Welcome back to BCB After Dark, the happening spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come join us on this September evening. The show is just getting started. There’s no cover charge tonight. Please let us find a table for you. If there’s anything we can do for you, let us know. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon
There was no Cubs game today. Well, there was an Iowa Cubs game that was on the Marquee Network. Matt Mervis homered. But for the Cubs of Chicago, it was the final off-day of the season and there are only nine games left before we say goodbye to the 2022 Cubs.
Last week I asked you if you thought catcher Willson Contreras would be back with the Cubs next season. By a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent, you are optimistic that one of the final two links (Kyle Hendricks being the other) to the 2016 team will return. Contreras is also the final link to the Jim Hendry era, having signed with the team as a 17-year-old infielder back in 2009.
Here’s the part where I talk about movies and jazz. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
We lost the great tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders last week at the age of 81. Sanders was a leader of avant-garde jazz since the late-1960s and was a kind of spiritual heir to John Coltrane, with whom he played with in the years before Trane died. Sanders didn’t play on Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme, but he was a part of the group on stage on A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle. That album, which came out last year from previously-undiscovered tapes, is one of only two known recordings of Coltrane playing A Love Supreme live.
But Sanders has a long career on his own merits, incorporating African sounds, world beats, funk and the avant-garde into his own form of free jazz. His best-known song, “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” can be interpreted as a kind of follow-up piece to “A Love Supreme.” (Some of the riffs on “Creator” will remind you of “Supreme.”) And despite Sanders’ tendencies to push the boundaries of jazz, it’s actually quite accessible.
Here’s a live performance of “The Creator Has A Master Plan” from Germany in 1999. It’s only a little more than 11 minutes long, so it’s even more accessible than the 33-minute original version on Sanders’ 1969 album Karma. This features William Henderson on piano, Alex Blake on bass and Hamid Drake on drums.
This week’s film is Silver Streak, the 1976 film that was the first of four films that paired Gene Wilder with Richard Pryor. Directed by Arthur Hiller (Love Story) and written by Colin Higgins (Harold and Maude), it’s a weird combination of a Hitchcockian suspense film, a rom-com, a buddy comedy and an action thriller. It’s also an artifact from the mid-seventies when people thought that the era of cross-country train travel was coming back.
I’ll reserve what I think of it when I write up my full review on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, but for now, I’ll say there is a lot going on in this movie. The film also stars Jill Clayburgh, Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty and Scatman Crothers and a musical score by the legendary Henry Mancini.
Here’s the trailer for the film for those that need a reminder. A warning: the trailer contains the (in)famous scene with Gene Wilder in blackface.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.
Most of the talk right now about the Cubs is about next season. Sure, there’s the question of whether they can avoid 90 losses, but the Cubs as a whole are playing for next season more than this year.
One of the biggest problems the Cubs have had this year has been getting production out of first base. Frank Schwindel, last year’s feel-good story, struggled all season and ended up getting released. The backup option, Alfonso Rivas, has been a lot better on defense but hasn’t provided much offense either. P.J. Higgins has hit a little better than Rivas but he’s more of a catcher than a first baseman. And then there’s Patrick Wisdom, who’s played some first base and hit OK, but he’s 30, is primarily a third baseman and the numbers and the eye test say his glove in 2022 hasn’t matched his good defense in 2021.
But there’s one guy in the minor leagues who has torn three leagues apart. First baseman Matt Mervis started the season in South Bend, got promoted to Tennessee and is now clobbering the ball in Triple-A Iowa. He hasn’t gotten a shot at the majors and the Cubs have been frank as to why: he doesn’t need to be on the 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and a whole lot of other minor leaguers do need to be added.
But in the minors this season, the 24-year-old Mervis has hit .310/.380/.610 with 36 home runs and a minor-league leading 119 RBI. As such, he’s been getting a lot of notice from the Cubs beat writers. Here’s one piece from Andy Martinez and another from Patrick Mooney (The Athletic sub. req.) that both ask the same question: “Can Mervis be the Cubs starting first baseman in 2023?”
So here’s your chance to weigh in on whether “Mash” Mervis will be the man for the Cubs next season. The numbers say he can be. The scouts are more qualified in their praise. On the one hand, he’s never shown anything like what he’s done this in the minors before. On the other hand, he’s only played one minor league season before this one, with the 2020 season being lost to COVID. So maybe that’s not a fair criticism, although Mervis did not hit well in 2021.
The Cubs also have the chance to sign a free agent first baseman as well. I know some of you will say to spend the money elsewhere, but this isn’t an either/or proposition. The Cubs have enough money to sign several free agents. Josh Bell is the premier first baseman available on the market this winter. Anthony Rizzo can opt out of his contract with the Yankees and he might be interested in coming back home. (He might not too.) Brandon Belt has had an injury-plagued season, but he’d been a reliable rock for the Giants at first base for over a decade before that. I can’t see José Abreu switching sides of Chicago, but you never know. There are other options, including possible trades.
I’m not asking you if you think one of those players will be the Cubs first baseman next year. I am asking you if you think the Cubs think that Mervis is a good enough option that you think they’ll pass on trying to acquire a first baseman from outside the organization.
So what is Matt Mervis’ immediate future? Where (and how much) will he play on the North Side in 2023? A regular first baseman? A platoon player? A guy who rides the Des Moines shuttle? Or will he spend most of the year down in the minors?
Where will Matt Mervis be playing in 2023?
This poll is closed
He’ll be the Cubs everyday first baseman
He’ll be one of a few who play first fairly evenly
He’ll be a backup 1B/DH to someone else
He’ll be shuttling between Chicago and Iowa
He’ll spend most of the year in the minors
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