Baseball works toward another labor truce

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Baseball works toward another labor truce

Friday, March 11, 2011Posted: 3:45 PM Updated: 6:26 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. While negotiations between the NFL and its players union unravel in Washington, baseball is approaching 16 years of uninterrupted labor peace.

Since wiping out the 1994 World Series, there has been a thaw in the cold war between owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association. There is optimism on both sides that a new labor deal will be reached amicably before years end, without any of the work stoppages that previously defined their relationship.

Cubs catcher Koyie Hill, the teams lead union representative, doesnt see any red flags at this point. MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner has essentially said the same thing on his spring-training tour, which will bring him to Cubs camp later this month.

There havent been any major concerns about not being able to work together, Hill said Friday. Everythings been pretty professional. (I) havent seen anything that would be alarming. That doesnt mean we dont need to sit down and get (it done). But were not going at it lackadaisical.

The NFL negotiations have focused on major structural issues with the collective bargaining agreement. Baseball talks figure to be more on the perimeter, figuring out how to regulate the amateur draft and the international market.

In the run-up to the Super Bowl, news coverage slanted toward labor conflict, and speculation about how long the NFL might go dark. It drew attention away from the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the sports biggest day.

Though the current agreement wont expire until Dec. 11, its a good guess that the keepers of the game wouldnt want to play the World Series against that backdrop.

One thing we all underestimated is how badly it hurt us, commissioner Bud Selig said last week at HoHoKam Park. Every two, three years, its all fans are reading about.

The thing about labor peace (is its) in everybodys interest. Player salaries have gone up, revenues have gone up and the sports popularity is at an all-time high. So when you look back on it, there are a lot of lessons to be learned. And I think we have.

Thinking of home

Kosuke Fukudome stood in the clubhouse Friday morning and tilted his head up toward the big-screen TV, watching CNNs coverage of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

Through a translator, Fukudome said that he contacted his brother back home in Japan and was optimistic that his extended family remained safe.

The games become international, manager Mike Quade said. All of a sudden these things happen around the world in the Dominican Republic, Japan, wherever and you get to the ballpark and the first thing youre asking is: Are your people ok?

Etc.

Ryan Dempster threw five scoreless innings during Fridays 4-3 win over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Jeff Samardzija gave up all three runs in the ninth, raising his ERA to 8.44. John Grabow, who is monitoring a sore left shoulder, is hoping to pitch in a game before Wednesdays off-day. Its getting better, Mike Quade said. Its time to get him back out there. The Cubs optioned relievers Esmailin Caridad and John Gaub to Triple-A Iowa on Friday, cutting their spring roster to 58 players.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

The Cubs are down to only one starter in next month's All-Star Game in Miami: reigning MVP Kris Bryant.

Jason Heyward lost his grip on the final starting outfielder spot to Marlins star Marcell Ozuna in the latest All-Star balloting update released by the MLB:

That may be for the best, as the Cubs are currently banged up (Heyward. Ben Zobrist and Kyle Hendricks are on the disabled list) and slogging through a season where they've hovered around .500. So maybe four days off in a row would be beneficial for the defending champs.

Heyward is 29,270 votes behind Ozuna and Zobrist is 118,248 votes behind Heyward. It appears as if Washington's Bryce Harper and Colorado's Charlie Blackmon are sure things for the top two outfielder spots in the NL.

Bryant is only 58,082 votes ahead of Nolan Arenado at third base. Anthony Rizzo trails Ryan Zimmerman at first base, Javy Baez comes in well behind Daniel Murphy at second base and Buster Posey has more than twice as many votes as runner-up Willson Contreras at catcher.

Addison Russell is third among shortstops. Kyle Schwarber — despite being demoted to the minors last week — is eighth among NL outfielders.

It's a far cry from 2016, when the Cubs made up all four infield spots in the NL starting lineup.

Voting ends in four days. Fans can head to MLB.com to vote.

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

If Nationals are playoff preview, what should Cubs do at trade deadline?

