Hot Take: The Road to Toronto

Throughout the season, the clubs’ trips to the Rogers Center in Toronto has been the outing of who is COVID-19 vaccine compliant and who is not. Canada is holding onto the COVID-19 restrictions much tighter than the US, so when a club heads north, it tells you a lot about who has gotten their vaccines in order, and who hasn’t.

This time, it’s the Cubbies who have to deal with this. Fortunately, only two of their players have decided not to be vaccine compliant. Pitchers Justin Steele and Adrian Sampson will be on the restricted list and waiting back and home for the boys to make their trip to face the Blue Jays.

Steele has pitched a lot of innings. Is he the Cubs strongest pitcher? Well, he’s pretty good.

But, he also has chosen to remove himself from an important series by deciding not to get vaccinated.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s also baseball in 2022,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said on Thursday in Chicago. “Really, every team has had to go through this exact situation in some form or manner when they go up in Toronto, and we’re no different. We’re just doing it in August.”

And yeah, we’re supposed to respect everyone’s personal choices on their own healthcare. I apply this across nearly all situations. But, is it dumb? Yeah, as a hot take, it is dumb. He’s also relatively injury-prone.

Steele is also making decent money. $705k in the 2022 season as part of his annual contract. Ok, that’s not Stroman, Heyward, Hendricks, Miley, or Contreras money, but it’s nothing to shake a stick or a bat at either. I’d assume you and I would probably do what we needed to do to be professionally available at those salary levels.

And that’s the rub. Maybe this is the MLB version of “quiet quitting,” but if all I needed were a couple shots to make sure I could start at an opposing team’s field, and you’re giving me a $705k bag, yeah, I’m going to let the doctors inject whatever they need to into me to get me to the ballpark. Are there dumber situations out there? Sure. Yankee’s Chapman will be added to the IL list for an infection he got while getting some ink. Still, it makes sense to me that anyone who gets to play this game as a profession, should be willing to do what it takes to protect themselves and others from this disease.

End of An Era?

On the eve of the trade deadline, I’m on pins and needles awaiting the fate of two of my favorite Cubbies…Willson Contreras and Ian Happ.

The rumors have been swirling for the past three weeks. It put a damper on their All-Star Game appearances. It made for a bittersweet battle with the Pirates at Wrigley on July 26th, as potentially Contreras and Happ played their last game in front of the ivy. Yeah, the Cubbies won, but any of that game pales to the crowd’s ovation for both players and the hug in the dugout as the fans started to empty out.

Willson was part of the iconic 2016 Cubs team. Happ came on in 2017, steadily growing into a focal point of the team over recent years. These guys are leaders in the clubhouse and on the field.

And, as much as the media likes to revel in all of the rumors, I think it takes a real toll out on the field. Willson isn’t the only one who’s expressed that he’s ready for the trade deadline to be in the rear view mirror. I mean, yeah, they’re cranking out the hits, but it’s got to be terribly difficult to do so, with the thought that it could be a last inning with a team you’ve called home for years.

Willson, you’ll always be a Cubbie. You’ll always have a spot out on the field, just like Rizzo and the rest of the 2016 crew. I’m hoping both Happ and Contreras are taking the field in Cubbie blue on Wednesday in St. Louis.