Cubs

The Cubs Way: Brett Jackson is still thinking big

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The Cubs Way: Brett Jackson is still thinking big

Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo became fast friends and sent each other text messages last winter: We got to make this team.

Cubs executives had other ideas, a long-range plan that had them ticketed for Triple-A Iowa out of spring training. They would polish their game, so that whenever they were called up to Wrigley Field, theyd never go back down again.

While Rizzo has crushed it in the Pacific Coast League, building buzz for his eventual promotion, Jackson still has something to prove.

Jackson entered Tuesday hitting .243 with five homers and 18 RBI through 46 games. The 23-year-old outfielder had also struck out 64 times in his first 181 at-bats.

Jackson recently sat down with Comcast SportsNet in Des Moines, telling Luke Stuckmeyer that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel, both for himself and the entire organization.

Certainly, I dont think Im off to the start I wished for, Jackson said in an interview airing on SportsNet Central on Tuesday at 10 p.m. But I think statistics can indicate something thats not necessarily true.

The punch-outs are something, but I think every day Im moving in the right direction to become a better player. Every day Im excited to come to the park and see how Ive grown and see how I make those adjustments. Id certainly rather be making those adjustments in Iowa than Chicago.

(Its) a struggle (that) in the long run is going to make me grow as a player and advance my potential.

Jackson is intelligent and self-aware, a 2009 first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley. He fits Theo Epsteins ideal vision of a player who may not do one thing extremely well (like hit 30 bombs), but can make contributions across the board, grinding out at-bats, running the bases and covering a lot of ground on defense.

The skys the limit, said Cubs pitcher Randy Wells, whos spent time in Iowa this season. Hes going to be a big-time player. Hes got every tool that you need.

Jackson doesnt lack for confidence, and many in the organization have noticed the way he carries himself in the clubhouse, that sense of belonging when he walks through the room.

Jackson and Rizzo are supposed to set the tone for future Cubs teams, as glue guys in the lineup and the clubhouse, the idea being that their personalities and work ethics will rub off on teammates.

(Jacksons) a great talent, Iowa manager Dave Bialas said. He competes very well. You never have to get on him about running out a groundball, because hes playing hard every day.

People who were around the Iowa team last season remember how Jackson struggled when he first came up from Double-A Iowa in the middle of July, before turning it up last August, hitting .351 with six homers, 19 RBI and a 1.023 OPS in 28 games.

Jackson was also said to be pressing when former general manager Jim Hendry scouted the team last summer, thinking he was close to being called up. One team official noticed his sense of urgency to get to the big leagues, almost from the moment he signed.

Every night I go home, Jackson said, I feel that Im like an adjustment away, (that) Im on the cusp of going off as a hitter.

Jackson talks a good game, and isnt afraid of the television cameras or the media hype or the fan expectations that will come with his arrival on the North Side.

Its motivating, Jackson said. Thats one of the pleasures of playing for a Chicago Cub team, or a New York Yankee team, one of those big organizations in a big city.

Baseballs not the same without pressure. Its not as fun without pressure. We take that pressure and we run with it. We thrive off it. I enjoy it.

At times, yeah, you get down on yourself. (But) thats how you make the adjustments. Thats how you grow.

We want to do big things in Chicago and were not settling for anything less.

General manager Jed Hoyer made it clear that no one will be promoted from Iowa just to shake things up or try to rescue the offense. Each prospect in the organization was given an individual player plan, outlining goals and expectations for this season.

So Jackson will have to complete the checklist. But he was untouchable in the Epstein compensation negotiations with the Boston Red Sox. And recent first-round picks Andrew Cashner (San Diego Padres) and Tyler Colvin (Colorado Rockies) were traded away last winter.

That leaves Jackson as an eager spokesman for The Cubs Way.

Its an attitude, Jackson said. (You) talk to guys that have been with the Yankees before and (look at) the way the Yankees and Red Sox carry themselves: (You) know youre going to win going into a game.

There are certain players that go into their at-bat knowing theyre going to win, whether they win that at-bat or not. Thats the attitude that were going for in Chicago, (what) Theo talks about.

The Cubs Way is something I want to be a part of its something that I believe in.

Rizzo appears to be on the faster track, but pretty soon it will be time to start the Jackson Watch.