WASHINGTON – Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has perspective after sitting through the darkest days of the rebuild, the sign-and-flip cycles and moments like “Men Playing Against Boys,” the way ex-manager Dale Sveum once sized up the team during a 2012 series against the Washington Nationals.

Bosio trusted future “World’s Greatest Leader” Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and the rest of a growing front office would deliver talent during the 101-loss season that led to the Kris Bryant No. 2 overall draft pick and the Ryan Dempster/Kyle Hendricks buzzer-beater deal at the trade deadline.   

So while Bosio is a hardened realist who understands the banged-up Cubs haven’t played up to their potential, he also knows these are first-division problems. 

“If Theo and Jed can find a way to make our team better, you can bet they’re going to do it,” Bosio said. “But at the same time, they’re not going to sacrifice our future. They know that the team (here has) a lot of holdovers from the World Series club. There’s a lot of holdovers from the team that went to the National League (Championship Series in 2015). We’ve been through that. And when it comes crunch time, we produce.”

With that in mind, a look at where things stand five weeks out from the July 31 trade deadline as the defending champs begin a potential playoff preview on Monday at Nationals Park:

• If Max Scherzer flirts with another no-hitter or a 20-strikeout game on Tuesday, the questions will start all over again about adding a hitter. Javier Baez even let this slip over the weekend after a win over the Miami Marlins: “Pretty much not having a leadoff guy right now is kind of tough.” But shipping Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa is not necessarily the start of an offensive overhaul.

“Our focus is going to be on pitching,” Hoyer said. “I would never say never to something like that, because I don’t know what’s going to present itself as we get closer to the deadline. I will say this: When it comes to our offense, I really do see it as these are our guys. We’re as deep with position players as any team in baseball. These guys have performed exceptionally well. Most of these guys have won 200 games over the last two years.

“We believe in them for a reason. We don’t have rings on our fingers without all these guys.”

• With Jake Arrieta and John Lackey on the verge of becoming free agents, the Cubs feel like they should start working on their winter plans this summer and begin remodeling the rotation. The 38-37 record makes you wonder how ultra-aggressive the front office will be to win a bidding war for a frontline starter, but the Cubs are only 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, a first-place team for now that was supposed to be rebuilding this year.   

But the Cleveland Indians got to the 10th inning of a World Series Game 7 with Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt making nine playoff starts combined, because they had Corey Kluber and a dynamic bullpen.

The primary focus will have to be on the rotation, but adding another high-leverage reliever to work in front of lights-out closer Wade Davis would shorten games and help preserve Carl Edwards Jr. (170 pounds) and Koji Uehara (42 years old).   

“At some point, you’re going to assess your own team,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes strengthening a strength can work. You see teams that sometimes have a good offense – and add another good hitter – and all of a sudden we’re going to beat you in a different way.”

• Without making this summer’s blockbuster deal for a closer – the way the Cubs landed Aroldis Chapman – Washington risks wasting Bryce Harper’s second-to-last season before free agency and another year of Scherzer’s $210 million megadeal.

Six different Nationals have saved games for a 45-30 team and the bullpen ranks near the bottom of the majors with a 4.88 ERA. Can’t blame that on Dusty Baker, who has notched more than 1,800 wins as a manager and guided four different franchises to the playoffs.

But it won’t be easy to find a quick fix for the Washington bullpen or Cubs rotation. The American League opened for business on Monday with only three of its 15 teams more than three games under .500, and one being the White Sox, who are (obviously) not seen as a realistic trade partner for the Cubs.

“The American League is incredibly jumbled up,” Hoyer said. “That’s why a lot of deals don’t happen this time of year, because people are still sorting it out. The next five weeks of baseball will determine a lot of that. Some of those teams that are in the race now will fall back.

“There’s a lack of teams right now that have a true sense of sellers. I think there are a lot of teams right now that are close enough that they’re not going to admit it that they’re going to be sellers. That five weeks will determine a lot about who ends up on which side of the fence.”