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Monday Morning Cubbin' Down
Do you really need a bullpen to win games?
Cubs’ “closer” Craig Kimbrel was known for a few things during his dominant days.
For his career he still has more saves (346) than career hits allowed (306)
He’d never allowed more than seven homers in a single season, and in one four year stretch he led the league in saves every season and allowed a TOTAL of 12 homers to the 1,039 batters faced during that span
He grew his weird beard to look less like A Christmas Story villain Scut Farkus
But, in a weird 2019 season that saw Kimbrel miss the first three months of the season because nobody in baseball thought one of the greatest closers in history was worth giving up a precious first-round draft pick, he was bad and hurt, and bad again and hurt again for the Cubs.
This came after a 2018 season with the Red Sox in which he was good, but not great, and while his team won the World Series they used a starting pitcher to close out the final game. Oh, I’m sure that was fine. Nothing to see here. Then they didn’t really try to re-sign him, though they gave him the qualifying offer—which led to his unwanted spring and early summer exile.
Kimbrel allowed more hits (21) than he had saves (13) for the Cubs, and he gave up a whopping NINE homers in 20 innings.
In case you were wondering—that’s bad.
But, we were all assured that once Craiggers got a full spring training in, he’d revert back to his dominant form of the first nine seasons of his career.
Granted, there are still way too many days left in this never ending spring training, but the early results are—uhhh…
Kimbrel has only pitched in two games, but he’s already given up two homers. That’s not good, but, we’re told, that his velocity is already better than it was last year and “it’s just a matter of time.” For, something.
If Kimbrel was all there was to worry about down in the Cubs’ bullpen, that would provide a little solace, but he’s not.
Brad Wieck, the gigantic lefty the Cubs got from the Padres last year and who was turned into a very useful reliever by the Magic Pitching Lab™ had to have a “minor” heart procedure during spring training. A minor heart procedure is one that’s done on somebody’s else’s heart.
His plausibly twin brother Rowan Wick was arguably the Cubs’ best reliever last year (just a smidge better than courageous mononucleosis survivor Brad Brach). And Rowan has been so terrible this spring (10 hits, two homers, a 22.09 ERA in 3.2 innings) that the Cubs’ have been trying to convince him to self-quarantine for 14 days. Not because they’re afraid he might have the coronavirus but just to keep him from infecting the rest of the bullpen with his current bout of chronic terribleness.
Brandon Morrow’s already been hurt twice this spring. Even for him, this is really something. He injured his chest right away, then that felt better and he hurt his calf. He hasn’t even gotten to his arm yet. But, there’s time.
Admittedly, spring training in Arizona (and Vegas for a couple of days) can be a terrible place to evaluate pitchers on performance. But given that the Cubs have an aging starting staff that isn’t likely to consistently pitch deep into games, if they’re going to be good enough to contend, and not-so-coincidentally to keep Theo from selling off the players we actually like in July, they’re going to need this bullpen to not be shit.
The Cubs’ bullpen competition is a “cast-off of thousands”, and it’ll be a work in progress all season. Oh joy.
The Cubs’ fun with carriage rights deals continues. This past week saw them look to be completely screwed when YouTube TV said they were going to bounce all of the Sinclair-owned regional sports networks (which by proxy includes Marquee) off of their service, and though Marquee didn’t have a deal with YouTube TV yet, that was not going to be good news.
Then, YouTube TV came back and said the two sides were back at the negotiating table.
Then (uh oh, this is already too many “thens”) YouTube TV announced they did have a deal with Sinclair! Oh, but it only included 19 of the 22 they were previously carrying, so no Yankees’ YES Network, or Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket (Angels), and no new network, which would have been Marquee. YouTube TV is content to not carry networks with teams in the three biggest markets in the nation. Well, unless you count the Mets and White Sox, which nobody does.
