February is Here, Which Means Spring Training, Marquee, Games, and the Threat of Baseball Looms

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February is Here, Which Means Spring Training, Marquee, Games, and the Threat of Baseball Looms

Chicago Cubs

February is here. A notable month on the baseball calendar, as it marks annually the open of Spring Training, among other things.

With the exception of the previous two frosty offseasons, you mostly see rosters finalized by the time February rolls around, which means, with every passing day, the chances of a monster Kris Bryant or Mookie Betts or Nolan Arenado trade drops.

Sure, individual players – especially position players – can get ready for a season in a very short time in March, but for the most part, teams want the cohesion of their group to begin when Spring Training does. Injuries might change the calculus in a fundamental way, but all else equal, teams are reluctant to overhaul things too substantially once their group starts working out together.

For the Cubs, this month is even more important, as their new regional sports network, Marquee, launches in exactly three weeks. Although the whole of the Cubs’ regional territory is now covered, in some way, by a provider that will carry the network, not every provider in the area yet has a deal in place. The various streaming services – YouTube TV, Hulu Live, fuboTV, etc. – are still working with the Cubs on deals, which will help, but the biggy is Comcast. It provides service to roughly half of the customers in the Chicago area, and a deal is complicated for so many reasons.

Marquee launches on February 22, which coincides with the arrival of the Cubs’ first Spring Training game.

Before that, though, pitchers and catchers will officially report in 10 days. Position players report five days after that. It all becomes very, very real for the 2020 season that lays ahead at that time. And it’s coming. This month.

Because this offseason has been so focused on how the Cubs could reshape the roster for 2020 and beyond – expectations set up by Theo Epstein’s season-ending press conference (the second year in a row that’s happened … ) – we have never really taken time to consider what the status quo would look like as far as a competitive 2020 season might go as some kind of hopeful promise. Instead, status quo loomed like a threat.

Very soon, it will be time to accept that the Cubs are, once again, simply going to run it back, hoping that changes at the periphery of the organization will make a fundamental difference for a club that lost 84 games in 2019 before losing Cole Hamels, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, and Ben Zobrist. That is not to say that this team doesn’t have the talent, on paper, to be competitive. Of course they do. There are a bunch of studs on this club. But there are more risks than they’ve had since 2014-15, which means more good luck is going to be required to succeed.

February is here, and Cubs baseball is coming soon. That, too, feels like a threat.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.