New Year, Next Leveling Pitchers, the Beat Loses One, Prime Sanders, and Other Cubs Bullets

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New Year, Next Leveling Pitchers, the Beat Loses One, Prime Sanders, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

A happy new year to all of you, and I thank you for sticking around for another year. I say the Cubs will give us hope at least deep into the summer this year, and will top 74 wins. Bold stuff.

  • New Cubs starter Jameson Taillon is ready for the new year, so consider this your ball drop:
  • Here’s hoping the Cubs can next level Taillon just a little bit in 2023, given all the talent there, and another year removed from elbow surgery. I’ve mentioned this idea before, but it would be nice to see the Cubs pull the feat off with a guy like Taillon: get a guy who is very established and solid … and help turn him into a great starter. We’ve seen the Cubs become VERY good at getting pitchers who are just not quite there, and maybe on the fringes of even being able to be in MLB, and helping turn them into capable big league contributors. But what about turning someone like Taillon into a number two? Given how much the Cubs committed to Taillon (four years and $68 million), certainly THEY think they can do some big things. I’m eager to see how he looks this year.
  • And speaking of Cubs pitchers I can’t wait to see, Justin Steele doesn’t even have to take a big step forward in 2023 to be a stud. He just has to be the guy he was already showing he could be by the second half last year. Fun stat:
  • … of course, what if Justin Steele DID take another step in 2023? I don’t know that it’s realistic to think/hope he could be the second coming of Jon Lester in Cubbie blue, but he was already 20% better than league average by ERA- and FIP- last year, and you know who was in the 25% better range last year? Guys like Corbin Burnes, Carlos Rodon, Framber Valdez, Shane Bieber, Aaron Nola … so, I mean, a little step forward for Steele and suddenly the Cubs’ rotation looks a little different, narratively speaking, no?
  • Long-time Chicago Cubs beat writer at the Sun-Times and NBC Sports Chicago Gordon Wittenmyer is out at the latter:
  • In a thoughtful farewell, Wittenmyer notes that his contract at NBC is up, which seems to be the reason for his departure. I have always appreciated Wittenmyer’s unapologetic style – he was going to be himself, through and through, whether you agreed with him or not – and I’ll be very curious to see where he winds up next. He’s been in Chicago for over two decades at this point.
  • If there was ever a bit of evidence that MLB’s efforts to de-juice the baseball were at least partially successful, this is it:
  • It used to be that going oppo required some serious thump. That was like the whole thing about opposite field homers, and why they were impressive in the first place. And then, thanks to the juiced ball in 2017+, it became so routine that you’d often see lazy oppo fly balls just keep carrying and carrying, while a pitcher shakes his head in disbelief that the thing went 380 feet into the seats.
  • Also? I would say this makes Dansby Swanson’s big all-fields power boost in 2022 all the more impressive.

“That ball does some things to you,” Sanders said when asked which sport was harder to play at a professional level. “Any sport that you can fail seven out of 10 times and become great and make $2-300 million in it, that’s a hard sport.”

Sanders added that it would’ve been easy to stop playing baseball and simply focus on football, a sport that he also excelled at. But he wanted to continue to play baseball to challenge himself.

“I love challenges and I could not master it. And it frustrated me because I hate to lose and I hate I’m not mastering something that I know, if I just had more time I could,” Sanders added.

  • Sanders, who is now the head coach at Colorado, was a pretty decent player in his MLB days, all things considered. Wait, no. If you’re truly doing “all things considered,” he was an UNBELIEVABLE player. To be an All Pro corner in the NFL while playing 80 to 100 MLB games in the same year, and to be a USEFUL big leaguer for those games? It’s pretty close to impossible. For his career across parts of nine seasons, Sanders hit .263/.319/.392/90 wRC+ while playing outstanding outfield defense and running the bases exceptionally well (dude stole 186 bases in just 641 games!).
  • Some old friends spent New Year’s Eve together:

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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.