Discover more from Pointless Exercise
They are shortening spring training without making it shorter
At least we only have to watch seven inning games
Spring training games have been cut to just seven innings this year (though both teams can agree to play nine if for some unfathomable reason they decide they want to), and COVID restrictions mean that Marquee Sports Network can’t logistically broadcast every spring game like they had originally planned. This is tragic for those of us who can’t get enough of Taylor McGregor spinning yarns about how great it was when she lived in Denver, and those awkward remote third-man-ins from Ryan Dempster and Mark Grace.
Here’s the crystal clear graphic Marquee put out so you can tell what games they’re going to be showing:
See how the date and time on the Mariners game March 3 is slightly bluer than the others? That game is on ESPN, apparently. Sure, whatever.
Marquee is going to do all of the home games (that’s why just adding the word ‘at’ to the road games would have made way too much sense), and are leaving open the possibility of adding some road games if possible.
You know what? It’s spring training. Nobody needs that much of it.
Joc Pederson told a fairly depressing story about how he was sitting at home without a job with no market emerging for free agents (cough, cough, collusion, cough, cough) when he figured the Cubs should have a least a little money left to spend to fill a gaping hole in left field, so he called Jed Hoyer and Jed was like, “Oh, you’ll work for cheap? Neat!”
Pederson was a very nice get for the Cubs once they decided to let our large adult son todder off to DC, but you just know that lucking into a productive player on a deep discount will only embolden the Garbage Family That Owns the Cubs™ to think that’s a pretty neat strategy.
If they haven’t already, you can certainly imagine them telling Jed when he comes to ask for the money to re-sign Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and/or Willson Contreras (there’s no reason to do anything but plan Kris Bryant’s going away party already), “Just do that thing where you spend less money and get a player nobody else wanted who’s almost as good as the guy who left.”
Speaking of Javy, he said he wants to negotiate a contract extension this spring and,
I feel bad that Javy’s going to have to retire before he’s 30, but hey.
Jake Arrieta spent the last two seasons pitching to JT Realmuto and he says that Willson Contreras has continued to improve so much that JT and Willy are the two best in the game. Realmuto is two years older than Willson and just signed a five-year, $115 million deal to stay in Philadelphia. Willson should be worth more than that and will be to some smart team. Too bad we don’t know any of those these days.
Anthony Rizzo is the old man in the group at 30 and he also wants to stay. The Cubs are probably troubled by his recurring back injuries which have caused him to miss 37 games—over the last FIVE seasons (so, not much)—or some other bullshit.
"This city and everything I love about the city, I kind of wear on my sleeve," Rizzo said. "And I still love it. I still love our team. I still love what we have going on here."
For his part, David Ross isn’t worried about the futures of any of these guys.
"If these guys go out and do what they are accustomed to doing, I think those things do take care of themselves," Ross said. "You can't worry about what's going to happen next offseason. We're wasting our time if we're that far ahead. We need to focus on the daily process to get better."
Oh, fine. No reason to waste time trying to make sure you find ways to keep your good players. I’m sure the Cubs bustling farm system with 19 year old Ed Howard and the four pre-teens the Cubs got in Yu Darvish trade is ready to backfill the losses of the most talented core the Cubs have assembled in a half century. A core that certainly looks like it’s going to break up for no good reason.
But hey, at least the Garbage Family can hang a list of tax breaks that the new National Landmark Status of Wrigley Field gets them, in American professional sports’ smallest trophy case.
It’s pretty thrilling to get to root for things like luxury tax avoidance. Thanks!
Didn’t take the Cubs too long to find somebody to match the “speed” they lost when Albert Almora signed with the Mets.
The Cubs waived our favorite Cubs pitcher that we never actually saw pitch, Robert Stock, to clear room for the return of Kyle Ryan from the COVID-19 list.
Stock is a joy on the Twitters and greeted his bad news this way:
But hey, when you have to open a roster spot so you can keep a lefty reliever you found on a driving range a couple years ago, you do whatever it takes.
Last year the Cubs put out a highlight reel on Ryan (weird, yes) and one thing that jumped out was if you looked at the score bug on those highlights all of his big punch outs seemed to occur with the Cubs up or down by more than four runs.
So, we looked.
In 2019, Ryan’s slash line against in those situations was .182/.274/.255 with a BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of a tidy .214.
In any other spot? Uh, not so much. His splits in “late and close” situations (as any plate appearance from the seventh inning on in which the batting team is either in a tie game, ahead by one run or has the potential tying run on deck) were .302/.352/.476.
