You know what I’ve always taken for granted until recently? Public libraries. You can get digital copies and audiobooks right on your device in an instant for free. Sometimes, there’s a wait for particularly popular books, but man … what have I been doing all these years?
Coming Soon to a Ballpark Near You
Fans! At stadiums! This season! It sure seems like it’s gonna happen this year, albeit in appropriately limited doses. And, yes, that does include the Chicago Cubs (and White Sox, for that matter).
Indeed, it was a day for similar announcements around the league:
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) February 25, 2021
See you at Fenway!
— Red Sox (@RedSox) February 25, 2021
WE CAN'T WAIT TO WELCOME YOU BACK TO PROGRESSIVE FIELD!!!!!
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) February 25, 2021
Nick Senzel Isn’t Done Yet
Well, I didn’t think we’d see defensive comments this soon into his career, but Nick Senzel is already in “we believe he’s an everyday player” mode.
Two things Bell said on Senzel:
"We believe he's an everyday player in this league. Right now, he's our center fielder."
"If we ever did consider moving him to the infield, we'd be missing a lot in the outfield." #reds
— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) February 25, 2021
From 2017-2019, Senzel was one of the top-10 prospects in MLB – a centerfielder, no less – who had just slashed .310/.378/.509 (149 wRC+) in Triple-A. He was supposed to be a huge part of the Reds mini-window from 2019-2020, but instead he’s been a solidly below-average bat with the sort of defense in center field that’s perfectly fine, but not good enough to justify a career 84 wRC+.
That said, we’ve seen plenty of Cubs players take imperfect paths towards success (Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Ian Happ), so I would hardly sleep on Senzel just yet. And, hey, he should get some leash for 2020, just like anyone else, right?
The Dan Vogelbach Conundrum
The Milwaukee Brewers are desperately hoping there’s a last-minute change-of-heart on the universal DH between the union and the league because of a former Cubs prospect: Dan Vogelbach.
“Because of how things went last year, we understand that rules could change at the last second,” Counsell said. “I don’t know if it’s hope, it’s really just a situation where we don’t know. We don’t have any information leading one way or another, I don’t have any thoughts one way or another. Our thought is to prepare without it, have a backup plan if it happens. That’s the best we could do.”
The Brewers acquired Vogelbach half-way through the 2020 season, and he rewarded them with a .328/.418/.569 slash line (plus 4 HRs) in 67 plate appearances. Of course, Vogelbach is mostly a designated hitter (at best, a first baseman who’d play behind Keston Hiura) so they have a bit of a tough decision coming: Do they dedicate an entire roster spot to a positionally inflexible power bench bat, or use that spot on another pitcher or someone with more well-rounded skills.
Complicating matters is the fact that they can’t quite be sure Vogelbach will provide the level of offense they’ve seen from him, given his up-and-down start with the Mariners and Blue Jays.
But here’s the other thing!
The Brewers might have Vogelbach on just a one-year contract, but he’ll be under team control via arbitration in 2022, 2023, and 2024. If the Brewers think they might have a young, affordable long-term DH in-house *and* they think that the DH is coming as soon as next season, well, then, they might just be inclined to keep him through this year and use him as best they can, right?
Jack Flaherty Long-term? Maybe
Speaking of arbitration, Ian Happ wasn’t the only NL Central filer to win his case this year. Jack Flaherty beat the Cardinals, as well, earning $3.9 million instead of the $3 million they proposed: “We stuck with our guns, and at the end of the day, we ended up being right,” Flaherty said. “It could have gone the other way.”
But there’s a little more to this one. According to MLB.com, Flaherty has twice rejected the Cardinals proposed salary coming into this season, which led them to defiantly “renew” his contract at the exact same rate.
(Teams don’t have to give anybody a raise before arbitration, but smarter teams – including the Cubs – have tried to offer yearly bumps on goodwill when the performance calls for it. For example, Kris Bryant earned $1 million in his final year *before* arbitration, which was nearly a record if I recall correctly).
In any case, the point here is that Flaherty and the Cardinals have done battle a lot on his salary a few times now, the Cardinals “winning” two and Flaherty winning the third, but the talented pitcher assures St. Louis that nothing about their relationship has changed “at all.”
Buuuuut, you’ll quickly get the sense that Cardinals fans are already bracing for the talented Flaherty, 25, to leave in free agency after his three years are up. He’ll be just 28 at the time and likely very desirable. Obviously, an extension is always a possibility – and he says all the right things – but yeah … I’m not particularly concerned he’s going to be a stalwart in St. Louis.
Odds and Ends
• Will the A’s ever stop having long-term ballpark issues? The Athletics already had one set of plans for a new home fall through a few years ago, but a more ambitious waterfront stadium at Howard Terminal seemed like a great alternative that’d be move-in ready by 2023. Well, not anymore: “We don’t have a definitive timeline when we can open the stadium,” A’s President Dave Kaval said Monday. “Because we’re not sure how these legal cases are going to be resolved, there’s appeals, we need to see ….”
• Ken Griffey Jr. was not just a great player, he’s honestly one of the most universally beloved *between age groups* players of all-time. Even 25+ years ago, he seemed to have (and provide) a modern, joyful take on baseball that’s STILL desperately needed to this day (why do you think fans gravitate towards Javy Baez and Fernando Tatis Jr. and Francisco Lindor and Tim Anderson, Mookie Betts, etc.?). They’re not just great players, they’re fun players. And they’re diverse. Well, Griffey has been hired as a senior advisor to Rob Manfred to help grow the game of baseball, particularly in areas of youth and diversity. And I can’t think of a better ambassador or leader for that particular directive.
• New baseball team names have been on everyone’s mind lately, given the potential for two expansion franchises in the somewhat near future as well as a possible name change for the Indians. But not every name is a winner. At The Athletic, Grant Brisbee runs down some MLB team names that *almost* were. It’s fun.
• Did you ever wonder about the player behind the MLB logo? It’s a bit of a mystery, with some rumors sprinkled throughout:
As everyone is talking about the NBA logo, a reminder that despite the rumors, the MLB logo is probably not Harmon Killebrew. (And maybe it should be changed to Griffey?) https://t.co/s8X9mX8ltf
— Michael Clair (@michaelsclair) February 25, 2021
Babe Ruth selling cigars at the Boston Tobacco shop. Year is 1920 pic.twitter.com/sWBqfcAn0E
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) February 25, 2021