Cubs

Cubs fan struck by foul ball at Wrigley Field leaves on stretcher

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Cubs fan struck by foul ball at Wrigley Field leaves on stretcher

The noise for more protective netting at baseball games may only get louder after Sunday.

During the Cubs-Braves series finale, Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber's foul ball in the first inning struck a fan sitting just behind the camera well on the first base line. 

Play was stopped as ushers and medics attended to the injured fan. She was taken out by the medical staff on a stretcher. 

On Friday, a Tigers fan was hit in the head by a foul ball from Tigers outfielder Anthony Gose. Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander took to Twitter after the incident to voice his feelings on more netting around baseball parks. 

Earlier in the season at Fenway Park, a fan was hit by a broken bat and suffered life-threatening injuries. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon addressed the incident after the Cubs beat the Braves, 9-3. He was asked if there are any ways baseball could better protect fans in these kind of situations.

"Awful. Pay attention. I hate to say it. Those are wonderful seats, probably pay a lot of money for them. You’re digging the fact that you’re right there. I watch and you see people turning their back to the field when the action’s going on. You just can’t do it.

"When you’re at the ballpark and you’re in those particular locations, watch what’s going on. Don’t turn your head away from the action. Every time a ball is pitched you look. You look and see then you can go talk. That’s probably the best answer honestly is just to pay attention. I know when my family is there I absolutely insist that you watch what’s going on.

"If you happen to be in that area and you see a left-handed pull-hitter up, like a Schwarber, honestly just really watch what’s going on. That’s your best form of protection.

"It happens. It’s awful. It’s awful, but I don’t know if there’s any particular answer right now. I just think, please watch what’s going on in the field."

Don't count on David Ross as Cubs bench coach in 2019

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AP

Don't count on David Ross as Cubs bench coach in 2019

Here's the bad news for Cubs fans: David Ross almost assuredly won't be the Cubs bench coach in 2019.

Here's the good news for Cubs fans looking to get their Grandpa Rossy fix: They can still catch him on ESPN throughout the baseball season.

ESPN announced a multi-year extension with Ross Tuesday morning to retain the popular former catcher as an MLB analyst calling the weeknight games and showing up on Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter, among other shows.

The contract extension probably eliminates the Cubs' chances of luring Ross into a role as Joe Maddon's new bench coach in 2019. But the biggest factor for Ross has always been the time away from family, as jumping back into the dugout in a coaching capacity is extremely time-consuming and would take a huge committment from Ross to be away from his role as a dad and husband.

The Cubs still retain Ross as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office and Epstein admitted last month the team is pushing for Ross to be around the team more in 2019, as his presence has a profound effect on all the young players that still look up to him.

"I think his mere presence is helpful," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said last week. "Those guys trust him. The timing of David Ross being on this team was perfect in that those guys were 21 and 22, so he had such an influence on those guys. I still think they look up to him, so when he's around, they'll gravitate towards him and talk to him. We couldn't hire anyone from the outside that could have that kind of influence. I think it's more about that. 

"There's probably some natural reaction when he's around where it feels like it did in '15 and '16 a little bit. But yeah, having him around is really valuable and I think he will have a big impact."

Ross' extension with ESPN doesn't completely rule out any chance of him coaching — or managing — for the length of the deal (which was not released), as people jump from the TV booth to the field often for managerial/coaching gigs across all American sports. But the extension certainly creates another wrinkle in the situation.

For MLB players, the business of hiring an agent can't be understated

For MLB players, the business of hiring an agent can't be understated

The fever pitch around free agent signings this time of year will reach its peak once some of the top flight free agents sign this off-season. Bryce Harper leads the pack, but Manny Machado is not far behind on the prestige scale.  Some team will pay a pretty penny, usually a team flush with cash, or a team that is recognizing that their window is now.

The business of sports agency grew with the economic explosion of the game. But the dollar and cents increase beyond what ownership was starting to rake in with TV rights, licensing, and what they brought in on game days, collided with labor disputes (mostly strikes and lockouts) leveraged by players to improve the size of their piece of the pie. This created a boost in value of a player needing capable representation to secure the best deals his agent could negotiate.

