course of an entire offseason you are not going to inject any new energy into a fandom restless after a pair of playoff letdowns.
So, as fans we've waited, impatiently or not. As a writer I've chosen to direct my energy toward reporting on the Cubs prospect pipeline. I'm sure I am not alone in my belief that topic is more intriguing than an examination of the impact Daniel Descalso is going to have on the team this season. This has obviously led to some holes in our coverage of the club over the past couple of months.
Cubs Den is not as unique as it once was and in a different position than in previous years. We have fewer writers capable of devoting time to the complex off field happenings at the Major League level. Plus, there are now a number of quality Cubs blogs pumping out content on a daily basis that are run by good people that I respect, some who got their start here. That was not the case five years ago, or even three years ago.
On one hand I would like Cubs Den to offer as complete of coverage as possible, but I admit there are going to be limitations. I've continued the site because I feel that we can still provide Minor League content that doesn’t receive as much attention elsewhere while still doing justice to Major League coverage, even if it is not as comprehensive as it once was. There are simply some stories that are not going to get touched on in great detail for the time being.
That said, let's catch up on a few things. If you are only interested in on-field topics, feel free to skip ahead to the bottom section.
Off field news (PR disasters for the most part)
Addison Russell... I've made my stance clear. I don't want him associated with the organization. And that press conference only reinforced that view. In no way should that performance be construed as a positive first step in repairing his relationship with fans.
To this day everything the #Cubs have done to help Addison Russell (be it support, counseling, whatever) could've been achieved with him no longer a member of the organization. Believe their concern is genuine. Doesn't change the fact he shouldn't being putting on the uniform.
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) February 15, 2019
Marquee Network... I hope my silence on this topic has shown my disappointment (as I intended) rather than acceptance. Partnering with a company that has the reputation of Sinclair Broadcasting only further erodes an already tenuous relationship with a segment of the fanbase. We have no details regarding hired talent, or additional programming beyond the Cubs that will be included, which means the sole focus of reporting is on Sinclair. Not only am I extremely unhappy with this partnership, but the Cubs have also botched the handling of the announcement.
The Joe Ricketts emails... there is no defense. None. Which leads us to...
The Tom Ricketts press conference... ugh. You cannot defend your father in this instance. Or act surprised. You can't. At best, it's tone deaf. At worst, it dug the team and the family into a bigger hole. (And for anyone who thinks "easier said than done", well I say this as someone who hasn't spoken to his father in a couple of decades and excised him from my life because he isn't a good person)
The Cubs have no more money to add players... but they do for investing in a sports betting startup. I understand different branches of the company have different budgets, etc, but my own biases against gambling aside, again this is not a good look coming just days after the Tom Ricketts press conference.
The only conclusions I can draw regarding the actions of the Ricketts family of late:
- They believe they are bulletproof because they helped bring a WS title
- Their PR departments are failing spectacularly
- They are ignoring sound PR advice
- A disturbing combination of the above
Okay, that's enough of that. Onto...
- Yu Darvish is back on the mound and looking healthy. He is handling interviews in English as opposed to through a translator. The vibes just seem positive all around. (They never should have been negative)
- Kris Bryant is crushing the ball (Thank you, baseball gods)
- Javy is still Javy. But Javy also wants to walk more. (Yes, please)
- Jose Quintana is working on reincorporating his changeup. Q has almost always been successful as a two pitch guy, but now entering his 30s it is logical to assume he will need to make adjustments to his repertoire and approach to remain as effective and consistent moving forward. (Now he needs to gain the confidence to use the pitch in any situation/count)
- Carl Edwards, Jr. has made a tweak to his delivery in an attempt to improve his balance which will hopefully lead to more consistent control. (We can only hope)
- Tyler Chatwood is also making (needed) changes with his arm path to (hopefully) get his career back on track.
- David Bote made some waves online for looking jacked. (He already was, but good for him for getting noticed for it now, I guess)
- David Ross intends to take a more active role in the organization after spending most of 2018 behind the scenes. His first public task this spring has been reconnecting with Willson Contreras. Contreras struggled mightily with his pitch framing last year as he assumed a heavy workload. Nice and quiet, those are the goals. (As a big believer in Contreras I approve of rekindling this relationship wholeheartedly)
Finally... The broadcast will be radio-only but game action returns Saturday afternoon with Jen-Ho Tseng taking the mound against the Brewers at 2:05 CST. My body is ready.
Filed under: News and Notes