Archive for January, 2006

Thru Cub Eyes: Ernie Banks

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

In honor of Mr. Cub’s 75th birthday, we offer this very special edition of Thru Cub Eyes, from the fine compilation of Cub anecdotes, put together by Carrie Muskat in Banks to Sandberg to Grace.. Happy Birthday, Ernie. You remain the most loved Cub of all time.

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Many of the players didn’t quite understand my own philosophy. I believe in forgive and forget, and keep your mouth shut and listen to whatever somebody is trying to tell you and you can learn something. I tell my children that. But it was just misinterpreted that Leo disliked me. He made my life better, he made me a better player.

I remember in St. Louis, I hit two home runs and drove in seven runs one time against Steve Carlton. I mean, there’s many things I was proud of. I was the oldest player on the team at 39 years old. Most people wouldn’t have even been on the team at that time. But [Leo] inspired me to reach inside of myself and do more. And that’s what I did….It was just inspiration to let somebody know that somebody in your life — it could be a wife, it could be a manager, it could be a coach — could light your fire, that would stimulate your life and that’s what happened to me when Leo came here from ’66 to ’72.

Another time, one of the most touching things that ever happened to me, in New York, we were losing the game and Leo sent up Jim Hickman to pinch-hit for me. As we were passing Jim said “”Ernie, I’m sorry for doing this.” He apologized for pinch-hitting for me. Leo didn’t hear it, nobody else heard it. I didn’t want to embarrass him. I just looked up and said “You can do it.” And I went on back to the dugout. It didn’t bother me. What I’m saying is, embarrassment and unkind things that we must all learn from really can make us better — better people, better individuals.

“Let’s Play Two.” That started in ’69. Like most things, it just kind of come out. It was July and over 100 degrees and everybody was kind of down a little bit. I came in the locker room and Jimmy Enright was there and alot of writers were around, and I said “Boy, this is a great day. Let’s play two.”

They all woke up and looked around and it stayed with me for a long while. Then we played a double-header in Houston, and me and Lou Brock fell out in the firs game of the double-header. It was about 120 degrees in Houston. I hit a double and faintedand Lou Brock hit a triple and fainted. They took us out and ever since then, most of my friends around the league always remember that. “You always want to play two, but what happened that day in Houston?”

The great joy in my life is to come out to Wrigley Field now. Coming out here is better than going to a psychiatrist. It’s real therapy for me. The other parks are OK, but it’s special coming here. The people are enthusiastic. They really love this park and they love the players and they love everything about it. It’s the epicenter of all our lives and that’s why I enjoy coming here so much.

I wasn’t around when they talked about the money part of the game. You approach playing at Wrigley Field for the love of it, and the other part is the friendship you can build when you’re here. The friendships you make while you are here are much greater than all the money you will make in your life.

So now, I want my ashes to be spread over Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out.

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Compare and contrast

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Hopefully by now most of you have had a chance to listen to Joe Aiello’s interview with Pat Hughes. Pat stuck his neck out a little and had some interesting things to say in this interview, so it’s a ‘must listen’ if you haven’t done so already. Please see the article immediately before this one if you have not.

Let’s compare and contrast Pat’s incisive style to another journalist, one who happens to write for mlb.com. Here’s what Carrie Muscat had to say about Jacque Jones in her current article entitled Mailbag: Right time for Miller time?

Pierre, Jones and Murton probably won’t keep the ballhawks outside Wrigley Field’s bleachers happy, though Jones (who bats righty) won’t have to watch well-hit balls land in what he dubbed “Death Valley” — the left-center-field area at the Metrodome in which a lot of his extra-base hits were caught.

Bats righthanded? If Jacque Jones “bats righty” then I’m Santa Claus. C’mon Carrie, do your homework.

Thanks again to Joe for a great interview with Pat Hughes, one that Cub fans should certainly take a moment to listen to.

————–UPDATE—————-

The Cubs have avoided arbitration with Jerry Hairston by signing him to a one year deal worth $2.3 million.

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Pat Hughes Interview

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Sunday I had the opportunity to once again interview Cubs radio man, Pat Hughes. It is always a great time talking baseball with him and I look forward to future conversations. I recorded the interview for you.

Listen to the 20 min MP3. Enjoy!!!

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A quiet move that made loud sense

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

The Cubs announced that they have hired the services of baseball up n’ comer Tim Wilken to be their new Scouting Director. Not much fanfare was associated with the fact that former Cubs Scouting Director John Stockstill has left the organization to take a similar position with the Orioles.

Well here’s my take, this acquisition is going to take a while to bear fruit but it should greatly benefit the Cubs. Nothing against Mr. Stockstill but the Cubs top draft picks generally have not moved through the progression to the major leagues. Every year Baseball America and Fantasy Baseball Fantastics come out with ‘top 50 prospects’ lists and the Cubs never seem to have more than two guys on these lists. So what gives? This is an organization that has emphasized over and over it’s commitment to acquiring and developing talent.

IMO the problem has been in the selection criteria the Cubs use to draft talent; this became especially evident after the team’s 2005 draft. One quality lefthanded pitching prospect and the rest of ’em will never see two years’ service in the majors combined. And that is probably why Mr. Stockstill took a lateral move to Baltimore.

Best of luck to Tim Wilken, he had a great track record choosing talent at Toronto. And thanks to the Cubs brass for having the good sense to realize they had a problem in this area.

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One down, five to go

Friday, January 27th, 2006

Today the Cubs announced that they have signed Mark Prior for the 2006 season for $3.65M. As you all know, the Cubs control Prior through 2008 but Mark changed his contract status (as was his right) and had asked for $4M. I hope he’s happy with the $900,000 raise because I value his output on this team.

That leaves four more arbitration-eligible players who must be signed by Feb. 1st if the Cubs wish to avoid arbitration hearings; in arbitration there is no compromise, either the team’s offer or the player’s request are awarded. Those players are Will Ohman, Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Pierre and Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs should come to an agreement fairly quickly with Ohman and Hairston, since there is little that divides them in aggregate dollars. That leaves Pierre and Zambrano, and both should get pretty close to asking price. I have every confidence that Jim Hendry will get these guys signed.

So who is the fifth player? Derrek Lee, that’s who. No, Derrek is not eligible for arbitration – rather he is free as a bird after 2006. I saw all I needed to see in ’05, I consider it imperative that Lee is inked for four years and I think he’s worth $56-60M. If Lee goes FA he ain’t coming back as a Cub so let’s get ‘er done Hendry!

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