The top echelon of talent from the draft will obtain the strongest representation. A small number of agents control a large percentage of the player pool, especially when factoring in who are the top earners. The rich get richer in this structure as agents with a deep client bench who capitalize on baseball’s transparency on player salaries, lead to a powerful combination. They always know who they are comparing their client to. Scott Boras’ name comes up often when looking at the most contentious negotiations between super talent and organization, but he also has been working with big data way before it was fashionable. Digging for any data point to justify his client’s price tag.

I learned firsthand about the style and approach of Scott Boras in my first meeting with him. He was prepared with data, charts, and graphs, on how I was worth more than most draft picks since I was trading strong job opportunities to play in the minors. Compelling.  He took nearly a half a day to break it down with shoe-banging stories of his previous work to pry value out of every negotiation. He had the top people, which certainly makes you feel like you are in elite company. He knew the ropes, he had seen the complete picture of what it took to be the best. Whoever went with Boras would get that level of preparation, intensity, and perseverance. I knew he may break a few things along the way, but you would find every dollar in your career, even the pennies in the sofa. 

I chose a different path by going with Arn Tellem. No fancy dinner to recruit me. He took me to Lee’s Hoagie House for lunch (for non-Philadelphians, think of it like a local, down home, Subway.). Low key, down to earth, and highly respected. Fortunately, I had great choices. 

Once you have an agent, from the recruiting that quietly begins around the draft, you may believe you will be with this one agent for your entire career. I stayed with Tellem (now Wasserman Media Group) for my entire career, so I believe I chose well, but there is a predatory underbelly that keeps any player in a constant recruiting orbit. It could be a friend on the team that genuinely wants to bring you into his family, or a surrogate of another agent that wants to pry you away. Doubt swirls around in your head when it comes to the question of whether you signed your best deal or if your agent did not quite get the most they could have gotten for you. How a player perceives the deal he signed will often determine their happiness with their representation. Even retroactively.

Yet so much of an agent’s work is emphasizing the importance of patience. When you are in a profession where injury is a constant threat, a player does not want to stall when millions are on the table, even if you could get more. Even in youth, you get a sense of how set for life you can be when you get one big contract. So when you have been waiting a long time to sign, you will start to ask about the difference between $112 million and $116 million in the long-run. A good agent will keep you calm, especially an agent that has many other clients who may be compared to your salary when the smoke clears.

This comparison is key in baseball to assess value. Your service time, performance, age, etc. will place you into a certain slot and players with similar stats will expect to be paid in the range of like-performers. So there is incentive for any agent to get you more money, not just for commission, but to prop up the scale of the system by which ALL of their clients will be measured.

In the end, a player hires his agent. Kris Bryant underscored this point when he was sent down to Triple-A in 2015 as questions swirled around his response to being sent out after a tremendous spring training. A player has the final say, but you have an agent for a reason and an agent’s job is to get you maximum value, the player has to fill in the other key aspects of what matters to him to make a decision of where and when to sign.

Hometown discounts are often floated around as a sign of loyalty. Andrew McCutchen and Pittsburgh seemed to be a long-term marriage until it wasn’t. A player’s career is short and top earning years are even shorter, so unless you are granted guaranteed time on your deal, the priority often shifts to making the most money where you can capitalize on the best opportunity you can find. 

Major League teams have to know who they are negotiating with at all times. Someone like a Boras often sets the marketplace and his deals will not be done quickly. Wait. Wait. Wait some more. Boras client, JD Drew played in an independent league just to keep waiting and to not sign with Philadelphia. Until the right deal came along.

Agents know as well as anyone in the industry that a player’s career is short, even for the most talented players in the game. The natural aging process will already compromise your productivity once you reach a certain age. Then there are the unforeseen issues of injuries and personal strife, timing and developmental stressors. Players underachieve, overachieve or just plain achieve, all come with a certain price tag to assign to that player. 

At this time of year when the market is about to explode, deals will be made, money thrown around. Players will turn down ridiculous amounts of money to just wait for the next offer, or to just bet on themselves. While a player waits, someone else will sign on the dotted line, eventually. He will then create a standard, especially when that player is your match in production and age, service, and position. Then you will be compared to them, for better or for worse. 

Your agent’s job is to make it for better. Your team may respectively disagree.