Chicago Sports Exchange, Baseball Edition: Sox Finalizing Explosive Roster, Cubs Can’t Avoid Controversy

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

January is typically a celebratory time for baseball fans in Chicago, despite its non-proximity to any actual games.

The first month of 2021, for a while, looked to be a anticipatory period where a return to normalcy could be had, with the return of the Sox’s “SoxFest” and the annual “Cubs Convention,” which has already been lost, having been scheduled last weekend and already canceled. The same is to be said for the South Siders’ fest, which was previously scheduled for this weekend.

But certainly those who align with the Sox aren’t lacking in things to celebrate this off-season, given the team’s string of effective signings and more honors and positive national coverage that is reflecting the team’s “win big” planning for the upcoming season.

For several seasons, the Cubs hogged that kind of spotlight at this time of year, but things are a bit more complicated at the moment than North Siders would like. As several Cub mainstays’ contracts were solidified recently for the coming year, there are still ever-loosening ties between the franchise today and its beloved talent that won the historic 2016 World Series. At the same time, not much in the way of new talent is making its way to Clark and Addison and news even indirectly related to the franchise could be better.

Here’s a quick dive into both baseball sides of town as the long march towards spring training, and the sun and refreshment of Arizona, continues.

BUY – White Sox Cashing In With More High Profile Signings

At this point, what’s at 35th and Shields could fit through the championship window that’s been created for the team that plays inside it. 

In adding stellar reliever Liam Hendriks to the list of their other off-season acquisitions and an already promising roster, the White Sox suddenly look like an American League juggernaut with a World Series trophy in its immediate path. At least on paper. 

None of the AL’s top teams have done even half as much to improve their rosters as the Sox this offseason, including perennial foe Cleveland, who couldn’t afford to keep four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is now bound to the New York Mets.

Hendriks, last season’s AL Reliever of the Year, and Lance Lynn, who finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting a year ago and arrived via trade in December, shore up both the Sox’s starting pitching rotation and bullpen. Even Adam Eaton, despite his history of run-ins with teammates, injuries and being on the other side of his better years, is an upgrade over the under performing and since non-tendered outfielder Nomar Mazzara.

In an off-season where most teams opted  to tighten their purse strings, the Sox invested millions of dollars into their future without hesitation — including signing top-ranked international prospect Yoelqui Céspedes on January 15. 

All that’s left to see now is the return. 

And to cap this week, the South Siders’ Go-Go spark, Tim Anderson, was announced as the cover athlete for this year’s RBI Baseball ’21, furthering the belief that the Sox will be showcased throughout Major League Baseball to a high degree in 2021. TA talks about the honor below.

HOLD – Cubs Retain Talent (For Now), While Former Talent Embarrasses 

Even with Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras avoiding arbitration last week, Cubs fans have to feel as secure about their team’s future as a trick pass in the hands of Bears wideout Javon Wims. 

Nothing — or no one — appears safe from the trading block as team president Jed Hoyer continues to walk the fine line between building for what’s to come while still battling in the here and now. Baez, last season’s National League Gold Glove Award, is probably breathing the easiest as the trade rumor mill continues to churn for Bryant and Contreras.

The team’s best offensive player, Ian Happ, was the only-arbitration-eligible Cub who didn’t come to terms on a deal before last week’s deadline. Happ and the Cubs still have time to reach an agreement on a contract before a hearing is scheduled next month. 

While the contract agreement news returned a sense of steadiness to the club operations, two stories came out in recent days that helped undercut positive thinking around the franchise as a whole for those most thoughtful regarding the Cubs.

A revealing interview by Bryant with the Barstool Sports-associated podcast “Red Line Radio,” both confirmed that the star is losing “joy for the game” and that his close friend, Bryce Harper, would have preferred to come play with him at Wrigley when he was a free agent in 2019, which may or not have been Harper gassing up his friend, but still its two factoids that have to make Cubs fans feel like they’ve taken punches both to the front and back of their heads at the same time.

Also, on a more ethical and existential level there was the news of now-former Mets general manager Jared Porter acting like an unforgivable pervert while he was an employee of the Cubs. Porter, once seen as a young star in the administrative game, lost his reputation along with his plum job and the Cubs, not surprisingly, are hoping that this whole thing can pass by without much scrutiny being placed on them and how they could house a guy who was doing such foul harassment to a woman throughout such a long time of his tenure in Chicago.

Also, on a more ethical and existential level there was the news of now-former Mets general manager Jared Porter acting like an unforgivable pervert while he was an employee of the Cubs.

Porter, once seen as a young star in the administrative game, has lost his reputation along with his plum job, while the Cubs, not surprisingly, are hoping that this whole thing can pass by without much scrutiny being placed on them and how they could house a guy who was doing such foul harassment to a woman throughout such a long time of his tenure in Chicago.

It’s not the greatest position for a franchise that seems to lose its more of the huggable, friendly facade that helped make the Cubs profitable through decades of under performing on the field. As Jon Greenberg succinctly put it this week in The Athletic, Jared Porter is “equally a Cubs and a Mets problem,” and the Cubs would do good for themselves to publicly show contrition for at least indirectly helping an abuser do despicable things.

Drew Stevens is a Senior Writer for WARR Media, he lives and works in Chicago

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