Finally!!!!!! We got Lester!!!

Finally!!  The Cubs have landed Jon Lester.  Look out!!  This is only the beginning.  With the left-handed ace in place, the Cubs have sent a clear message to the rest of the league that we are ready to compete.  The Winter Meetings have yielded positive results for the Cubs this year.  Not only did the Cubs add a solid catcher in Miguel Montero, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer aren’t finished yet.  Ken Rosenthal reported that IF the Cubs signed Lester, then there is a strong possibility that the Cubs will go out and try to get a “big bat”.  I would assume that an outfielder would be targeted next.  Will the Cubs offer Wellington Castillo as trade bait and sign David Ross who has been Lester’s catcher for some time?  So many questions.  Just remember that this is only the beginning.  This is the dawn of a dynasty.

The Dawn of a Dynasty

I’m back! It’s been a few years since this die hard Cubs fan has posted anything. Since that time I have quietly watched the Cubs Organization bring the dynamic duo of Epstein and Hoyer into the fold. Cubs fans were told to be patient and trust in the rebuilding process. While most baseball fans would balk at such a thought, a few more years of mediocrity is a small price to pay for us Cubs fans. Tom Ricketts deserves a ton of credit. As an owner, he has done his part in creating an environment conducive to winning baseball. Epstein and Hoyer have managed to transform the Cubs farm system into one of the best, if not the best, in MLB.
The “Plan” has moved on to the next phase of development. The Cubs got lucky when the highly coveted Manager, Joe Madddon suddenly became available. This was an unexpected surprise. It also complicated matters. The Cubs weren’t planning to be competitive till next year, but with Maddon in place there has been a huge buzz around baseball that the Cubs are ready to make their move. In fact, Cubs fans expect the Cubs to make a splash during the Winter Meetings. The Cubs have already lost out in the Russell Martin sweepstakes. He would have been a perfect fit to catch and lead a young Cubs team. Didn’t happen. Now the Cubs are waiting on an answer from left-handed ace, Jon Lester, who undoubtedly would anchor any pitching staff. The question still looms. Are the Cubs making their move this year or simply adding a few pieces of the puzzle?  I think if they land Lester, then the Cubs will make additional moves to solidify the 2015 Cubs. If the Lester deal falls through, then I look for the Cubs to go after James Shields and add a few small pieces here and there. We have to keep in mind that next year’s free agent class is very promising and the Cubs will not be going overboard this year by spending a ton of money on free agents. In addition, they are not going to trade away top prospects just so they can improve this year. Yes, the Cubs will make their fair share of moves this winter, but fellow Cubs fans, keep your expectations in check for now. We just have to wait and see how things play out. We are standing at the dawn of something incredible. The Cubs organization aren’t constructing a team that can be competitive. They aren’t putting together a team that can make a run at a World Series championship. No, Epstein and Hoyer are up to something even greater. The Cubs are building a DYNASTY!! Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer have a plan and they plan to build an organization that will dominate for years to come. Get ready Cubs fans!!! Are you excited? I am. Regardless of when it will happen, it will happen and it will happen right before our eyes. It has already begun. GO CUBS!!!!!!

