The Rundown: Cubs Fans Give Ricketts Cold Shoulder, ‘The Cubs Way’ May Lead Political Culture Change, MLB to Honor Jackie Robinson All Year

I find great humor in the fact that the Weather Channel names snowstorms, but when we get a blast of cold air over a 48-hour period that is genuinely life-threatening, or at least cold enough to send year-round-cargo-shorts-guys into hibernation, those events are unworthy of receiving a name. Let’s call the oncoming winter event Tom Ricketts. That should make some of you happy.

I don’t have a problem with the Ricketts family. The Cubs will have the second-highest payroll in all of baseball this summer and that figure has increased every year since they bought the team. To say they are cheap is 100 percent inaccurate.

If you don’t like the Cubs’ first family because of their political affiliation, their ongoing war with Ald. Tom Tunney, or their landscape-changing efforts in the Wrigleyville community, that’s a completely separate argument.

But when Ricketts says the notion that he is stingy with regard to the Cubs payroll is slightly misguided, I actually have to side with him if I confine that statement to baseball’s ecosystem. Sure, the Cubs could afford to buy the most expensive team on the planet, but we all know that’s never going to happen. So to say that the Cubs owners and front office are cheap because they won’t spend another $300 million to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, or $100 million to sign Craig Kimbrel, really is kind of misguided.

Reader gator13 made a good point in the comments section of yesterday’s Rundown. “If the Cubs payroll was sitting at $190-$195 mil, then I think a more valid complaint by fans can be made.”

All that being said, there are moves to be made and I still don’t believe the Cubs are out on Harper. If his price comes down far enough, you’d have to think Theo Epstein would use the penny wise/pound foolish argument to sway his boss and I think he’d get the approval on that expenditure. I can’t count the Cubs out on Machado for the same reason. If, by many accounts, Machado’s highest offer has been $175 million, I’d think Epstein is at the very least paying close attention.

There are two things that I believe are driving the market (or lack thereof):

  • The last two $150M+ million contracts in baseball belong to Jason Heyward and Chris Davis. Statistically speaking, those have been better values for the players than the teams with which they signed.
  • Based on what are now archaic spending models, there is still nearly a billion dollars worth of talent available in free agency that may find its way to the end-of-season sales racks and there just isn’t that much payroll space available in major league baseball right now.

It will be interesting to see which players are still looking for a job when spring training begins. Remember, other than J.D. Martinez and Jake Arrieta, players that signed after the start of spring training last year had mediocre years for the most part. And Arrieta was barely worth the $25 million he earned last year.

For those of you who keep asking me if the Cubs will sign Harper since I seem to be one of the few who believe they will, I’ll state this for the last time and then let it rest until the free agent outfielder signs somewhere:

  1. I believe Harper met with Ricketts, Epstein, and Jed Hoyer.
  2. I believe Harper wants to sign with the Cubs but is torn on a decision that would require him leaving a lot of dollars on the table.
  3. I believe Ricketts has approved the expenditure to sign Harper on the Cubs’ terms.
  4. I believe the Cubs offer will not exceed the Nationals’ offer in total dollars.
  5. I believe the Cubs have seriously tried to move payroll to sign Harper, and have obviously failed.

You may now feel free to stop sending me DMs asking if I think the perfectly-coiffed right fielder will sign with the Cubs.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Epstein may be indirectly impacting the 2020 presidential race. Elizabeth Warren is attempting to model a culture change within the Democratic Party similar to Epstein’s paradigm-changing efforts with the Cubs, as detailed in Tom Verducci’s post-World Series book, The Cubs Way.
  • The Cubs re-signed relief pitcher Allen Webster yesterday. Not sure how many quarters are left in Theo’s piggy bank, but the team really needs at least one more bullpen addition that is actually injury-free and capable of getting major league hitters out.
  • I said it yesterday and Brendan Miller confirmed it with his expert analysis. Brad Brach is a sneaky good addition to the team’s bullpen.
  • Former Cubs third baseman Mike Olt has signed with the Twins.
  • Though Justin Wilson signed with the Mets last week, he believes teams would rather make money than win. “I think for the role that I pitch in, late in the game and high-leverage situations, there are only certain teams that are willing to spend money to compete,” said Wilson.
  • If you find it tough to stomach what Wilson said after his season and a half of barely league-average pitching in those, ahem, high-leverage situations, I think you’ll find this quote from Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle more palatable: “I don’t get why fans are yelling these things at players while clubs use tax dollars to fund a stadium only to put a losing team in it and rely on league revenues for profit. What happened to the integrity of the game? Trying to win every year?”

Tuesday Stove

Reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich is anxious to get the season started. “Life has changed a little bit, but I’m taking it all in stride and learning along the way,” Yelich said. “I’m just really excited to getting back to playing baseball and picking up where we left off as a team and seeing if we can make that next step.”

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has retired from baseball. Rosenthal posted Saltalamacchia’s statement on Facebook. So happy I don’t have to spell the catcher’s last name any longer.

The Reds have Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto in their sights and are said to be serious pursuers.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson would love to play with Machado, even if it means surrendering starts to the prized free agent.

Former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti thinks the idea that Los Angeles needs to sign Machado is absurd.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts all but confirmed speculation that the Dodgers do not intend to sign Harper on MLB Network Radio on Monday, and called the A.J. Pollock signing a “big win.”

MLB The Show, the popular baseball video game, sent out a vague tweet featuring Harper, who’s on the cover of this year’s edition of the game, teasing some kind of announcement and instructing the masses to “get hyped.”

Extra Innings

MLB has announced a partnership with the Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) to create a year-long schedule of events aimed at honoring Jackie’s legacy in baseball and throughout society.  Everything begins Thursday, which would have been Robinson’s 100th birthday, and will include Play Ball events tied to Robinson’s baseball journey, a traveling museum exhibit, efforts from all 30 MLB teams plus fund-raising and awareness efforts throughout the year.

This Weeks New Spins

  1. Slow Turning by John Hiatt – Back in 1988 this was my go-to cassette for late night cruising on Lake Shore Drive in my 1983 Grand Prix. Picked it up for a buck and I love dropping the needle on this LP in the comfort of my living room just as much.
  2. In Through the Out Door by Led Zeppelin – I found an unplayed copy of this incredibly underrated long player by Zeppelin, and I’m conflicted as to whether I should break the seal and give it a few spins. Help a brother out here.
  3. Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates – If you were born in the mid-to-late 1970’s, you probably owe a great deal of gratitude to Hall & Oates. I’l leave it at that.

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Skinny Love by Bon Iver. The Walk Up theme for February will be hauntingly beautiful songs. This is an example. I met Justin Vernon at a sushi joint in Tulsa, my favorite underrated music city in the country by the way, a few years back. I think I was the only one in the restaurant who identified him, so he asked me to join him for some vegan sushi. Such a cool afternoon.

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