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Spring showers: More clouds, questions than sun, baseball as Cubs camp opens

When Cubs president Theo Epstein reported in November that he expected 2019 to be a year of ‘‘reckoning’’ for the firm, he couldn’t have known how profound that assertion would glimpse by the time the crew got to Arizona for spring training.

Epstein talked then about the organizational introspection and evaluation getting area as the Cubs ready to glimpse for on-industry enhancement from in, at the very least in huge aspect due to the fact of a payroll already strained in close proximity to its limit.

But as Cubs pitchers and catchers report Tuesday to Mesa for the get started of camp, the issues and issues looming in excess of the crew are a lot far more significant off the industry, with the major storylines involving anything at all but the men who determine to be on the Opening Working day roster.

So considerably for feel-superior buzz and Entire world Series vibes.

A healthful Yu Darvish could be the vital to the Cubs’ 2019 fortunes — and would make him a major player to look at as spring training opens Tuesday in Mesa., Ariz. (John Antonoff photograph)

A do-small winter that highlighted far more talking to the media animals than with significant free of charge agents drew most of its headlines from the Cubs’ controversial selection to keep ties with troubled shortstop Addison Russell as he faces the ultimate 28 days of a major-league suspension for domestic violence.

But if any one believed the blue skies, spring hope and summerlike temperatures of Mesa could possibly split via the Russell cloud, together arrived racist and Islamophobic e-mail created, shared and commented on by ownership
patriarch Joe Ricketts that had been leaked Monday by the website

The backlash was swift and rigorous, prompting an apology from Joe Ricketts, a statement from his son and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts distancing the crew from its economic wellspring and rebukes from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Major League Baseball, columnists and plenty of lovers on social-media platforms and airwaves.

Tom Ricketts held a meeting with CAIR on Friday, but the subject is particular to be a single of the initial strains of questioning through his yearly spring media session Feb. 18.

It’s nearly more than enough to make an owner lengthy for the days of 101-loss seasons and large franchise credit card debt.

The other issues surrounding the Cubs as camp opens are far more about baseball:

How will they take care of Russell’s every day presence all-around teammates and media?

The Cubs insist Russell has a demanding route to navigate before they make a ultimate selection about whether or not he’ll be with the crew this time.

Until eventually then, having said that, he will be a total participant this spring, positive to be scrutinized at every single go, term and change.

He’s expected to handle the media at the get started of camp. After that, the only issue that appears positive is he’ll command disproportionate attention through camp.

When did that wheelbarrow of income that organization operations president Crane Kenney promised quickly go missing?

The Cubs have a significant payroll. It’ll be nicely in excess of $200 million for the initial time in franchise record, and considerably of the obvious roster need to have this year was produced by Epstein’s free of charge-agent whiffs very last winter.

But for a crew nevertheless firmly in what could possibly be a quick-closing window of reputable Entire world Series competition, it has been a discouraging and bewildering winter for many lovers as ownership has retained the purse strings pulled just snugly more than enough to keep the Cubs out of the bidding for a transformative bat (read: Bryce Harper).

What about the closer?

Remember Brandon Morrow? The lights-out closer who skipped 50 percent of very last time due to the fact of an elbow personal injury is expected to skip at the very least the initial several weeks of the time as he completes his rehab from offseason surgical procedures.

Pedro Strop, who took in excess of closer obligations when Morrow went down very last time, reported he’s completely ready to fill in once more. And considerably of camp will be used on auditioning a multitude of relievers for various work opportunities, together with feasible early-time duty as a matchup closer.

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Are the Cubs nevertheless the crew to defeat in the Nationwide League Central?

The on-paper improvements built by the Cardinals and Reds say perhaps not. But the gentleman who could possibly have far more to say about it than any one else, offered he’s healthful, disagrees.

‘‘Yes,’’ right-hander Yu Darvish reported. ‘‘No question.’’

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