The Rundown: Honoring Jackie Robinson, Free Agency Freeze Could Help Cubs Keep Bryant, Harper and Machado Announcements May Drag into March

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

Well, we made it to the other side of that mini Ice Age, so pat yourselves on the back and let us march forward to spring, shall we? If you’re lucky enough to be going to Arizona or Florida for spring training, you’re about 10 days away.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jackie Robinson and there was no shortage of baseball specials featuring the history-making Hall of Fame infielder. I don’t want to shock anybody, but think about the N-word for a second. It’s awful to write, even in truncated form, and vile to say and hear.

Imagine that despicable and deplorable invective being hurled at you hundreds of times a day by people you’ve never met previously, who hated you for no other reason but the color of your skin. Now imagine being forced to endure that, and to do so respectfully, no matter the opposition or the hatred.

And imagine being similarly hated by your teammates and the fans of the baseball team for which you play just because you look different than everybody else. During Robinson’s first season with Brooklyn, Jimmy Cannon wrote, “In the clubhouse Robinson is a stranger…He is the loneliest man I have ever seen in sports.”

Even the nicknames he was given by sportswriters reeked of racism:

  • The Colored Comet
  • The Black Destroyer
  • Jackie the Robber

Robinson faced pitchers who would rather see him dead than stepping into the batter’s box. Between 1947 and 1953, Robinson was hit by 52 pitches, many thrown at his head at a time when batters did not wear helmets. And it wasn’t just pitchers, Robinson was often spiked by opposing runners.

It was rumored that National League president Ford Frick had to head off a players’ strike, instigated by the Cardinals, that sought to force Robinson from baseball in 1947. Though the basis for those rumors is genuinely unfounded, some players did vote whether or not to strike on Opening Day that season.

Even his black teammates chastised Robinson after he paved the way for their acceptance in baseball. The all-star’s sometimes outspoken nature regarding civil rights contrasted with the calm of catcher Roy Campanella, who joined the Dodgers in 1948. Campanella felt Robinson stirred up too much trouble, while Robinson thought the catcher was too reserved in his opposition of the racist status quo.

After he retired, Robinson frequently butted heads with Malcolm X, who believed the ballplayer hadn’t been militant enough during his days in MLB. Yet Robinson continued to fight for equality in baseball for the rest of his life. Before Game 2 of the 1972 World Series, Robinson was honored by baseball. In a brief speech, he criticized the sport for not having a black manager.

“I am extremely proud and pleased,” Robinson said to a capacity crowd at Riverfront Stadium and a national television audience of 60 million, “but I will be more pleased the day I can look over at third base and see a black man as a manager.”

Robinson died nine days later.

Despite virulent racism – from insults to beanballs, and from hate mail to death threats directed at him and his family — Robinson maintain his stoic courage. It is not just baseball that owes a debt of gratitude to Jack Roosevelt Robinson, it is all of mankind.

Here’s a great article that shows how baseball writers covered Robinson’s debut.

Cubs News & Notes

Friday Stove

The Padres have emerged as the latest team connected to Bryce Harper. Harper and his representatives met with San Diego Thursday evening.

The Padres finished 66-96 last season but are on the verge of becoming a hot destination for free agents due to a promising farm system and tons of payroll space.

According to Fancred’s John Heyman, Manny Machado is said to be dissatisfied with his offers thus far and how the “first bout” of his free agency has transpired. There is no hurry and it is expected that negotiations will drag into February (and probably March in Harper’s case) before any decision is made.

These relatively obscure players have major league contracts while Harper and Machado patiently wait to sign somewhere.

Nolan Arenado and the Rockies agreed to a one-year, $26 million contract. That’s the largest salary given to an arb-eligible player.

The Astros have agreed to terms with free agent pitcher Wade Miley on a one-year deal.

Five teams have varying degrees of interest in Craig Kimbrel. The all-star closer entered free agency seeking $100 million or more, but will probably settle for a three- or four-year deal for significantly less.

Matt Davidson and Adam Jones head a group of 10 players who could sign one-year deals before the start o spring training.

Shoehei Ohtani will not be ready for Opening Day due to Tommy John surgery after the season. The procedure will prevent the two-way star from returning to the mound until 2020, but he will at least be able to contribute as a hitter during the 2019 season.

Extra Innings

It’s Super Bowl weekend, so what is your prediction, Patriots or Rams? I have a prediction of my own. When someone catches this guy it’s not going to be pretty. He stole $36,000 from his own mother!

Friday Walk Up Song

Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball? by Woodrow Buddy Johnson and Count Basie.

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