It’s officially PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT MONTH!!!! For the Cubs, that day is February 14th, which means we’re already less than two weeks away!!
Also, today is packing day for the Cubs, which is the day the team loads up all the gear from Wrigley Field and ships it down to Mesa for Spring Training (should be some good videos of the move tomorrow). I seriously cannot freakin’ wait to get back to baseball.
But in the meantime, here’s some news from around the leauge …
- In 2013, the Chicago Cubs took Kris Bryant with the second overall pick in the draft, and the history of the franchise changed forever. HOWEVER, there remain stories that Bryant was not the first name on the team’s draft board. Instead, the tales go, that distinction went to Stanford righty Mark Appel, who went first overall to the Astros … and is now retiring at age 26 having never made the Majors. Wow. Just think of what might have been. It would’ve been one thing to miss on the opportunity to take Kris Bryant for another, less talented prospect. But the difference between picking a guy who never even made the Major Leagues and the 2016 NL MVP …
Appel is a great guy by all accounts. It is unfortunate that he also ranks as one of the worst No. 1 picks of all time. If he did return and give relieving a try, always a chance he could make the majors, but for now, he's one of three No. 1 picks to not make the majors.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) February 1, 2018
- According JJ Cooper (above) and Bleacher Report, if Appel never returns to baseball, he’ll become just the third first overall pick to not reach the majors (the previous two came in 1991 and 1966). But, hey, while it’s a rare and notable disappointment, remember that he’s a 26-year-old with a Stanford degree who’s already earned a $6.35M signing bonus … so, life could be worse. And moreover, it sounds like Appel has a strong sense of perspective on life:
I think it would if baseball was my identity. @iamjoonlee and I got to talk a lot about identity perspective. Putting your whole identity in something as fleeting as baseball (or living up to expectations) is a dangerous way to live. I'm rooted in much longer lasting things. https://t.co/oMzP1wHUlK
— Mark Appel (@MAppel26) February 1, 2018
- As for the Cubs, I’d rather not play the what-if game for the bajillionth time (especially because it’s a negative hypothetical … so why even bother?). They got Bryant, won the World Series and are expected to be one of the better teams in baseball again. All is well.
- The Owners Meetings concluded today, but no big announcement on pace-of-play is necessarily expected:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 1, 2018
- Fortunately, it sounds like discussions between the league and the union are open and active (which is a very real win given the current climate), and a compromise could still eventually be met.
- And to that end, ESPN has some more details on the previously-proposed compromise, which, if the negotiations really have been re-opened could be something close to a final agreement when all is said and done. Among the newer bits is this: “Teams also agreed on the union’s option that they would make a $100,000 contribution to the union’s Players Trust charity for each minute the average game time in a season through Aug. 31 drops below three hours or make a $500,000 total gift to the players on the teams with the two quickest game-time averages and the two teams with the greatest improvement.” The players of those two teams could elect to keep or donate that $500,000 gift (I suspect they’d probably donate it).
- In terms of this approach, two things come to mind. First, clearly the league is focusing on the overall length of games and not solely the pace-of-play (which strikes me as an unnecessary, that’s-not-the-point type of move). And second, I do like the idea of an incentive-based approach, which could do a good job of keeping players focused on moving the game along. But I still think the other pace-of-play initiatives should happen.
- We already knew that the Cubs were extending their protective netting to the end of their dugouts (which are, themselves, already being pushed further up the line) in 2018, but it is official that all 30 teams will do the same:
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) February 1, 2018
- I’m very happy that every team is participating and that I’ve heard very little push back. Those behind the netting will notice for a few moments, and then they will not. And they’ll be safer.
- Recently, I mentioned that Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs) was crowdsourcing team win projections for the coming five years, and the results are now in. According to the voters, the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Cubs, and Indians, in that order, are going to win the most games from 2018-2022 … Which strikes me as pretty reasonable. Looking at it a different way, Sullivan also compared the last five years to the projected next five years to see who’s on their way up, and, once again, I think fans got it mostly right: Phillies, Astros, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Rockies, Braves. I’d probably move the Brewers, Braves, and Rockies up, but, all together, that squares with what we believe. That’s a great post, give it a look.
- Also in a recent set of MLBits, we took a look at some of Brandon Moss’ comments on how the players association has itself to blame for the CBA (and it’s associated flaws), but he recently expanded on those thoughts. But instead of walking back those comments, he stuck by his position: “Everybody wants to look up and scream, ‘collusion.’ Everybody wants to look up and scream, ‘This isn’t fair.’ But sooner or later, you have to take responsibility for a system you created for yourself. It’s our fault.” First of all, this is just one snippet of a long, thoughtful response, so be sure to consider it all. And second of all, I want to point out that I, like Moss, seem to agree that this is both an unfair/unfortunate system for the players and a bed they made for themselves. It can be both, so, again, like Moss, it’s fair to be flexible in your opinion of the matter.
- At MLB.com, Andrew Simon uses Kris Bryant’s recent enthusiastic willingness to bat leadoff to show that teams have increasingly been open to batting their best hitters nearer the top of the lineup (including first and second overall). From 1977-2017, the number of “best hitters” hitting in the top half of the order has increased dramatically and it figures to continue as the data shows the benefits. We still don’t know who the Cubs might bat at the top this season – plenty of names have been tossed around – but in all likelihood it’ll be lead off by committee … at least to start the year.
- The Rockies have a new scoreboard:
SAY HELLO TO YOUR NEW SCOREBOARD!
• 8,369 sq ft
• 258% larger than the old Coors Field board
• 784 60-inch televisions
• 6.8 million LEDs
• Uniquely Colorado Rockies shape
• Speaker enhancements on the lower bowl pic.twitter.com/dRMioPXnLr
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) January 31, 2018
- And it’s terrifying …
258% more Dinger! pic.twitter.com/GmDN0YEzBG
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) February 1, 2018
- Appreciate the differences in our Earth’s many cultures:
Shohei Ohtani flew out of Narita Airport today to the states. The Japan Airlines gave him a gigantic crepe as a present before his flight. Yum! pic.twitter.com/cBE6FQZ0kC
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) February 1, 2018
- And finally, I’m just sitting here shaking my head at how today’s youth is RUINING the sanctity of the game:
HAS HE NO RESPECT?! https://t.co/Oj8sYv2TCc
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 1, 2018