The Rundown: Fixing Tyler Chatwood, Ricketts Apologizes After Racist Emails Released, Bryce Harper Getting Antsy to Report Somewhere

Is this the year Tyler Chatwood becomes the next Charlie Morton? Asking for a friend.

There’s this song by the New Radicals called You Get What You Give. It has a lot of cliched lyrics that really have no substance, but it comes nicely wrapped in a catchy arrangement and listeners are treated to a song that they think they like, completely unaware that they really don’t. It’s usually ranked as one of the better driving songs, presumably because drivers are concentrating on traffic rather than the song itself.

Please pardon me a minute to interject here: This song always reminds me of Joel Sherman of the NY Post, and I don’t know why, but he does toss out a reach or two on occasion, much like this one about Manny Machado. His posts often seem worth reading on the surface but really aren’t, usually because they are designed simply to generate curiosity, much like going to the circus or playing Smash Up Derby.

Some things just don’t make a whole lot of sense.

Looking back to last year when the Cubs were shopping for starting pitchers and signed Chatwood to a relatively modest contract, Evan wrote: “On the surface, the soon-to-be 28-year-old’s numbers don’t inspire a lot of confidence. His 7.31 K/9 was meh and his 4.69 BB/9 tally was anything but nice. Then you’ve got the equally not-nice 4.69 ERA that might have actually been the product of good luck, as evidenced by a 4.94 FIP.”

Brendan Miller was a little more excited about the signing, mostly because of Chatwood’s elite spin rate. The Cubs, and all of baseball, are obsessed with spin rate but at some point it is far more important to just get the ball over the plate. As this article by Driveline Baseball explains, baseball is a game of millimeters when it comes to making or preventing good contact. So when you can throw fastballs with spin that are further away from average, the pitcher gains a significant advantage. If, that is, he can consistently keep his pitches in the strike zone.

Wake up kids, we’ve got the dreamers disease.

We don’t know how many teams were interested in Chatwood last season because he jumped pretty quickly at the Cubs’ offer at a time when free agent pitchers across baseball were seeking more than twice their worth. In fact, Alex Cobb’s asking price made signing Yu Darvish seem like a relative bargain.

But this year, Chatwood is an enigma of sorts. He doesn’t have a defined role and the right-hander is still owed $25.5 million over the next two seasons. Chatwood was ineffective as a starter, and his high walk rate means he will always be a threat to turn an opposing team’s rally into a big inning in a relief role.

Baseball no longer employs pitchers that are strictly mop-up men, but that’s what Chatwood has become. And for what the Cubs are paying him, they could have easily fortified their bullpen with an acquisition or two in free agency this winter.

Hopefully Chatwood can turn it around this year and give the Cubs a decent trade chip. He needs fixing, and new pitching coach Tommy Hottovy will be tasked to do just that. In the meantime, it would be imprudent to sell low on the downfallen starter. Particularly since the Cubs would have to eat most of his contract to convince another team to dream similarly on his potential.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Joe Ricketts quickly apologized via media statement, but it seemed disingenuous at best, because that’s all it could be. “I deeply regret and apologize for some of the exchanges I had in my emails,” the elder Ricketts said in a statement, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “Sometimes I received emails that I should have condemned. Other times I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system. I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.” Not very convincing.
  • Tom Ricketts’ statement stressed that Joe is not involved in the daily operations of the team while also apologizing. That not enough to absolve his father, particularly for the team’s Muslim fans.
  • On to happier baseball news. A new book about Cubs great Ernie Banks is scheduled to be released on February 21. It’s titled Let’s Play Two: The Life and Times of Ernie Banks, and author Doug Wilson takes a look at the Hall of Famer beyond his exploits on the baseball field.
  • George Kontos is realizing a dream this spring. The reliever is a graduate of Niles West and grew up dreaming of playing for the Cubs.
  • When the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles for Jake Arrieta, it turned out to be a slaying of epic proportions, and the state of each franchise as each currently sits can be traced back to that transaction.
  • The Cubs may have found a diamond-in-the rough pitcher in Robert Robbins thanks to Driveline Baseball. Robbins is the seventh player showcased during Driveline’s Pro Day to get signed, including Luke Hagerty, who signed with the Cubs the other day.
  • Not a shocker: Cubs relief pitchers had the most one-out appearances in baseball last season.

Tuesday Stove

The Rockies are optimistic that Nolan Arenado will sign a long term deal to remain in Colorado.

Jacob deGrom is reporting to camp unhappy that he and the Mets haven’t reached an agreement to extend his contract.

Pittsburgh is bringing back Francisco Liriano. The former Pirates’ ace will report to camp on a minor league deal.

The Giants and Yankees have discussed a deal for OF Jacoby Ellsbury. San Francisco has a desperate need for outfielders and is more than anxious to allay some of their higher salaried players in bad contract swaps.

Former White Sox manager and shortstop Ozzie Guillen would like to manage again. Guillen led the ChiSox to the team’s first championship in 88 years back in 2005, and said he is willing to go to the minor leagues and manage there to prove himself.

Bryce Harper looks like he is getting a little antsy

On Deck

You will never be able to look at these players again without seeing them as Pokémon.

Extra Innings

Congratulations to Cubs fan Alexander Pancoe for a successful trek to the South Pole, where he flew the iconic W flag upon arriving. Hopefully he gets back before the poles geomagnetically reverse.

This Weeks New Spins

  • 52nd Street by Billy Joel – I am fortunate to be invited as a VIP backstage for Joel’s Miller Park concert at the end of April, but nobody likes Bragosaurus. This is my favorite spin by the rock and roll icon, with Honesty and Zanzibar being my go-to songs.
  • Long After Dark by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – I love Petty’s Stones-Byrds vibe a great deal, and though this album wasn’t as popular or as successful as some of his other releases, the first album side is terribly underrated by most critics. The early ’80s were lean times for most ’70s rock icons who tried to incorporate synths and new wave sensibilities into their music. Petty probably regretted most of this record, but One Story Town and You Got Lucky still proved he had stones at a time when most of popular music lacked them.
  • Stand By Me Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – My girls love this album so I picked up the unplayed, still sealed long player to will to them one day and I’ll just enjoy it on Spotify until I find another. Classic movie, classic soundtrack. When they were 15 and 16, they sent me a video of them singing Let the Good Times Roll by Shirley & Lee for Father’s Day, which I treasure to this day.

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Just Breathe by Willie Nelson featuring Lukas Nelson – I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan but Willie & his son just do this song so much better, bringing a deep, full, and reverberating beauty to the Eddie Vedder-penned canticle. A lot of people think this song is about saying goodbye to a dying loved one, but Vedder wrote it as a tribute to his wife in celebration of their life and love.

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