The Rundown: Family Matters, Farewells All Around at Wrigley, Potential Changes to Cubs Roster for Next Year

As loyal readers will know, this isn’t your regularly scheduled Rundown. You probably also know why, but I feel obliged to inform you just the same that Michael Canter is mourning and celebrating the memory of his father in law. Dr. Paul Palen passed away Friday afternoon and, though I never had the chance to meet him, my understanding is that the world is a little less bright as a result.

While we’re on the topic of family matters, I’ve got some of my own to attend to here this week and may be out of pocket for a while as a result. Actually, that absence may become more frequent if things go the way we fear — or maybe hope is the right word — at this point. I wasn’t planning on getting into this when I began and my daughter would be mortified if she knew I was sharing it, but we could use some good vibes and I’m feeling cathartic.

Addison Grace Altman was born on August 26, 2006 and was healthy by all accounts. But we soon discovered a pretty significant spinal curvature that soon had her visiting a pediatric orthopedist somewhat regularly over the years. He hoped that things might even out sufficiently, warning all the while that corrective surgery might be necessary at some point.

Well, it appears that we have reached that point. A referral to Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis resulted in an initial consultation, which has turned into a follow-up with a spinal surgeon. We’ll know more tomorrow, but there is a distinct possibility that spinal fusion surgery will be scheduled for the relatively near future. That’s the easy part.

The period leading up to the surgery, however, could be difficult due to the potential for up to 12 weeks of halo gravity traction. And maybe it’ll only be 3-5 weeks, or none at all. But if the traction is necessary, Addison will have to remain hospitalized for the duration of it. That means my wife being off work and staying with her in St. Lou while I stay home with our son. All things considered, I hope you’ll forgive me for not being too upset about the Cubs likely missing the playoffs.

Wrigley farewells from several icons

Okay, now that I’ve sufficiently dampened the mood, let’s talk about how the Cubs pooped the bed. On second thought, I’d rather focus on what may very well have been the final appearances at Wrigley for several iconic Cubs.

First and foremost, we have to recognize legendary organist Gary Pressy for the work he’s done over three-plus decades at the ballpark. He’s been a huge part of the fan experience over what has very literally been a lifetime for millions of fans and he’ll be sorely missed. It was only fitting that he played the crowd out with “I Did It My Way” Sunday afternoon.

Then there was Ben Zobrist, who has almost certainly played his last home game as a Cub. The 38-year-old says he hasn’t made a decision yet when it comes to playing next season, so I guess the possibility exists that he’ll be back in some capacity with the Cubs or elsewhere. He’s looked good since returning to the team and thinks he can still play, but it sounded like there was a little finality in his words.

“It’s the big leagues of the big leagues,” Zobrist said prior to Sunday’s game. “That’s the way the fans make you feel here, the front office, the organization, the way everything’s run. It’s the top of the top. It’s hard to beat the experience of being a Chicago Cubs player, especially when you walk out on that field.”

Though Nicholas Castellanos hasn’t been in Chicago very long, he has already built himself quite a following. Had you just woken up from a lengthy coma and resumed your following of the team, you’d never guess that Big Nick Energy had not been fueling this team for years. Already a fan favorite, it’s hard to believe the contemplative outfielder has only been with the Cubs for two months.

So was he soaking it all in because he’s convincing himself to stay for a “hometown” discount moving forward or because he knows full well he may be playing elsewhere next season? Maybe he was as numb as the rest of us and just wasn’t able to move. You have to think the Cubs will do all they can next season to bring him back (more on that in a bit).

Then there’s Joe Maddon, who has almost certainly managed his last game at Wrigley in a Cubs uniform. He’ll be making out lineup cards somewhere next year, about that there is little doubt, but it’d be a huge shock at this point if he was offered an extension. There will be at least two gigs open in San cities, a move that makes a lot of sense for both Maddon and the respective teams.

It’s also possible that, like the Cubs five years ago, teams like the Phillies and Angels will be willing to jettison their current skippers in order to let Maddon steer their ships. Dude has been great in Chicago and his legacy should reflect that. Even so, it seems like a change is necessary.

Roster shakeup

If you’re on Twitter, Bryan Smith of Bleacher Nation had a really good thread with thoughts on how to shift some things around with the roster this winter. I’ve included the initial tweet below if you want to follow his thoughts, so I’m just going to share a few of my own below.

I’ve been a huge Albert Almora Jr. supporter since he was drafted, but the time has come for the Cubs to part ways. His bat hasn’t developed and his glove has not been even close to good enough to make up for it. Maybe they can move him for a pitching prospect and give him a chance to start over.

Addison Russell has got to go. Even those crusaders still caping for him throughout his suspension — looking right at you, Phil Rogers — have to admit that he’s simply not the player they wanted to make him out to be. Ah, who am I kidding? There are plenty of folks out there who believe, despite heaps of evidence to the contrary, that Russell is a great shortstop capable of being an offensive force.

With Nico Hoerner showing he’s capable of handling himself at the big league level, there is absolutely no reason for the Cubs to keep forcing the issue with Russell. He needs a change of scenery, as do most Cubs fans, which is something I’ve been saying for about two years now.

I’ve also been saying for two years that Victor Caratini would be traded, something that I think could come to pass this winter. Or maybe it’s Willson Contreras, about whom the Cubs have had talks in the past. Without going so far as to say they have too much depth, there’s a great deal of value that could be extracted in a trade of one catcher or the other.

That same value isn’t there with Kyle Schwarber, since power-hitting corner outfielders aren’t scarce by any means. And if the Cubs are serious about winning now, moving Kris Bryant won’t bring back the kind of haul that improves the team in the near term. The organization needs to reassure him of that and keep him around.

It’d be smart to retain Nicky Two Bags as well, given his fit with the team beyond just the way he hit since coming over from Detroit. In addition to serving as a leader and emotional catalyst, Castellanos’ profile as a hitter is almost perfectly suited to Wrigley Field. Surely he and Scott Boras recognize that value, though other teams may overvalue it. We’ll see.

If Yu Darvish defies my expectations and opts out, it would be a grievous error for the Cubs not to throw whatever they have to at Gerrit Cole. Even if Darvish stays, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pay boatloads for former Pirate. There’s a lot of money coming off the books and revenues should increase with Marquee, so I’m all about spending every penny of it.

I’ve got more thoughts, but they can wait for when the season is actually over. And now that I’ve run waaaay long…

Monday Walk Up Song

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday by Boyz II Men. Kind of a cheesy selection, I admit, but it’s fitting given today’s topics. Godspeed, G-Pop, I hope you don’t mind if I cheer lustily against your Brewers for the rest of the season and beyond.

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