Cubs Open Door For Girardi

The Cubs have a managerial opening now that Dale Sveum is officially gone.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will begin the process of finding a replacement immediately. Epstein has made it clear that the Cubs want a manager that can establish a winning culture in Chicago. The last couple of years have been dismal, but the farm system has flourished and that means the Cubs have some exciting prospects knocking on the door. Before the Cubs bring up Soler, Baez, Almora, Bryant and Olt, Epstein wants to have a manager in place that can cultivate this pool of young talent. The Cubs are looking for an established, experienced leader that knows what it takes to win. It all makes sense now. Sveum was hired to make it through the past two seasons while the Cubs traded payroll for prospects. So far, this phase has been successful in spite losing 197 games during that time. Sveum cannot be blamed for all of it, but let’s face it, he is not part of the winning culture that the Cubs are looking for.
Enter Joe Girardi. While having much success with the New York Yankees, Girardi may want the opportunity to take on a fresh challenge. The Cubs offer such a challenge. Girardi is from Chicago and has played for the Cubs during his career. In my opinion, Joe Girardi is the perfect fit for the Cubs. He brings everything a Cubs fan could want in a manager. He knows what the Cubs fans have suffered through and understands the importance of winning a World Series. Girardi’s contract with the Yankees is up and the window of opportunity to acquire him is now. Simply, the Cubs had to fire Dale Sveum to open the door for Joe Girardi should he choose to come home and attempt what some say is the impossible. Girardi understands what it would mean to Cubs fans like no one else. Ryne Sandberg would have been a likely candidate but he signed a 3-year deal with the Phillies. Girardi would seem to be the most attractive manager on the market. He has proven what he can do with young, talented players when he won Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins. Anybody that watches baseball knows the poise, presence, and power that Girardi has in the dugout. He understands the game, knows how to manage. I can’t see anyone else in the future as Cubs Manager. Joe Girardi is the perfect choice. Hands down.

Finally!!! Ron Santo Is In The Hall Of Fame!

After all these years, it now seems like a miracle! Ron Santo had two dreams. The first, of course, was to see the Cubbies win the World Series. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the heavens to open up for that one. The second dream seemed almost as impossible as the first one. More than anything, Ron Santo craved the respect that he had earned as a player. Although a modest man, we could see the hurt in his eyes each year that Hall of Fame passed over him. The legendary Cubs’ Third Baseman is finally going to receive the credit that he deserves as he is enshrined into Cooperstown. It is sad that he wasn’t inducted prior to his passing, but you can rest assured that Ronnie is smiling now, wherever he is. His family must be thrilled that he is finally earned baseball’s greatest honor. As a die hard Cubs’ fan, I am pleased that it has finally happened. It has been long overdue, just like that elusive World Series Championship! Who knows? Maybe this marks the end of “the curse”. The fact that Ron Santo has finally reached the Hall of Fame might just be a prelude to greater things to come. Brace yourself, Cub Fans, we might have just turned a corner in Baseball History!

Another Season, Another Year of Frustration!

It has been a while since I written about the Cubs. My mother always said, “If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all!” There hasn’t been anything positive about the Cubs in 2011. It has been a long season and we’re only half way through it. Disappointed and disgusted, I stopped watching the Lovable Losers back in May. Even had my satellite shut off so I wouldn’t have to endure the pain anymore. What can I say at this point? It’s the same old story and the same old outcome. Very predictable. Very sad.
As a die hard Cubs’ fan, I can only hope that someday, things will be different. Someday, this team will learn how to win. But when? Back in March, I bought tickets to see the Cubs take on the Phillies. Two games actually. Monday and Tuesday. Apparently, I will be lucky enough to see two of the greatest pitchers of this era, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Unfortunately, they pitch for the other guys! I do not expect much from the Cubs, but on a positive note, perhaps I will get to witness back to back no-hitters. It is a very real possibility, especially the way the Cubs are going.
I will be rooting for the Cubs, but I have to admit, I don’t have much hope for this team. When will this frustration and disappointment end? When? Cubs’ fans are the greatest people on this planet and deserve so much better. The Ricketts family said that they were committed to winning a championship. When? As long as Jim Hendry continues to make bad decisions, the Cubs will continue to be the laughing stock of baseball. Isn’t it time to clean house and bring in the right personnel? SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE!!! I love baseball. I love the Cubs. Until this team learns the art of finding ways to win, I cannot look. I will peek every now and then, but it has become too painful. Maybe someday, I will look forward to watching the Cubs play. Maybe someday, the Cubs will be World Series champions…. Maybe someday.

Cubs Win First Game With Teamwork!

Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!  How?  A combined effort of solid pitching and timely hitting gave the Cubs their first victory of 2011.  Everyone contributed and provided the kind of teamwork that will carry this team to new heights.  As a diehard Cubs’ fan, I am very encouraged by this team’s tenacity to hang in there.  I am pleased by the effort that everyone gave.  Indeed, this will be a fun group to watch.  Mike Quade deserves a world of credit for the way this team has come together.  I think there is good reason to be optimistic this season.

