Mike Canter decided a little extra sleep was more important that penning his wildly successful morning column, so you’re stuck with me today. And I’m feeling the effects getting out on the basketball court for the first time in years with 20 extra pounds and a lot less quickness. Here’s to hoping all the menthol fumes from the Salon Pas patches littering my lower body are worth it. Don’t ever get old, kids.
Anyway, we’ll try to keep it short this time around, which I always say and never do. Here’s to hoping I can break some bad habits.
Speaking of going much longer than expected, yesterday’s column on the impact of Marquee Sports Network on television viewers clocked in around 2,000 words. I included a tl;dr in there to alleviate some of the clutter, but it’s a complicated topic and one I’ve tried for the last five years to shine a light on. Of course, most folks just want to know where and how they’ll be able to watch their Cubs.
We probably won’t have all the answers to that for several months and could very well run into a situation like we’re seeing with free agency these past two years. But what we should start getting more information on much sooner is the network’s programming choices. In addition to live games and replays, they’re going to need to come up with some shows that educate and entertain fans.
There’ll no doubt be a studio show in addition to pre- and post-game hits, plus the potential for a nightly talk show hosted by Ryan Dempster. But if the Cubs really want to add a little twist to things, I’ve suggested going off the board a little when it comes to both talent and content.
One assumes Sinclair, which will reportedly handle hiring and other administrative duties but will not influence programming, will make runs at some of the more popular on-air talent from NBC Sports Chicago and elsewhere. Think David Kaplan and Kelly Crull, mainstays of Cubs coverage for a while now.
What I’m thinking, though, is something along the lines of a Food Network show that sees a host (or hosts) visiting local breweries and restaurants. Maybe there’s even an opportunity to have episodes of the show from each road city as well, a way to give fans something to look forward to when they pay a visit to each place. Lord knows there’s a Chicago-style eatery in just about every city in America.
Or they could just replay Game 7 of the 2016 World Series over and over again, which might not be a bad idea.
Cleanup on aisle Chatwood
Among the many disappointments from last season, Tyler Chatwood’s inability to limit walks was up there near the top. He’s clearly got excellent stuff, it’s just that neither his command nor his control were up to par in the least. As correctable as that may seem from the couch — Just throw strikes, dammit! — trying to navigate through labyrinthine mechanical issues during the course of a season is nigh impossible.
So Chatwood spent the winter trying to clean a few things up and simplify his delivery to make good on the promise the Cubs saw in him last season. And he got a little help from a seemingly unlikely source, as he threw with former Cub Jesse Chavez in Southern California.
The changes are still in progress and we won’t see the impact until he faces live hitting, but Chatwood believes he’s figured some things out.
“This offseason, I’m gonna work on cleaning up my mechanics a little bit,” the righty told members of media Thursday in Mesa. “My hand was traveling a little bit toward the third base side, which, when my front foot struck it wasn’t up. So it’s tough to be consistent doing that.”
As anyone who’s tried to break a habit can tell you, it’s not easy. And in many cases, the finely tuned compensation machine that is your body will find a new and different way to maintain that old habit even when you think you’ve rid yourself of it.
“I took my glove-tap away mid-season and I think part of it was I’m so used to glove-tapping that I was gonna glove-tap somewhere, so I was jabbing, missing my glove [and] taking my hand that way,” Chatwood explained. “So it might seem little, but my timing was terrible last year.”
Make no mistake about it, no changes are going to turn Chatwood into an elite strike-thrower, not even spending years working with a guy like Chavez. But he was under 4.00 BB/9 in three consecutive seasons with the Rockies and even the 4.69 he posted in 2017 light years better than the 8.25 last year with the Cubs. The key is keeping the ball close enough to the zone early so hitters aren’t all getting ahead in the count right away.
Cubs News & Notes
- Patrick Mooney has some notes on Ian Clarkin ($), who has never been to Chicago despite bouncing back and forth between organizations on both sides of town.
- From that same piece, Kris Bryant actually tried to recruit Clarkin to the University of San Diego during his playing days there. The lefty opted for a $1.65 million signing bonus as the No. 33 pick in the same draft that saw KB go No. 2. A less sophisticated individual might have a chuckle at the phrasing of that last bit.
- People are up in arms about PECOTA predictions that have the Cubs finishing last in the NL Central at 80-82, but not because the projections seem so low. No, there’s apparently legitimate anger that Cubs players and coaches aren’t taking an esoteric computer projection seriously enough, which, okay. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t want them taking a 95-win projection seriously, either.
- Vegas likes the Cubs quite a bit more, putting them at 5/1 to win the NL and 12/1 for the World Series, though much of that is due to the money being put on the Cubs. They opened at 89.5 wins and that has been bet up to 92.5, a far cry from PECOTA projections. Again, this isn’t quite based in what experts think will happen.
- Addison Russell has yet to officially address the media in Mesa, but his teammates have been asked about things quite a bit. We’ve gotten several responses that can be filed under “Just leave it alone,” which is problematic for several reasons. First, domestic violence and other such matters don’t go away just because you stop talking about them; the opposite is true. Second, this will continue to be a topic until such time as Russell can prove that he’s completely reformed. No one is forcing you to read about Russell, but if you’re imploring CI or other outlets to stop covering the most obvious and important aspect of his employment at this point, you may want to think about why it is you’re doing so.
Spring Training Notes
- In their effort to jump into win-now mode, the Marlins have signed veteran reliever Sergio Romo to a $2.5 million deal for 2019. No word on whether they’ll try to travel back in time to prevent themselves from trading away two MVPs, a solid third outfielder, and an elite catcher.
- The Astros nearly completed a trade for Bryce Harper at last year’s deadline.
- The Twins have extended Max Kepler for five years, $35 million.
- Manny Machado met with the Padres again, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Shortly after Cubs Convention, we first launched a t-shirt design that read simply, “Boring,” with a stylized Gateway Arch serving as the “n.” This was after the whole kerfuffle in which Yadier Molina filled his man-diaper after Kris Bryant jokingly called St. Louis boring. Anyway, we sold a few shirts and then our vendor yanked the design for what they said was copyright infringement.
What’s interesting is that the Arch is a national monument or a national park or whatever, and is thus part of public domain. The font we used from straight from Word, so no issues there. Numerous emails (they don’t let you actually speak with the legal team) either went unanswered or got generic responses, none of which even attempted to address the very legitimate concerns I had with the decision.
But more than just the “Boring” design, our vendor proceeded to remove every single shirt of ours than included anything other than text. All of our logos and anything that even appeared to have been based off of a photo or image was nixed, even those that had been up for years. My thought is that someone with the Cubs saw my #EveryBoteIn shirt at CubsCon and had us flagged, but I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure.
Anyway, we’ve switched vendors and have the “Boring” shirts back up, along with another new design based on Joe Maddon’s newest slogan. Fans of 90’s WCW rasslin’ will probably understand what this is all about. If you’re interested in seeing what all’s available, cruise on over to the shop.
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) February 15, 2019
Friday Walk Up Song
This is more Mike’s thing and I’m sitting here trying to come up with anything and just can’t do it. So just hum yourself a tune and we’ll call it a day because I failed miserably at staying short.