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Javier Baez

Javier Baez
Graphic: (Getty Images)

Chicago Cubs

COVID Response: Not great. In accordance with his unparalleled whining about having no money (and hoping no one would look behind the curtain marked “Your family’s company just sold for $26B”), Tom Ricketts cut salaries for all non-playing staff.

That didn’t stop Ricketts from bellyaching even more during a pandemic when up to a third of the U.S. population could lose their jobs. Which makes for an even better look weeks after joking around about how the renovations to Wrigley Field, which he pockets all the profits from, went some $500M over budget. Oh, to be Tom.

As for the actual virus, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy contracted it and pulled no punches about the experience:

“For 30 days, this virus, it was always worse at night. I wouldn’t sleep from midnight to six in the morning. Then from 6-10, I’d get some sleep. Every night, I’d get up at 2 and my wife would still be cleaning. She had to bring me food and water every day,” — Hottovy

Staying Away: None so far.

Oh, He’s Here Now?: It seems defeating Cleveland for the franchise’s only World Series championship in a century has caused Ricketts to want to become them, perhaps sustaining some of that “Longest Championship Drought” luster he can’t do without. The Cubs have essentially sat out the last two free-agent markets while they treat the luxury tax threshold like the pit of despair. Only bench pieces Jason Kipnis and Steven Souza Jr. (and his one leg) were brought in, along with a couple cans of gasoline in the bullpen.

Where’d He Go?: Somehow Kris Bryant didn’t end up on this list, even though ownership was desperate to move him to not pay him in two years. Cult hero Nicholas Castellanos waited and waited for the Ricketts Family to cut a check, but eventually took Cincinnati’s. Cole Hamels took his loosely-banded-together collection of ligaments and pronounced cheekbones to Atlanta.

What To Expect: A lot of 7-6 games, with most of the runs late. The Cubs still have an explosive lineup, or one capable of being so. If Bryant shows MVP form for 60 games, it will be…before he’s shipped off to the Dodgers in the winter as their yearly bounty to illustrate just how far ahead they are as an organization of everyone. The Cubs need to solve holes in center and second, and the ones in Anthony Rizzo’s back, but aren’t without possibilities in those spots (Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, acupuncture). And perhaps no NL team will benefit more from the DH, as they can keep all of Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, and Victor Caratini in the lineup every day if they so choose. They’ll score.

But the bullpen is Three Mile Island West, as the front office’s inability to develop any pitcher in years has festered there the most. A rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana, when he returns, is probably solid enough, but not when the parade of pyromaniacs after them comes in. Craig Kimbrel will have a second straight season without a spring training, and the first one was toxic. But any pen can put together six weeks of not having its head fall off, so hold on tight.

Categories: Sports