A large part of me hopes that not only are the Cubs able to finalize the Theo Epstein deal this week, but also that the news leaks during the World Series. Because I want the Cubs to get Theo? Well, yeah, obviously. But also because it will take the focus off of St. Louis’ World Series berth. The Cubs were terrible this year – and last year – but they can still steal the headlines, and I wouldn’t hate an opportunity to prove it.
- The Arizona Instructional League (not to be confused with the prospect-heavy, competitive Arizona Fall League), which was the first taste of professional ball for many of the Cubs’ 2011 draft picks, has wrapped up. The Cub Reporter has a full rundown of player stats from the league (which, keep in mind, can’t really be evaluated like stats from a regular league, because of the instructional nature of the league). If you’d like a broad review, it’s this: 2011 draft picks didn’t put up great numbers, more advanced prospects who’ve been in the system a year or two put up good numbers. The lesson? Adjusting to professional ball – even at the instructional level – takes time.
- Speaking of the Arizona Fall League, Josh Vitters hasn’t played since last Friday. I asked Carrie Muskat why – she suggested that it was because Vitters was only on Mesa’s roster as an “extra” outfielder (his natural position is third), and he was only seeing regular action previously because the team’s top first baseman was out with an injury. I can only assume that’s true, because Carrie tends to know these things – why this information wasn’t reported when the AFL rosters were announced, I cannot say. I asked about Vitters’ status in order to clear up any whispers that Vitters was sitting at the request of the Red Sox. It seems unlikely the Sawx would want him to stop playing an offseason Winter ball league just because he’s being traded (that’s not to say Vitters is definitely not going to the Red Sox; I’m just saying I doubt that his sitting has anything to do with the Theo compensation talks). So, instead, it looks like he’s sitting behind some other players, despite his huge OPS, which had him near the top of the AFL.
- Junior Lake continues to tear the league up, adding another homer and stolen base yesterday. He’s at the top of the league in both. Lake was already moving up prospects lists after a solid 2011 season (including a half season at AA, despite being just 21), but I would imagine his AFL production is going to rocket him up even further.
- Congress is once again injecting itself into the mores of substance use in professional baseball. The substance this time around? Smokeless tobacco. Now, you’ll hear a lot of people grumbling “don’t they have better things to do?” They probably do. But, chew is dangerous, addictive, and easily emulated by the younger generation. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your own mouth, but if I don’t have to watch another big leaguer with a wad in his mouth, brownish slime dripping down his chin as he spits, that’ll be just fine with me. I kind of hated the bubble gum antics of Darwin Barney this year, too, so maybe the health part of things isn’t really what gets stuck in my craw, as it were. I’d say I’m all about sunflower seeds (and I was, as a player (in high school)), but we saw where that got Starlin Castro…
- I missed one bullet in this morning’s Epstein post: Nick Cafardo quotes a Boston Red Sox source who says, “We need to get on with our business. And I would think the Cubs would as well. We feel Theo Epstein has a value and we’re going to get that value.’’ Step on their throat, Mr. Ricketts. You have my permission.
- The only chance Mike Quade stays on as manager in 2012 to complete his contract? If the Cubs have to wait until this time next year to official hire Epstein (relax: it’s a super long-shot (of course, then again, so was hiring Epstein in the first place)), it’s possible they could install a GM like Josh Byrnes, Jed Hoyer or Rick Hahn to start the process of lining the team up for 2013 success. If that happens, it’s conceivable the Cubs would just let Quade manage the 2012 team, knowing that competitiveness would not be along for another year. Would the Cubs really openly shrug off an entire season like that, though, even without Epstein? I doubt it.
- Assuming Quade is gone, keep your eyes on whom the Cubs bring in for an interview to replace him. If Ryne Sandberg gets an interview to be the Cubs’ next manager, there will then be a 99% chance he gets the job, says Paul Sullivan. I have to agree: the Cubs can’t take the PR hit of passing over Sandberg twice (thrice, really). If they don’t want him, then don’t interview him. Seems unfair, but that’s the reality.
- Carrie Muskat takes questions, but there’s not a whole lot of info in there this week. The same is true of Bruce Levine’s weekly chat. He thinks Edwin Jackson should be the Cubs’ top target this offseason, which, like, eh. I suspect, in a weak pitching market, Jackson will get a handsome contract that belies his inconsistent career.
- Randy Wells is hosting a “Boot Bash” on Friday, which, in the shortest possible description, supports the troops. It’ll be at Joe’s Bar, and will feature music and an auction, among other things.
- The city of Mesa has officially approved the Cubs’ $99 million Spring Training complex plan, and things are locked in for 30 years. The plan is to break ground in the summer of 2012, and have the facility ready for Spring Training in 2014. Meanwhile, the Cubs will continue to work with private companies to develop the Wrigleyville West portion of the plan (the entertainment/resort/destination part of the things).
- Ken Rosenthal runs down the current labor talks. MLB remains hopeful that it can announce a new deal during the World Series. Recall, the big issues being discussed are: (1) adding another Wild Card playoff entrant to each league, (2) realigning the leagues to be 15/15, (3) “hard-slotting” in the draft (i.e., no huge bonuses for later round picks – you get what you get), and (4) a world-wide draft. Your rooting interests are as follows: (1) Yes, provides a greater chance the Cubs can make the playoffs, (2) Yes, ditto, (3) No, the Cubs are more likely than smaller clubs to spend big on later round picks, and (4) No, the Cubs are heavily involved in international free agency.