It was already long the case that the Cubs’ public messaging – and private messaging, for that matter – has been universal in both its tone and volume: the Cubs are not seriously pursuing Bryce Harper. It’s just not happening. Nope. Sorry. Dreams are nice, but you can cram yours in your butt.
Things reached what seemed like a level of finality yesterday when team owner and chairman Tom Ricketts took to the airwaves in two interviews that left you with absolutely zero ability to say, “Ah, but he left this open!” or “Ooh, did you notice how he hedged here!” Even if Ricketts did not flatly say the Cubs are not going to get Bryce Harper, it was crystal clear from his overall comments on the payroll and flexibility that it is not happening.
OK. I’ve accepted it. I think it is a deeply disappointing decision not to extend in order to at least seriously pursue a 26-year-old generational talent in the middle of your competitive window, but that is where we are.
… and then Jim Salisbury out of Philadelphia drops this crap on my mending heart:
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) January 18, 2019
Staaaahp, man. Don’t. I cannot do this.
To get into the weeds on what Salisbury – a well-connected Philadelphia reporter – actually said: Salisbury offered his belief that the Cubs, Dodgers, and Yankees remain “very interested bystanders.” Then Salisbury went out of his way to discuss the Cubs and Harper, specifically, saying, “I’ve even heard that in Harper’s case that the Cubs have made it very clear to Harper’s representatives that, you know, when you think you’re ready to sign and have all your offers there, make sure you check back with us.”
If that sounds familiar, it should. That’s essentially the same thing Gordon Wittenmyer reported last month. To that end, there are a few possibilities:
- Multiple reporters have heard it because it’s true, and the Cubs really are still laying in the weeds. (Not likely at this point.)
- Salisbury was simply saying he “heard” this because he heard it in the same report that we did. (Possible.)
- Salisbury heard this from Scott Boras and crew (directly or indirectly), who would love to circulate in the Philly market something like, “Hey, did you hear that report about the Cubs wanting to try to beat the best offer … so you know, the Phillies might want to come with a very aggressive initial offer to make sure the Cubs can’t top it.” (Extremely likely.)
Hewing closely to that last one, Dave Kaplan was quick to emphasize that this is all just not the case, with apologies to Salisbury:
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) January 18, 2019
So, again, which is more likely at the end of the day: the Cubs are, at every level, lying both publicly and privately about their interest in, and ability to pursue, Bryce Harper … or the Cubs at one time way in the past kinda vaguely said check in with us later on, and Harper’s agent is using that information to help massage his client’s market?
Believe me, I wish I could believe the first one, too. But it’s the second one. It’s the second one.
Good game. Goodbye.