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In the News: What to do, what to do … with Big Z?

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Hello, Cubs fans. Whew! What a game last night. Did you know that if you combined the big league and Triple-A Cubs’ run production from yesterday, you’d get 34 runs? Yep, Iowa beat the Albuquerque Isotopes 20-9 yesterday while, as you presumably know, a sparse Monday night crowd at Wrigley witnessed the big boys trounce the Pirates 14-2.  The (MLB) Cubs now have a 4-9 record against the Bucs this year so, if they win the next two games in the series … well, they’ll still finish the year with an embarrassing 6-9 record. (69, dude!) But at least it’ll be somewhat less embarrassing. Anyway, let’s get on with the news:

So what do we do with Carlos Zambrano?  He’s 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA since returning to the rotation from the restricted list and initiating anger management therapy. His velocity is still somewhat questionable and his walks are still too high, but I guess you can’t argue with those results. (Uh, can you?) To be honest, he appears to me at the moment like a souped-up version of Carlos Silva — basically a ground ball pitcher who goes out there and battles through five or six innings (albeit with, as mentioned, a much higher walk rate).

So I ask you, loyal readers. Should the Cubs cast aside any plans they might have had to trade Big Z during the off-season, or should these better results actually fuel trade efforts. (You see, every other team in baseball, he’s still a starting pitcher! We were just kidding around with the bullpen thing! The line starts here!)

To be honest, I’m pretty open to arguments on both sides at this point. I’m no Z hater — I still think moving him to the bullpen early in the season was an embarrassing panic move (and Carlos himself recently said as much) and his overall season stats aren’t all that bad considering his uneven playing time.

Plus, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, the Cubs rotation for next season is chock full of middle- to lower-level starters without many higher-end guys. Now I’m not saying Big Z is a No. 1 or even a No. 2 starting pitcher at this point. But if he can pull himself together enough to be a No. 3ish guy next season, wouldn’t that — along with Demp — be better than nothing at the top of the rotation? Carlos is still only 29.

The benefits of trading him are, obviously, the Cubs could presumably, maybe (depending on the deal) shed some of his salary and lose the perennial distraction he’s become. But much depends on whether Jim Hendry feels that Zambrano’s relationship with the team really did hit the end of the road with this year’s meltdown. If it did, then Jimbo will presumably be pulling out the stops to move Z once the season is over.

Let’s have the Adam Dunn debate!  C’mon, everybody’s doin’ it. Marlon Byrd likes Adam Dunn, and Adam Dunn likes Wrigley Field. So should the Cubs sign the Big Donkey to be their starting first baseman next season? Maybe a two-year deal like the Nationals gave him? Three years, tops?

I’m loathe to use this phrase again, but “much depends” on whether the Cubs intend to pursue one of the Big Three (Pujols-Gonzalez-Fielder) first base free agents in 2012. Now I’d guess Pujols will remain in St. Louis, commanding a truly massive deal, and Gonzalez will either stay in San Diego (as the face of the franchise) or move on to Boston. That leaves Prince, who will be the youngest of the three and certainly familiar with the NL Central. Granted, he’s got some mountain-sized risks of his own, but Fielder is still the guy I’d go after if the Cubs are serious about putting a big name at first base.

If not, then Dunn would be a decent option as long as the price is right. He’ll turn 32 this fall, so the Cubs could still get a decent level of production out of him for at least a couple of seasons. Y’know, .500+ slugging and good OBP to offset bad defense (which is less bad at first base) and a high strikeout rate. Might be worth a shot.

A few miscellaneous notes:

  • An MRI on Geo’s knee came back negative and he’ll probably play tomorrow (Wednesday) in the season-series-ending game against the Pirates. Soto’s OBP currently sits at .401. Will he finish the season at or above .400? I hope so, though it would only serve to make me more frustrated with the fact that neither Lou nor Mike Quade will bat him higher than eighth in the lineup.
  • The Hawk mentioned being open to serving on Ryne Sandberg’s coaching staff, should Ryno get the Cubs managerial job. Imagine a staff with names like Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Bob Dernier and Ivan DeJesus. You couldn’t say the Cubs don’t promote from within.
  • I called it! It felt a little dubious to include former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge in my latest Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings but, sure enough, Jim Hendry did interview the Wedgie last week. Here’s a handy resume to peruse.

That’s all the news I can muster today. See you next time, Cubs fans. And, remember, it’s not Quade-mania it’s Quaderophenia.

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In The News: Cubs Win! Booooo!

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Greetings, Cubs fans. Are you enjoying “The Quade Bounce”? Yeah, I realize it’s only the perennial under-performing Washington Nationals, who recently had to DL their pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg AGAIN, but I still go to bed a little happier at night with a Cubs win in the books.

