View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Friday

23

September 2011

34

COMMENTS

"And now, the end is here…"

Written by , Posted in General

Apologies for the short, tardy post today.  For the last couple weeks, I’ve been getting up much earlier than usual to exercise with a couple friends–one of whom is a former Navy SEAL.  For someone like me, whose  usual exercise regimen consisted of periodic laps between the couch and the fridge, it has been a shock to the system to say the least.  The good news is that I’m slowly becoming slightly less of a lazy slob.

Just a few scattered thoughts as the Cubs enter the last weekend of the season:

  • A lot has been said and written this week about the future of Mike Quade.  While his contract guarantees he’ll be paid for the job next year, it seems like a forgone conclusion that he won’t be the Cubs’ manager next season.  No serious Cub fan would argue that he was dealt a winning hand this season.  But even if you strip away all the ineffectiveness on the roster, all the injuries, and all the mistakes made by his bosses, he still didn’t do much to help the team win.  Just how much difference can a manager make in the course of the season?  Between writing up the lineup card, putting players in the best position to succeed, monitoring his starting staff, making shrewd use of his bullpen, executing timely pitching changes, defensive switches, and pinch hits, and policing his players on the field and off, the manager can and should make a significant impact on his team.  Looking over that list, there’s not one area Quade didn’t occasionally fall short in throughout the season–including some where he never excelled.  As a manager, he makes a great third base coach–which is good news, since Ivan DeJesus never really got the hang of that job, either.
  • And Quade’s hits just keep on coming!  The controversy-that-isn’t (yet?) over him ordering suggesting that Matt Garza strike out to secure one more at-bat for Starlin Castro on Wednesday is a bizarre punctuation for the season.  What strikes me is that if Garza chose to strike out of his own accord, we’d probably laud him as a good teammate (he grounded out).  But Quade stepping in makes the whole thing unpleasant and divisive.  No one’s individual achievement should supersede the game, and I’d hate for any of our guys to be ordered to take dives for Castro or another player.  The whole thing reminds me of the game where Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record for consecutive games played.  I forget which inning it was, but the Orioles stopped the game and brought out a parade of gifts, like a new car, a pool table, and some other stuff I can’t remember.  Then Cal took a lap around the field.  It was a great achievement to be sure, but I can remember thinking that it must have been miserable for the rest of his team who had to keep playing once the celebration was over.  Even if Castro getting one more at-bat isn’t nearly as much of a distraction, you still don’t want your manager putting one guy before the rest of the team.  Especially when he’s got six more games to get his 200th hit.  Not smooth, Quade.
  • Somebody asked me the other day when I thought the Cubs would hire their new GM, and I was surprised by how little consideration I’ve given it since Hendry was fired.  It seems like the same set of names has been circulating almost form the start: Gillick, Hahn, Friedman, Epstein, Byrnes, Colletti, etc.  Some of those guys are about to wrap up their seasons, while others can expect at least a few more weeks of intense work as their teams head to the playoffs.  My point?  While Ricketts doesn’t seem to want to show his hand too much, expect the wheels–which have hopefully been in motion for months now–to speed up now that the season is coming to an end.  The Cubs have a laundry list of needs (pitchers, 1B, 3B) and pressing issues (Zambrano, Ramirez, Pena), so expect a decision sooner than later.  I hope the new front office will be up and running in time for the winter meetings, but it might take until then to get the new guy in place.  Any longer than that and it might officially be time to panic.
  • There hasn’t been much to cheer for this season, especially the last couple months.  But the baseball schedule has given us one more meaningful weekend of baseball to close out the season (surprise!).  The Cardinals sit two games out of the wildcard, and start a three-game series tonight against the Cubs in St. Louis.  Maybe you don’t harbor the same animosity I do for the Cards, but the chance to knock them out of the playoffs is enough to get me excited.  And before you think I’m mimicking the White Sox fan’s attitude of “I don’t care if we lose, as long as you lose, too,” let me say that I think the Cardinals’ potential playoff run has far-reaching implications for the future of the NL Central.  Specifically, I think keeping the Cardinals out of the playoffs significantly decreases their already-low hopes for resigning Albert Pujols.  For starters, they’ll miss out on the bonus postseason revenue, shrinking their ability to give him the kind of raise he’s looking for.  But it also gives him an extra two or three weeks (or more) to be away from his team, to weigh his options, and to watch as more successful teams fight for pennants and rings.  I know Cubs fans are divided about whether or not to sign Pujols, but what we can all agree on is that we don’t want him to return to St. Louis.  Keeping them out of the playoffs might go a long way to send him off.  I know I’ll be watching.
  • Buddy

    Congrats on the new workout routine. Well done. Regarding Quade getting canned this off season, I’m not 100 percent sure it will happen. As I’ve mentioned before, I could see a Mike Holmgren-Cleveland Browns situation. Basically, he took over the franchise, but kept the previous head coach because he wanted a year to “fairly evaluate him.” That’s not what I’m rooting for, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happens, mainly because the new GM might view 2012 as a lost season anyway. Maybe the manager of his dreams isn’t available this off season, so he brings Quade back with an eye toward the following year.

