We’re so close to the Cubs Convention, and I’m getting all kinds of excited. This year will be #5 for me, which feels like cause for celebration … unfortunately, I won’t actually be at the low-key best part of the weekend (drinking beers and eating popcorn at Lizzie McNeil’s after the opening ceremonies), but I’ll be at there for everything else.
Hopefully, I see you around. I’ll be the guy stuck in that awkward stage of trying to grow a beard, where it’s all itchy and I look like a doofus. Here’s some baseball stuff.
- In what appears to be some unusually league-friendly language (from Ken Rosenthal, at least), The Athletic urges Players Union Chief Tony Clark and the players, themselves, to play ball with some of the league’s regular season proposals. Apparently, in a meeting set earlier this week, the league proposed a series of rule changes for the upcoming season – including a pitch clock, one fewer mound visit per game, and (read the whole rule, before you lose your mind) starting a runner on second base in extra innings *during Spring Training and the All-Star game ONLY. If the players don’t engage, however, the Commissioner could move to enact these policies unilaterally, as was his right (and expectation) last season.
- As for the rules themselves, I think a pitch clock will be just fine, the reduction of mound visits shouldn’t be a problem, and starting a runner on second in exhibition games is … whatever. As long as there’s some very strict language about that last one NEVER EVER EVER seeping into real, meaningul games, I’m fine with it. As for the tone of Rosenthal’s piece … hey, man, I also hope the players engage – I, too, want them to have a say in all this, even where I disagree – but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t take two to tango. The league should proceed more cautiously than it has been, in my opinion.
- Speaking of sweeping changes, the Dodgers have a new business president – Tucker Kain, their former CFO – and he has some fairly wild, but creative ideas to keep up attendance. Take if from the Dodgers owner Peter Guber: “[Kain] has to find a way furiously to curate new audiences at the young level and connect with them …. It’s not so much people interested in the statistics of baseball, but Fortnite, League of Legends, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, the immediacy of the environment, the gamification, fantasy, gambling and the social aspects of the narrative.” That’s the right attitude, even if it’s a little sobering.
- I’ll admit, as a HUGE fan of the simplicity and authenticity of the Wrigley Field experience, I was pretty apprehensive about what Guber/Kain was going to suggest, but some of the proposals – the ability to change seats every three innings, an app that gives you real-time information similar to what the manager will have on hand for any particular moment, a high-speed underground tunnel system leading directly into the ball park – all sound pretty great to me. He lost me at the night clubs inside Dodger Stadium, but those other ideas are actually pretty cool and don’t take away anything from the game. And, hey, the Dodgers have led baseball in attendance for six straight years. Maybe they’re onto something.
- Reds announcer Marty Brennanman is retiring:
A message from Marty Brennaman: pic.twitter.com/c66DFmyjQS
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) January 16, 2019
- Rob Friedman, the wonderful dude behind @PitchingNinja, is launching a brand new service called “Flatground,” which will showcase videos of high school and amateur hurlers, looking to keep their career moving forward: “I just saw a need in the baseball community to prevent people from falling through the cracks,” said Friedman via the Washington Post. “This is something I’ve seen over and over again with my son coming up in travel ball and high school.” I think this is a great idea, both in terms of actual value-added (uncover some hidden gems, Rob!), but also to drum up even more attention and support for baseball. Read all about his plan and strategy here at the Washington Post.
- Random note, illuminated by that article: Remember when @PitchingNinja was taken down by MLB last year for
having too much fun and being too popular and drawing too much positive attention to and interaction with the sportcopyright issues (or whatever)? Well, apparently, MLB didn’t just let him come back … they inked him to some sort of deal. Good for him. Get that money, man. And good for baseball to realize that it’s better to have more Rob Friedman’s out there, not fewer.
- At MLB.com, Mike Petriello discusses the players you’ll see this season who have a shot at reaching the Hall of Fame. In his estimation, there are seven no-doubters (can you name them without looking?), eleven guys over 30 with a strong case, and thirteen other guys under-30 on the right path (including two Cubs).
- And finally, do you know who’s projected to lead the league in homers? RBI? wOBA? We don’t have every projection available to us just yet, but Steamer has been out for a while, and it’s fun to mess around with their 2019 leaderboards. There are even some surprises:
Steamer is projecting Anthony Rizzo (139 wRC+) to just barely outhit Kris Bryant (138 wRC+) in 2019 …
Do you buy it?
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) January 17, 2019
- As much as I love Rizzo, I’m leaning Bryant this season. If his shoulder is as healthy as he claims, I think we’re all in store for something absolutely dominant. He was on that path before the injury last year, I bet he’s right back at it in 2019. He’ll finish among the top-3, at least, in MVP voting. That’s my prediction. Who are you taking?