Carlos Zambrano struggled early but managed to keep the game close.  Cramping in his hand forced him to leave the game, but Kerry Wood came in and took care of business.  Sean Marshall followed Wood and also shut down the Pirates.  Then in the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs came to life and battled for a 5 run inning.  The beauty of that inning was that everyone contributed with timely hitting. 
60602722.jpg Alfonso Soriano had a key hit and of course, Blake DeWitt delivered in the clutch.  Dewitt, who struggled in Spring Training, deserves a lot of credit.  His confidence needed a boost and he needed that hit as much as the team did.  It was a total team effort. 
60602747.jpg I like the way that this team sticks together and supports one another.  It is refreshing.  Carlos Marmol came on in the 9th and struck out the side for his first save of the young season.
60602748.jpg  In fact, the bullpen retired the last 9 Pirate batters of the game.  Now that’s a solid bullpen! 

Matt Garza is on the bump today.  He will be starting his first game in a Cub uniform.  If he can have a solid outing, then the Cubs should win again.  Garza seems like a really good teammate.  He’s a gamer, you can tell.  With the addition of Garza, Carlos Pena, and the return of Kerry Wood, I believe the club house chemistry is finally coming together.  Mike Quade has good reason to like his chances this year.  Teamwork is what champions are made of and the Cubs are showing signs of having the right chemistry. 

Good job to everyone!  Keep up the good work!  Go Cubs Go!!! 

Spring Training Assessment

With Opening Day less than a week away, it’s time to assess the Cubs and determine what we can come to expect in the upcoming season.  There have been some positives and negatives that have emerged.  Let’s take a closer look.

In his first full season as a Major League Manager, Mike Quade has been impressive with the way he has conducted himself in Spring Training.  Quade has demonstrated that he is a hands on type of guy.  He brings a ton of energy to the ballpark and that has to rub off on the players.  I have heard reports of how Quade has been actively involved in every phase of the game.  When he spots a mistake, it is immediately addressed.  Mike Quade has proven that he is one of the guys, which is important to teamwork.  He doesn’t maintain the distance that other managers might keep between him and his players.  Perhaps, that is the reason that the players have responded in a positive manner.  Anyway, I like what I have seen thus far.  He is an honest, candid, and a no non-sense man on a mission.  He has gained my confidence that he was indeed, the right man for the job.

Mike Quade and the Cubs are in the process of trimming the opening day roster, which is no easy task.  Many players have already been optioned to the minor leagues.  One of the biggest questions revolve around the starting rotation.  Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Garza will be the top three starters.  Randy Wells has had a good Spring and has earned the #4 spot.  Carlos Silva thought that he deserved to pitch in the starting rotation but didn’t back it up.  His performance this Spring was terrible.  He had an ERA over 10 and was optioned to Triple A, but refuses to go.  The Cubs will most likely try to trade him.  Braden Looper had a rough Spring and consequently, did not make the team.  He decided to hang it up and retire once again.  Andrew Cashner was named the 5th starter, however, I am not so sure that he is the right fit for that role.  Cashner has done very well in relief.  He has the tools to be an awesome set-up guy.  Last season, he opened our eyes.  Many people feel that he would make a good starting pitcher, but even while he has earned a spot in the rotation, Cashner has not really demonstrated his effectiveness in that role.  Personally, I think Sean Marshall is better suited, but I cannot argue his effectiveness and value in the bullpen.  Another possibility is Kerry Wood, although like Marshall, that is unlikely to happen.  The only other option for the Cubs would be to trade for a solid starting pitcher and move Cashner back to the bullpen where he can be the most effective.   Hopefully, Cashner will settle into his new role, but time will tell.

