Jim Thome was talking to White Sox players about eggs earlier this week.
The Cubs brought a dunk tank onto the practice field Thursday so players could laugh at one of the members of their analytics department getting soaked.
It’s that time of spring training, when everyone’s anxious to get going but there are still a few finishing touches needed before opening day arrives in two weeks.
The Sox and Cubs are doing whatever it takes to get ready for the 2019 season, whether it’s creating hijinks or using metaphors to get players’ attention.
Here are a couple of takeaways from Sox and Cubs camps as opening day nears:
Win or else
The narrative surrounding the Cubs this season is simple: They have to win to avoid having the proverbial truck backed up.
The Cubs’ core has been together since 2015, and despite four straight postseason appearances and one championship, no one is assured of returning, including manager Joe Maddon, if they don’t go far into October.
“I’m sure that’s going to happen if we don’t win,” Anthony Rizzo said. “That’s the nature of how sports teams are viewed now, and we’re now held to a standard that maybe five other teams in sports are held to.”
In other words, the Cubs are now in the same league with the Yankees, Red Sox, Patriots and Warriors.
“If most teams make the playoffs and make a deep run, that’s great for them, right?” Rizzo said. “Everyone is excited. The fan base is excited. But if we make a playoff run and make the (National League Championship Series) and then get beat …”
Then perhaps it’s adios, boys.
Rizzo believes “it’s a good thing we’re held to those expectations” because it shows how far the franchise has come.
Cubs President Theo Epstein said Thursday “there’s no mandate” from management, though he likes what he has seen so far.
“I’ve been really impressed by everybody’s attitude here,” he said. “The players had really productive offseasons, and nobody was happy with the way last offseason ended. They’ve shown up with a real seriousness about their work, and if we want to get where we want to go this year, we have to show up every single day.
“That’s not coming from us, per se. That’s coming from within the players’ group. It’s really important for them to be the type of team that’s going to be a tough out every single day and that every game matters. That’s the feel around this camp.
“A lot of players have talked about the switch is back on, the intensity is there. And I certainly feel it from our guys, and it’s a really good thing. So I’m impressed.”
The Cubs still have some issues, especially if fill-in closer Pedro Strop hasn’t recovered from his sore hamstring and real closer Brandon Morrow is on and off the injury list all year.
But there’s no doubt they have enough talent to win, and everyone — including Epstein — has something to prove after last year’s sour taste of October.
They are the eggmen
Thome, the special assistant to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, told the players during a pre-workout meeting Monday that everyone’s contribution counts, no matter how big or small, toward building a winning culture on the South Side.
“I just want to be one of the guys dropping an egg in the basket every day,” pitcher Dylan Covey said. “Whether it’s (a hitter going) 1-for-4 or (a pitcher) getting only one out that day — just putting something in the basket to contribute.”
“It’s a metaphor,” he said. “The basket is the team as a whole. Thome dropped a little wisdom on us.”
A little wisdom from a Hall of Famer is always a good thing, and it was sound advice for the Sox, who have no big stars and no outside expectations to win.
After optioning top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease on Wednesday, the Sox are focusing on the here and now while the future patiently waits at Triple-A Charlotte.
No one thinks the Sox can compete with the Indians in the American League Central, and they’d be very lucky to be in a wild-card race even if everything went right.
But that’s not the way the players are thinking.
“The sky is the limit,” second baseman Yolmer Sanchez said. “You don’t want to go for a wild card. Anything can happen in this spot. Just play hard, play the right way and see what happens.
“Sometimes you play a really, really good game and lose. This sport is crazy. We’ve got a good team, so we can compete.”
The Sox obviously would have a much better chance of competing if they had kept Jimenez and Cease on the opening-day roster.
If not for the service-time issue, Jimenez probably would’ve made the team despite his poor spring since he’s easily one of their top hitters. Cease arguably needs a little more seasoning in the minors, but it’s hard to dispute he’s one of their five best starters, especially with Ervin Santana not having pitched in a Cactus League game.
But the moves surprised no one, and the Sox are willing to take the heat knowing almost everyone else (including the Cubs) has held back future stars to delay their free agency a year.
Still, even with Jimenez and Cease arriving soon, it will take quite a few eggs in the basket for the Sox to have a realistic shot in 2019.