  • Brian H.

    Your Pujols hypothesis is interesting. Never thought of it that way. Yes, just want him out of St. Louis.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Thanks, Buddy.

    Depending on who they bring in, I’m sure that could be a possibility. I ‘spose I’m just hoping that whoever does take over has more of a plan than the Holmgren-esque “wait and see.” Another lost season could buy a lot of extra time–I want them to hire a guy who doesn’t feel like he needs it.

  • Chuck

    I fail to see the point of getting a new manager to manage a team that, likely, will be terrible in 2012. Let him finish his contract and see what he has to bring to the table. Right now he is probably managing scared and that benefits nobody.

  • Buddy

    Personally, I think Holmgren had a very specific plan. He just didn’t discuss it with reporters, which I applaud.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Chuck, I think 2012 will look like a lost season to us, but that’s not how I want the new front office to approach it. Any managerial candidate ought to be guy they want to build around for a while. Quade’s not that guy–he’s a stopgap manager who got a stopgap contract from a GM who knew he was on thin ice. And if we haven’t seen his best work yet, what is he waiting for?

    Despite that, I do have some compassion for the guy. He’s in over his head in his dream job–that can’t be a good feeling. If there’s a way to keep him in the organization, whether it’s a return to the 3B coach’s box or gong down to the minors, I wouldn’t mind if the Cubs held onto him. But in a year-plus, I don’t think he’s proven he’s up to the job.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Poor wording on my part, Buddy. I meant specific to the manager’s position. No doubt Holmgren had a plan, and if the Cubs’ new GM takes a similar approach with Quade, I hope he shows his new boss more than he’s shown us this year.

  • I think I am the only Quade backer left. I really don’t think he was colloquially shaking off Riggs with respect to pitching suggestions…the roster was what it was, etc. His job (especially after the first few months) was to run out some lineups and deal with the Chicago press. He did both. The only real question I have managerially speaking was how Jaramillo couldn’t impart some plate discipline on Colvin and Byrd. Pretty ugly, as he is regarded as one of the best in the bigs.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    jswanson, no doubt Jaramillo has not been as valuable as advertised. Especially regarding the rejuvenating work he was ‘sposed to do with Soriano.

    But if Quade’s performance hasn’t changed your mind, then nothing I can say will, either. If he stays, I hope he proves me wrong.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Also, I think your point about Riggins is right on–certainly, he’s part of the problem, too. It didn’t make sense to me that we protected Larry Rothschild and grandfathered him in through two different managers, but then let him walk to the Yankees and unceremoniously promote the next guy up the ladder. He didn’t have the hype of Jaramillo, but he’s been just as big a disappointment.

  • Buddy

    Coaches can’t work miracles, which really means they can’t make unpatient hitters patient. If they could, every team in the league would have a roster full of guys who only swing at strikes. I’m sure Jaramillo has pounded his head against the wall time and time again with guys like Byrd and Colvin. I’m sure they know what the right hitting approach is. They just don’t have the ability to execute it.

  • Randy

    I had a discussion with a co-worker today on the topic of pitch selection and guys who seem to swing at everything. He wasn’t surprised that patience was so hard to drill into both young and seasoned pros. He said that his son’s little league team does constant eye-hand drills. Things like standing in the batting box watching release points, then identifying the pitch and if it was a ball or strike. They then teach them to swing at any pitch they can see in the strike zone. I can see how this would work for kids, contact is hard when you’re 11-12 years old. Aggressive batting is certainly a bonus when the pitching all around you is bad, or you’re using a metal bat. Not so much when everyone is sporting a nasty slider and you’re swinging lumber instead of aluminum.

  • Doc Raker

    How did Matt Garza striking out get Castro another AB? I missed this one.
    Preston Gomez should manage.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Doc, there was a runner on first with one out when Garza came up in the bottom of the eighth. Quade was worried that Garza would ground into a double play, so he told him not to swing. Garza did anyway, but he only grounded out and advanced the runner. Castro was next up and took a walk.

    It looks like I might be able to come to the last game of the season in San Diego. you gonna be there?

  • BLPCB

    Congrats on starting up a new workout routine. I have been really lazy also, I am starting to workout again also. I played floor hockey for an hour yesterday, and I am a bit sore still. I think our new GM ought to do what Billy Beane did. The manager kept refusing to play the player he wanted, so he traded away Pena to get his guy in.

