It’s been a rough winter for the Chicago Cubs in more ways than one. The Addison Russell situation. The Joe Ricketts emails. The ‘failure’ to land a big-time free agent. No more apologies, let’s just play baseball.
As the 2018 season came to a screeching halt, the Chicago Cubs had to come to grip with the fact that playoff baseball wasn’t happening. The offseason had just gotten a month longer than they anticipated. But that was okay because they were going to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado and everything would be glorious heading into 2019. This winter was anything but that for the Cubs.
The Addison Russell situation started last season and will carry into this year with his suspension lasting for about the first month of the season. The league took action, and the Cubs have decided to proceed with Russell–under a strict protocol–or his time in Chicago could come to an end if he doesn’t meet all requirement set forth. Russell gave an apology the other day that some seemed to question. Regardless, it was one of many ‘I’m sorry’ speeches from the Cubs.
“We don’t have any more,” he said. “We have to have flexibility in the future. – Cubs’ Tom Ricketts
Then came the emails from Joe Ricketts. First, it needs to be understood that the father of the Ricketts family has no part in the day-to-day running of the Cubs. But it was his opening of the trust that allowed the Ricketts children to purchase the Cubs, with the final bit coming this winter as they bought out the remaining shares of the Tribune Company. His anti-Muslim sentiments in the emails were damning to the Cubs, and once again have required an apology from Tom Ricketts, who apologized for his father while also defending him as a good man.
Then there’s the money or lack thereof. The Cubs have spent the winter signing pitching depth and a few quality bullpen guys that should fit into the mix out of Spring Training. But a Harper or Machado? Nope. And why didn’t the Cubs ‘spend big’ with the new television deal now in place? According to Ricketts? It’s not there.
"We don’t have any more,” he said. “We have to have flexibility in the future. … We’ve been in the top five spending the last few years, and we put our money back onto the field. You can’t have a high-profile free agent every single year."
There was technically no apology there, but many Cubs’ fans took it as one. How could they not spend the money to add a big-time free agent? The third biggest market in America and we sign a few bullpen guys and Daniel Descalso? Really?
Yes, really. Last season, the Cubs battled injuries to players that were expected to contribute significantly to their success. Yu Darvish got about 40 innings in before he was done. Tyler Chatwood pitched more but maybe shouldn’t have. Anthony Rizzo forgot how to hit the first few months of the season. Then never stopped in the second half. Kris Bryant missed extended time for the first time in his career. Yet the team won 95 games, and it took an extra game to decide the Central division champion.
We’ve been missing baseball for a little longer this season than we have in the past few years. In 2016, it seemed like there was no offseason. But maybe this has made the Cubs hungry again. Losing can change a team, and perhaps last year was just what the Cubs needed. Did we think they would make it happen, as they had so many times earlier in the year? Maybe.
But now it’s time to put all this aside. No more apologies. No more off the field news. From here, it’s all on the field. It’s time for baseball, again.