Steele Mills Day, Bad News on Amaya, MLB's Blackout Policy, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Steele Mills Day, Bad News on Amaya, MLB’s Blackout Policy, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

My mom and stepdad are farmers, which makes for a great place to visit with the kids. The huge equipment, riding the trucks, and jumping into the corn silo – that was the one yesterday that really got the grandkids, mine and their cousins. They were climbing up the side of the silo (there’s a ladder on the inside) and jumping down 10+ feet a la Scrooge McDuck. But instead of crumpling in a heap like you would if it were a pool of coins, they sink into the corn like a javelin going into the ground. It was pretty fun to watch them leap, get stuck, and then pull themselves back out of the corn.

•   For the doubleheader today, a little switcharoo in the order of the starting pitchers means we get to make all the dorky jokes! Because today is STEELE MILLS DAY. DO YOU GET IT?! DO YOU SEE THE PICTURE?! HA HA DO YOU GET JOKES I GET JOKES! HA.

•   In all seriousness, I’m really stoked to see Justin Steele get his first big league start. I’m trying not to do the thing where I mentally combine the fact that he dominated in relief in the big leagues earlier this year, and then dominated as a starter at Triple-A, and come up with the conclusion that he absolutely must dominate today. He might! Or maybe he’ll struggle. Or maybe some flukey stuff will happen that will throw things sideways because it’s a sample size of one. To be honest, I just want to see that poise, I want to see the slider being worked in successfully with the fastball and the curveball, and I want to see that his spin rates (and velo) haven’t totally cratered from where they were in relief earlier this year. Steele is a strikeout pitcher by trade, so you would tentatively not expect him to go more than four or five innings, tops, in his debut (the seven-inning double-header helps in that regard). But he has definitely been working on trying to get some early outs on the ground with that slider at Triple-A, so I’d love to see some of that, too.

•   The Cubs can bring up an extra player for the double-header today. Wonder if it’ll be Cory Abbott again, since he seems to be the primary swing-up-and-down guy at the moment. He last pitched six days ago. Rowan Wick is with the big league team right now post-rehab assignment, so I suppose there’s a small chance the Cubs could just go ahead and activate him, finally, today.

•   Shiiiiiiiiiitty news on the Miguel Amaya rehab front. Having been shut down two months ago with a forearm issue, he is reportedly still feeling discomfort in the forearm/elbow area, and now it seems like a hopeful case is that he’ll play again … in winter ball (Mooney) No surgery has yet been recommended, but none of this is good. Like I said yesterday, you can imagine a scenario where an extremely different 2021 season for Amaya would’ve impacted the Cubs’ medium-term plans at catcher, but as things stand, he just can’t be a factor at all. You hope he comes back fine next year, breaks out, yada yada yada. But with two straight lost-ish years, you cannot craft plans around him. Sucks. But that’s the reality. The pandemic is going to make situations like this – see Brailyn Marquez’s shutdown for another example – all the worse.

•   Oh also, as Mooney notes there: the Amaya injury and lost season could provide Contreras a little more leverage in extension negotiations, should they actually happen in advance of his walk year in 2022.

•   This is unquestionably one of the best Cubs throwbacks:

•   Todd over at Cubs Central takes a look at the early collection of DSL stats, including the successful early showing from Cristian Hernandez, and the monstrous numbers from Moises Ballesteros (the other bonus baby in the class with Hernandez (who therefore didn’t get a lot of attention, but is also well-regarded)).

•   Placing this sign in Iowa for a marquee MLB event is about as spot on as it can get, given that Iowa is blacked out from a whopping six MLB teams:

•   We’ve been over this issue, but to reiterate for those who don’t know about MLB’s blackout policy and why it really exists:

The reason for MLB’s expansive blackouts on streaming services is not because of game attendance, but instead is because of “local” broadcast rights. In order to protect the value of carriage deals (i.e., to allow MLB teams to charge huge carriage fees from cable/satellite providers), MLB does not permit “local” games to be shown on streaming services like MLB.tv.

In other words, in *theory*, if you would otherwise have access to X Team’s channel on cable in your area, then you’re going to be blacked out from those games on MLB.tv (because the league/teams want you to have to buy the cable package, because that ultimately floats the carriage prices, which then go to the teams). It’s a calculation that it’s more valuable to do that than allow local fans to pay for streaming, which was undoubtedly true 15 years ago, but with more and more cord-cutting, that’s gonna start approaching “not true anymore,” if it hasn’t already. And that’s especially true when you factor in the “cost” of losing fans long-term. The cable model is already dead; we just haven’t actually arrived at its funeral yet.

So, with that in mind, MLB has at least permitted rights holders to distribute their streaming rights in-market, but so far that has exclusively been tied to cable/satellite deals (i.e., authenticated subscribers to the channel can stream games over the internet). So that doesn’t exactly help. But there are talks that eventually the teams’ broadcast networks will be allowing completely internet-based streaming options in-market, and that’s when the cable model could really finally implode (in relation to team regional sports networks and MLB broadcasts anyway). That, in turn, would lead to the end of blackouts, because they would no longer serve any purpose. I feel like we’re getting really close (two or three years?). But you know MLB and its teams aren’t going to blink until they feel like it’s more financially advantageous to go that route. So, in a very small ways, signs like the one above probably help a little.



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.