A Cubs Fan���s Guide To The 2021 NL Wild Card Game

The return of fans to once-empty parks wasn't lost on former Cubs great and color analyst Rick Sutcliffe.

It slightly over a year ago that Sutcliffe was serving as a television analyst for the National League wild-card series between the Cardinals and Padres -- albeit from his basement 20 minutes from empty Petco Park because of COVID-19 protocols.


"Had I been at the ballpark, I would have remembered everything that did happen," said Sutcliffe, referring to the lack of fans creating a sterile setting.

"You saw what happened in Atlanta and Houston (with capacity crowds) at the World Series. You saw it throughout the playoffs. After what we've gone through with the game taken away, you don't want to see that happen again."

Yet, it could happen, depending on whether the Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association can avoid a lockout and instead reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the next four weeks.

Stadiums that were gradually opened to full capacity, combined with varying levels of excitement in the playoffs, temporarily delayed the inevitable anxiety of whether business will continue after the CBA's Dec. 1 expiration date.

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Sutcliffe, 65, said he's unaware of the major issues confronting a settlement. But for at least the last three seasons, the MLBPA has raised concerns about teams tanking and staying under the salary tax threshold that curbs players' salaries, distribution of revenues, and the manipulation of service time that delays a player's eligibility for salary arbitration (often three seasons) and free agency (six seasons).

Several Cubs veterans expressed their anger prior to the 2019 season after learning that a "championship belt" was presented at the annual General Managers' meetings to the team that did its best financial in the arbitration process.

Locally, there's a lot at stake. The White Sox, coming off their second consecutive postseason with a young nucleus, are attempting to address weaknesses that have prevented them from advancing past the first round.

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, 85, and manager Tony La Russa, 77, aren't getting any younger, so there is a sense of urgency to take advantage of this promising opportunity -- specially with the 2021 American League champion Astros on the verge of a free agent breakup.


Meanwhile, the Cubs are trying to convince their fans they're not in another rebuilding mode despite trading their top players last July. They need to address several areas but may need to sign at least one prized free agent to convince supporters they're not shopping exclusively for minnows.

Sutcliffe has participated in two strikes with vastly different opinions.

"In 1981, we all felt it had to be done," Sutcliffe said of the stoppage that lasted two months but ended early enough for the season to be resumed. "A lot of sacrifices on everyone's part -- nobody more than the fans."

But Sutcliffe didn't agree with the timing of the 1994 strike, which started Aug. 12 and lasted until April 2, 1995. That delayed the start of the season by 3 1/2 weeks and initially turned off fans.

"What the MLBPA did in 1994 is the reason why I retired," said Sutcliffe, who added there were many arguments within the association. "They wanted to pick up a few more paychecks. That tells you it wasn't about getting a settlement."

The gulf was so convincing that the Giants returned to San Francisco after sweeping the Cubs at Wrigley Field instead of to San Diego -- their next opponent -- two days before the strike officially started.

Some have speculated that a lockout could carry into at least the start of spring training and prematurely end the careers of distinguished veterans.

That was the case with the likes of Goose Gossage, Dave Henderson and Sutcliffe in 1995.

"I was told by (Hall of Fame) Don Drysdale you never lose your desire to play," Sutcliffe said. "When I'm broadcasting and I see the starting pitcher dig some dirt in front of that mound, I get goose bumps. I can still do that. You never lose your desire to play.

"But Don said once you lost your desire to prepare to play, then you're done. That's what happened with the strike in spring training in 1995. That was our 'let's go' time. I kind of shut down my preparation and wonder what might happen to guys like that. You just don't know."


Source : https://www.dailyherald.com/sports/20211106/another-mlb-lockout-rick-sutcliffe-doesnt-want-to-see-it-happen-again

Another MLB lockout? Rick Sutcliffe doesnt want to see it happen again.

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