    As for the Cardinals and Pujols, wouldn’t a deep playoff run make it harder to keep him? Because if he goes on a tear, he could easily add a lot to his contract, the way Beltran did in 2004.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    BLPCB, that’s certainly possible, but I’m guessing his value is already high enough that a few weeks more won’t impact it one way or the other. But if this team can’t make it, the Cardinals will be less likely to spend big to keep it together, and Pujols might be less inclined to give them a hometown discount.

    Just a guess. But even if I’m wrong, it’s always better for us if the Cards don’t make the playoffs.

  • Doc Raker

    I think so, my son and another friend or two or going to hop on the amtrak in Irvine and arrive in SD around 3. Let’s hook up for a hello. Don’t have tickets as of yet. Maybe Joe can email us eachothers cell numbers so we can say hello.
    * I agree that Garza should of made sure Castro get’s his AB in that situation but I also think Garza and anyone else involved should keep there mouths shut about it. Throwing away an AB should only be acknowledge with a wink and a nod so people who really understand get it. It shouldn’t be fodder for ESPN talking heads. Another one of those unwritten rules that surprisingly isn’t written anywhere.

  • Doc Raker

    PS- Throwing away and AB doesn’t mean ‘go up and strike out’, it means not swinging the bat. A walk could happen or a wild pitch could advance the runner inwhich then the hitter could swing away so telling Garza to strike out is foolish, giving Garza the take sign on every pitch as long as the double play is in order would make sense in that situation.

  • Gary

    Like many Cub fans I was hoping last winter that Quade might be a real diamond in the rough…a young Larussa, Leyland, etc. He lost me on a damp cool opening day. Let Dempster walk the park and serve up a grand slam to give up the lead. No real feel for pitching.

  • BLPCB

    If Quade really wanted Castro to get another chance to hit, he should have given Garza orders to bunt. Advance the runner into scoring position, so that not only does Castro get hit 200, but hit #200 drives in a run for a ya know an insurance run.

  • BLPCB

    Jeremiah – Do you think if the Brewers have a deep playoff run and Tubby Veggy carries them he’ll add $$$ to his contract? His agent is Bora$

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    BLPCB, bunting with a six-run lead in the eighth is probably a good way to get your batter hit, but your point is valid–there are other ways to get Castro up without ordering Garza not to swing.

    Tubby Veggy is officially my new favorite nickname for Fielder; well done. And yeah, I think adding to his playoff resume can only help him this offseason. He hasn’t been to the postseason nearly as much as Pujols, so anything he can do in the next few weeks will help beef up his next deal.

  • Doc Raker

    I always like Tubo Tofu for Fielder.
    * Bunting late with a large lead would antagonize the opposing team, simply taking pitches would not.

  • BLPCB

    Anyone see this:
    http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/7012704/chicago-cubs-alfonso-soriano-feels-mistreated-hitting-seventh-2011

    What a baby. Boo-hoo. Maybe if you didn’t come up hacking every time and hit better you wouldn’t hit so low.

  • Buddy

    I don’t care with Alfonso Soriano thinks about anything, including lineups.

  • Buddy

    I meant “I don’t care what Alfonso Soriano thinks about anything, including lineups.” Sorry!

  • Doc Raker

    Soriano has a point in this regard, most team mates hitting in front of him in the 3, 4 and 5 spots don’t deserve to hit any higher than him. The problem is they all should hit 7 or lower but only Soriano stayed low while Pena, Baker and others took up space in the middle of the line up. Don’t get me wrong, Soriano is not a middle of the line up guy but other than Castro and Aram neither is anyone else.

  • Lizzie

    Doc/Jeremiah, I don’t think Joe is around much this week. If you haven’t made the connection yet tell me and I’ll put you in touch with each other. If you’re already in touch just ignore me!

  • Buddy

    For me, Pena is a middle of the order bat vs. RHP. Hopefully LaHair becomes one.

  • Doc Raker

    I saw Moneyball last night. Funny thing in the movie, Carlos Pena is the rookie all star firstbaseman that plays in front of Hatteberg early in the A’s 2002 season before they started winning. Billy Beane traded the rookie phenom Pena so Hatteberg could play and the team got better much to all the experts surprise. So in 2002 Pena was a saber no no in Oakland and in 2011 he is a saber diamond in the rough with some VFTB thinkers. I think Oakland got it right.

  • Buddy

    Yeah. Pena had some pretty rough seasons early in his big league career. 2004 was when he started to find it. Then he blew up with 46 bombs and 100+ walks in 2007.

  • Doc Raker

    And now Pena is back to having rough seasons so let’s sign him for $10 more million.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Doc, my email address is d2bubba@gmail.com. See you at the game.

  • Buddy

    There was certainly nothing rough about Pena’s 2011 effort vs. RHP. Through Sunday: .258/.389/.511, 21 HR in 368 AB’s.