I used to book bands at SXSW in Austin, TX every March, and it was right around this time of year that I would start finalizing deals with the venues on Sixth Street while making sure my bands got the slots that afforded them the most industry attention. I’d kick off my annual mid-January ritual with a nod to the quote I have had hanging in my office for a number of years:
“Scattered among these things are reminders that sound once existed: a metronome, a drumming pad, a guitar pick, a trumpet mouthpiece, a music stand, a tuning fork, a block of rosin…The older instruments bear the marks of those who have already played them, the scuffs and bites and dents that are the mysterious scars of sound. In their midst the house hangs, tenuous and enveloping, a sounding board waiting to be struck.” – Geoffrey O’Brien
That imagery certainly applies to the 2020 version of the Chicago Cubs.
The 2020 Cubs Convention kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday at the Sheraton Grand.
Here's your guide to the festival, from how to get tickets to which panels and events you should make a point to attend.https://t.co/HgtueX6j5D
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) January 17, 2020
Usually when Cubs Convention kicks off, it’s a reminder that the hot stove has basically ended and the team is ready to get the new season started. After all, pitchers and catchers report in 25 days, one would think most of the heavy lifting on roster construction would be done by now. That said, the Cubs may be launching into 2020 by simply pulling up the tarps and dusting off the artifacts they put into storage last October.
“It’s an exciting time to be [the] Cubs manager because there’s a lot of talent,” Ross said yesterday. “There’s no ceiling for this team. I really think this team can win the World Series. That’s the way I’m looking at things.”
If anything, Cubs players should be champing at the bit after two disappointing seasons, at least when compared to their magnificent run from 2015-17. They’ll have a lot to prove, not just to the fans or the front office that remains married — by hook or by crook — to its core, but also to themselves.
“We want to win,” Anthony Rizzo added. “I think winning will take care of every single question that has popped up the last couple years, because we haven’t won. It’s on us to get the culture back, get the winning mentality back. Not making the playoffs last year was not fun. It’s not easy to win, but we have the right people to do it.”
The mood during tonight’s opening ceremony should be ravenous to say the least, but for different reasons than years past. Questions from fans about the lack of player movement for a second consecutive season will certainly demand transparency from key members of the organization. It should be a weekend that’s revelatory and engaging. Than again, maybe I’m being too optimistic.
As for me, I’m looking forward to meeting my peers at Lizzie McNeill’s tonight. Though I don’t know many of the other Cubs bloggers personally, I certainly enjoy their work.
While at SXSW, all of the talent providers like myself used to hang out at Guero’s Taco Bar or Threadgill’s, where we would talk about the ups and downs of the music business. Occasionally we’d run into performers that included Beck, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, or Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band, and talk shop. One year I hung out with Ryan Gosling and I didn’t know who he was until I came home and showed the girls my pictures from the trip. I’ll tell you about that sometime, it’s actually an hilarious story.
I’m hoping a similar vibe exists tonight, even for an awkward introvert like myself.
Cubs News & Notes
- When interviewed yesterday, Rizzo declined to talk about his efforts to get an extension from the team.
- The quiet winter has not dampened the team’s expectations.
- Ross fully expects Kris Bryant to be his Opening Day third baseman.
- With CubsCon kicking off tonight, members of the organization may find themselves on the defensive for the first time since the early part of last decade.
- Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts insisted she and her siblings are not ducking fans or the media by ditching their question-and-answer session for the second consecutive year.
- In fact, Tom Ricketts opened up in an interview with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription-based content) about the upcoming season, the reasons for the team’s lack of spending, and the current direction of the organization. Ricketts will participate in the Ryan Dempster talk show on Friday night, and said he would be open to another ownership panel in the future if there is enough interest.
- The Cubs signed a 22-year old pitcher named Max Bain. Sources could neither confirm nor deny that he is also a comic book hero.
Alyssa Nakken, a former softball star at Sacramento State, will join the Giants coaching staff as the first female full-time assistant in Major League Baseball history.
Baseball social media was a hot mess yesterday. Recapping:
- The son of former MLB infielder Scott Brosius contested on Instagram the league has known for two years that Mike Trout has been using HGH, and a few hours later issued a retraction before deleting his account;
- ESPN announcer Jessica Mendoza, who also works in the Mets’ front office, ripped on Mike Fiers for being a whistleblower and then she sort of issued a retraction;
- José Altuve was accused of wearing a wire by someone claiming to be Beltrán’s, though ESPN’s Marly Rivera tweeted that the Beltrán family doesn’t know this person.
- Beltrán’s niece is allegedly a burner account for a player, per Sheffield Jr. Another person alleged that the account is a burner for Incarcerated Bob, a purported Vegas insider who reported that MLB was switching back to non-juiced balls for the postseason.
- Several MLB players alluded to the Altuve rumor on Twitter.
- MLB said no evidence exists to back the Altuve rumors.
You'll be seeing this a lot.
Jose Altuve signaling to his teammates NOT to rip off his jersey in celebration because it would "allegedly" reveal a buzzer that would go off when triggered by someone on the Astros video team.
Next Level Cheating. pic.twitter.com/ApxOmAgdkz
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) January 16, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
In 2015 I booked 217 bands at SXSW. It nearly killed me and I operated at a loss of about $4200 for the week, yet I still miss it a great deal. If you’ve ever seen the movie This is 40, I was Paul Rudd’s character, greasing on credit cards to survive, building enormous debt, and burning through what little savings I had. I’d do it all over again if I could, which is the kind of crazy that makes legends of some and hot disasters of most others.
I already miss this guy. Best of luck in Baltimore, Taylor Davis.
They Said It
- “This is like home to me and my wife and my family. But this is a business. This is as cutthroat as ever now. We’re talking about trading the MVP of the league a couple years ago [Bryant], who has done a lot for this franchise. It’s just a whole different ball game we’re looking at now.” – Anthony Rizzo
- “I haven’t really thought about a succession plan. We got a couple more years of Theo under contract. He may want to stay at the end of that. He may not. I don’t know. We haven’t really crossed that bridge.” – Tom Ricketts
- “It’s so funny when people say Tom is trying to duck the media or the fans because he walks the ballpark every single game. He has to be one of the most available owners in the league to our fans, and he’ll be walking around at the convention.” – Laura Ricketts
Friday Walk Up Song
Lucky Now by Ryan Adams – Baseball is almost here, and love or hate the way this offseason has played out, you can’t help but feel excited. The days are getting longer, the sun a little warmer, and hope springs eternal.