The Rundown: February (Usually) Means Truck Day, Santo-Williams Takedown at Wrigley, Keith Law’s Prospect List, CBA Negotiations Resume Today

The MLB lockout is about to enter its third month and it seems as if no resolution is in sight. The two sides probably aren’t that far apart on a lot of the checklist items, but nobody’s boarding the express train to a new agreement. It’s frustrating, especially when the calendar turns to February.

Usually, at this time of year Cubs fans are waiting with bated breath to see which fringe free agents will sign. Though annoying and depressing, it’s been a rite of February since Tom Ricketts tucked his checkbook beneath his mattress after Yu Darvish signed in 2018. It’s always fun – and great water cooler talk –  when a player like Daniel Descalso, Trevor Williams, or Eric Sogard hits the afterthought section of the Cubs’ transaction wire.

The current CBA negotiations are depriving us of those late winter hijinx, however, and as the days start to get a little longer and reporting date starts to get a little closer, it’s nearly time to hit the panic button on the 2022 season.

Or is it?

I’ve stated many times that my insider contacts are a small and very non-prestigious trio of less-than-influential individuals, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t privy to useful information. One baseball organization whose offices practically sit in my backyard is loading up its trucks and making business-as-usual preparations for spring training. Now I’m not going to walk around the stadium formerly known as Miller Park filming wintertime videos like our friend Danny Rockett does in Chicago, but there is a little bit of buzz north of the Cheddar Curtain regarding baseball negotiations.

Truck Day is a significant placeholder for those whose calendars are dictated by the crack of a bat and the flight of a baseball. It’s also the first sign that winter is nothing more than a semi-hibernation of sorts for baseball fans and a chance to rekindle dalliances with less significant sports, like the NBA or bowling. For fans of America’s pastime, Truck Day is our Groundhog Day and means that only six weeks of winter remain.

It’s an exasperating exercise to speculate on what any of it means. Preparing to move an entire organization to a spring training site is not something that can be done on a whim, which would mean those preparations consist of nothing more than due diligence. But, I was told that there is real hope that an agreement will be struck by February 10, which would give pitchers and catchers a little less than a week to ditch their garage-based batting cages and get to Arizona or Florida.

The key to the mystery is watching what players do. We can fully expect at least a small semi-trailer full of bats, baseballs, uniforms, and Big League Chew to make its way from Clark & Addison to Sloan Park in the next week or so. After all, minor league players who have not been added to Chicago’s 40-man roster will be conducting business as usual this spring and many, in fact, are already at Sloan. However, if we start reading reports of real major leaguers making their way to warmer destinations, that might be a little more telling.

Far be it from me, however, to get anybody’s hopes up. Negotiations remain tenuous at best, and the owners aren’t afraid to cancel regular-season games. That said, I feel a little more optimistic knowing that things could work out so that baseball’s traveling secretaries become the game’s February MVPs.

Once an agreement is executed, the event formerly known as baseball’s hot stove will become one helluva barn-burning hootenanny, with over 100 players still waiting to sign major league contracts, including Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, and scores of available players whose names I’ve now forgotten. Won’t Rob Manfred be glad to grab the bulk of sports headlines just as the NFL is about to play Super Bowl LVI? Should we expect anything less from baseball’s evil overlord?

Cubs News & Notes

  • Some analysts believe the Cubs have a real shot at stud pitcher Ryan Lesko in this year’s draft. Let’s hope so, he is arguably one of the best pitching prospects available in the last few years. Some say the best ever, but I find such hyperbole a little too over-the-top. I still like Jackson Ferris a little more, but I’m not making the selection.
  • Matt Dermody is coming back to the Cubs. I should have included him above. Dermody pitched one complete inning for the Cubs in 2020. Fire up the printers for those championship banners!
  • If you’re looking for potential trade targets, how about Nick Ahmed, Tyler Glasnow, and J.D. Davis? I’ve always said Glasnow is a pipe dream, but if the lockout pushes back the start of the season, Glasnow might be a perfect fit for Chicago. He’s probably high on a lot of team lists, though. The fireballing lefty has never made more than 14 starts in a season, never pitched as many as 112 innings, and is expected to miss most of 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
  • The Cubs have removed statues of Ron Santo and Billy Williams, possibly to make room for a new sportsbook. The organization released a statement indicating that “more details on when the statues will be returned to Wrigley Field will be provided at a later date.”
  • The optimist in me believes that the statues are undergoing minor repair. The Cubs do intend to create a statues row to honor the best of the beloved franchise.
  • The Cubs are counting on a resurgence by Kyle Hendricks in 2022.
  • You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to access the content, but Keith Law published his annual top 100 prospects list. Outfielder Brennen Davis made the list at No. 28, up 23 spots since 2021, and was the only Cubs’ farmhand to be included this year.
  • It’s February, which means more meaningless pleas from Cubs fans to ownership to make things right with Sammy Sosa.

Odds & Sods

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are here to pump you up! You couldn’t get away with this kind of marketing today, but at least it’s not as egregiously sexist as the Miller Lite catfight commercial. In full disclosure, I did enjoy that ad a great deal at the time (just in case anybody goes digging through my social media history).

MLB News & Notes

The Mets could be planning to make a big splash in free agency once baseball resumes. Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Rodón stand out as potential acquisitions.

MLB executives believe the Giants are the favorites to sign Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki.

No team’s history may have changed more radically under a 14-team playoff format than the Mariners.

Adam Wainwright is very unhappy with one ramification of baseball’s lockout.

Doug Glanville is very okay with Barry Bonds not being elected to the Hall of Fame.

Negotiations & Love Songs

League owners and the MLBPA are hoping to build on common ground in today’s labor negotiation session.

Today’s bargaining talks mark the third such in-person meeting in nine days, an indication of the two sides’ urgency despite players’ continuing frustration with previous offers.

Benchmark dates that will impact spring training and the start of the 2022 season are rapidly approaching.

Today’s Baseball Jones

Gary Matthews slugging two home runs in Game 1 of the 1984 NLCS is one of my favorite baseball memories.

Extra Innings

I still love this version of Wrigley Field, and if I could go back in time I’d attend every game that brought Roberto Clemente to Clark & Addison.

Suicide Squeeze

“We’re going to take back the North, and we’re never giving it back.” – Bears GM Ryan Poles

The Bears are grabbing all the headlines in Chicago these days, and Sean Holland, Jon Strong, and I are having a blast covering every quote and soundbite over at Bears Insider. If you’re craving a little more action than the slow pace of baseball’s labor negotiations, come join us. Your mom would approve.

They Said It

  • “History has told a story that the players now understand, and the history is that what you negotiate from is an appreciation of franchise values and revenue increases . . . From the players’ perspective, it is about how successful this game is from those two perspectives. And they want fairness. Players want fairness in the success of the game.” – Scott Boras

Tuesday Walk-Up Song

Convoy by C.W. Mccall – I don’t know how you feel, but a February without Truck Day is as un-American as it gets.

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