Looking Ahead To 2023

With about six weeks remaining in the 2022 season, Major League Baseball released their tentative 2023 schedule on Wednesday.  For the first time in years, MLB is moving to a balanced schedule, playing 52 games against division opponents, 64 games against non-division opponents in the same league, and, for the first time, 46 interleague games, with series against every team in the opposite league.  With the White Sox looking to bounce back after what has been a disappointing 2022 campaign to date and the Cubs looking to take the next step forward in their rebuild, the 2023 season looks to be an exciting time in the city of Chicago.  So, for one day, at least, let’s turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

The White Sox open their season on the road in Houston on March 30 for a four-game series against the Astros before returning home to face the Giants in their home opener on April 3.

Aside from the Giants, the new interleague schedule sees the Phillies, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Padres travelling to Chicago, while the White Sox will go on the road to face the Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Mets, Rockies, and Nationals. The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field in late July followed by a mid-August tilt at Wrigley.

After facing AL Central foes only for the first half of September, the season ends with a six-game homestand against the Diamondbacks and the Padres.

On the north side, the Cubs also open their season on March 30, facing the Brewers at home.  After a 3-game series, they head out on the road.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the Rangers, Mariners, Orioles, Guardians, Red Sox, and Royals at Wrigley, while they go on the road to face the A’s, Twins, Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Tigers.

Of their 28 games in September/October, only nine are against their NL Central rivals, though, with the Cubs not likely to contend, that shouldn’t make much of a difference.  They end the year with a six-game road trip against the Braves and Brewers.

If You Build It, They Won’t Come

One day before the Cubs and the Reds are set to battle in the second Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, word broke that MLB will not be returning to the site in 2023.  Frank Thomas, the former White Sox star who is part of the new ownership group that owns and operates the site, said that construction plans at the movie site will prevent MLB from returning next year.

Thomas and his partners, who bought the site after the inaugural game last year, plan to put in a youth baseball and softball complex that they hope will begin construction later this year.  The construction work will impact the site’s accessibility.

Will a game return there in 2024?  Too soon to tell, though breaking the inertia of making this an annual tradition will be a hurdle that will need to be jumped.

The Jason Heyward Era Ends

In news that was both surprising and unsurprising, Jed Hoyer announced before last night’s game that Jason Heyward was unlikely to return from his knee injury this year and that he and the Cubs would be parting ways this offseason.  Heyward, who has been on the IL with a knee injury since late June, has one year remaining on his contract.

Signed to an 8-year, $184 million contract back in December of 2015, Heyward never quite produced enough to justify his lofty contract and, as the Cubs failed to sustain their 2016 success, he became as much of a scapegoat as anyone else on the roster, seeing his playing time reduced.  However, his place in Cubs lore was set when he was credited with leading an inspiring players-only meeting during the 17-minute rain delay at the end of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, after which the Cubs stormed out and took the lead in the 10th inning.

In addition to a World Series ring, Heyward won Gold Glove awards in both 2016 and 2017.  His numbers with the Cubs, both in games I attended and overall, were:

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Travelling The 50 States – Arizona

Over my 47 years, I’ve done my fair share of travelling across these United States.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment go look back at those trips to each of the 31 states I have visited (62% isn’t bad, is it?) and see if, and when, I may be returning.  Working in alphabetical order, we start today with the 48th state to be added to the Union: Arizona.

State: Arizona
Joined the Union: 1912
Visits: 2

Both of my trips to Arizona have occurred within the past seven years, first in 2015 and then again in 2018.  Both visits can also be connected to my job, either directly or indirectly.

In 2015, my first trip to Arizona was for a work recognition trip in March.  Staying at The Phoenician resort for three nights, we enjoyed the facilities (especially the pool), took a rafting trip down the Lower Salt River, and travelled to an offsite ranch for a farewell dinner.  Outside of the work-related activities, I also managed to sneak in a Friday afternoon trip to Sloan Park to see the Cubs battle the White Sox in exciting Cactus League action.   Rather than heading home, I extended my stay for a couple of days.

Saturday, after a trip to the airport to pick up a rental car, we headed to Camelback Ranch in Glendale to watch the White Sox take on the visiting A’s in another installment of the Cactus League.  Looking for some non-baseball activities, Sunday consisted of a lake cruise along Lake Pleasant while Monday started at Heard Museum, which claims to be one of the premier Native American museums in the United States.  When that turned into kind of a bust, we headed to nearby Chase Field for a tour of the home of the Diamondbacks.

I returned to the Phoenix area in 2018, following another work trip.  A conference in Las Vegas led to me stopping in Arizona for the weekend before heading home.  I again took in some Cactus League action, this time at Camelback Ranch and Peoria Sports Complex, seeing the White Sox, Cubs, and Mariners (twice!).  I also enjoyed a trip to the slot canyons and Horseshoe Bend in Page, followed by a quick trip to the Grand Canyon.  I also managed to see my dad for the first time in years (and, to date, the last time I’ve seen him).  He had recently moved to the Tuscon area and drove up for a quick bite to eat before going back home.

