The Cubs are winless since their spring training opener, but since this is all practice, the scores don’t so much matter as the part where most everyone we care about stay healthy…ah nuts, but we’ll cover that later. Anyway, we are heading into March with less than a month to go until Opening Day when the games actually do matter, so here are some stray thoughts while we still have some hope.
In order to keep him relevant on a roster that likely has no room for him if he doesn’t hit (which he hasn’t much, but small sample size and all that), Nick Madrigal has been playing third base in the games he’s appeared in and hasn’t looked terrible. Unfortunately there are no videos that I can find for the play he made against the Brewers, and I’ve already shared the two plays he made in his initial 3B start, but let’s see if I can at least describe it. It was a slow-ish roller off the bat of Willy Adames down the line, and Madrigal was able to gobble it up and fired an accurate throw across the diamond to get him, so that was his only play of the day and he didn’t screw it up, which is about all you can ask, right?
This super sucks because the Cubs are not exactly loaded with bats, and one of their primary (potential) big bats is now out for a bit as Seiya Suzuki has to sit out both the World Baseball Classic and some spring training time as well to not exacerbate the oblique injury that’s scratched him from all the games so far. As I am not that kind of doctor, I have no idea how long he will be out for, but it makes sense to consider the various options in-house, which many other websites have already done. For me, the choice seems obvious:
Yeah, it’s Arizona, and it’s spring training, but boy was it nice to see Nelson Velazquez take advantage of some playing time to show the power we know he has. I know Trey Mancini could probably stand out in RF, but Nelson is most likely a better defender and you obviously don’t want to move Ian Happ or Cody Bellinger from their positions to compensate. Between Velazquez, Mancini, and Christopher Morel, I think this position is covered defensively until Seiya is ready to rejoin the team, it’s really just a matter of whether any of them will hit (which I guess is the same concern re: Seiya, but I’d bet he can hit). This probably gives another fringe guy like a Ben DeLuzio or a David Bote a chance to make the Opening Day roster before they’re dumped back to Iowa when Seiya comes back, so thank goodness for some depth, even if it’s not going to knock your socks off.
Other than the fifth starter or some bullpen guys, I doubt any of the top prospects are making the team this spring, but they’ve made a little noise with the handful of opportunities they’ve had. Pete Crow-Armstrong showed good defensive instincts and a hell of an arm, and guys like Brennen Davis, Matt Mervis, and now Kevin Alcantara have flashed some of what has hyped them up on the prospect lists.
The plan as it stands is to let these guys do their thing with (hopefully now) good coaching and development workflows until they’re ready to be called up sometime this season or next.
Miscellaneous Crap, Mostly About Money
By now most of you have probably heard about the fledgling MLB economic council or whatever they’re calling it. I call it the “Cheap Owners Don’t Want to Spend Money and Will Make Sure the Owners Who Want to Win Can’t Either” council but that doesn’t really work as an acronym. We’ve barely finished one year of the new CBA but the owners who want to win (OWWW?) have made the cheap ones look worse than they already do, and the latter group apparently don’t like it. I admit a bit of jealousy directed at the crazy rich guys in Steve Cohen of the Mets and Peter Seidler of the Padres, and to a lesser extent the Phillies, for wanting to acquire and retain the services of Guys Who Are Good At Baseball (GWAGAB is kind of a funny acronym), which the Cubs should try to do as well with at least Nico Hoerner, if not also Ian Happ, but business and stuff.
As if to double down on their shittiness, this was shared by Craig Calcaterra from a corporate accountability reporter:
The professional baseball league is lobbying Florida’s elected leaders for legislation that would cut baseball players out of the state’s minimum-wage law. That would allow MLB teams — all of which are owned by billionaires or near-billionaires — to get away with making minor leaguers work without salaries during key periods like spring training and fall instructional leagues.
This comes on the heels of a contentious CBA negotiation and the ongoing minor league player association talks, which is likely to refuse a salary cap for the MLB folks and to reject any additional pay cuts or affiliate dissolutions for the minor league side. It would appear that this would only cover the affiliates based in Florida, which won’t affect the Cubs anymore since they moved on from Daytona, but would likely affect everyone who participates in the Grapefruit League and has to play for those aforementioned affiliates in state. It might not blow your mind to see the name of one particular owner to make a contribution to Florida’s, uh, rather controversial governor to at least indirectly sweeten this potential deal for them.
I’ll let more experienced folks expand upon this, but a sports league in which up to 18 to 20 of the 30 teams don’t have any serious plans to spend to contend is not very fun, and that’s before we get into all the crap about ticket prices and the ability to actually watch the games on TV. When it seems like the people with all the money are actively trying to further depress the wages of the folks working to make their product profitable, that should leave a sour taste in most people’s mouths, at least if they have any kind of conscience. Here’s hoping Tony Clark and friends are able to help the minor leaguers avoid too many shenanigans.