New year, new me, but still no baseball. I do hope the transition of 2021 to ’22 finds each of you in fine fettle as all of us adjust to our first full work week in quite some time. Baseball players are still on extended hiatus, however, thanks to the league’s “defensive lockout.”
Getting down to brass tacks, pitchers and catchers are due to report in about 45 days, and as of this morning, no new negotiations between the owners and the MLBPA are scheduled. The laundry list is small but significant. Most discussions will center on service time, free agency, arbitration, revenue sharing, and the competitive balance tax. Other items sure to be debated include the universal DH, expanded playoffs, and ensuring teams don’t purposely tank to accumulate higher draft picks.
Most certainly, the commissioner’s office will try to push its agenda for things like a pitch clock, the extra-inning rule, and anything Rob Manfred deems necessary to help the game appeal to younger fans.
Speaking frankly, does a 63-year-old lawyer and business executive know what really plays among the 25-and-under faction of baseball fans? I’m no expert, but it seems younger fans enjoy the game of baseball for one of two reasons: a love for analytics, or because they actually play the sport. There are few casual fans anymore and most young adults on a just-out-of-college salary can’t really afford to attend a game just for the entertainment factor. Average ticket prices are $30-65 at most stadiums and six teams, including the Cubs, sell tickets that cost $100 or more.
Incredibly, the 52-110 Orioles had the biggest increase in ticket prices last season, a staggering 29.4% increase from 2020. That’s incredible considering Baltimore has won less than 34% of its games since 2019. While the owners have been crying poor since the pandemic started, the average annual revenue per team has consistently risen at a healthy pace, going from around $170 million in 2006 to more than $345.8 million in 2019. During that same time, baseball salaries have flattened and have even decreased a little. That’s why we have a labor war today.
Owners have tried to paint a picture that they’re willing to spend money, as a flurry of deals before the lockout would seem to indicate. However, that’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. The best players are always going to get paid, and it’s not like there is any intent to cancel the upcoming season. With that in mind, it never really mattered when those players signed their contracts. The middle-tier and league-average players are the ones who are squeezed annually, and that’s something the game needs to rectify. How that happens is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, the hot stove remains on pilot only with the upcoming season getting a little bigger on the horizon now that the holidays are over. If I were a betting man, I’d say spring training will be delayed at a minimum so that the owners can further squeeze the players. They’re obviously hoping players will yearn to break ranks once they start missing paychecks. That’s where their leverage lies and with no current loss of revenue, why would the league move toward an agreement any sooner?
Cubs News & Notes
- Frank Schwindel could be a big key to a 2022 Cubs’ turnaround.
- Trading Willson Contreras for prospects could address several needs, but it wouldn’t guarantee the long-term assurances the veteran backstop provides in multiple areas.
- Michael Gartner, the outgoing principal owner of the Iowa Cubs, gave his employees a year-end bonus each will never forget.
- The Cubs’ top two prospects, Brennen Davis and Brailyn Márquez, could break out in 2022.
- Outfielder Owen Caissie is someone to keep an eye on down on the farm.
- The most exciting prospect news could be the development of Chicago’s hard-throwing right-handed relievers.
- Ryne Sandberg was the best gift ever given to the Cubs. Sandberg was a throw-in when Chicago acquired Larry Bowa for Ivan de Jesus in January 1982.
- According to reports, Tyler Chatwood has signed with the SoftBank Hawks of the NPB.
- Former Cubs outfielder and first baseman Larry Biittner passed away yesterday. He was 75 years old.
Sliding Into Home
Exciting times here at Cubs Insider, where co-owners Jon Strong and Evan Altman have started a Discord community, which is far better than Cubs Twitter in my opinion.
MLB News & Notes
Blockchain and Crypto have rapidly become a big part of sports, including baseball. Imagine creating a fund to one day buy the Cubs from the Ricketts family.
The Red Sox will have the financial means to make an impact signing coming out of the work stoppage.
Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe has 22 suggestions for MLB that get feels will improve the game.
Sadly, these MLB players all passed away in 2021.
Odds & Sods
Thanks to a number of scandals that continue on his watch, Rob Manfred was named the No. 8 “Idiot of the Year” by Deadspin.
Negotiations & Love Songs
We are one month into the lockout and it’s safe to say not much has been accomplished. The owners have done some childish things though, haven’t they?
Some teams may be “leaking interest” in free agents just to keep fans interested while baseball is paused. Perhaps it’s time for the fans to hit the pause button, too. By the way, there’s a damning reference to Tom Ricketts in this article, though it never mentions him or the Cubs by name.
With no CBA agreement in place, 2022 becomes a crucial year for baseball.
Apropos of Nothing
All of these things turn 25 this year:
- Michael Jackson, Jr.
- The debut of Will Smith, as rapper “The Fresh Prince.”
- MmmBop by Hanson.
- The movie Titanic.
- The transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to China, aka the “Hong Kong Handover.”
- The anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
- The Michael Jordan “flu game.” Speaking of Jordan, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has a nice piece on the basketball star’s baseball career. Jordan returned to the NBA rather than cross the picket line during baseball’s last work stoppage.
- The WNBA.
- Ronald Acuña Jr. and Nick Madrigal.
- The Marlins’ first championship, won in a thrilling extra-innings Game 7 against Cleveland.
- And do you remember the day in May 1997 when Sammy Sosa and Tony Womack hit inside-the-park home runs in the same game? I think Sosa would have been called out had they used instant replay.
Today’s Baseball Jones
Ernie Banks entered the 1970 season needing three home runs to reach 500 for his career, and nobody was more excited than Jack Brickhouse when Mr. Cub reached that benchmark on May 12, 1970. Banks finished his career with 512 taters.
As an added bonus, the Cubs YouTube channel has a mini-biography of Banks’ greatest moments with the Cubs.
What was your favorite Cubs moment of 2021? Discounting the Marcus Stroman signing, I’d choose the game when Anthony Rizzo struck out Freddie Freeman in a blowout loss to the Braves in Atlanta. I like to be reminded of how much fun baseball can be once the politics and business sides of the game are ignored.
Words of Wisdom
Hey 2021, thank you pic.twitter.com/nR5ab6q74k
— Patrick Wisdom (@PatrickWisdom5) January 1, 2022
They Said It
- “I don’t really try to pay attention to social media because that can get in the way of a lot of things. But I do carry a little bit of chip on my shoulder because it’s like, ‘I got traded for Yu Darvish, and this is why.’” – Caissie
Monday Walk-Up Song
Skateaway by Dire Straits – Seems almost impossible that this song is 42 years old already. On a sad note, Jayzik Azikiwe, who played Roller Girl in the video, passed away in 2008.