Of course, not everyone feels that way. I’ve read a few rants on these here Interwebz as of late decrying how the team is actually hurting itself by winning games and, thereby, lowering its 2011 draft pick position. Look, I understand this line of thinking and agree in a sense. About a month or so ago, I started wishing the Pirates were a better team this year so the Cubs could really hit bottom and get a better draft pick. Of course, as this chart (courtesy of Tales from Aisle 424) demonstrates, the Bucs aren’t the only problem. Remember, the Orioles, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Indians are also God-awful this year.

But, more to the point, I’d like to ask anyone truly angry that the Cubs are winning a few more games: Precisely what would you do to rectify the problem? I mean, if you, angry Cubs fan, were given a managerial or coaching position on the team, would you advise Starlin Castro to intentionally strike out rather than get a clutch hit, as he did last night? Would you advise Ryan Dempster to lower his strikeout rate? Would you engage Aramis Ramirez in a thumb war in hopes of causing a recurrence of the injury that plagued him earlier in the season?

I guess what I’m saying is: The remainder of the 2010 season is going to play out as its going to play out. Yeah, there would be a benefit to being the worst of the worst, but there’s really no realistic way of competing in that arena. So let it go, let the team play and let’s hope the young players get as much good experience as possible.

And now, on with the news:

Joe Girardi to address the Chicago media on the morrow.  The Yankees roll into town tomorrow to take on the contending (argh!) Chicago White Sox and their manager, Joe Girardi, is no dummy. He’s expecting the media throng to pelt him with queries regarding whether he would/will manage the Cubs next season, and Joe’s gone on record as saying he will answer those questions — one last time. Should be interesting.

Carlos Silva to swing by Peoria.  Rehabbing hurler Carlos Silva is expected to pitch a few innings for the Peoria Chiefs tomorrow (Friday) night. Assuming all goes well, he’ll likely be back in the Cubs rotation later next week. I’m curious to see how the team handles its starting pitching staff come September. I mean, Casey Coleman pitched pretty well the last time out. And I believe Jeff Samardzija is still going to get a chance or two. How are they going to fit these guys in with Demp, Da Gorz, Big Z, Wells and Silva firmly ensconced?

Speaking of pitchers … remember the Maine!  How am I supposed to remember him when I don’t know who the hell he is? In case you didn’t hear, the Cubs sent looks-like-a-knuckleballer Justin Berg back down the minors a day or two ago and called up left-hander John Maine. He was acquired in the Aaron Heilman deal and has yet to make an appearance for the North Siders. His strikeout numbers, noted by Bruce Miles in that article, look good. Maybe he’s the LOOGY the Cubs have long been looking for. Or not.

Sammy Sosa, on the record.  Maybe you’ve read it, maybe you haven’t. But click on that link for the full text of Sammy Sosa’s recent interview with Chicago Magazine. To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing but, from what I can gather, Slammin’ Sammy says precious little about the ‘roids issue.  Still, given Roger Clemens recent indictment and Mark McGwire’s apparent success with the Cardinals, the timing is interesting. Would you want to see the Cubs welcome Sosa back to Wrigley Field?

Andre Dawson Day: August 30, 2010.Yes, the Cubs will honor the Hall of Famer Hawk before Monday’s game against the dreaded Pittsburgh Pirates. I still think the timing is a little odd – why not do it on a weekend when more people will be there? But so it goes.


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In the News: Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010


Hey, Cubs fans. I’m a little pressed for time today — doing the Dad thing as my daughter’s summer vacation winds down. Obviously, the earth-shaking news since my last post is Lou’s abrupt left turn into retirement. So let’s jump right into the action with an, uh, action-packed edition of …

Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

1. Ryne Sandberg.His name is echoing throughout the complex set of tubes that makes up this thing we call “the Internet.” Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith has endorsed him. The New York Times has profiled him. And he’s still taking interviews.

When Jim Hendry named Mike Quade the interim manager, he may have been putting someone in place to hold down the fort so Ryno can take over come spring training. He still seems like the guy to beat, though I’d guess Jimbo is going to explore every avenue to ensure he’s not missing out on a better candidate.

2.  Joe Girardi. I know, I know … I saw the quote this morningin which Girardi established that he’s focused on the Yankees. But what else is he supposed to say? Interestingly, the Yankees won’t be discussingJoe’s contract until after the season, meaning anything can still happen. And, for what it’s worth, WGN/Comcast’s Dave Kaplan continues to beat the drum for Girardi. And, for what it’s even further worth, MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds agrees that Joe could shock the world and come to the Cubs.

* 3. Mike Quade. He had a nice debut yesterday and has said himself that he considers the next few weeks an audition. So this odd-looking gentleman, who’s from the Chicago area, has skyrocketed onto the chart. I mean, laugh if you want, but if the Cubs somehow play .500+ or even .500 ball here on out, Quade may do a little shocking of his own – assuming things go south with Sandberg (Seattle?) and Girardi stays out East.

