“Families are always rising and falling in America.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
“All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” – Dante Alighieri
There is no joy in being a Cubs fan these days. With each day comes new heartbreak or another chink in the armor of a franchise that is rapidly losing the luster that made the North Siders the darlings of baseball just four years ago. Perhaps the team needs a brand strategist, someone who focuses on authenticity, optics, and perceptions, even if just in an attempt to portray a small sense of optimism and fortitude.
The Cubs seem lost and rudderless right now and it seems no team is more capable of setting fire to gasoline. Yesterday’s news provided further examples of the current state of affairs at Clark and Addison.
The day started out with an announcement that the Padres had acquired another starting pitcher. Though that’s not surprising given San Diego’s penchant for resolute rotation liquidity, it was the details of the trade that sent Joe Musgrove from the Pirates to the Padres that is a bit discerning, especially given what A.J. Preller surrendered to acquire Yu Darvish from the Cubs a few weeks ago.
In a three-team deal, the Pirates netted five prospects for Musgrove, including Hudson Head, who was San Diego’s No. 7 prospect. The Pirates also received two high-upside pitchers, lefty Omar Cruz ( the Padres’ No. 17 prospect), and right-hander David Bednar. San Diego also kicked in righty Drake Fellows and the Mets sent No. 14 prospect Endy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh in order to pry starter Joey Lucchesi from the Padres to complete the transaction.
As you know, Jed Hoyer acquired four prospects for Darvish, including three who have no professional experience.
Later in the day, it was announced that Tyler Chatwood had signed with the Blue Jays, primarily to help their bullpen. Though that’s no great loss, the Cubs are still two full-time starters shy of a complete rotation and have no swingman on the roster. Chatwood received a $3 million base salary with incentives that could push that total to $5.5 million. Using Mike Montgomery as an example, that seems to be a fair contract that is still obviously too rich for the Cubs to match.
Just before that came the announcement that Jon Lester was signing with the Nationals, even after the veteran lefty reportedly told Hoyer he did not want to pitch for anybody but the Cubs. The fact that Lester is moving on says more about the current culture of the team than it does about their embarrassing financial state. Lester, who legitimized the club when he signed as a free agent five years ago, will earn $5 million with the Nats.
Lest you think he is over the hill, note that two exceptionally poor performances against the White Sox really hurt him statistically. Minus those two outings, he was the Cubs’ third-best starter last year.
Beyond disappointing the Cubs offer to Jon Lester came very late in the process and was not close to the money the Washington Nationals offered. That is not how you take care of the greatest free agent signing in team history and one of the two best in Chicago sports history.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) January 19, 2021
Speaking of culture, the news about Mets GM Jared Porter, who was the director of professional scouting for the Cubs during their 2016 championship season, is positively disgusting. The fact that at least one member of the organization at the time was aware of Porter’s lewd conduct and allegedly did nothing to escalate the issue is abhorrent.
The fall of a franchise is often an accumulation of egregious missteps and arrogant behavior. Since winning the World Series in 2016, the organization has faced public backlash for racist emails written by patriarch Joe Ricketts, the physical abuse charges against former shortstop Addison Russell, a lack of neighborly empathy for the Wrigleyville residents, the continued stranglehold of the team’s baseball operations budget amidst “biblical losses,” the Marquee boondoggle, and now the allegations against Porter and his confirmation of the accusations.
Let us also not forget that when Jason Heyward boycotted a game to take a stand against racism, the team offered little in the way of support. Several teams canceled their games on August 26, though the Cubs were not one of them.
The organization is imploding right now and continues to show a lack of decency and dignity in addition to its supposed dire financial state. You can appreciate Tom Ricketts for all he did to help bring a championship to the North Side, but he has erased all the goodwill he earned when the Cubs broke that 108-year championship drought. The family is no longer building financial or aesthetic value in the team and is losing the confidence of its fans.
It seems that the best thing Ricketts can do for the organization, the fans, and his family is to sell the team and let them take their hundreds of millions in profit to walk away from it all. It’s too bad that’s unlikely to happen.
Cubs News & Notes
- Lester had a number of iconic moments during his tenure with the Cubs.
- Heyward and Ian Happ volunteered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to help distribute 33,300 meals in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Happ would like to see the Cubs retire Lester’s No. 34. Kerry Wood sported the same number when he pitched for the Cubs, so perhaps it could be a dual honor like the number 31 worn by Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins.
- Wood’s 20K game remains the best starting pitching performance in team history, and Jake Arrieta has two of the top five all-time starts.
- The Red Sox are showing strong interest in reliever Jeremy Jeffress.
- As far as divisions go, the NL Central is the league’s biggest loser this offseason.
- Two Cubs prospects, Brailyn Márquez and Brennen Davis, made this year’s Baseball America Top 100 prospect list.
- The Cubs have high hopes for some of their minor league right-handed starters.
Odds & Sods
Preller has apparently mastered the Jedi mind trick.
Just a reminder…the #Padres traded for Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger and now Joe Musgrove without giving up top prospects Mackenzie Gore, Adams Morejon, Ryan Weathers, C.J. Abrams, Luis Campusano, or Robert Hassel…..not sure how that’s possible but #Impressive !!
— Jim Bowden⚾️🏈 (@JimBowdenGM) January 19, 2021
Even after acquiring Lucchesi, the Mets are still looking for another starter.
The Padres stacked rotation is the envy of baseball.
Cardinals fans are becoming increasingly irritated that the Redbirds have yet to make any improvements to the team
In March of 1970, the game’s greatest stars staged an exhibition all-star game to honor Dr. King, though it has mostly been forgotten.
Rap legend Chuck D dropped a stunning tribute to the baseball legends who passed away in 2020.
Perhaps Lester, who has 191 career victories, will win his 200th against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, hopefully in front of a packed house cheering him on. Nothing would be more poetic.
The veteran. The lefthander. Number 34. BDJ.
– 2 ASG appearances
– 1 NLCS MVP
– 77-44 w/ a 3.64 ERA overall
– 2.44 ERA in 12 Playoff games
– 1 World Series Championship
Thank you for everything, Jon Lester. Forever a Chicago Cubs legend. pic.twitter.com/wJDNbFusJ3
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) January 19, 2021
They Said It
- “We have to be creative in who we target and guys that maybe we go look at. Even bullpen guys that can give us multiple innings and can get stretched out — other ways to bridge a little bit more with some long guys after a starter.” – Tommy Hottovy
- “We’re trying to win championships, right? That’s the ultimate goal. We’ll always build towards winning and winning a World Series.” – David Ross
Tuesday Walk Up Song
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot – You don’t really need my help deciphering the metaphor, do you?