Martin Luther King Day merits reflection from everyone. Relevant to this place, I think passionate baseball fans experience MLK Day with thoughts of the composition of our sport, as participation among African Americans continues to flag. At least I know I do. I don’t pretend to have an answer for what ultimately becomes a generational issue, but I do think it’s worth a reminder from time to time. Baseball is a sport that embraces diversity, and welcomes players from around the world. I love it. I hope that continues, and that we also see a resurgence in interest and participation among a diverse group of people here in the States, too.
- It is worth pointing out again that Tommy La Stella was referred to this weekend, more than once, as a second baseman slash utility player. In his pro career, La Stella has played second base. Full stop. Not a single game at another position. Not even in the low minors. When the Cubs acquired him, given the infield composition, it made sense that the Cubs might try to see if he can play elsewhere, and it’s pretty clear that they plan on seeing what he can do – after all, you don’t announce him as a utility player after an entire career at second base unless some versatility is coming. La Stella’s offensive profile is such that he would be tremendously more valuable to the Cubs if he could play serviceable defense at multiple positions, because the bat may never quite be starting caliber at second base (especially given the Cubs’ many other options there in the near-term). I look forward to seeing how he looks around the diamond in the Spring.
- If La Stella can pull it off, man, the Cubs’ roster is shaping up to have so many guys who can play multiple positions effectively. Most of the outfielders can play in multiple spots. Arismendy Alcantara can play all over. Luis Valbuena can play third and second. Javy Baez can play second and short, and probably third. With a manager like Joe Maddon, the value of that versatility will only be magnified.
- A couple scouts tell the Sun-Times that the White Sox are the better bet, if not the better team, in Chicago right now. If these two teams, as presently constructed, played 100 times, I think the Cubs probably win about 53 to 55 of ’em, but I also think the White Sox have a better shot of winning the AL Central right now than the Cubs have of winning the NL Central. The AL Central might be deeper, with only the Twins looking like an almost-certain non-contender, but the NL Central features two of the clear best teams in the NL in the Pirates and Cardinals (up there with the Nationals and Dodgers). The Cubs may have a tougher row to hoe to actually reach the top.
- Everyone seems to know the score with Kris Bryant – he’s a stud, he’ll be up soon enough, and it just might not be Opening Day – including Bryant, who once again said all the right things this weekend (CSN). I was pleasantly surprised, by the way, to not hear any kind of over-the-top drumbeat that the Cubs absolutely cannot start the year without Bryant on the big league roster. It seemed like many, if not most, of the fans in attendance understand that Bryant will be up very soon, and the trade-off is worth it.