:-| 4. Bob Brenly. BB’s acerbic comments from the booth are getting attention. He called out Aramis the other day. And many fans want an enforcer in the dugout — especially given the teams ungodly error and unearned run totals this season. And Brenly himself has confirmed that he’s interested managing again … somewhere. So maybe he would give up his cushy seat in the sky. But will the Cubs have him?

5. Don Wakamatsu.  Hey, he’s available. I didn’t see many bloggers or pundits linking him to the Cubs. In fact, if anything, Wakamatsu’s ouster earlier this month could mean Ryne Sandberg could wind up in Seattle (where he’s from originally) rather than Chicago. But if Hendry is doing an exhaustive search, I’d have to think Waka-Waka will get at least a courtesy interview.

* 6. Eric Wedge. I’ve seen the former Indians manager’s name making its way into discussions lately. His seven years in Cleveland were up and down – only three of the seven were winning seasons. But he’s another under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on.

7. Alan Trammell. ELIMINATED. But he’s cool with it. I was a little baffled by Hendry’s decision to be so explicit about rejecting current bench coach Alan Trammell for the Cubs manager job. But Tram doesn’t seem to have taken it personally and who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. I still suspect that Trammell is simply too valuable as a hands-on coach to Starlin Castro (among others) to tie up amongst managerial responsibilities.


* Debut!

:-| Back again!

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In the News: DLee, The Day After

Thursday, August 19th, 2010


Greetings, Cubs fans. I’m in a marginally better mood today. Well, sorta. I still find myself looking ahead to each new Cubs game with a cornucopia of mixed emotions. Kind of like when you seen an ex-girlfriend who you’re not really sorry you broke up with but you still kind of miss her and you want to be nice because you still want to be friends but you’re also bitter and disappointed and can’t believe things turned out this horribly after having such high hopes and yet she’s still cute and sometimes funny and you share all these memories and you know you’re never going to be able to completely cut off contact with her so you better not say what you really want to, which is…aw, geez, this metaphor has gotten completely out of control. Let’s get on with the news:

Derrek Lee was traded! (← Click on that link for a really cool narrative of the deal by Fox Sports’ Ken “Robothal” Rosenthal.) Once again, Mark was in the right place at the right time with his game recap yesterday. He got to break the story that, indeed, the Chicago Cubs have traded first baseman Derrek Leon Lee to the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Robinson Lopez (the good one!), Jeffrey Lorick (the LOOGY) and Tyrelle Harris (the other guy). One minor point of clarification: The Cubs did not get to dump all of DLee’s $3.4 million salary — they agreed to pick up $1.7 of it.

That could turn out to be a wise choice as I’ve read generally positive reviews of the trade from all of the pundits I’ve managed to engage on the topic. Our own benevolent benefactor Rob Neyer says:

I can’t really fault the Braves for doing this deal. But unless Lee helps get them into the playoffs, the trade might look really, really silly in a few years.

And, when I posed the simple question of “How excited should Cubs fans be about Robinson Lopez?” to prospect expert Kevin Goldstein on Twitter. He replied back with:

“[I’m] shocked [the] Braves gave him up for [a] late rental.”

Basically, the deal here is that Lopez is a 19-year-old kid with great stuff and a ton of upside – we’re talking starting rotation upside. As intimated above, the other two dudes are more than likely bullpen candidates – Lorick probably winding up a lefty specialist and Harris due to become a middle reliever (at best), if not part of a future trade package. But Lopez could turn out to be a real steal from a Braves system known for its pitching, and he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on going forward.

All in all, it appears Trader Jim has done a good job getting prospects back for DLee as well as Ted Lilly and the Cajun Connection (great garage band from the 60s). I don’t think any of these trades are spectacular, but teams 21 games under .500 (sweet merciful pete) rarely make spectacular trades. Nonetheless, any of them could turn out to be quite fruitful if the Cubs get a solid, cheap, cost-controlled starting pitcher or if the Joey Gathright guy we got from the Giants turns out to be the second coming of Lou Brock. He’s on Twitter, y’know.

And should we mourn the loss of Derrek Lee? Well, yeah, of course. He was, overall, a great player for the Cubs – and one of the best first baseman in their long history. Derrek also appears to be a fine human being and one of the “nicer guys to ever play the game” as the cliche goes.

But, as I’ve probably written here before, it was time. His contract was just about up and the Cubs need to start plugging new and preferably young pieces into this team where spots are available. I thank Derrek for all the times I’ve screamed/typed/tweeted “DEEEEEEEEEEEEELEEEEEEEEEEEEE” after he jacked one into the bleachers or dug out one of Ryan Theriot’s dying goose throws. And I wish him all the best in the future — yeah, even with the Braves.