Will I return?  I have to assume that yes, I will return to Arizona someday.  Leaving aside any future spring training action, I do need to take in an actual game at Chase Field at some point.  I will also likely need to deal with something related to my dad.  So I’d say the odds are much better than 50/50.

London Calling

One of the casualties of the lockdown following the corona virus pandemic in 2020 was the cancellation of the series in London between the Cubs and the Cardinals.  While MLB returned in full force in 2021 and this year, the series in London did not.  Well, MLB announced yesterday that the series would return in 2023 with the Cubs and the Cardinals finally getting their chance to battle overseas.

MLB played in Europe for the first time in 2019, when the Yankees swept a pair of games from the Red Sox, and looked to further expand the game’s popularity throughout Europe by making it an annual excursion.  I imagine if next year’s tilt goes off without a hitch, the annual rollout will continue as originally planned.

A Deafening Thud

Last year, the Cubs and the White Sox made a lot of noise at the trade deadline, making six deals involving stars like Craig Kimbrel, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant.  With the White Sox looking to make a move to overtake the Twins and Guardians in the AL Central and the Cubs looking to further divest themselves of championship pieces like Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, this year’s deadline was sure to be a wild and crazy time.  It wasn’t.

Sure, each time made some small moves, with the Cubs emptying out their bullpen of anyone with a pulse and the White Sox adding a bullpen arm, but those expected big moves didn’t happen.  Willson Contreras, a free agent at year’s end, is still a Cub.  It is safe to say nobody had this on their bingo card.

So where do we go from here?  For the White Sox, Rick Hahn and company have to hope that getting their stars healthy provides enough of a boost to sneak into the postseason for a third consecutive year.  On the north side of town, things are a little stickier.  By not trading Contreras, he will play out the year and will likely be given a qualifying offer heading into free agency, which, at best, will cost him money and, at worst, could leave him sitting at home well into the start of the 2023 season.  Ian Happ is under team control for another year, so, short of an offseason deal, he will go through this same dance next July.

By The Numbers – 0

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we conclude our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #0.  Only three players have donned #0 while playing in Chicago, all for the White Sox.

Billy Hamilton signed with the White Sox during spring training of 2021 after being released by the Indians.  He quickly became valuable outfield depth following the injuries to Adam Engel and Eloy Jimenez.  He quickly became ingrained in the team’s culture and played his way into the fan’s hearts, thanks to, surprisingly, a pair of home runs over Memorial Day weekend and a tremendous catch in the rain and mud in Minnesota.

Fallen Hero

Former Cub Dwight Smith, who, as a rookie, was a key member of the 1989 NL Easy champions, died yesterday at the age of 58.  The Braves, with whom Smith played for after leaving the Cubs and earned a World Series ring in 1995, said he died of congestive heart and lung failure,

As a rookie, Smith hit .324 with an OPS of .875 in 109 games in 1989, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting to teammate Jerome Walton.  He also sang the national anthem at Wrigley Field on July 21.  In his five seasons with the Cubs, he hit .285 with 32 home runs and 159 RBIs.  After the 1993 season, Smith was non-tendered by the Cubs and, following a nomadic 1994 season, he ended his career with the Braves from 1995-1996.  His son, Dwight Smith Jr., played parts of the 2017 through 2020 seasons with the Blue Jays and Orioles and is currently playing in the Mexican League.

2022 All Star Break Batting Leaders

The All-Star Game is on tap for tonight in Los Angeles, with four total representatives from the Cubs and White Sox.  As we get ready for the stars to come out, let’s take a look at the first half offensive leaders for the 21 games I attended, starting with:

Home Runs

Name Total
Luis Robert 4
Gavin Sheets 3
Jose Abreu 3
Jake Burger 2
Joey Gallo 2
Tim Anderson 2
Jorge Polanco 2
Josh Naylor 2
Andrew Vaughn 2

Hits

Name Total
Luis Robert 19
Jose Abreu 16
Tim Anderson 16
Gavin Sheets 15
Andrew Vaughn 11
Adam Engel 11
A.J. Pollock 11

Runs

Name Total
Luis Robert 15
Tim Anderson 9
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2022 All Star Break Standings

For the first time since 1980, the Midsummer Classic returns to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium.  As the stars of the baseball world gather in Tinsletown, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 21 games, featuring exactly half of the teams in the league, that I attended in the first half of the baseball season, a disappointing one, for different reasons, on both sides of town.

2022 Team Records

Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 0 1.000
New York Mets 1 0 1.000
Cleveland Guardians 1 0 1.000
Baltimore Orioles 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 10 8 0.556
Minnesota Twins 1 1 0.500
Chicago Cubs 2 5 0.286
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