The Rundown: Time to Cut Russell, Darvish Throwing, Tulowitzki on Radar, November Rain
This is the most emotional offseason Cubs fans have had in years. I imagine that it is particularly trying on this front office as well. A couple of news items from yesterday really encapsulate the state of Chicago Cubs baseball as 2018 comes to an end.
At this point there is no way I can be convinced that Addison Russell is deserving of wearing any major league uniform. After yesterday’s revelations and detailed descriptions of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse the shortstop inflicted upon Melisa Reidy, and now Mallory Engstrom — with whom the shortstop also has a child — it’s time for Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein to move on.
Screenshots from @MalEngstrom’s Instagram page detailing interactions with #AddisonRussell in regards to their daughter. She says she was paid about $600 of child support in quarters and Russell’s advisors “feel they can disobey a court ordered agreement.” .#Cubs pic.twitter.com/vYjWnPJYRo
— Ally Pruitt (@AllyPruitt1) December 18, 2018
The Cubs are aware of the claims and are doing their “due diligence.” That is no longer a sufficient response.
The Cubs can help Russell without employing him. At this point, I’d say giving him a second chance is merely enabling him. If Ricketts wants to do the right and ethical thing, he’ll advise Epstein to cut Russell and then spare no expense in helping to rehabilitate the young man. If the Cubs are only keeping Russell in their organization to prevent him from signing with a rival team, the employers are no better than the employee.
Additionally, a sizable donation to an organization that raises awareness and supports survivors of domestic violence would be a nice way to show their care and concern, particularly for their female fans.
Yu Darvish threw a bullpen session yesterday and posted a video of his workout. The $126 million pitcher represents (so far) the team’s biggest mistake in free agency, one that is likely handicapping them from making any major moves this winter. The Cubs need a healthy season from their would-be ace and they need him to pitch to his potential. Eight middling starts and an enigmatic personality won’t cut it in Chicago for a second straight season.
By and large, fans were patient with Darvish last year, but if he struggles again and is in any way responsible for the lack of improvements to the team this year, it’s going to be a long season for the pitcher, the team, the front office, and the fans.
The Cubs went from hitting .265/.345/.426 as a team before the All-Star break to .235/.300/.363 down the stretch while surrendering a five-game division lead over Milwaukee in the final weeks of the season. After scoring a single run in the division tiebreaker with the Brewers, the Cubs could only plate one run across 13 innings in an agonizing loss to Colorado in the wild-card game the next day.
None of that is on Darvish, but I don’t think the addition of Daniel Descalso is enough to remedy that. If that’s the only move the Cubs can make this winter, it’s impossible not to view the right-hander as the albatross that basically shut the front office down this winter.
The Cubs were one of at least 11 teams that scouted Troy Tulowitzki this week. Given the team’s financial constraints and Russell’s ongoing off-the-field issues, Tulowitzki is looking like one of the more compelling free agents available to the team. In large measure, that’s completely wed to the bargain the shortstop represents. The team that signs the veteran infielder will only have to pay him the league-minimum salary.
Tulowitzki was injured most of last season, but as recently as 2017 he put up an OPS+ of 102 with a 3.4 WAR. And though he was a sullen malcontent during his tenure with the Blue Jays, he was a fiery clubhouse leader for the Rockies just four seasons ago. For all the talk about the Cubs need for veteran leadership in the dugout, Tulowitzki seems to be just what the doctor ordered.
Tim Brown recapped the veteran infielder’s workout:
“He remains long and lean, about as willowy as they ever made a shortstop who could also hit you 30 home runs, who could also win you a Gold Glove. The fungoes sent him right and left and brought him in and sent him away, and Tulo was again light on his feet, the ankle surgeries of last spring having finally and mercifully ended the pain and brought back the life. He told scouts he’d worked so hard to recover, he’d committed so fully to bring it all back, and he’d gestured to the field, as if to say, ‘Hold on, I’ll show you.'”
Tulo fulfills two needs at the meager cost of $555,000: veteran leadership and a starting middle infielder to pair with Javier Baez. The risks — he’s in his mid-30’s and has a fairly substantial injury history — are more than offset by the modest investment required to sign him.
Cubs News & Notes
- If MLB commissioner Rob Manfred concludes that Russell failed to pay required child support, Manfred could rule that the shortstop violated the domestic violence policy for a second time.
- Allen Webster signed a minor-league contract with the Cubs on Wednesday.
- The front office also inked deals with former outfield prospect Jim Adduci, 3B Phillip Evans, RHP Carlos Ramirez and OF Evan Marzilli. Ramirez could be interesting. Originally signed as an outfielder, the Dominican Republic native made a quick rise through the Blue Jays system as a reliever, recording nine saves for Dunedin in 2016 and then not allowing an earned run in 37.2 innings between AA and AAA in 2017.
- The Cubs’ $182M payroll on Opening Day last season was a team record. They’ll eclipse that by nearly $30M even if they do not make another move this winter.
- A potential television deal with Sinclair Broadcasting may be a cause for concern.
- Daniel Descalso is a potential steal for the Cubs. Brendan Miller breaks it down.
There are just three known clubs serious about signing Manny Machado: the Yankees, White Sox, and Phillies. The free agent shortstop was in Chicago on Monday to meet with the White Sox and will be in Philadelphia today. He met with the Yankees for 90 minutes yesterday afternoon. It’s possible he could sign with one of those teams before Christmas.
Yankees contingent dined with Manny Machado, his wife and agent tonight in Manhattan. Yanks are interested and in the game, along with Chisox and Phillies. Tour was believed to be those 3 teams, no mysteries.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 20, 2018
Major League Baseball has reached an historic agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation allowing Cuban players to sign with U.S. teams without needing to defect, seeking to end the practice of Cuban stars being smuggled off the Caribbean island. The agreement runs through October 2021.
Stephen Bronfman, the son of former Expos owner Charles Bronfman, is working diligently to bring major league baseball back to Montreal.
I applaud Forbes for adding a sports division to its online presence. Maury Brown is a distinguished, award-winning contributor and has been the sole voice of the business magazine’s professional sports endeavors until recently. But this report by Phil Rogers that was published yesterday represents a new low in sports journalism, not jut for Forbes, but anywhere.
While #Cubs are in a budget crunch, off-loading Addison Russell would hurt them on the field. They're in a 100-win formation with him at shortstop, as they've had a .617 winning percentage when he starts there. My take for Forbes: https://t.co/BKhfZ2pBTC
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) December 19, 2018
Maybe it was just bad timing, but this paragraph is particularly appalling given yesterday’s news:
“While it would be easy to cast [Addison] Russell aside, he is the guy they should work the hardest to get back on track. Javier Baez is a much flashier shortstop than Russell but the Cubs have played their best in the Maddon era when they had Russell at short and Baez at second base. He deserves another chance, assuming there are no more incidents like the one with his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy” (emphasis mine).
I feel like I am covered in festering ick.
Thursday Walk Up Song
November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. This rock ballad from 1992 features a powerful orchestral accompaniment and is one of the band’s longest songs at nearly nine minutes. It’s number 7 on my list of Top 20 music videos of all time.
Initially the song was meant to be part of a full-on orchestral-rock album side, teamed with the songs Don’t Cry and Estranged to form a musical trilogy of sorts. Though released as two separate albums, the original intention for Use Your Illusion I and II was to be a double-album release.
In July 2018, November Rain became the first music video from the 20th century to receive one billion views on YouTube. The storyline portrays Rose marrying his then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour, shot simultaneously against a live performance by the band. The video was one of the most expensive ever made (about $1 million, including Seymour’s dress) and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography.