The Rundown: Cubs Involved in Ring and Artifact Controversies, Rizzo on Marte’s Suspension

Is there anything better than really petty stuff that comes out of nowhere when you’re really popular? Not that I know anything about it from personal experience, mind you, I’m just speaking from distant third-party observation. So you can imagine my delight when I heard about the whole kerfuffle involving the Cubs not providing enough game-used stuff to the Hall of Fame.

“A request made to the Cubs for a loan of several player artifacts at the conclusion of the World Series has as of yet gone unfulfilled,” read a statement from the Hall. “Should the request be granted, World Series artifacts representing players will be included in the exhibit for Cubs fans everywhere to enjoy and appreciate.”

If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was a guilt trip. But that’s probably just me reading too much into things.

“We’re hopeful there are player artifacts that will end up here in Cooperstown,” said HOF vice president for communications and education Jon Shestakofsky. “If that happens, they would only enhance the really cool exhibit we’re going to be opening up shortly. I know there are conversations and we’re still hopeful they’ll be supportive.”

Uh, yep, definitely a guilt trip. It’s also not the only thing the Cubs have caught flack for when it comes to the spoils of their World Series win. Remember all those rings they gave out last week? The big ceremony was held to present them to players and brass, but there were a total of 1,908 pieces of jewelry presented to various members of the organization. That’s a lot of money.

Team spokesman Julian Green was forced to address the fact that the team asked ring recipients to sign an agreement that they would report them as income, insure them, not use them for commercial purposes, and that they would offer the rings back to the Cubs for just $1 rather than sell them should the need arise.

“Why did we do this?” Green said. “We don’t want rings, 30 days after they receive them, to (have people) start putting them out on eBay, which reduces the value of what we think is one of the most coveted rings in sports.”

This pact applied only to team employees, not to coaches and players, and only became a thing because of a Sun-Times article that claimed “The edict was met with scorn by some of the players” and that at least two players said they wouldn’t sign it. Green was adamant that players and coaches were never asked to sign the form and they weren’t even aware of it until Monday.

Though I’ve been highly critical of some of the Cubs’ business decisions in the past, I’m firmly in the team’s corner on this one. Both of these issues, actually. I’m sure they’ll provide plenty of “artifacts” to the Hall in due time, so that’s a moot point. As for the rings, I totally get the desire to have recipients sign waivers. I mean, how often do you get no-strings-attached gifts? That last word is really the most important thing here.

Giving out rings, particularly in the massive volume we’re talking about here, was very generous and certainly not something the Ricketts family needed to do. As such, I understand why they might like a safety net of sorts in plce.

If you’ve ever driven through Northern Indiana via I-65, you’ve no doubt seen the scores of industrial windmills that stretch across the horizon in White and Benton Counties. The land on which those massive turbines sit was left to St. Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, IN) in the will of the original owner, with the stipulation the school would receive all proceeds (I want to say it’s about $5,000 per year per tower) from the leases but that the land could not be sold.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, yeah, except that the 128-year-old institution is $100 million in the red and can’t get by on the slow and steady stream of income provided by the windmills. On one hand, it sucks that the school can’t rectify the matter. On the other, it’s only through insanely egregious mismanagement of their funds over a long period of time that a place with an enrollment of fewer than 1,000 students could get that far behind.

It would be obtuse of me to apply the exact same logic to the plight of, say, a seasonal Cubs employee, but the overarching idea of tying a gift to an agreement not to sell is the same. Of course, there’s not much the team is going to be able to do should an elderly usher in need of immediate medical service feel the need to hock her ring to pay the bills. To their credit, though, the Cubs have said there could be some form of assistance available for extreme circumstances.

This is really more about avoiding a story in which someone pawns their ring in Vegas to cover their debt on gambling, hookers, and blow, a la Lawrence Phillips (who sold his Big 8 championship ring for $20 — yes, $20). And it shouldn’t be a big deal, except that the Cubs are a big deal and they themselves made a big deal out of the rings they produced and handed out. To the victor go the spoiled. And the PR fallout.

Rizzo weighs in on PED testing

Shockwaves rippled throughout baseball Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that Pirates centerfielder Starling Marte had been suspended for 80 games and will be ineligible for the playoffs after testing positive for nandrolone. While the suspension means the All-Star outfield will miss out on about $2.5 million in salary this season, he’s got another $22 million guaranteed (that could jump to $43 million with club options) over the next five seasons.

“Is it a big risk if you’re suspended 80 games and you got a guaranteed contract?” Anthony Rizzo asked hypothetically after the news broke. “Do you take that risk to get the reward? That’s the question you ask. But it’s part of the game. And my opinion is we need to drug test a lot more.”

Rizzo then doubled down on his comments, lamenting the nature and infrequency of the testing program.

“Me, personally, I haven’t been tested since the season started,” the slugger said. “It’s been a solid two months now. It’s a random drug test and I’ll probably be drug-tested a week from now, because I’m saying this. But for me, it’s 15 minutes. We should be getting drug-tested a lot more.”

The Cubs first baseman went on to say how much he loves playing against Marte, but that the fact that he was popped for something that strong (nandrolone is a synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroid taken via intramuscular injection) indicates that more people are doing it and that the system isn’t working very well.

Truth be told, I’d find it hard to pass up the opportunity to use performance enhancers if it meant parlaying bigger muscles and faster recovery time into a multi-million-dollar deal. I tried juicing once, but it just made my fingers stronger and led to more typos, which actually decreased my productivity. When it comes to baseball, though, I agree with Rizzo.

I was as caught up as anyone in the fervor of the ’98 season and the home run race and I’ve never really taken a position of moral superiority when it comes to PEDs in baseball. Guys have always been looking for an edge, whether it was greenies or whatever else they could get their hands on. My thing is just that if you’re going to be serious and test for this stuff, be serious and test for this stuff.

More news and notes

  • The Giants have designated former Cubs catcher Tim Fedorowicz for assignment after reactivating Bustey Poser from the 7-day DL
  • Jeff Passan thinks Frankie Lindor would be patently insane to extend for less than $100 million
  • With six extra-base hits Tuesday night, the Cubs raised their league-low .119 ISO to .133
  • Fanatics has Mother’s Day gear available now
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