Fan Conventions Getting Cancelled, More Knuckleballing, Player Business, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Fan Conventions Getting Cancelled, More Knuckleballing, Player Business, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The scope procedure yesterday went well. The short version is that I was periodically having some difficult/pain swallowing food, so it was worth getting checked out to confirm it was nothing major. To put it in baseball parlance, there were no structural issues found. Likely just inflammation happening at the end of the esophagus (can be caused by a variety of things), and there are theoretical ways to address it. No IL stint necessary.

•   I was unhappy about the Cubs cancelling their Cubs Convention for the second straight year, but I understood the decision and the preference to do it way in advance for planning purposes. The alternative turned out to be what just happened to the Cardinals and their fans: a cancellation with barely ten days’ notice. Except the thing is, the Cardinals are cancelling it because of the lockout, not the pandemic – i.e., the players aren’t available to participate. Probably could’ve made that decision even sooner, regardless of the pandemic. A reminder that even if the Cubs hadn’t cancelled back when they did (citing the pandemic), CubsCon would’ve likely been cancelled in any case. Maybe 2023.

•   Today is the 12th anniversary of a washed-up 35-year-old pitcher signing a minor league deal with the New York Mets and trying to show he could be a different pitcher thanks to the use of a uniquely fast knuckleball that he’d been working on. Two years later, R.A. Dickey won the dang Cy Young. Since then, we’ve seen Steven Wright have a tiny bit of brief success doing the knuckleball thing, but that’s basically it. It’s not like Dickey was only passable as a big league starter. The guy was DOMINANT for three years in his late-30s throwing the pitch, and only thereafter as he got older did he become merely passable.

•   I know that the circumstances of Dickey’s success cannot be easily duplicated – the guy literally does not have a UCL, so it’s probably a bit hard to know for sure how that impacts his pitching ability – but it’s shocking to me that no other just-couldn’t-get-there types haven’t figured out how to throw a near-80 mph knuckleball in a controllable, repeatable way. Again, don’t get me wrong: that’s actually really high hurdle! And it took Dickey six years to perfect. But when you’re talking about hundreds of pitchers who come and go from professional baseball every year, it just surprises me that we still haven’t seen another. If you could be the organization that figures out (1) how to teach what Dickey could do, and (2) which guys to target for this project, wouldn’t you have a significant edge?

•   For his part, Dickey described why he stands alone in this great interview at Slate back in his heyday:

Slate: Why are you the only player in the majors throwing this pitch? Is it really that hard to learn?

R.A. Dickey: It’s an incredibly hard thing to do. I don’t want this to come across at all in a way that’s narcissistic; I’m just saying it’s hard and there’s not a lot people who are willing to devote the amount of time it takes to do it well. I just laid out for you a little bit of what I went through and there were parts of it that were hell.

Every day waking up going to the gym, trying to figure something that you never really knew 100 percent if you were going to get or not. I mean, that’s hard on the mind, much less the body. [Secondly], no scout, no general manager is going out looking for the next great knuckleballer. They’re all going out looking for the next Stephen Strasburg. So there’s not a lot of opportunity.

A lot of people don’t trust the pitch. There’s this kind of reputation it has for being untrustworthy and fickle and capricious and everything else, and those are words that big league managers and general managers and organizations aren’t too fond of. So you’ve got to really prove and reprove yourself over and over and over again just to get an opportunity. And that makes it difficult.

•   Incidentally, David Adler wrote today at about the best knuckleballers in baseball history (no risk of writing about a current big leaguer in that one!).

•   Pitches we need more of in 2022: 3. Knuckleball, 2. Forkball, 1. Eephus.

•   People make their jokes when guys get involved in this business or that business, but it’s important that players know their careers are finite. Getting involved in other opportunities – when you have them – is key to setting yourself up for the rest of your life. Most players *don’t* make millions and millions in their playing career. So, that is to say, it makes sense that the Cubs’ MLBPA representative is as actively engaged in other business opportunities as Ian Happ is:

•   Now that Fanatics owns Topps – literally as of yesterday – they didn’t waste any time getting on the announcement of this year’s set:

•   Heads up to this week’s no-brainer bet on Cowboys-Eagles (basically as long as the game just doesn’t end in a 0-0 tie, and you win).

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.