1. White Sox co-owner Eddie Einhorn died Tuesday night at 80 years of age due to complications from a stroke. Those same complications had kept him out of the public eye and away from day-to-day team operations for the last few years, but was formerly the Chief Operating Officer and club president throughout the 1980's. An original partner with Jerry Reinsdorf when the team was bought in 1981, Einhorn also served on the Bulls board of directors.
Einhorn is right there beside Reinsdorf in every World Series celebration photo, but in writing about the White Sox since 2010, it's been a rare situation that his name has come up or he's appeared publicly. If anyone close to the White Sox has a bad word to say about him, you couldn't find it on Thursday.
A pioneer of arranging and selling TV broadcasts, Einhorn foresaw the current landscape of cable networks bidding for distribution rights far sooner than most. He's in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame for his role in popularizing college basketball on television alone. He made the push to move the White Sox to cable in the early 1980's. It's commonplace now and cable contracts are a lifeline of league revenue, but part of being ahead of your time is weathering the outrage the Sox faced for taking away free broadcasts from their fans.
Plenty has happened between then and now where the Sox have the worst TV ratings in baseball, but it was an isolating moment between the franchise and their fanbase, and showed that being way ahead of the curve is not always perfect timing. Einhorn's proposal struck at the philosophical split between a sports franchise being a populist presence, and being content to reach less people in exchange for assurance of clearing a profit, and 35 years later that conversation hasn't gone away.
The White Sox will wear commemorative patches in Einhorn's memory for the 2016 season, details of which have not been revealed.
2. Well, the Dexter Fowler situation got very weird. After being reported to be in agreement with the Orioles on a three-year deal between $33-35 million, he's back on the North side with a one-year, $8 million deal with the Cubs with a 2017 mutual option with a $5 million buyout. Upon his joyous reunion with his teammates, Fowler talked about following his heart back to a team with which he was comfortable.
This is believable and true in its own way. The Baltimore Orioles deal reportedly fell apart on Fowler's camp pushing for opt-outs; a sensible route for him to pursue now that his free agent market has cratered well below expectations. Once Fowler began searching for a make-good deal, comfort and fit clearly became a lot more important and the Cubs vaulted into the lead as a result.
But that only became the reality after his market fell after the 4/60 range that was expected, and the Sox should have been there to scoop him up before things reached this point...right after they should have signed three other superior options first.
3. Relatedly, it does not look like Austin Jackson can be had for one-year, $5-6 million, since he reportedly rejected that offer from the Angels. At this stage in the offseason, the rejection could have been more about the Angels' desire to jam him into a left field platoon not looking like the best chance to rebuild his value than the actual money involved.
In theory, the Sox should be willing to commit to Jackson in center to max out his defensive value, moving Eaton off to a corner and pushing Avisail and LaRoche together at the DH, but it's not the type of upgrade I can see the Sox jumping into with both feet since it requires a particularly cynical view of Avisail. Jackson is the ultimate "better this than nothing" improvement, but he would, indeed, actually be better than nothing.
4. A return to dominance for the Detroit Tigers is reliant on aging core pieces like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, and yes, Anibal Sanchez, having near-peak seasons. Justin Upton, J.D. Martinez, and Jordan Zimmerman are very good and Nick Castellanos could be too, but things could get dicey quickly if they get another injury-marred 79 ERA+ season from Sanchez.
To that end, Sanchez being held out of throwing and being likely to miss his first Spring start due to triceps pain and inflammation, is not a great start for them. It sounds like a very manageable issue on its own, but it's a disquieting note for their most injury-plagued starter to begin on.
5. Phillip Humber is in Padres camp as a non-roster invite, which is a better place than could have been hoped for him after he got cut from his Korean league team last season with a 6.75 ERA. He's still only 33 years-old, but has been pretty relentlessly awful since the middle of 2012. For a time and place, he featured two competent MLB breaking balls, so there could be some hope he sticks as a middle reliever if everything breaks right for him, but this is based on hope more than anything I've seen from him pretty much since his perfect game in Seattle.
What's bizarre about Humber's collapse isn't simply that it came after a perfect game, but that it came after a solid year of being a functional MLB starter, and that his ability to miss bats and his breaking stuff seemed to be getting more sophisticated. Then suddenly every third curve was a hanger, every slider was in the dirt and every fastball, well the fastball was never great and now people were sitting on it. Given where Humber was when he joined the Sox, his brief spate of success is the oddity and what followed was a return to normalcy.