The Rundown: Hoyer Throws Star Trio Under the Bus, Ricketts Talks Reset, Dodgers Among Deadline Winners, Cubs Fans Among Week’s Biggest Losers
“Will you stand above me? Look my way, never love me, the rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down.” – Simple Minds, Don’t You Forget About Me
What a time it must be to be Rafael Ortega. There is nothing like hitting three home runs in a game only to be upstaged by former teammates Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo, each of whom homered in their debuts with their new teams. The replacement Cubs lost 6-5 to the alternate Nationals, with Washington’s b-squad taking the series two games to one.
Fri: Anthony Rizzo HR in NYY debut
Sat: Javy Baez HR in NYM debut
Sun: Kris Bryant HR in SF debut
They're the first trio of former teammates in the Modern Era to start the season on the same team, and then homer in their respective debuts with a new team later that season. pic.twitter.com/YEUQddWgmR
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 2, 2021
Do you have an idea of how many years away #Cubs are from competing at a high level again?
Jed Hoyer: "That to me is unclear … The honest answer is I don't know yet."
He said it depends on new CBA, what FA market looks like and how quickly prospects develop.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) August 2, 2021
Things aren’t very rosy for fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers these days, and though Ortega (.313/.364/.518, .375 wOBA, 136 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR in 122 PA) is doing his best to generate the kind of excitement we’ve grown accustomed to across the last six seasons, monster mashing aside, it still paled in comparison.
To make matters worse, the trio of ex-Cubs are still in the news today, and per Jed Hoyer via Jesse Rogers of ESPN, it seems none of the three were ever very interested in signing extensions with the organization Hoyer heads. So though he’s being perceived as a cold-blooded hatchet man, perhaps the president of baseball operations is a jilted lover, more or less.
Divorces are never pretty, and this one could have uglier ramifications down the road. What will other free agents think about when Hoyer negotiates with them? If, as Hoyer mentioned to Rogers, the organization gave fair market offers, why would all three refuse? Is it Tom Ricketts? Perhaps it was the extra year of service time Theo Epstein stole from Bryant or the trade of Yu Darvish and release of Kyle Schwarber.
Going further, what happens when the next wave of premium players comes through the Cubs’ system? Will they be counting down the clock toward their ultimate escape? It’s certainly not the city itself, as players seem amped to go to the South Side and sign extensions to stay. We’ve always assumed that Chicago would never be a White Sox town, but could that change under the Ricketts’ stewardship?
We’ve said this for years, but all the trust, goodwill, and confidence the Ricketts family built leading up to and just past 2016 has completely dissipated. Tom needs a PR firm for the family, has to reduce his own visibility, and absolutely has to stop deflecting blame on his baseball executives. He continues to say that all the baseball decisions belong to Hoyer, and Epstein before him, but ultimately Ricketts sets the budget, approves the contracts, and signs the checks. The Cubs core is nevermore, and only Tom Ricketts should be held accountable for that.
As far as the 11 new members of the organization, I’d say Hoyer got one or two potential all-stars, a couple of better-than-decent players, and the rest is depth. Nick Madrigal will probably stick, and I have high hopes for Alexander Canario, Kevin Alcantara, and Caleb Kilian. Greg Deichmann might be someone to keep an eye on, too. I’ve no hope that Pete Crow-Armstrong will ever be any better than Albert Almora, Jr. It’s nice that Hoyer found players with exceptional bat-to-ball skills, but there isn’t a heck of a lot of firepower on the peripherals of the big league club other than Brennen Davis.
I’ve got nothing further, but I’d sure like to see the Cubs sold to someone who cares about winning more than he/she does about accumulating high-end real estate surrounding Wrigley Field.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ricketts issued a letter to season ticket holders expressing the “very difficult decisions” he and Hoyer had to make at the end of last week.
- Hoyer said that the players he acquired will help the Cubs become a competitive team much quicker than had he decided to embark on a full rebuild.
- Rizzo learned that sentimentality does not exist in the business of baseball.
- Bryant said he had goosebumps during his first game with the Giants.
- Justin Steele is “really close” to rejoining the team as a starter.
- CI’s Todd Johnson breaks down the 10 minor leaguers that were acquired in Chicago’s clearance sale.
- Báez indicated he is open to returning to the Cubs as a free agent this winter. I don’t know if he will still feel that way once he reads Hoyer’s comments.
- The final two months of this season loom disproportionately large for the Adbert Alzolay in Chicago’s rebuilding process.
- No matter what happened last week, the Cubs and Nationals still have their 2016 and ’19 championships.
- The Cubs may have been one of the league’s bigger winners at the trade deadline, but the team’s fanbase probably feels more than a little slighted.
Odds & Sods
Bryant doesn’t look like a young man who was excited to leave Chicago, even after his best buddies had already been traded. Until the players or their agents confirm what Hoyer said is true, I’m calling bullshit.
Kris Bryant was emotional after getting traded to the Giants @BRWalkoff
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 30, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“All for freedom and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever.” – Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World
- Games Played: 104
- Total Plate Appearances: 3,926
- Total Strikeouts: 1,020
- Strikeout Rate: 26%
- Team Batting Average: .227
Ortega and Patrick Wisdom seem like good guys to root for, we all love Kyle Hendricks, and here’s hoping Hoyer finds a way to keep Willson Contreras beyond next season.
How About That!
The Brewers announced they have acquired right-handed reliever John Axford from the Blue Jays for cash considerations. Axford was not on Toronto’s 40-man roster, so he was trade-eligible.
Nick Castellanos hit another home run during another on-air eulogy.
First-round draft pick Kumar Rocker did not sign with the Mets before yesterday’s deadline, and owner Steve Cohen lamented the lost investment in a horribly tone-deaf tweet.
The Dodgers look like the league’s best team coming out of last week’s trading frenzy, one which saw 114 players moved in 42 deals.
Though Los Angeles seems to have a clear path to repeating as champions, the Dodgers still have a flaw or two that good teams can expose in this year’s playoffs.
The Blue Jays have a workhorse in newly acquired starter José Berríos.
Sunday’s Three Stars (B-team edition)
- Rafael Ortega – No explanation needed.
- Yadiel Hernández – He hit two homers against the Cubs yesterday, including a walk-off winner.
- Max Shrock – Filling on for Player-of-the Month Joey Votto, Shrock was a perfect understudy, going 5-for-5 with a home run and two RBI.
“Great men are not always born great. They grow great.” – Mario Puzo
Rafael Ortega has six home runs this season.
Half of them were hit today. pic.twitter.com/nPO1YxAYXy
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 1, 2021
They Said It
- “That will probably be my greatest source of frustration from this era. I put my head on the pillow every night knowing we put our best foot forward. The extensions we offered these guys will hold up exceptionally well against the open market. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to sign. I don’t know why guys didn’t want to even counteroffer, oftentimes. Every one of these guys would say they wanted to stay in Chicago, ‘we wanted to be a Cub,’ but then we would sit down and do negotiations, that wasn’t how [each] acted”– Jed Hoyer
- “Cubs fans are no longer content with merely making the playoffs. As we reset our team, please know we share your higher expectations. With five postseason appearances in the last six years, including reaching the NLCS three times and our historic World Series championship, sustainable on-field success is the new standard.” – Tom Ricketts
Monday Walk-Up Song
Holding Back the Years by Simply Red. The Cubs’ competitive window has officially closed, and it’s on Hoyer’s shoulders to get his team back into contention.