The Chicago Cubs introduced one in every of their most essential offseason selections Monday, naming John Steinmiller, previously with the Blackhawks, as their new senior director of media relations.
It’s not precisely bringing again Cody Bellinger, nevertheless it’s newsworthy, and that counts for one thing throughout this Cubs offseason, the place President Jed Hoyer has been biding his time whereas ready for the costs of free brokers to drop.
At least the Rickettses aren’t messing round on this key place, which serves because the bridge between the native media and supervisor Craig Counsell and his gamers.
Steinmiller, who replaces veteran Jason Carr, has been within the enterprise since 2005 when he started with the Milwaukee Brewers. His relationship with Counsell ought to serve him properly, and he has a familiarity with many of the Chicago media, together with me.
Steinmiller nonetheless took the job, which is commendable.
There could also be no extra thankless job than that of media relations for an expert sports activities group, particularly a serious market group just like the Cubs. You’re coping with managers who could be in a cranky temper after a crushing loss, gamers who determine to go away the clubhouse with out speaking to the media after hitting a game-winning dwelling run, and writers always asking: “Is Jed talking today?”
The relationship between the media and athletes has modified dramatically during the last 20 years, with much less entry for reporters, fewer stars who really feel the necessity to speak earlier than or after video games, and front-office executives who solely take care of nationwide writers on the expense of their beat writers.
The predominant duty of a media relations boss is to verify the group at all times comes out in the very best mild, or if it’s a very controversial information story to carry out some injury management. Steinmiller needs to be well-prepared after working for the Blackhawks, the place injury management has grow to be an artwork type in the previous couple of years.
The final time I noticed Steinmiller at a Blackhawks recreation, I by accident stepped on the Blackhawks brand within the postgame locker room, which drew a much-deserved reprimand from one in every of his media relations assistants: “Hey, get off the logo!” Instead of a lifetime ban, I acquired off with a warning to look at my step.
Everyone deserves a second likelihood, although I’ve prevented the Blackhawks locker room since. Fortunately, the ground of the Cubs’ clubhouse is just a weathered carpet with none brand, so there might be no worries a couple of repeat offense except stepping on Clark the Cub counts.
Steinmiller additionally jogged my memory that day of the time I wrote within the Chicago Tribune that Counsell was “tragically unhip,” apparently making enjoyable of the brand new Cubs supervisor again when he was working the Brewers. I couldn’t keep in mind writing something like that, however a fast Google search revealed Steinmiller’s reminiscence was correct.
While writing a Cubs-Brewers sequence preview in August 2018, I wrote of the competing managers: ”Hipster Joe Maddon matches wits with the tragically unhip Craig Counsell.” Oof. I’ve no motive to imagine Counsell is unhip, tragically or in any other case. The Tribune regrets the error.
Counsell has been round for a very long time. He most likely doesn’t want any help from Steinmiller on methods to take care of the Chicago baseball media, which is way bigger — and a bit snarkier — than our friends in Milwaukee, aside from the Marquee Sports Network, the Cubs-owned outlet that handled former supervisor David Ross like he was a part of the community and thus innocent through the group’s end-of-season collapse.
Hoyer clearly noticed in any other case and made the precise name on changing Ross with Counsell, whose $40 million contract is the biggest of any supervisor in MLB historical past.
Counsell appears to have a unusual humorousness, which can seemingly be essential as he begins the lengthy grind when spring coaching begins in two weeks in Mesa, Ariz. As former supervisor Lou Piniella stated in spring coaching 2007: “This is no push-button operation, I can tell you that.”
After an uneventful begin to the offseason, the Cubs have made a few massive strikes for the reason that calendar turned, signing Japanese starter Shota Imanaga and reliever Héctor Neris. Everyone nonetheless expects Hoyer to re-sign Bellinger, however till he’s in camp it’s mere guesswork.
“Anyone can do a deal,” Hoyer advised followers on the Cubs Convention. “Anyone can say yes to an agent’s asking price. If you do that, you’re going to run out of money really quickly.”
I doubt the Rickettses will ever run out of cash, regardless of how a lot they provide Bellinger or anybody else. But if Hoyer indicators Bellinger at a discount worth, his technique may have labored and most followers might be glad. If Bellinger indicators elsewhere, the Cubs may very well be one other 80-win season.
Everything actually hinges on one determination.
The 2024 season is sort of right here, however there’s nonetheless time to make a transfer or two. Hopefully Hoyer offers his new media relations director one thing to do as Steinmiller begins his new job on Feb. 5.
Those press releases don’t write themselves.