The Cubs have a similar outfield situation to the one they had last year.  Alfonso Soriano will be the left fielder.  Of course, he will need to have a good year and stay healthy.  He will need to produce if he wants to keep the Cubs’ faithful off his back.  Marlon Byrd has had a good Spring and promises to be a team leader.  Right field is where the problem lies.   The Cubs have Kosuke Fukudome, who has not done well at all.  It seems like he has nothing to offer the Cubs but defense.  It may be time to unload him and get it over with.  Tyler Colvin can definitely hit, but his defense remains a bit shaky.  I do not share most Cubs’ fans optimism concerning Colvin.  He simply needs to work on his defense.  Reed Johnson was re-acquired this offseason.  Reed will definitely help the Cubs this year, particularly against left-handers.  If I had my way, I would platoon Soriano and Colvin in left, move Marlon Byrd to right, and bring up Brett Jackson to play center and lead off.

The infield needs to tighten up the defense.  Darwin Barney has earned the job at second base, period.  Blake Dewitt and Jeff Baker can be used as back-ups.  Barney has shown all the signs of a promising second baseman.  He has won me over this Spring.  He has the right attitude and work ethic to succeed. 

Carlos Pena remains a bit of a mystery.  He is a gold glove first baseman, but his hitting still needs work.  He has the left-handed power that the Cubs were looking for, but still struggles at the plate.  Pena has a lightning-fast bat, but has difficulty with pitch recognition.  Hopefully, that will improve and he can raise his batting average to a respectable level.

Finally, Geovanny Soto will be the primary catcher, but there is much debate over who should back him up.  Koyie Hill handles the pitching staff well, but simply cannot hit.  Wellington Castillo has had an incredible Spring, batting over .600, but the Cubs will probably elect to send him back to the minors where he can get regular playing time.  That is unfortunate.  How much more does Castillo have to do to prove that he is ready for the big leagues.  He is way better than Hill who has contributed nothing to the offense or the defense.  Wellington Castillo has earned a spot on the Cubs’ roster, pure and simple.  To deny him the opportunity to play in the big leagues would be a travesty.

Well, Mike Quade and the Cubs’ front office still have work to do.  There remains much to be optimistic about, however, there also remains some wrinkles to work out and decisions to be made.  Let’s hope the Cubs can figure it out.  As Spring Training winds down, Opening Day will soon be upon us.  It’s time to “Play Ball!”  I can’t wait. 

The Cubs Need A Lesson In Teamwork!

By now, everyone has seen or heard about the scuffle that took place last week.  If this is a sign of things to come, then the Cubs are in serious trouble.  Hopefully, this incident will be put to rest and the Cubs can get on with the business at hand.  Before we move on, perhaps we should take a closer look at how these things happen.

Obviously Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Silva have better insight into the situation than I do, but I may be able to shed some light on this subject.  Players get frustrated when things don’t go their way.  A bad pitch or a costly error can cause some players to become unhinged and blow up at their teammates.  Bad idea.  The word “Teammates” suggest that players should be on the same side.  We’re all in this together should be the motto.  A teammate should lift his fellow player up when he makes a mistake, not condemn him.  This has been the problem.  Mike Quade did a fine job of downplaying the incident with the media, but I wonder how the situation was addressed in the clubhouse.  Sure, they had a team meeting to address the 14 errors in the first 4 games, but was it enough to prevent future outbursts of infighting?  Time will tell. 

A successful team establishes urgency and direction.  A worthwhile purpose that unites the team as a whole.  Teams must have complementary skills at each position.  Everyone plays a particular role.  Teams set clear rules of behavior to help achieve their purpose and performance goals.  This enables the team to stay focused and committed.  Teammates should challenge one another to be better rather than placing blame and embarrassing each other.  Teammates should be family, spending alot of time together to create an unbreakable bond, trust, and understanding.  Successful teams feed off of positive reinforcement, recognition, and reward.  Lastly, there must be accountability.  Each player should be held accountable for his performance.  That does not mean he deserves to be ridiculed but rather each player has a responsibility to his teammates to learn his craft, work hard, and improve on a daily basis.  Just because a veteran earns millions of dollars doesn’t mean that he isn’t expected to work hard and give maximum effort.  It doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t seek help from a coach when he needs it.  There are too many players that think they know it all and don’t need the extra help or that they don’t have to hustle.  Those players don’t deserve to wear Cubby blue.  The players who are truly commited to improving and winning are the ones that should stay, everyone else should go elsewhere.  There is no room for laziness at the MLB level. 

