Terry Francona nails the central problem with the All-Star Game

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The beauty of job security: you can tell the truth from time to time.  Here’s Terry Francona, pretty much hitting the nail on the head:

“Maybe the significance of this game has run its course … I know what they were trying to do with the game, and I think they accomplished it, but maybe it’s run its course. There’s maybe better ways to figure out home field … I just think the way they’re playing the game, with the fan voting, they want interviews in the dugout, they want a lot of things to make it not like a regular season game, and then at the end you end up treating it like the most important regular-season game of the year … It’s just not real consistent, and there is a lot riding on it.”

Yup.

The incentives are the issue here. What will make players actually show up and play hard, what will make managers manage like it’s a real game and what will make fans actually want to watch?  You likely can’t make it perfect — it will never match game 162 between two teams tied for the final playoff spot — but there has to be a way to change the incentives, because the current ones don’t work.

Cable and the Internet have killed the original incentive — showing us players we rarely get to see — because we see everyone all the time now.  Home field advantage in the World Series hasn’t caused anyone to treat the game differently.  The All-Star Game is operating on eighty years worth of inertia at the moment, and eventually, inertia runs out.

I know the game isn’t going anywhere. And I know that, as long as Bud is in charge, we’re not going to see too many changes, because he loves the home field advantage thing.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t think about it some.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”