According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Jason Heyward is the third most interesting person in baseball as the New Year begins. Crasnick released his list of the 16 most interesting people in the game, and the Cubs’ new outfielder ranked behind the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke and Red Sox Ace, David Price. After Heyward rounding out the top five are NL MVP Bryce Harper and Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Crasnick explained a case could be made for Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Anthony Rizzo or Kyle Schwarber “as the most entertaining storyline at Wrigley Field in 2016.” The focus, as Crasnick correctly stated, will be on Jason Heyward, the Cubs’ $184 million outfielder.
Heyward received the largest guaranteed contract in team history. With the opt-outs, as long as he produces, Heyward will likely become a free agent again in three years, four tops. Crasnick pointed out “although Heyward is thoughtful and understated as a rule, he stirred the pot at his introductory news conference when he said he left St. Louis in part because of concerns about the Cardinals’ aging nucleus.” And he certainly “added fuel to a Cubs-Cardinals rivalry that didn’t need much.”
The Cubs’ first two series with the Cardinals of the season are in St. Louis (April 18-20, May 23-25). And all six games should be rather interesting with the way last year ended and with what has happened this winter.
David Ortiz, Barry Bonds, Carlos Correa, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Dave Roberts, Vin Scully, Matt Harvey, Mike Piazza and Eric Hosmer completed Crasnick’s top 16. Others to watch in 2016, according to Crasnick: Tony Clark, Mike Trout, Lazarito, Amanda Hopkins, Sandy Alderson and Yu Darvish.
As 2015 was coming to an end, Maury Brown posted a report on Forbes that will impact those baseball fans that purchase games on MLB.TV.
According to the report, “Starting in 2016, fans will be able to purchase single-team, out-of-market packages, alongside the complete out-of-market package via MLB.TV Premium.”
Brown explained that fans of a certain team will be able to just pay for those games and will not have to pay for the entire out-of-market package, which gives access to games from all 30 teams that are not blacked out.
Major League Baseball “would not comment on the details.” Brown’s sources said “any news regarding new product offerings for the upcoming season would begin being released in February 2016.”
Joe Lucia explained that the same blackout rules will apply, even with the ala carte purchase. In other words, national broadcasts (ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball) would still be unavailable as well as the regional blackouts that date back to the radio territories.
Jayson Stark’s Strange But True Feats
Just before the end of the calendar year, Jayson Stark posts a must-read for all baseball fans … the strange but true feats of the previous 12 months. And this year’s reports are filled with Cubs’ stuff due to the team being back on national map.
Here are the Cubs strange but true feats for 2015:
• Last season there were a total of 27 position players that pitched in games, the most ever in one season. There was even a position player that pitched in the post-season for the first time. Two of the position players turned pitchers for a day during the regular season were Cubs, David Ross and Chris Denorfia. And David Ross was one of four position players that pitched in two different games last season. Ross retired all six batters he faced and was the only catcher to hit his lone home run of the season as a pitcher.
• Jayson Stark limited himself to three Jake Arrieta strange but true facts from his historical season: 1) The Cubs went 17-1 over his last 18 starts, the only loss during that span was to Cole Hamels and the Phillies the day The Streak ended and the Cubs were no-hit. 2) Over Arrieta’s last 20 starts, he allowed has many home runs (2) as he hit (2). 3) From Aug. 1 on, 269 pitchers allowed at least four earned runs in a single inning. Arrieta allowed four earned runs combined over two months.
• The Dodgers were no-hit twice last season, the first time by the Astros’ Mike Fiers on Aug. 21 and the second by Jake Arrieta on Aug. 30. The same three Dodgers made the last three outs in both games … Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Justin Turner.
• There were six no-hitters thrown against National League teams last season … and each one of the teams in the Senior Circuit that were no-hit made the playoffs.
• The Mets became the first team in history to defeat the top three finishers for the NL Cy Young in the same post-season. The Mets topped Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs.
• Kyle Schwarber hit home runs last season at the Double-A, Triple-A and Major League levels, in the NL Wild Card Game, in the NLDS and in the National League Championship Series. Schwarber became the first player ever to hit a post-season home run and win the MVP award in the Futures Game in the same season.
• In Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals, each of the Cubs first six batters in the starting lineup hit home runs (Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Kyle Schwarber), the first time in post-season history the first six batters in a lineup all went deep in the same game. There have only been two regular season games in the history of baseball in which the first six batters hit home runs, and once was this past season when the Mets accomplished the feat in a game in August against the Phillies.
• Jake Arrieta stole as many bases in the post-season as Dexter Fowler … one.
• Jorge Soler reached base in his first nine at bats of his post-season career … he reached base a total of five in September.
- Jayson Stark – Strange But True Feats of 2015 – Regular Season
- Jayson Stark – Strange But True Feats of 2015 – Post-Season
News, Notes and Rumors
• According to a report from Hardball Talk citing Christopher Meola as its source, the Dodgers deal with RHP Kenta Maeda is for eight years and worth a guaranteed $24 million. The contract includes “an extra $10-12 million per year in incentives.” Details of his contract will surface in the coming days. Chances are Maeda will have options that allow him to choose salary arbitration over the guaranteed base salary. C.J. Nitkowski posted a scouting report on Maeda to give those unfamiliar with him an idea of what type of pitcher he is and how his repertoire might translate in the majors.
• Bob Nightengale reported the White Sox want to sign either Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon “but only if they’re willing to take a three-year deal or less.”
• The Dodgers may not try to pry Jose Fernandez from the Marlins after all. Jon Paul Morosi reported the Dodgers “no longer seem inclined to work out a trade” for Fernandez.
• And speaking of the Marlins, Edwin Jackson is one of the “low cost options” Miami is considering for its rotation. According to a report from Hardball Talk citing the Miami Herald as its source, Edwin Jackson, Doug Fister and Cliff Lee are among the free agent starting pitchers the Marlins are looking at signing due to budget constraints. The report also indicated if the Marlins would have acquired Aroldis Chapman he would have been moved into the starting rotation.
This Day in Cubstory
2013 – Cubs signed free agent Edwin Jackson to a four-year contract
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Rod Beck
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Mike Mahoney
2003 – Cubs signed free agent Ramon Martinez
2002 – Cubs signed free agent Kimera Bartee
2002 – Cubs signed free agent Chris Stynes
1990 – Cubs released Vance Law
1987 – Dave Sappelt, born
1954 – Cubs acquired Buzz Clarkson from Dallas (Texas League) for Edward Konick
1951 – Jim Essian, born
1951 – Bill Madlock, born
1935 – Dodgers selected Babe Phelps off waivers from the Cubs
1923 – Robins purchased Turner Barber from the Cubs