Every successful team forges its own path.  That doesn’t mean that there won’t be conflicts because there will be, but how a team handles it, is crucial.  Isn’t it time the Cubs start playing as a team, committed to excellence and winning?  Enough of these childish tantrums, let’s get down to business and win a World Series! 

Seriously, Are The Cubs Going To Be Any Good This Year?

With Spring Training right around the corner, it’s time to evaluate the offseason moves made by Jim Hendry, the Cubs General Manager.  Each and every year Cubs’ fans get excited around this time.  We are ever hopeful that the new season will bring that elusive championship, but in the end, we are disappointed yet again.  Could this year be different?  Could 2011 be the breakthrough year to remember?  Have the Cubs made the necessary moves to bring the right balance to a team that has struggled to reach its potential?  I am going to gaze into my crystal ball and peek into the future and try to determine what kind of team we have to look forward to.

The first glimpse that may be indicative of a promising year dates back to the last month and a half of last season.  After the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella, Mike Quade took over the helm and steered the Cubs in the right direction.  Under Quade, the Cubs finished strong.  The players responded to his style of managing and won nearly 2/3 of the remaining games.  Quade made a strong impression on Jim Hendry and Cubs’ Chairman, Tom Ricketts, and the interim tag was removed as he won the managerial job over fan favorites such as Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi.  There was much controversey over the process, but in the end, Mike Quade had earned the position.  In 2011, Mike Quade will face the challenge of managing over the long haul of the season.  If 2010 was evidence that he has what it takes to turn this team around, then indeed, the Cubs have much to look forward to.

As the Cubs searched the free agent market to fill some obvious holes, Jim Hendry finally found a left-handed first baseman in Carlos Pena.  Was it the right fit?  Some may argue, but seriously, Pena is a great defensive first baseman and has a powerful left-handed bat.  Exactly what the Cubs needed.  Is his .196 batting average and high strikeout ratio a concern?  It would be, but Pena is working with Rudy Jaramillo, the Cubs’ hitting coach, and is totally committed to improving his swing.  That willingness to learn is the key.  There are far too many veterans who think that they are so great that they have nothing more to learn, the very same players who start to stink and drag everyone around them down.  So it is refreshing to see a player who wants to get better.  Carlos Pena is going to work out just fine, you’ll see.

The Cubs also re-acquired Kerry Wood.  I am very happy about this because Woody is, was, and always will be a Cub.  He is a club house leader and understands what it means to be a Cub.  He gave the Cubs a huge discount to come home.  He did an awesome job for the Yankees last season and he promises to do more of the same for the Cubs in 2011.  Hopefully he can remain healthy and prove to everyone that HE’S BACK!  I think that he will return with a vengeance.  I am excited to see him again!

Then, there was the controversial trade for Matt Garza.  The Cubs may have lost some top prospects, but they have gained one of the best pitchers in the game today.  He will be a welcomed addition to the Cubs’ pitching staff.  Coming to the National League where hitters aren’t very familiar with him will be to his advantage.  I look for him to have a great year.  Like Woody and Pena, I foresee him silencing the critics very quickly.  I predict that he will win 18 games or more this season.

The Cubs have also made some minor moves, such as re-acquiring Reed Johnson, Todd Wellmeyer, and getting some players in the Tom Gorzellany trade.  We’ll see how those work out as only time will tell.  On a positive note, the Cubs have signed Geovanny Soto, Sean Marshall, and I believe, Carlos Marmol thus avoiding arbitration.  So that is good news.

One important factor that will determine the Cubs destiny is whether or not they can stay healthy.  Last year was a disaster as far as injuries go.  A healthy team learns to play as a team and gel.  A different line-up everyday is disastrous to team chemistry and that was something we saw too much of last year.  The Cubs need to stay healthy, period!  It is good to hear that Tyler Colvin will be back this year.  Watching him being impaled by a broken bat scared us all.  It’s great that he will return, we’ll need him.