So what else is going on? Well …

Tyler Colvin is taking ground balls at first base.  So I guess we should have this debate. Good idea? Bad idea? I’m still not crazy about it for a couple reasons: 1) We still don’t know whether Colvin’s remarkable slugging this season is for real or whether it would hold up for a full season, and 2) It’s still a big detraction from Tyler’s value to turn a guy who can play all three outfield spots with pretty solid defense (at the corners at least) into a first baseman.

Then again, I think much depends on whether the Cubs can deal away Fukudome during (presumably) the off-season. If Kosuke must finish out his contract, maybe you give him back his starting job in right field and put Colvin at first base next season. They could presumably still move Tyler back to the outfield once Dome’s deal is up. Crazy? Kinda. But it would maximize payroll flexibility. Remember, when it comes to first basemen, The Big Three (Pujols-Gonzalez-Fielder) head to free agency in 2012.

Here comes Slammin’ Sammy.  No, not Sosa, though he does give a lengthy interview in the September issue of Chicago Magazine. (Details here.) I’m talkin’ about the Sammy who slams into walls. Fuld, that is. Short guy. Really smart. He’s been called up instead of Hoffpauir, because, as you might recall, Micah can’t be recalled until Monday due to an MLB rule calling for a restriction on recalling a player recently called up. Call me about it. We’ll talk.

They’re playing musical statues at Wrigley. The Cubs have announced they’ll be unveiling a Sweet Swingin’ Billy Williams statue at the corner of Addison and Sheffield. Sweet. Problem is, that means they’ll have to move the Harry Caray statue to the bleacher entrance, which has upset the Caray family.

Much like the Toyota sign brouhaha, this statue snafu does not inspire much passion in me. What’s the big deal? Didn’t Harry pretty much pass himself off as a “drink a Bud in the bleachers” kinda guy anyway? Wouldn’t he want to be heading up to bleachers to knock back a few cold ones and get a little crazy? And, y’know, let’s not forget Billy Williams actually played the game — and played it rather well, I might add. Check his stats: Billy freakin’ raked. He’s in the Hall of Fame. Move it or lose it, I say.

OK, that’s the news for today. D’oh — I guess I should turn on the game. It’s just starting as I finish this. Oh, and by the way, I’ll be at the game vs. the Braves on Saturday, so keep an eye on my Twitter page for some Twitpics and such. It’ll be awfully weird seeing DLee on the other side.

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In the News: Pain, suffering and the Cubs

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Well, I’ll be honest, Cubs fans: My morale has been pretty low the last few days. Even with the series win in St. Louis, I’ve been really struggling with the very existential essence of my Cubs fandom. How do you stay motivated to follow a team when it’s 19 games under .500? (Waitaminute … that can’t be right. Is that right?) I guess I should ask a Pirates fan.

In any case, I’m going to use today’s “In the News” to get us all up to date on the pain and suffering — that is, the injuries — being dealt with among the Cubs’ players.

Derrek Lee’s bulging disc has flared up again. He received an epidural yesterday (Monday) and won’t return to the lineup until Thursday at the earliest and probably not ’til Friday against the Braves. So expect to see a lot of Xavier Nady this week.  DLee’s cranky disc has become a perennial concern, which will obviously be perennial no longer if he doesn’t return to the Cubs next season.

Carlos Silva is feeling better. He threw off the mound yesterday and will do so again on Wednesday. He’s expected to make at least one rehab start before returning to the rotation after undergoing cardiac surgery last week. And, yes, I did read somewhere that Silva will return to the rotation, not the bullpen. I guess the Cubs feel he’s earned that, even though it would be kind of nice to leave a rotation slot open for rookie tryouts.

Speaking of which, Thomas Diamond is now out of the rotation. Casey Coleman is in and will be making his first start tomorrow (Wednesday) vs. those high-flying, unstoppable Padres. Oh, and I believe either Sweet Lou or Jim Hendry has gone on record saying Jeff Samardzija will get a start in September. So we’ve got that to look forward to.

Geo will take batting practice today. He’s still on the DL, recovering from a sprained ligament in his right shoulder but apparently feeling better. I wonder whether Lou will start Koyie again tonight. If so, I’d imagine Wellington “Beef” Castillo would get another start for the day game tomorrow (Wednesday).

Aramis Ramirez is, technically, not injured (though he always seems to be hurting in one way or another). He’s also not going to be an Atlanta Brave. Bruce Levine shot down a rumor floating around that the Cubs and Braves were discussing moving Aramis down south now that Chipper Jones is done for the season. It doesn’t feellike Hendry is going to move Ramirez. He’ll probably finish out his contract next season, still playing third base.

Starlin Castro is not injured. He was just resting yesterday. And he’s still awesome. And congrats to Darwin Barney on his first major league hit.

Sorry to be a little lazy with the links today. You’ll just have to trust me on most of this stuff. Mwahahahahaha.

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