November 21, 2019


Winter baseball in Chicago usually revolves the debate between Cub  and White Sox fans on whose team has better players or a better chance to win next season.

The Cubs path has been in a disappointing decline. The White Sox path has been rebuilding but stalling on development of starting pitchers.

A side by side comparison of the current 40 man roster players (2019 WAR). (*= injury year; R = Rookie Year).

SP1:  Giolito (5.6) v. Hendricks (3.9) 
SP2:  Kopech (0.1*) v. Darvish (3.0)
SP3: Cease (-0.2) v. Lester (1.7)
SP4:  Lopez (0.5) v. Quintana (0.7)
SP5: Rodon (0.1 *) v. Mills (1.0)

Giolito was clearly the best starter in Chicago. Kopech and Rodon were injured. Cease disappointed (but he may have been rushed to the majors). Hendricks and Darvish had good years. Lopez and Quintana are nearly wash. Lester is on the twilight of his pitching career. If you were going to give anyone an slight edge (3 to 2), it would be the White Sox with youth and potential vs. Cubs you saw what you have season. Rodon has experience Mills does not.

C:  McCann (3.8) v. Contreras (3.1)  McCann has a very quiet but better season than Contreras, who is now the trade bait rumor of the day.

1B: Abreu (2.4) v. Rizzo (3.9)  Rizzo had to grind away to get his normal stat season; while Abreu surprised as an AL RBI machine with league leading 123.

2B: Sanchez (2.1) v. Hoerner (R)  Sanchez won a gold glove and the Cubs second base position has been a black hole.

SS: Anderson (4.0) v. Baez (4.8) This is closer than people think, but the nod is still to Baez for his dynamic running ability and defense.

3B: Moncada (4.6) v Bryant (3.6).  Moncada had a quiet monster season for the White Sox, significantly better than Bryant.

The infield selection yields in favor of the White Sox by a 3 to 2 margin.

LF: Jiminez (1.4) v. Schwarber (2.3)  Schwarber had his best full season in LF, but he is still compared to Adam Dunn. Jiminez still has more potential. Both are not good defensively. It is almost a wash, but based upon last season the edge goes to Schwarber (who also may be trade bait).

CF: Robert (R) v. Almora (-1.0)  It is not often that an unproven rookie would get the nod, but Robert is projected as a serious 5 tool stud. Almora has been terrible in his opportunities to win the CF spot.

RF: Garcia (1.6) v. Heyward (2.0). This position currently stands as almost a wash, but if you have to chose, Heyward for his defense.

The Cubs outfield squeaks out the nod. But both teams will have to address their weak outfield positions.

Closer: Colome (1.0) v. Kimbrel (-0.5) The White Sox did not trade their closer at the deadline even though he had value. He will have more value with a better team as the White Sox project in 2020. Kimbrel has been terrible. He was beyond rusty; he was bad. But the Cubs are stuck with him.

Overall, both bullpens are going to churned by both teams so you cannot gauge how it will turn out into after spring training.

In the current state, the Cubs and White Sox appear pretty even. The Cubs could continue to decline and the White Sox could rise to meet as .500 clubs in 2020. That would not be surprising.

November 1, 2019


David Ross is the new Cubs manager.

It really did not surprise many people.

But it is a surprise hire if you thought the Cubs were ready to win in 2020.

It was no surprise because Cubs ownership needed a new "face" for the franchise after letting Joe Maddon go to the Angels. For all the "marquee" players on the roster, it was Maddon who talked to the press at least twice daily. Ross becomes the new hire because he was a popular, folklore figure from the 2016 championship team. He has a reputation of a good clubhouse leader. He had a "get in your face" attitude with his teammates. Whether he can transition from being a teammate to being their boss is an open question.

If Maddon was the only thing holding the Cubs back from a long 2019 post-season run, then one would have assumed that his replacement would be an experienced, championship caliber manager (Girardi). But the Cubs clearly signaled that they did not want to have an independent dugout voice.

The Cubs continue to spend a fortune on more layers of administrative baseball staff (like new directors of hitting and pitching) to feed more technology and information into the current team coaches (who are not going to lose their jobs with the Ross hire). Theo and Company have built a front office like baseball is a video game that they can control from their skybox. Reams of analytical data has replaced an experienced manager's gut instincts.

The press conference attempted to stress the "qualifications" of Ross to be the next Cub skipper.
Theo said the club had been grooming Ross to be the manager since he left the team in 2016. He has been a special assistant. He sat in on scouting meetings. He sat in the amateur draft. He spent this spring training shadowing Maddon. Ross said that he wanted to become a manager when he was a player, so he observed and learned from Bobby Cox and Maddon.

Not lost on anyone is the fact that Ross has not managed at any level. Ross has not coached at any professional level. If the Cubs were grooming him to take over for Maddon, why did not Ross manage a Cubs minor league team? He had three years to get some managerial experience.

But he did not. And the Cubs did not think it was necessary. Why? Because the Cubs are not looking for a manager but a front office collaborator. A person the GM and staff can control.

Just as an experienced manager would demand a working knowledge of what the team would do for him (i.e. spend on free agents, the health of the current roster and farm system) and a pledge from ownership to spend money in the off-season (as Maddon received from the Angels), Ross was in no position to get those promises. And the Cubs could not offer them.

Tom Ricketts clearly stated that the 2020 Cubs would rebuild from within, which was another clear statement that the Cubs would not be spenders in free agency. With the farm system one of the worst in baseball, and Theo's inability to draft, develop and promote a major league starting pitcher, next year's Cubs will be the same team unless major star(s) are traded for young talent.

But as the Nationals showed you can win a championship by getting rid of your franchise player (Harper). However, it only works when you have a young rookie phenom like Soto to take his place. The Cubs have a roster construction problem. There are no minor league prospects pushing for a major league roster spot.

Will Ross be a figurehead or will he put his own stamp on the Cubs? That is the million dollar question. No one has inferred that the players quit on Maddon. The complaint was Maddon was not getting the best out of the talent on the roster. But it may be that the front office continues to overvalue their talent.

A slow start. A rash of injuries. The first real 2020 crisis will show whether Ross will be an independent voice of accountability or another Cubs PR person.