The Rundown: MLB Could Learn Something from NFL, Braves Silence Cubs’ Bats, Rules Changes Difficult to Track

“This is what you want, this is what you get. Weakness. Waiting. Silence. Payment.” – Public Image Ltd. The Order of Death.

The NFL kicked off its annual draft last night with a record number of picks changing hands in a furiously frenzied evening that felt like fantasy football day at your friendly neighborhood frat house. After last night’s swap-a-palooza, I can’t help but think about how MLB could leverage their draft to generate more interest in an attempt to attract a younger fanbase.

For instance, why doesn’t the league do a better job of promoting amateur baseball? Sure, they’ve made strides, but NCAA football bios are promoted with dozens and dozens of league-sponsored, Emmy Award-level short-form videos. A few weeks ago I knew very little about Jahan Dotson but this morning I am acutely aware that he may have been the steal of the draft.

This is probably beating a dead horse, but why not allow teams to trade their picks? If you want to provide competitive balance to small-market teams, let them trade their few good players for future assets. The July 31 deadline would take on a whole ‘nother level of hysteria if the Cubs walked away minus Wade Miley, Willson Contreras, and Clint Frazier but with 4-5 extra draft picks. The Rays could do so much damage with the way they manage payroll that they could be a juggernaut for decades.

Additionally, you’d give the league a third player-movement window to piggyback on the mid-summer deadline and the hot stove season. That would generate interest for 30 teams year-round, rather than the 2-3 months that baseball is popular among fans of the league’s also-rans.

Another thing MLB should do is get better studio personalities to cover the amateur draft before, during, and after the event. I have so much hope that the “let the kids play” movement will one day yield watchable analysts in the studio because, frankly, guys like Brian Kenny, Jim Kaat, Billy Ripken, and the insufferable Bob Costas don’t do it for me. I do like Mark DeRosa, Carlos Peña, and even Kevin Millar in small doses, but nobody under 30 years of age relates to any of those guys.

Finally, the league needs to make amateur and minor league baseball more accessible to fans. I don’t think too many parents are buying their teenage kids access to MiLB.TV, and other than the Little League and College World Series, amateur baseball gets little airtime. There are savvy ways for the league to generate ad revenues by forcing the networks that pay billions of dollars for MLB rights broadcasts to include 20-25 non-MLB games per year.

I had so much fun watching last night’s draft I had no idea the Cubs lost 5-1 to the Braves until I checked the box scores this morning. That the NFL can easily divert attention away from its competition through master marketing — especially to a younger audience — is something pitch clocks, ghost runners, and larger bases will never do. When the Cubs make the No. 7 selection in a few months, nobody but hardcore baseball fans will know enough about the pick to make a judgment. Yet when the Patriots chose third-round talent Cole Strange out of Tenessee-Chattanooga, nearly all football fans understood that that was a tremendous reach by Bill Belichick.

I’d like to see that kind of commitment to tomorrow’s MLB booms and busts, though it will probably never happen. Baseball is far too content to cater to its aging audience by diving into the nostalgia pool now and again while trying to bastardize what was once America’s pastime with silly rules changes.

Your move, Rob Manfred. The NFL owns you and just kicked you square in the ‘nads.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

What pitchers are capable of doing with 108 stitches borders on oppression. Case in point, Alek Manoah. Remember when Matt Clement pitched for the Cubs? He had a similar arsenal.

Climbing the Ladder

“All my tubes and wires, careful notes and antiquated notions…” – Thomas Dolby, She Blinded Me With Science

It’s almost like an algebraic equation, but when the Cubs have fewer hits than strikeouts and see less than four pitches per plate appearance, they lose. Last night Chicago was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, whiffed 10 times with three hits, and averaged 3.9 pitches per batter.

  • Games Played: 19
  • Total Plate Appearances: 714
  • Total Strikeouts: 154
  • Strikeout Rate: 21.56%
  • Team Batting Average: .260

How About That!

If you’re starting to think about which free agents will be available this winter, the list of those who could potentially opt out, led by Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts, is far more interesting than the run-of-the-mill players that will be available. Trea Turner would be an exciting addition for the Cubs.

The additions of Correa and Javier Báez have reignited the Tigers-Twins rivalry in the AL Central.

Cowboy Joe West, who has little room to talk when critiquing umpires, said MLB gave ángel Hernández a game score of 96 for the atrocities he committed on Sunday night.

The inability of pitchers to grip a baseball will be on the table when the Mets meet with league officials to discuss the increase of batters being hit by pitches.

Everybody hates the league’s current version of its game ball, but for different reasons.

One might say the league has reached a level of critical stupidity.

Minor leaguers have mixed feelings about the pitch clock, but that won’t prevent it from being deployed at the next level.

Infield shifts are increasing in this final year before MLB restricts them.

Trevor Bauer still wants to know if Manfred should be allowed to “suspend a guy for having consensual sex.”

A petition signed by more than 1,000 minor league players demands that the league treat them as year-round employees, which means getting paid during spring training.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Manoah – The Blue Jays starter is now 4-0 with a spiffy 1.44 ERA after blanking Red Sox over seven three-hit innings with seven strikeouts.
  2. Aaron Judge – A mammoth three-run tater on a 2-for-4 night with four RBI warrants a spot here.
  3. Austin Hays – The Baltimore left fielder had four hits, including three doubles, as the Orioles fell 10-5 to the Yankees.

Extra Innings

Agreed on Mike Trout, but I think Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani are pretty darn close.

They Said It

  • “[The bullpen] is shaping out really nicely. Guys are starting to find their groove, fill their roles, and it feels like they’re all hands on deck down there, which is a nice feeling for me.”David Ross
  • “I thought the best way to make my parents proud was taking the cards out together. I’m crying because I’m proud of the job that we put together to get to where we are. It was the moment of my life, believe me.” – Ws. Contreras

Friday Walk-Up Song

Unsatisfied by The Replacements – I was thinking about old friend John Arguello this morning. Arguello started the Cubs Den blog and recruited me as a writer, though I declined on multiple occasions. He and I talked as much about The Replacements and good scotch as we did about the Cubs, and I really miss those conversations. I’m biased, but other than Cubs Insider, John’s blog was the best in the business. He would have loved all the excitement surrounding the new crop of Cubs prospects.

PS – I am glad to work for CI. Writing this column is the highlight of my day.

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