Mandy Anderson: Excuse my interjection, but I’m Mandy Anderson … Malcom, this is our first show ever on Chicago Sports Online. What are we going to do for the Windy City?
Malcolm Wilkes: Five words, Mandy – ‘Take the money and run!’
Mandy: No, no. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to bring the heat, set the agenda, explore the controversies.
Malcolm: Cash the paychecks?
Malcolm: Good thing we’re owned by Disney, too, eh? Heads off those pesky copyright suits, eh?
Mandy: It’s 2040, Malcolm. Everything’s owned by Disney. On today’s rundown, the Bears are wondering why none of the 37 placekickers they used during the 2039 season could make an extra point; the Bulls wonder if any of those kickers could play point guard, and the new Black Sox Park is taking shape out in Calumet City. But we begin today with the Sox signing of Mark Simpson. Guess which position he plays, Malcolm?
(Rundown board in the upper right corner highlights “Simpson signing” and timer begins counting down from two minutes)
Malcolm: Um. First base?
Mandy: Ding, ding, ding. Give the man a kewpie doll.
Malcolm: Please do not.
Mandy: And guess which position the Black Sox are already stuffed at?
Malcolm: Oh, oh. Choose me! Choose me!
Malcolm: First base!
Mandy: Correct you are! You win all the kewpie dolls! (Cut to Malcolm rolling his eyes) So, on Christmas Eve, the Sox announced they had signed BBA free agent hitting star Mark Simpson to a six-year, $77.5 million contract, with a player opt out after four years and an additional player option before the last year of the contract.
What do you think, Malcolm? Good deal?
Malcolm: I’ll start by saying Simpson is a good player. There’s no arguing that – he’s good. He hits. He walks a ton. He hits doubles. He hits home runs. And, he’s at least solid in the field.
Malcolm: Because there’s a ‘but’ coming.
Malcolm: Here’s the thing. He’s a good fit for the Sox, except there’s one little issue: they have, like, a zillion first basemen. You could almost field a whole other team with their first basemen. And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if they all sucked, but they don’t. They’re good.
You’ve got Emilio Lugo. A fine first baseman who hits and hits for power. You’ve got Tommy Cochran, a youngster who looks like he’s going to be a monster hitter sooner rather than later. You’ve got Aarnoud Budding developing down in AAA who looks like he’s going to be a monster hitter in his own right. And, you’ve got Norris Rutledge who had a down year last season, but has put together a borderline Hall of Fame career.
You tell me: where do they all play?
(Timer ticks down toward 1 minute, 15 seconds left)
Mandy: OK, we start with the supposition that Simpson will be a full-time player, right?
Malcolm: Right. They’re not gonna pay the guy $77 million to platoon with Tommy Cochran. Plus, Simpson is an everyday player. He just is.
Mandy: Right. So, for right now at least, that leaves Lugo, Cochran and Rutledge to worry about, because Budding will likely spend the season in AAA. I mean, he’s only 19, so it’s not like there’s rush.
Malcolm: So, you’re saying what?
Mandy: I’m saying that you move Lugo to DH and you platoon him there with Cochran – just like those guys platooned at first base last year.
Malcolm: Well, that worked for Lugo. He had a fine season. Not sure that works so well for Cochran. He’s done well in the minors when he played full time, struggled up with the big club when he platooned.
Mandy: True, except he still was a little short on his development last year – scouts seem to think he’s filled in his hitting skills even more this year as he’s matured a little more. Maybe he handles a platoon role better this year.
Malcolm: I’ll give you this: Lugo and Cochran are probably better suited to a DH role than to playing the field, because neither of them is God’s gift to fielding.
Mandy: Um, no. As gifts, they’d be the lumps of coal in the fielding stocking. So that leaves Rutledge.
Malcolm: Yes, it does. What to do about Norris, right?
(Timer ticks down to 20 seconds)
Malcolm: Yeah, but there’s two problems with the trade scenario: Chicago doesn't really trade much, and the bigger problem - who’s gonna want a $10 million guy coming off a season where he slashed .213/.279/.414?
Mandy: So you think he's pretty much done?
Malcolm: As a force at the plate? Yeah. I think he’s done. If you talk to the Chicago coaches, they’ll quietly tell you that his skills are starting to erode and they consider him a “borderline” regular.
Mandy: So he sits for the most part?
Malcolm: I’d say so. I think he sticks with the club, but fills in when guys are tired, pinch hits here and there, but mostly sits.
Mandy: No trade?
Malcolm: Well, like I said, Chicago doesn’t trade much, anyway, and Rutledge isn’t a real attractive commodity right now, so no. I doubt he gets traded. They might have better luck trading one of the younger studs …
(Timer dings, rundown topic board now highlights “Simpson contract too rich?” And the clock starts counting down from 1 minute).
Malcolm: OK, Mandy. Here’s the $77 million question: is Simpson worth all that cabbage?
Mandy: Well, you could make a lot of cole slaw with that cabbage … see what I did there?
Malcolm: Yeah, my ears are still hurting.
Mandy: You’ll recover. OK, so Simpson’s contract breaks down to $13 million a year, with $12.5 million in the last year. There’s a player opt out after the fourth year, and another player option after the 5th year. I think those opt-outs/options are escape hatches for the team. I think they figured that, if he does well, he’ll opt out after four seasons and try for one last big payday. And if he decides to stay through five seasons, he’ll balk at the little pay cut for season six and walk away then.
Malcolm: Uh huh. Why not just offer a four-year contract, then?
Mandy: Well, what I hear is that they were pretty bummed at not landing Mauro Flores, the pitcher, in free agency. They got outbid by like $1.5 million per year, and they decided not to let that happen on Simpson.
Mandy: Yes, it is. But, given Simpson’s history, maybe one worth taking? I think they’re looking at it, most likely, as they'll get four years with Simpson playing kick-ass ball, and then opting out. So, more like a $52 million, four-year contract, with that opt out as a little enticement for Simpson to sign on.
Malcolm: Not sure I like their chances on that.
Mandy: Well, I guess we’ll know in 2044, right?
Malcolm: Yeah. Hey somebody write that down – we need to revisit this topic in 2044, OK?
(Timer dings, and rundown topic board highlights “Carousel of Kickers.”)
Mandy: OK, when we come back, we look at the Bears and their place kickers.
Malcolm: Doink and double doink!
(Excuse My Interjection theme music, “Sweet Home Chicago” from the "Blues Brothers" soundtrack comes up before the show cuts to commercial)