OK, there’s still plenty of time before opening day, right? Well, the new agreement with Sinclair restored 19 of the networks, but not to their entire service areas, just the ‘primary’ area. Huh? Parts of the teams’ designated territories are no longer going to get the RSN they need to watch their local team. This would be like a provider only making Marquee available to those who live in Chicago proper and some of the suburbs, and then nobody else. So, if you lived in Rockford or Peoria or Dubuque you wouldn’t get Marquee but you’d still enjoy the luxurious blackouts that would prevent you from seeing Cubs’ games on MLB.tv or MLB Extra Innings. Basically, even if you think YouTube TV is going to eventually carry Marquee (which I don’t), unless you live in the shadow of Wrigley Field (or are Big Star adjacent), don’t bother.
I have DirecTV and I was one of like 12 people in the country who actually got Marquee the second it launched, and yet, weeks later, I still can’t watch games online or on the app because DirecTV hadn’t bothered to flip whatever little switch they need to enable it. I mean, sure, why would you bother to get that right?
As long as Marquee is having trouble getting its distribution stuff figured out this newsletter will run an exciting feature called:
MARQUEE SPORTS NETWORK…DID I MISS ANYTHING?
Who better for the first one, than Kris Bryant’s always media available dad, Mike, running down Taylor McGregor in Vegas to chat.
For EIGHT minutes.
So no, you didn’t miss anything.
Is there anything wrong with Mike being a proud dad and going on and on about him? No. Is there any reason to force people to listen to it for eight minutes? No. Eight minutes of anything on TV is death. And eight minutes of Mike Bryant is death. So this was double death.
I’m surprised they didn’t just have him come up in the booth. With Jim Deshaies out with the flu, Marquee had their new studio host Cole Wright sit in with Len Kasper, and their double-A radio guy Mick Gillispie crammed into the booth for the middle three. Amazing that a network with like 38 analysts couldn’t convince one to go to Las Vegas for a weekend?
Here was Cole’s most distinguishing moment of the weekend (other than saying “see ball, hit ball” a troubling number of times.)
Then again, this in game stuff isn’t what Cole’s real job is going to be, he’s a studio guy, and NIU alums should always appreciate him for this:
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Justin Verlander left his start on Sunday with triceps soreness, and you have to be impressed with how quickly Dusty is having an impact on that team.
The Cardinals and Jack Flaherty could not agree on a contract so St. Louis penalized him $10,000 for not coming to terms—per “team policy.” Well, isn’t that a lovely pile of bullshit?
Check this shit out:
Per team policy, he'll receive a $10,000 reduction in salary as penalty. But the team did stretch their formula to give him a $10,000 bonus for a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting. Those offset, so he received a $604,500 salary for 2020, per a source.
So they reduced his salary by $10K and then want to seem generous by giving him $10K for finishing in the top four in Cy Young voting? I’m honestly surprised their bonuses aren’t just paid out in St. Louis pizza.
I’ll bet Yadi never got fined $10,000 for anything. Then again, he can shove an umpire and it’s just “savvy leadership.”
Joliet Catholic grad (and Padres color analyst) Mark Grant ordered a churro on the air during a game. That’s great, but it’s not Harry dangling his fishing net out of the booth for fans to put cans of beer into:
Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich’s new deal will trap him in the land of big cheese for nine more years. Why would anybody voluntarily sign up for nine more years of Wisconsin? This is going to make it pretty hard to refute the rumors that Yelich’s insane home/road splits the last two years are just a coincidence, and not the product of somebody shooting off the Miller Park wiener cannon when he’s about to get a fastball.
Adam McCalvy started his piece on the signing this way:
It’s official. Christian Yelich is a Milwaukee Brewer for life.
Uh oh, did his broken kneecap last year lower his life expectancy to 37?
And finally, (mock applause fills the interwebs) if you didn’t check out the podcast I did with Dave Brown last week, do so. It starts with a few minutes of me explaining why I’m no longer with The Athletic. Try not to cry.