Last year he made an emphasis to improve those numbers and…well, no. In games where the Cubs were up or down by four runs or less he was not good. .348/.412/.739 with seven strikeouts and FIVE homers.
If you wonder why you reflexively cringe when you see that Ryan is warming up (on the rare occasion Marquee ever shows the bullpen) that’s why.
All weekend long ESPN’s ticker included news that Angels’ DH Albert Pujols has yet to decide whether or not he’ll continue to play in 2022. Albert’s slash line the last four seasons (Total Landscaping) is:
.242/.291/.406 with an OPS+ of 87
Albert, I hate to break it to you. I don’t think whether you play again next season is your call. You might want to just hope you keep a job all this season.
Albert turned 41* in January and his OPS in his nine seasons with the Angels has been .297 less (.761) than it was in his 11 seasons with the Cardinals (1.037). Everybody in baseball knew he’d see a decline, but not everybody expected him to bottom out like he has.
Pujols’ age has been an openly discussed issue since his rookie season 2001. He burst on the scene with a .293/.403/.610, 37 HR, 130 RBI season and was rookie of the year and finished fourth in MVP voting. He was 21, had only played in 133 minor league games and the highest level he’d played in was the low-A Midwest League.
Former Marlins president David Samson was on The Dan LeBatard Show last week and said the quiet part out loud about the Marlins pursuit of Pujols when he was a free agent after the 2011 season.
We knew when we did the calculations for that deal that we didn’t care about 2019, 20 or 21. It was so far in the future that it didn’t matter,” said Sansom, recalling his negotiations with Pujols. “We knew he’d be unproductive, we knew that he was not the age that he said he was. We had all the information.”
LeBatard asked Samson, “Did you just report flatly that Pujols is older than he’s always claimed to be?”
“There is not one person in baseball, not one executive, who believes Albert Pujols is the age that he says he is,” responded Samson. “The amount of fraud that was going on in the Dominican back in the day, the changing of names, the changing of birthdays, it would blow your mind.”
Albert and his family immigrated from the Dominican Republic in 1996 and in order for Albert to qualify to enroll in high school in Kansas City he couldn’t be older than 16. Even though he showed up to school the first day in a car he legally rented himself, holding a six pack of Bud Light that he’s legally purchased on the way over and flashing a certificate that showed he met the minimum requirements to run for the United States Senate, Albert was “16.”
Because Pujols was such an incredible player, it mostly never mattered what his age really was, except when somebody like Bob Costas or Tim McCarver would talk lovingly of how Pujols was the “youngest player ever to” do this or that. Because we all knew he wasn’t.
And, I guess it mattered when he was demanding a 10 year contract after his age 31* season.
The Cardinals have enjoyed getting “credit” for letting him walk when he signed a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Angels, but for all of their inside info, the Cardinals’ final offer was 10 years, $210 million and Pujols didn’t go back to them after the Angels made the offer he accepted. So, they can act like they knew all along he wasn’t a good bet for that length of contract, but they offered him the same damned thing.
By far the best part of the Cardinals fans reaction to Pujols leaving was that it confirmed something we’d already suspected. All of them think the word traitor is spelled “trader.” I wonder if they all chatted about it on their field trip to the Capitol in January?
The Angels, for all of the money they have spent on Pujols have gotten one playoff series (they got swept by the Royals and Pujols was 2-for-12), his 500th career homer (hit on the road), his 3,000th hit (accomplished on the road) and this 600th homer (hit at home, and it was a grand slam to give the Angels a lead, so that was pretty cool) and he has led the league twice…in grounding into double plays.
Coming back this season gives Pujols a chance to put the all-time record for grounding into double plays out of reach. His current total of 399 is the most in baseball history, a cool 49 more than Cal Ripken Jr., 78 more than the closest active player (Miguel Cabrera) and a whopping 132 more than his former teammate Yadier Molina.
But Pujols will have to work to retire with more walks than strikeouts. It’s a very cool achievement, and one that at one point it looked like he’d never have to sweat. Through 2014 he had 209 more walks than strikeouts for his career (1115 to 906), but since then he’s cut way into that cushion, striking out 182 times more than he’s walked (398 to 216). He needs to finish 2021 with no more than 26 more strikeouts than walks, and last year, even though he played in only 39 games he struck out 16 more times than he walked (25 to nine).
Good luck, Albert. And I’m sure the old plantar fascia won’t start acting up in May when you’ve struck out 30 times to just four walks.
And, in honor of Catherine O’Hara’s Golden Globe Award last night, today’s Monday Morning Cubbin’ Down is brought to you by Herb Ertlinger’s Fruit Wine, or Bing Livehinger or whatever.