The fam went on a little canoe trip yesterday, which was really great … until we missed our exit on the river. We knew *roughly* where it was, but there was also supposed to be a sign to get us to the specific channel where we were to disembark. That led to some extra time in the great outdoors for me and the family, and a little hike carrying the canoe and then dragging it up river. Thankfully, we found our spot eventually, but I will admit now that I was a little nervous because neither The Wife nor I had our phones with us, and we were kinda in the middle of nowhere. All is well that ends well, though! (Note for self: get some kind of water-proof carrying case for phone before future adventures … )
• I watched Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts on the Cubs pre-game show on Marquee last night, and while he mostly said the things you’d expect him to say in the wake of last week’s trades and the questions about what is to come, there were two things that stood out to me: (1) Ricketts sees the plan for 2022 as competing to win the NL Central (there wasn’t a generalization about “just playing good baseball” or whatever); and (2) Ricketts went to great lengths to distinguish where the Cubs are right now from where they were in the 2011-13 rebuilding period. Ricketts says he doesn’t see this as a long rebuild like ten years ago, and the Cubs can “bounce back pretty quickly.” Jed Hoyer has already said much of the same.
• To be sure, this is going to be a “show me” situation, because we know that the finances have been impacted by the pandemic, and we also know that the resources in 2019 – the ability to paper over mistakes by spending big in free agency – weren’t quite as expected by outsiders. It’s not even a “trust but verify” situation, it’s a “OK, we see what you’re saying and we’re gonna hold the organization to it” situation.
• But at a minimum, having been here for both, I can tell you there isn’t the same sense of being set up for multiple years of intentional losing like we had last time around with “The Plan.” Ricketts even explicitly mentioned the financial flexibility that Jed Hoyer now has to restock the roster, with a reference not only to the books being cleared, but also the last ten years of investment at the ballpark to generate more revenue for baseball operations (as in, it’s pretty hard to say that now and then later this offseason claim you don’t have enough revenue to support baseball ops). I really don’t think – even if you were just being cynical – there’s a reason to believe Ricketts doesn’t WANT the Cubs to be competitive in 2022, because that would certainly be the better financial approach (attendance is about to take a hit in the final two months, and Marquee is still in need of a ratings standup). The CBA lingers as a huge caveat to any kind of planning, but once that is settled, I do expect the Cubs to be opportunistic in the free agent market (and in trades for pricey arbitration players, for example). The Cubs can do a lot to compete in 2022 that would have ZERO negative impact on what is building in the farm system.
• A reminder for when none of the three traded Cubs re-sign with the team after the season – it is exceedingly rare, no matter the circumstances:
MLB players traded at the deadline who then returned to their team via free agency in the winter:
Aroldis Chapman, Yankees, 2016.
Jason Hammel, Cubs, 2014.
Rick Aguilera, Twins, 1995.
Rickey Henderson, Oakland, 1993.
• It may just be a small sample mirage, but in the 20 games before his hamstring injury, Nick Madrigal hit a whopping .365/.420/.568. What’s interesting is that it corresponds with a change at the plate to open himself up ever so slightly (The Athletic). But to give you a little insight on the Cubs’ future second baseman, here’s how he discussed the change: “I think it’s more of just the mental adjustments,” Madrigal said. “It just got me thinking something different in the box. Because if you’re doing something the same way and you’re not getting results, you don’t feel comfortable. I’m a big believer in if I have a couple bad games, I changed my batting gloves, or my bat, or just something different, my cleats, just to get my mind thinking fresh thoughts. It seems like such little things to change your batting gloves. But for me, personally, it’s worked very well.”
• And there will be more adjustments. I have to remind myself that Madrigal got just 83 big league games between 2020 and 2021 because of the shoulder injury and then the hamstring injury. You can’t assume he’s a finished product – for reasons both optimistic and concerning – so if and when the struggles come next year, he’s going to have to be given time to adjust. At 107 big league games, Nico Hoerner actually has slightly more exposure at that level than his future mate.
• I sure do love Willson Contreras:
• Jon Lester made his Cardinals debut last night, and although he lasted five innings, he gave up six runs over the first two. Adding him (and J.A. Happ) made sense at a very superficial level for the now-.500 Cardinals – they needed starting pitchers – but it felt like doing the bare minimum to be able to say, hey, we didn’t sell off in the final(?) year of Yadi/Wainwright, and we even tried to add some big name starters.
• Luis has been at Bears camp this week, which is a good reminder to follow BN Bears on Twitter, and also a reminder that there could be some bright days ahead for the Bears:
Justin Fields steps onto the Soldier Field turf for the first time pic.twitter.com/WDguuJjCJn
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) August 3, 2021