Still holding off on saying anything specific about ‘Spider-Man’ for another day or two. Pretty incredible, by the way, that it was the second biggest box office opening ever, despite the pandemic.
• The Oakland A’s have their new manager after they let Bob Melvin walk on off to the Padres. It’s long-time managerial candidate Mark Kotsay, whose been a coach in Oakland for a while. It remains to be seen what kind of roster Kotsay will have to work with for 2022 – although the looming lockout spurred dramatic activity in the free agent market, it seems teams were content to wait on the new CBA before moving aggressively into the trade market, where the A’s figure to be shopping any or all of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, and more.
• Perusing the roster, I see that pitcher Paul Blackburn is still on the A’s. Remember the name? He was the other Cubs prospect included in the Dan Vogelbach-for-Mike-Montgomery trade with the Mariners back in 2016, after being the 56th overall pick in the first Cubs Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod draft back in 2012. Still only 28 years old – that’s how long these things can take to play out! Also, get this: Blackburn has appeared in parts of FIVE seasons with the A’s now as a fill-in starting pitcher, but still has barely two years of service time. On the one hand, good on Blackburn for lasting that long despite not yet really having any big league success; on the other hand, it kinda sucks that he’s been shuttled for a full five years and might never even reach arbitration.
• The best pitches by the Stuff+ metric that Eno Sarris is so fond of. No Cubs pitchers anywhere to be found among the top ten lists for each pitch type, which isn’t necessarily a surprise given what we saw last year. Even heading into 2022, it does not project to be a staff overloaded by guys with elite stuff, in the rotation or in the bullpen. Each of the front three starting pitchers is more contact-managing than strikeout oriented (which isn’t a knock, as they’ve all been quite successful!). Adbert Alzolay and Justin Steele certainly feature some nasty pitches, as well as Rowan Wick and Codi Heuer in the bullpen. But it doesn’t look, on paper, to be a defining characteristic, even with a couple additions from here. Have I mentioned that the Cubs really need to improve their defense?
• Well, somebody blinked. After a very short “service interruption,” Disney and YouTube came to a carriage agreement to keep the Disney bundle of channels (including ESPN) on YouTube TV. I’m not necessarily surprised, but I wonder how short-term it is, and at what point in the future – it’s coming eventually – ESPN becomes a walled off, direct-to-consumer product rather than a mere cable channel.
• The Cleveland Guardians, currently majority owned by Paul Dolan, are currently in negotiations to sell a 35% stake to David Blitzer, a part owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Moreover, Blitzer reportedly has a path toward majority ownership within five to six years. The Guardians, formerly the Indians, have long been among the tightest franchises, and I’m sure any whiff of ownership change has their fans desperately hoping for an increase in payroll in the years ahead.
• Kids tablets, ear buds, mattress protectors, books, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad
• Nick Martini’s deal in the KBO is official now, and the former Cubs outfielder is getting a $550K guarantee with up to another $250K in incentives. It’s basically what he’d get in the United States if he were to stay in MLB all year (which he probably wouldn’t). So good on him for getting paid when he has a chance. These guys we think of as Quad-A types (i.e., really, really good at Triple-A, not quite good enough for MLB) are still among the best professional baseball players in the world, and their window to make money for the rest of their life is so short. I’m glad more and more players are going to Korea and Japan when they have a chance.
• Wrigley Field is back to being a baseball stadium:
Getting the field back into Wrigley Field. pic.twitter.com/z9kMcPSIAb
— Wrigley Aerials (@WrigleyAerials) December 20, 2021
Ballpark ➡️ Gridiron
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 20, 2021
• I am once again asking MLB teams to develop and deploy knuckleballers:
12 years ago today, the Mets signed 35-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to a minor league deal.
He posted a 2.95 ERA in three seasons with the Mets and won the 2012 Cy Young Award.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) December 21, 2021
• Fun fact on Dickey: he avoided ever having to worry about Tommy John surgery because … he flat out doesn’t have a UCL. You know, the critical ligament that stabilizes the elbow. Just doesn’t have one. He should not have been able to do what he did as a pitcher.
• I suppose I didn’t hate watching the Bears last night, actually. Almost everything frustrating was just the same crap from a coaching staff that’ll be gone soon enough, but of course it leaves you still concerned about who gets to choose the next coaching staff. Meanwhile, I thought Justin Fields once again looked impressive for a rookie with so little support (not just the scheme and lack of coaching adjustments, but also the receiving corps). I’m trying to check myself and make sure I’m not just continuing to make excuses for a rookie who I want so badly to see succeed, but I just feel like I routinely see Fields make throws I wasn’t seeing Mitch Trubisky make in his first few years (low bar, I know). And while Mitch was a good runner, he wasn’t Justin.