A head’s up to anyone who needs it: don’t forget that Sunday is Mother’s Day. It was like 15 years ago that I forgot Mother’s Day one time for about 24 hours, and my mom will still chide me from time to time about it. Or actually maybe it was her birthday. You see! I’ve forgotten what it was that I forgot! Point is, I’m just helping any of you out who needed the reminder.
• Speaking of reminders, I have to offer some before I can get into the Bullets that follow: Sinclair owns the former Fox regional sports networks (now branded “Bally”), and has a partner stake in Marquee and YES. So what they do with Bally doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing will happen with Marquee or YES – which are much bigger and majority-owned by the owners of the Cubs and Yankees, respectively – but I suspect the plans with Bally will always provide us useful information for plans with Marquee and YES. So I’m not treating them all interchangeably as “Sinclair RSNs,” but there’s useful information there. Also: a reminder that even MLB has acknowledged that the future of baseball delivery is going to involve direct-to-consumer apps (i.e., a Marquee app that is like Netflix, where you just pay Marquee a monthly fee directly).
• In its latest earnings call, Sinclair indicated that it is now aiming to launch direct-to-consumer streaming in the first half of 2022 (fair to guess they’re hoping for it to launch before the 2022 baseball season). More importantly, they indicated that they already have the rights – from the distributors and “the vast majority” of the teams – to utilize a direct-to-consumer option. That means, when the time comes, and Sinclair wants to offer a standalone subscription app that would let Brewers fans just get Brewers content (or whatever), they won’t have to fight the cable providers who’ve signed on to carriage agreements for that channel (which, to be honest, I WOULD HAVE expected a fight, since a big part of the reason they’re willing to pay the carriage fees is because they know consumers can get Brewers games ONLY via cable services like theirs … if a direct-to-consumer option comes along, then doesn’t that materially hurt the cable provider’s business? But, hey, I’m just telling you what Sinclair said).
• Again, Marquee is its own thing, but Sinclair has been involved in all carriage-related issues. So if they launch standalone apps next year, it’s a reasonable bet that the Cubs will be mulling doing the same thing. Note, as always: this relates only to in-market service. If you’re out of the Cubs’ broadcast market, the rights to view games are still controlled by MLB, not the individual team. So your option for streaming games is likely to remain something like MLB.tv (even though, obviously, it would make much more sense for the consumer to just be able to subscribe to Cubs Netflix wherever they live, and get everything the app offers, including games).
• Sinclair declined to offer an update, by the way, on getting carriage deals done with Hulu or YouTube, I’m sorry to say. So unless something special happens with Marquee, you’re still limited to fuboTV and AT&T for streaming plans that include the channel.
• Cubs pitching prospects are taking more of the spotlight at the big league level and throughout the farm system after a long, long time of softness there for the organization, and Justin Steele hopes people are taking notice (NBC): “Now we’re finally getting here to Chicago and people are finally able to see what we’ve been working on, what we’ve been doing, and spotlights [on] Adbert and Keegan coming in, doing what they have, it’s just shining a light on the pitching farm system that needed to be shined.” I think those of us who’ve tracked the farm system closely over the years would’ve argued even as far back as a year and a half ago that pitching had become a strength in the system, despite the preceding five years. There was a philosophical shift on the scouting side about four years ago, and then a player development shift about two years ago. In theory, that combination means a big wave of pitching prospects should be arriving over the course of the next few years.
• To that point, a reminder on timing: consider that Adbert Alzolay, as one example, was signed as an international free agent almost NINE YEARS ago, and he’s only just now emerging at the big league level as a “young” impact arm. It just takes so much time for your work to bear fruit, and when the Cubs were heavily focused on accumulating positional talent for the first half of the last decade, it’s going to take all the longer. That’s not a defense of the lack of productivity – it was uniquely bad, even with other IFA development and later round draft picks – it’s just a part of the story. (Also part of the story is that the Cubs did do well with trade acquisitions during that period of time, landing Kyle Hendricks as an A-ball prospect, and Jake Arrieta as a post-hype guy.)
• This is really fun – even just the little clip here – if you want more of a sense of Andrew Chafin:
Andrew Chafin is a national treasure.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 4, 2021
• Kept meaning to share this:
Off-day reading if you hadn't dug in before – some of the best writing on "seam-shifted wake" and "spin-mirroring" and other buzzy pitching miscellany, by @sahadevsharma at @TheAthleticCHI. If you want a rough understanding of this stuff, go here: https://t.co/TOCpvi8iBt
— Bleacher Nation Cubs (@BleacherNation) May 6, 2021
• The latest ‘Onto Waveland’ on a good Cubs series, a changing Cubs offense, and a still-questionable Cubs rotation:
— Brett Taylor (@Brett_A_Taylor) May 6, 2021
• Brandon Workman didn’t last in free agency long, signing a minor league deal with the Red Sox. Can’t blame him for preferring to go back to the organization where he was successful, rather than accept an outright assignment to Triple-A from the Cubs (if one was offered). If and when he reaches the big leagues, the Cubs will recoup a pro-rated share of the big league minimum.
• This keeps happening with this particular old school steroid that is detected by a metabolite that might not actually be indicative of PEDs:
The Major League Baseball Players Association issued the following statement from Colton Welker: pic.twitter.com/mwC1uBgLR2
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) May 6, 2021
• Ken Rosenthal wrote about it last August here, and it’s a good read on what might be the one time when players are right that they’re being suspended for PEDs when they didn’t actually take one (or took it years previously).