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

The day after Kris Bryant suggested that first-time fatherhood and the dramatic reality of world events have changed how he looks at his future with the Cubs, general manager Jed Hoyer outlined why it might be all but moot.

Setting aside the fact that the Cubs aren’t focusing on contract extensions with anyone at this time of health and economic turmoil, the volatility and unpredictability of a raging COVID-19 pandemic in this country and its economic fallout have thrown even mid-range and long-term roster plans into chaos.

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Hoyer said. “All season in projecting this year, you weren’t sure how many games we were going to get in. Projecting next season obviously has challenges, and who knows where the country’s going to be and the economy’s going to be.”

Bryant, a three-time All-Star and former MVP, is eligible for free agency after next season. He and the club have not engaged in extension talks for three years. And those gained little traction while it has looked increasingly likely since then that Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, would eventually take his star client to market — making Bryant a widely circulated name in trade talks all winter.

MORE: Scott Boras: Why Kris Bryant's free agency won't be impacted by economic crisis

The Cubs instead focused last winter on talks with All-Star shortstop Javy Báez, making “good” or little progress depending on which side you talked to on a given day — until the pandemic shut down everything in March.

Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are both also eligible for free agency after next season, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras right behind them a year later.

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None has a multiyear contract, and exactly what the Cubs are willing to do about that even if MLB pulls off its 60-game plan this year is hard for even the team’s front office executives to know without knowing how hard the pandemic will continue to hammer America’s health and financial well-being into the winter and next year.

Even with a vaccine and treatments by then, what will job markets look like? The economy at large? The economy of sports? Will anyone want to gather with 40,000 others in a stadium to watch a game anytime soon?

And even if anyone could answer all those questions, who can be sure how the domino effect will impact salary markets for athletes?

“There’s no doubt that forecasting going forward is now much more challenging from a financial standpoint,” Hoyer said. “But that’s league-wide. Anyone that says they have a feel for where the nation’s economy and where the pandemic is come next April is lying.”

The Cubs front office already was in a tenuous place financially, its payroll budget stretched past its limit and a threat to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second consecutive season.

And after a quick playoff exit in 2018 followed by the disappointment of missing the playoffs in 2019, every player on the roster was in play for a possible trade over the winter — and even more so at this season’s trade deadline without a strong start to the season.

Now what?

For starters, forget about dumping short-term assets or big contracts for anything of value from somebody’s farm system. Even if baseball can get to this year’s Aug. 31 trade deadline with a league intact and playing, nobody is predicting more than small level trades at that point — certainly not anything close to a blockbuster.

After that, it may not get any clearer for the sport in general, much less the Cubs with their roster and contract dilemmas.

“We have a lot of conversations about it internally, both within the baseball side and then with the business side as well,” Hoyer said. “But it’s going to take a long time and probably some sort of macro things happening for us to really have a good feel for where we’re going to be in ’21 and beyond.”

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Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer: Everyone in MLB has to take COVID-19 'equally' serious

Veteran umpire Joe West made waves Tuesday downplaying the severity of COVID-19 in an interview with The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. 

“I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus," West said. "I believe it may have contributed to some of the deaths.”

As far as the Cubs are concerned, those comments don’t represent how to treat the virus. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure everyone treats it with equal severity.

“That’s one of the things we've really tried internally to instill in our players and our coaches,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday, “[that] everyone here has to take it equally [serious].”

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Hoyer noted like the world, MLB isn’t immune to people having different viewpoints on the virus — those who show concern and those who don’t. This echoes comments made by manager David Ross earlier on Tuesday, and Hoyer said those he’s talked to with the Cubs don’t feel the same way as West.

The Cubs had an up close and personal look at pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s battle with COVID-19 during baseball’s shutdown. It took the 38-year-old former big leaguer 30 harrowing days to test negative, and in the past week many Cubs have said watching him go through that hit home. 

“When you get a 38-year-old guy in wonderful health and he talks about his challenges with it,” Hoyer said, “I think that it takes away some of those different viewpoints.”

To ensure everyone stays safe and puts the league in the best position to complete a season, MLB needs strict adherence to its protocols.

“I think that's one of our goals and one of the things that we feel is vital is that we have to make sure everyone views this the same way, because we can't have a subset of people within our group that don't view it with the same severity,” Hoyer said.

“That’s not gonna work. We're not gonna be successful."

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