I was fully prepared – from an editorial perspective – to cover two very quiet months of an offseason where baseball stuff couldn’t actually be happening because of the lockout. I feel like we’ve done a decent job of that since December 1. But I gotta say, with things looking like they will remain largely quiet through February, too, I’m starting to get a little worried about what I’ll be able to pull off. It hasn’t even been two years since we had to do three months of silence at the start of the pandemic, and it’s hard to do it twice in such short succession! I just want to cover actual baseball. I’m not complaining about the gig, mind you – I’m mostly just saying that we’ll continue to do our best to provide interesting and informative baseball bits over the next however dang long this lockout continues.
• Jordan Bastian did a get-to-know-you interview with Jared Banner, the Cubs new VP of Player Development (colloquially called the farm director – aka, the dude in charge of the farm system). Among other things, he talked about the extensive prospect camp the Cubs ran this year out in Arizona (much more than a typical camp), and how it could impact what comes this year and beyond:
First, we have to thank Jed and the ownership group for giving us the resources to do this. I think it gives us a chance to provide an opportunity for the players to be with our [strength and conditioning] staff, be with our coaches during the offseason, build their bodies, continue to build their fundamental skill sets all offseason — and in a wonderful training environment, which not everyone has when they go back home, right? It’s just continuing their development, and they took real advantage of it. They showed up; they were committed to it. There was a ton of intensity and energy to the workouts. You can really see their improvements already ….
We spend so much time on the tangible things that we can measure. How much stronger guys are getting. How much harder they’re hitting the ball. How their stuff is evolving on the mound. Things like that. But, yes, I do often think that there are some additional benefits just from the guys getting to know each other, spending an offseason together without the pressures of the season, spending time together away from the ballpark. They’re all Cubs. They’re all teammates. They will all, hopefully, be a part of our future. I think there was a level of chemistry built.
• It’s one of those things that just seems like obviously a great idea, but the fruits of which will be kinda hard to judge this year. If a bunch of young prospects break out, will it be because of the camp, or would that have happened anyway? Conversely, if guys get hurt or struggle, was that because the camp was useless or counterproductive? That’s why you just have to rely on good process. And having your top prospects all together in your facilities for training, nutrition, exercise, and team-building just seems like a good process to me. What happens from here, we’ll just have to wait and see, but the Cubs have clearly invested as much as they practically can on the farm system (and prospect-acquisition) side the last two years. They really have to blow out player development at this point.
• (Thank goodness the minor league season isn’t locked out, and their Spring Training will proceed as normal … I am so geeked to see how these prospects perform this year.)
• This is an incredible story – the kind that actually brought some real tears to my eyes – about Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa visiting the Belong Kitchen in Houston, a center that provides dignified, meaningful employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD):
Ellie, a fan with IDD, saw Jose Altuve & asked for an autograph. Neither one of them had a sharpie, so Altuve promised to come visit her at work the next day. Ellie told him, "if you come, you better bring Correa with you!"
Altuve & Correa showed up ❤️
(via belongkitchenhtx/IG) pic.twitter.com/LH1vgsF9qo
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) February 5, 2022
View this post on Instagram
• Meaningful inclusion touches a lot more people than you think, and it warms my hear to see what Belong Kitchen is doing, and how Altuve and Correa made something special happen with their time.
• Maddie Lee is moving over to take on the Sun-Times Cubs beat, from which Russell Dorsey departed to Bally’s national coverage:
I'm thrilled to announce I'll be joining @Suntimes, covering the Cubs, starting Monday. I'm excited to work with such a powerhouse group of sports writers at such a storied publication. Thank you @ChrisDeLuca @stevewarmbir and Norm Parish for the opportunity. https://t.co/MBXU7XGZ4E
— Maddie Lee (@maddie_m_lee) February 3, 2022
• Books, sheets, skin care, water bottles, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad
• Ah, memories. He was so mad about this:
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) February 5, 2022