Let’s see how it goes doing a Saturday column each week, at least until the weather changes.
Nicky, a streets and san guy I know going back to when I used to host karaoke at Punchinello’s on 31st Street in the early 90s, has told me Manny Machado will sign with the White Sox unless the Phillies go to an eighth year. The Padres are still in play and may be a stronger play than anybody is led to believe, but the White Sox seem to have a big edge. There are some ownership factors involved too, mainly that Jerry Reinsdorf has asked for input from his family before signing off on the expenditure.
How would Nicky know all this? That’s none of my business, apparently, but let’s run with it. The South Side of Chicago has a very connected network, especially the union guys. I’l leave it at that.
Nicky is one of those rabid White Sox fans whose second favorite team is anybody that plays the Cubs. He’s an older guy, well respected, works a 40-hour week but rarely actually works 40 hours, and his connections go all the way back to the Nellie Fox days. As far as sources go, I’m sure my friend pales in comparison to the guys that feed information to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman, but let’s see where this goes.
I asked Nicky if he heard whether the Cubs had any chance of signing Bryce Harper. His response? “Well nobody wants to play in Philly, too many scabs and a lotta bad food. Be that as it may, that leaves the Cubs as the only team that will sign him. I hope they do. We can kick his ass in the World Series for the next five years.”
Seems to me the crosstown rivalry is about to amp up. In fairness to my union steward friend, he did give me the heads-up before the White Sox signed Bo Jackson in ’91. And if you are old enough to remember, that signing came completely out of left field.
Speaking of left field…
Did you know that West Side Park, where the Cubs played from 1914 to 1916, had a mental hospital just beyond left field? That’s where the term “out of left field” supposedly originated. Also, it was 560 feet from home plate to the center field wall in that stadium. Do you know who has hit a home run that traveled more than 560 feet? Nobody, though this one sure seems to have traveled almost as far.
Construction of Wrigley Field which opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park, home park of Chicago Whales of Federal League. The #Cubs played at the time in West Side Grounds & relocated to Weeghman in 1916 when Fed Lg disbanded. Read @sabr history of park https://t.co/nsNs3DrxPD pic.twitter.com/HyfPj3jAuT
— SABR BioProject (@SABRbioproject) July 12, 2018
Cubs News & Notes
- The Ricketts family has bought back the Tribune Co.’s remaining 5 percent of the Cubs. Owning all of Wrigleyville is akin to owning all of Chicago, and that’s where the Ricketts are heading. I’m telling you, all the stars are aligning for a Harper signing. Again, I don’t agree with it, but I feel it is inevitable, despite what everybody else says.
- The market seems to be drying up on Harper and the Cubs could benefit. That being said, if his price drops low enough, a host of other teams might be interested in signing the right fielder.
- Jeff Burdick takes a look at some of the less-than-spectacular minor league drafts of Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod, including their work together with the Red Sox. My Monday column will focus on the polarizing fan views of the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. That’s if I don’t get snowed in again, as we are expecting another 12-14 inches of the wet, heavy mess here in the 414.
- The Cubs have signed right-hander Junichi Tazawa to a minor league contract. The move reunites Tazawa with Theo Epstein, who signed him in Boston at the start of the hurler’s MLB career.
- The Cubs announced yesterday that they have also signed relief pitcher George Kontos to a minor league deal. Travis Wood has yet to comment on the signing, but he usually lets his bat do all the talking anyway.
- By the way, I fully expect Wood to one day be yet another ex-player hire for the Cubs’ front office.
- Speaking of which, the Cubs have hired former pitcher Aaron Sele. Relax, he’s not a new bullpen addition, though his role in the front office has yet to be determined. Sele may be best known for headhunting White Sox outfielder George Bell, so timing this announcement to coincide with the opening of Sox Fest represents one-upsmanship at its very best.
- MLB.com’s Cubs reporter Jordan Bastian has all the answers to your Cubs questions in his latest Cubs Inbox column.
A look back at some of the more significant Cubs-related news items from the past week.
- Yu Darvish is throwing again, and he looks impressive.
- Bleacher Report graded the offseasons of all 30 MLB teams so far. Right now the Cubs are sitting on a big fat D-.
- Javier Baez admitted that the pressure of possibly winning the NL MVP got to him a little bit toward the end of last season. He finished the final week with no homers, 1 RBI, and 11 whiffs with a .607 OPS in eight games as the Cubs watched their division lead slip away.
- The Cubs feel an urgency to develop more homegrown pitching. Throughout the organization, velocity numbers have been down in comparison to the rest of baseball.
- The Cardinals are united in their rivalry with the Cubs in the wake of weekend fan fests for both teams.
- Kris Bryant said the Cubs are coming into the 2019 season with huge chips on their shoulders.
- Amidst all of the fighting with St. Louis, White Sox fans want their turn at amping up what was thought to be a euthanized rivalry. A new speakeasy on the South side of Chicago has a few rules for anyone entering, including no cell phones, no MAGA hats, and no Cubs fans.
- Cole Hamels envisions himself as the ace of the Cubs’ 2019 staff.
Weekend Baseball Read
Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball by John Helyar. The author provides superb detail on Marvin Miller’s successful fight in the 1960’s and ‘70’s to topple the Reserve Clause and give players free agency. Miller was MLBPA Executive Director from 1966-82. While Helyar published his book just before the 1994 strike, anyone who reads it will come away with the notion that player-owner strife will always threaten baseball.
Weekend Baseball Flick
Bang the Drum Slowly – Baseball was a completely different animal in the mid-1960’s, and though this movie is based on fictitious players and teams, it offers a great look at a time when playing baseball was more or less just a regular job. Robert DeNiro is fantastic as catcher Bruce Pearson, a player of limited intellect with a terminal illness. Michael Moriarity portrays Henry Wiggen, the team’s only star player. It is a film adaptation of the 1956 baseball novel of the same name by American author Mark Harris.
Saturday Walk Up Song
Queen (Full Live Performance) from Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 1986. U2 did a pretty kickass set there that genuinely launched their career into the stratosphere, but I defy you to name a more iconic live performance than Queen’s. Remember when MTV actually contributed to the good of society?
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t love the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, though I thought Rami Malek was incredible, as was the music. I did enjoy the irony of Mike Myers playing the EMI label exec who hated the title song, though.