Hoyer thinks Cubs will connect with Deer


Hoyer thinks Cubs will connect with Deer

Dont judge Rob Deer by the back of his baseball card.

That was essentially the message from general manager Jed Hoyer, responding to some of the chatter about the Cubs and their new assistant hitting coach. Maybe this name wouldnt have registered as much in another city, if White Sox sluggerstrikeout king Adam Dunn wasnt working on the South Side.

But between 1987 and 1993, Deer led the American League in strikeouts four times, while also generating the power that allowed him to crush 230 home runs during his big-league career.

I always think that mentioning a coachs stats as a player is one of the least useful things I can imagine, Hoyer said Tuesday. No one ever mentions Jim Leylands numbers or Tony La Russas numbers or any of those guys professional stats.

Coaching and playing are two very separate things. And just because a guy happened to strike out a lot, or didnt have a high batting average, it doesnt effect how well he teaches at all.

Deer is tight with manager Dale Sveum after their playing days together with the Milwaukee Brewers. Deer will work alongside hitting coach James Rowson. Sveum is also an old hitting coach and can often be seen giving instruction by the cage during batting practice.

In the past, Deer (San Diego Padres) and Rowson (New York Yankees) have worked as minor-league hitting coordinators, which should help them guide the youth movement at Wrigley Field.

Several well-respected organizations including the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals have added an extra set of eyes and incorporated an assistant hitting coach. The logic is simple in what can be a copycat league.

Baseball teams in general are starting to realize that the pitching coach has 12 guys, and he has help from the bullpen coach, Hoyer said. The hitting coach has 13 guys and really no help at all.

In multiple interviews across the years, Deer has explained that he instructs hitters to do what he didnt, that he learned from his limitations. Theres also something to be said for the instant credibility that comes from having stepped into the box for more than 4,500 plate appearances in the big leagues.

I also would note that (Deer) was a guy who did get on base and had a lot of power, Hoyer said. But I dont think that a coachs playing background says a lot about how he coaches, how he teaches.

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


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.