Each week we take a look at the questions posed to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs beat writer and see if there is a way for us to expound on the answers or provide a contrasting point of view. I meant to have this posted this morning, but life got in the way. However if you subscribe to our site, which is free of charge, you would have known that already. I can’t stress the subscribing thing enough, as the off-season is a weird time for bloggers. That being said, let’s get to the mailbag.
What are the Cubs going to do in center field for 2008? Nothing personal against Jacque Jones, but he has a terrible throwing arm and his offense wasn’t stellar this year either. Is Felix Pie a possibility or could the Cubs sign a big free agent like Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand?
— John S., Park Ridge, Ill.
The Cubs tried to deal Jones earlier this year, and they will likely try again this offseason. He did hit .332 in the second half, but had a career-low five homers for the season. This was an interesting year for Pie. The Cubs were 58-29 when he got in a game, but this was the first time he had a part-time role, and the first time he didn’t have success. There’s no doubt he has speed, which manager Lou Piniella covets, and can play defense. Pie has to show he can contribute at the plate — a .111 average against left-handers won’t do it. Who starts in center may depend on who starts in right, and that’s up in the air. Rowand could be an option, but I also can see him crashing headfirst into the brick wall in center at Wrigley Field.
In my opinion, the Cubs don’t go after a centerfielder on the open market. There is no point in spending big money on a guy when you have been grooming a player over the past few years. Felix Pie is one of our top five prospects in the system right now and deserves a chance to take the job. But, if he gets his shot, he needs to play every day to really be credited with a legit chance to take the job. If you know anything about me, you know I’m a big fan of the farm system and producing from within. Felix Pie is home grown and we need to look to him before spending money. Last off-season we didn’t do that. Let’s give it a shot this year, especially considering what our payroll is quickly blossoming to.
I was wondering how former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija did this season, and do you think he’ll be on next year’s roster?
— Mike S., Marion Heights, Pa.
Samardzija was 3-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) at Class A Daytona, giving up 142 hits, 35 walks and striking out 45 over 107 1/3 innings. He was promoted to Double-A Tennessee in August, and was 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA in six starts, giving up 33 hits, nine walks and striking out 20 over 34 1/3 innings. He will be on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, but as to when he’ll be in the big leagues, I can’t say. This is probably a strange time for Samardzija because it’s the first time he’s had the fall off from football, and he can focus on training for baseball.
Samardzija did announce on his Web site that he is donating Under Armour football uniforms to Valparaiso (Ind.) High School, starting in 2008. He also said in a blog entry that he “learned a ton about the game, and more importantly, how to really ‘pitch’ from the great pitching coaches I had.” That’s a good sign.
I saw Jeff pitch in Carolina against the Mudcats on the last day of the season. He was less than impressive and I’m not seeing him with the big club till mid to late 2009 at the earliest. He has to learn how to pitch. Because he focused so heavily on football, which is understandable considering he was on scholarship, he wasn’t able to fully devote himself to learning how to be a baseball player. He’s a good athlete and a good prospect. He’s one I’m following closely. On a site note, the site Carrie mentions is Jeff’s blog, which can be found at: http://www.jeff-samardzija.com/blog.asp
Just curious about what you may have heard about Ryne Sandberg’s future plans. Do you know if there is any talk of him moving along in the system or will he stay put for a while?
— Dave A., Lexington, S.C.
One of the issues to be discussed at the Cubs organizational meetings was the Minor League assignments. Sandberg wants to continue to manage, and Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita has to find the right spot.
He’ll be behind Jody Davis, due to experience, and from what I’ve seen, Jody Davis wants to manage as well. If Davis moves up, Sandberg would probably move up.
I thought the Cubs had a better approach at the plate during the middle of the summer. I believe Gerald Perry was a big part of that. What are the stats on OBP and walks compared to the last couple of years?
— Tim D., Du Quoin, Ill.
This year, the Cubs had a .333 on-base percentage and 500 walks while hitting .271. The last time they had an on-base percentage above this year’s was 2001, when it was .336 (577 walks). In 2006, they had a .319 on-base percentage, 395 walks, and batted .268. In 2003, when they also won the NL Central Division, they had a .323 on-base percentage, 492 walks, and hit .259.
Here were the league ranks in OBP for the teams Perry has coached in his career: 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 12th, 12th, 7th. Those come with Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Oakland.
With the 100th anniversary coming in the 2008 season [since the Cubs last won a World Series], would it not be fitting for the Cubs to bring back Greg Maddux so he might have the incentive to retire as a Cub?
— Eugene K., Des Moines, Iowa
Maddux has been around for a while, but I don’t see the link between him and the 1908 team. He’s not that old. The Cubs, I hope, are thinking more about winning than reunion tours.
Seriously? Eugene, do you not remember the fact that we already brought Maddux back for a reunion tour? You guys know how I feel. I don’t think we need another starting pitcher.