Clear your schedule tomorrow, because that’s when Yu Darvish (and probably several other free agents) is going to make his decision. How do I know this? Sources? Reports? Informed speculation? Nope: tomorrow is when I’m having my foot surgery.
Thanks to a college injury suffered while playing 1800s-style stickball (yup), my left foot has gotten to the point where it’s a constant source of low-level pain, and not infrequently horrible pain when accompanied by activity. I avoided surgery for years and just sucked it up, but when the orthopedist told me I was already showing signs of arthritis inside my foot (I’m 36), I knew it was time.
So, at some point tomorrow I’ll be under the knife, and then I’ll likely be drugged out of my head for the rest of the day (somebody take my phone). Michael and Luis will have the keys, so you won’t miss any coverage around here … I’ll just miss out if something big happens. And it will. Because you freaking know it will.
Hopefully I’ll be back with a clear head and a properly propped-up foot on Wednesday, ready to comment upon and deconstruct the amazing, unbelievable stuff that happened the day before. Until then, Bullets …
- Jesse Rogers digs in on the Cubs’ new hitting coach, Chili Davis, and, given that the Cubs had a successful hitting coach that they ousted in favor of Davis, I think it’s worth reading as much as we can get on Davis. One particular part that stood out to me echoed the work that we know Davis has been doing with Jason Heyward (less about mechanics, more about the mental): “More so than swing mechanics, I try to bring a mentality, not as much a philosophy. Everyone has a philosophy – a lot of them match – so that doesn’t make me any different than any other guy. But I try to bring a mentality in how we approach games day in and day out.” I wonder if we’ll see new Cubs assistant hitting coach Andy Haines (formerly the organization’s minor league hitting instructor) be more about the swing mechanics and approach stuff, and Davis more about the mental side of things. In reality, of course, Davis will work on all phases with the Cubs’ hitters, but we’re seeing a pretty clear contrast emerging between Mallee, who came in talking about mechanics and immediately worked with certain hitters on changing certain things (often with great success, sometimes without), and Davis, who seems more about the comfort.
- Speaking of which, Buster Olney talks about the Cubs’ leadoff situation (among many other baseball topics), speculating that the Cubs will be most comfortable having Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras going 2-3-4 in the lineup, leaving the same questions about who hits in front of them this year as last year. When you review the slate of available candidates, it’s clear that – just as it was last year – the best fit is Kyle Schwarber. The problem, though, as Olney points out – and I agree – is that this decision is not being made without context. Specifically, Schwarber was the leadoff guy last year for some pretty deep and profound struggles, at least some of which may have been tied to his own efforts to “be a leadoff guy.” Schwarber was very good in the second half, after a return from Iowa, when he was not leading off. Will the Cubs want to risk that added mental pressure – even if they’d tell Schwarber not to worry about it – to start the season by leading him off again? For me, even if it means a less desirable fit in the leadoff spot, I think I’d rather just see Schwarber batting fifth, behind Contreras. Those would be four set spots for me, and then I’d mix and match at the top depending on matchups and who is starting.
- Then maybe – *MAYBE* – a little into the year, if things are looking great for the reshaped Schwarber, and if the leadoff situation looks like it would benefit from some stability, you could consider putting Schwarber back up there.
- The Cubs may not show well in the prospect rankings right now, but there’s still plenty of youth:
On Opening Day 2018 …
Albert Almora will be 23 years, 11 months, & 13 days old
Ian Happ 23y, 7m, 17d
Addison Russell 24y, 2m, 6d
Kyle Schwarber 25y, 0m, 24d
Javy Baez will be 25y, 3m, 28d
Willson Contreras 25y, 10m, 16d
Kris Bryant 26 years, 2m, 25d
This team is plenty young.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) January 28, 2018
- In 1961 and 1962, the Chicago Cubs did not have a manager, and instead utilized a “College of Coaches” approach to leading the club. You’ve probably heard about this in a general sense, but The Hardball Times has a more specific history if you’ve never quite read about it.
- Arizona Phil has your very early look ahead at minor league free agency and Rule 5 eligibility for after this coming season.
- Boy, the Cubs better not lose the opening series or people will so extremely disproportionately freak out:
Maybe the Cubs can just play an intrasquad scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/QIv0L68pkd
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 29, 2018
- If you missed anything this weekend, make sure you scan the headlines here.