We’re just a day away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training for the Cubs. For me, then, today marks the final day of “the offseason.” Whether technically accurate or not, I compartmentalize the baseball year into four sections: the season, the postseason, the offseason, and Spring Training. While some offseason-y stuff can and does bleed into Spring Training, you’ll notice that the stories change and the discussions change beginning tomorrow. There will still be rumors, but there’s a much stronger focus on the impending 2014 season. Some day, when the Cubs project to be good in a given year, this will be a much more exciting time of year. For now, it’s merely a turning of the page. But, hey, baseball – that’s still pretty exciting, whatever the projections.
- The Cubs held organizational meetings yesterday in Arizona, according to Carrie Muskat, which historically involves a variety of conversations about what players will be doing what/where in 2014, both at the big league level and minor league levels. We could, then, start hearing a little bit more about the levels at which certain prospects will start the year in the coming weeks, although minor league rosters are not typically announced until the end of Spring Training.
- We heard this weekend that Alex Rodriguez decided to voluntarily dismiss his lawsuit against MLB and the MLBPA, ostensibly electing to end the fighting and take his suspension for the 2014 season. Now MLB is reportedly considering doing the same thing with respect to its lawsuit against Biogenesis and Tony Bosch – which you may remember as the leverage MLB used to get Bosch to flip on Rodriguez.
- Albert Pujols is also ending his lawsuit – the one against Jack Clark for making statements alleging that Pujols used performance enhancing drugs – because he received an apology and a retraction. The lesson here is that you can’t go around making damning factual allegations about people and assuming they won’t hold you to account for those allegations. I tend to think the real winners here are Pujols’ PR reps who effectively squashed these allegations in the womb, and they never really got traction, despite Pujols going against traditional wisdom in these situations. Where you usually see public figures ignore these situations so as not to give the any additional coverage, Pujols came out with both guns blasting in a way that somehow killed the story. People should probably study why it worked.
- From two lawsuits ending to a lawsuit beginning, a few minor league players are suing MLB for paying unfair wages. Minor league salaries are indeed very, very small (that’s why you can’t hate on a kid for trying to get the biggest signing bonus possible), and if American-born players want to participate in the big leagues some day, this is pretty much the exclusive route to getting there. I didn’t do any labor law work in my lawyering days, but I know enough to know that it’s a tricky, heavily regulated area where there might be some angle here. In other words, this lawsuit could be the start of a very big deal, especially for smaller market teams that would really feel the pinch if minor league salaries had to rise significantly. At the same time, this could be a totally specious suit with no chance of succeeding. I’ll wait to hear from a labor law expert before concluding much of anything.
- Donnie Murphy tells Carrie Muskat that he sees the projections that have the Cubs as one of the worst teams in baseball, and he says that’s plenty of motivation for the guys who make the roster.
- Patrick Mooney on Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson, who’ve become largely afterthoughts just a year after they were still a part of the hoped-for future. Their spots on the 40-man roster could work against them, given the increasing crowding. I’m not optimistic for long-term contributions from these guys at this point, but it’s important to note: Jackson still does everything so very well that if he can just improve the contact issues slightly, he can still be a very useful fourth outfielder. And Vitters has hit well enough at AAA – and still has a swing that scouts love – that if he can successfully transition to the outfield, defensively, he’s got starter upside in the bigs (he’s just 24). It’s easy to forget that, and no one is saying it’s likely to happen. But remains a legitimate possibility.
- Grant Brisbee on every team’s window of contention and the approach they should be taking in the near-term, in visual form. No surprise: the Cubs fall into the “far away from contending, lots of young talent” area. In that respect, 2014 is entirely about seeing development in that young talent, hopefully putting the organization on the verge of a breakout in 2015 (such that spending next offseason makes sense).
- If you’re just tuning in, there’s a little bit of Twitter drama going around about a picture Suk-Min Yoon tweeted of himself, in which he’s wearing an Orioles hat.