Paul Sullivan: The Yu Darvish-Christian Yelich beef is on hold — for now — but the Cubs-Brewers rivalry should be a good one from Day 1

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MESA, Ariz. — Christian Yelich wasn’t around for Yu Darvish’s first Cactus League start Saturday afternoon at Sloan Park, so we’re not sure how the Brewers star would have responded to facing Darvish for the first time since their memorable Twitter beef.

But after the Cubs’ 4-3 loss to the Brewers, Darvish said he missed seeing Yelich.

“Every time I really want to face him,” Darvish said. “He’s the best hitter in the league. I’m looking forward to facing him in the opening series.”

So all’s good between your two?

“For what?” he said.

The Twitter thing?

“I don’t care,” he replied. “He’s the MVP. He can say whatever he wants.”

In case you weren’t paying close attention, the Cubs pitcher inadvertently ignited the feud in the fall by responding on Twitter to a video of Darvish stepping off the mound during a matchup against Yelich last summer at Miller Park.

Some interpreted it as Darvish seeing Yelich looking toward the outfield to steal a sign.

“I’m not sure what he’s trying to do,” Darvish tweeted that day. “But to be clear, his eyes move first. That’s why I step off.”

Yelich wasn’t interested in defending himself. He simply tweeted back to Darvish: “Be better than this. No one needs help facing you.”

Darvish tried to explain afterward he wasn’t accusing Yelich of stealing signs, but Yelich didn’t respond. At the Cubs Convention in January, Darvish said: “I don’t know him. I think he’s still mad.”

The story probably should end right there. No harm, no foul.

But because the Astros’ sign-stealing saga has stolen spring training, every sign-stealing accusation is an offshoot of the big picture.

Asked recently if the media would “drum up” the Twitter beef this season, Brewers manager Craig Counsell gave us his seal of approval.

“If anyone wants to give Yelich more motivation, I’m all for it,” Counsell said.

The Brewers seldom need any motivation against the Cubs, their big-market archrivals whose fans invade their stadium every spring and summer and turn it into their home away from home. This year will be no different, even if the Cubs did next to nothing this winter and the Brewers seemingly got worse by allowing Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas and others to leave as free agents.

The roster moves pared the Brewers payroll from a franchise-record $134 million to around $109 million, according to

“Yeah, we had an operating loss last year,” owner Mark Attanasio said at the start of spring training. “If you’re going to run a baseball team properly, you really have to look at a rolling basis how you’re doing. We had some (losing) years as we were building, and we always want to keep our powder dry somewhat for the next opportunity, whether it comes next season or next offseason.”

In other words, Attanasio is counting on general manager David Stearns and Counsell to do more with less again, in spite of having the fifth-highest attendance in the National League in 2019.

It’s a vastly different lineup with veterans Justin Smoak at first and Eric Sogard at third, Omar Narvaez behind the plate and former White Sox slugger Avisail Garcia sharing time in right with Ryan Braun. Yelich moves to left field, while Braun also will fill in at first. The rotation also has been shaken and stirred with suboptimal additions such as Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Josh Lindblom. At least closer Josh Hader returns.

“It’s going to be a pretty good war in this division,” Cubs shortstop Javier Baez said. “They’ve got a pretty good team and they’ve got pretty good hitters. Same with Cincinnati. We’ve got to bust our butts to beat them. It’s all about competing and giving them everything we have. We’ll see how it goes with them.”

Yelich still hasn’t played this spring after rehabbing from a broken right kneecap that ended another MVP-caliber season in early September. Counsell said Yelich is fine, and the plan all along has been to bring him back slowly in spring training, perhaps eight or nine games in.

The Brewers survived Yelich’s absence to earn a National League wild-card berth last year. How far could the Brewers have gone had Yelich not been injured?

“It’s natural to think about that, but at the same time everyone has to deal with having significant injuries,” Stearns said. “And we’re no different. I’m really proud of how our team stepped up over the final two or three weeks last year without Yelich. Making the run we did was really rewarding.”

The more talented Cubs, meanwhile, collapsed over the final two weeks and missed the playoffs. Like the Brewers, they’ll enter the season with plenty of doubters.

“They’re still a good team,” Stearns said. “Don’t worry, Paul.”

Thanks, but I’m really only worried about the Brewers losing money despite having the league’s fifth-highest attendance. Did all the revenue go into a fund for Bernie Brewer’s new slide or for a bigger prize for the winner of the sausage race?

As for the Darvish-Yelich beef, Counsell called it “kind of silly” and thinks it will blow over.

“That’s just Christian’s response to things,” Counsell said of Yelich’s Twitter game. “He’s got a unique way of responding. Sounds like that’s the way Darvish is too. I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

Just another day in the Twittersphere, where beefs come out of nowhere, then disappear before you know it.

Check back again when Darvish and Yelich face off in the opening series in Milwaukee, just in case.


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