The Cubs seem pretty solid up and down the line-up, except for one thing.  We still do not have a protypical lead-off hitter.  I probably sound like a broken record, but this could make or break the Cubs’ offense.  Last season, there was no spark to ignite the offense and consequently no pressure on the opposition.  If the Cubs truly want to contend, this crucial piece must be found.  If no trades are made, then somebody will need to step up and learn how to get on base and rattle the defense.  I hope that Mike Quade doesn’t just pencil in just anybody.  He knows full well that the lead-off hitter sets the tone for what will follow.  Anyway, we’ll see what happens.  Perhaps Starlin Castro or Kosuke Fukudome will be willing to learn how to fill that role.  Who knows, after all, there is still some time before the season begins.

Overall, I think the Cubs will be much improved.  If the lead off role can be filled, I think the Cubs will be in business.  Once again, I am excited about the upcoming season, unfortunately, my crystal ball isn’t as clear as I’d like it to be, but that would take all of the fun out of watching the season unfold now wouldn’t it?

Cubs Still Missing Crucial Piece To Offense

The Cubs have been busy this offseason improving the team for 2011, but there is still one piece that has yet to be addressed to elevate them to the next level – a legitimate lead off hitter. 

In 2010, the Cubs lacked one crucial element which failed to spark the offense.  All season long, the offense struggled to score runs.  There was nobody at the top of the batting order to ignite the spark and put pressure on the defense.  Lou Piniella and Mike Quade exhausted every option at their disposal to find somebody that could fill the role.  Ryan Theriot was traded to the Dodgers and consequently left a huge hole to fill.  Many attempts to try different players were unsuccessful.  As a result, the offense struggled to offer much run support.  Too much reliance on the long ball resulted in a lack of run support for a pitching staff that deserved better.

During an interview, Mike Quade was asked who would be the Cubs’ lead off hitter in 2011. 
thumbnailCA3TQUDG.jpgHis response was disturbing.  He admitted that the Cubs did not have such a player that he would consider a true lead off candidate.  He acknowledged that the Cubs simply lacked what was needed.  At least he was honest.  Given the fact, his response was that the lead off role would be by committee.  In other words, he would be forced to pencil in anybody and everybody to fill the slot.  A repeat of last season apparently.  This disturbs me because last season was a disappointment due to the lack of run production.  There was no spark to ignite the offense.  So is 2011 doomed to failure? 

What exactly is the role of a legitimate lead off hitter?  A lead off hitter, first and foremost, must be able to get on base.  He should be able to draw walks, bunt for a base hit, and hit for average.  In other words, he must have a high on-base percentage.  Secondly, he must have speed.  Once on base, he must apply pressure to the opposing pitcher and defense.  He must be a base stealing threat.  He must cause the pitcher to be nervous and disrupt his concentration.  He must draw the defense out of position and wreck havoc.  Not only should he have the abilty to steal bases, but have the abilty to reach third base on a hit and run.  He must be able to get himself in scoring position, somehow.  He must be fast enough to score runs and make things happen.  Such a player causes the opposition to make mistakes and opens the door for the offense to score runs. 

The Cubs have made some improvements this offseason, but still lack the necessary spark to ignite the offense.  With all due respect to Mike Quade and the current roster, the Cubs will be in for another long season if this isn’t addressed. 
thumbnailCAL7G4N9.jpgThe Cubs’ General Manager, Jim Hendry, needs to find a way to fill this hole.  It is too important not to.  I was reading another Cubs’ blog, Strictly Cubs Baseball, http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/, I began thinking about this problem and reached the conclusion that this IS a HUGE problem.  The lack of offense last year is directly attributable to the lack of a legitimate lead off hitter.  There simply was no run support.  Opposing pitchers were entirely too relaxed while facing the Cubs.  Jim Hendry still has work to do.  I hope and pray that he does something to address this glaring hole or 2011 could be disastrous.  The Cubs are on the right track, but to be truly competitive, we need a solid lead off hitter.  Only then, will we be in good shape to reach the playoffs.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 409 other followers