Posted by sportsmaven on April 13, 2012
If there wasn’t already enough non-baseball related drama surrounding the Chicago Cubs this week, Sunday night’s Starlin Castro fiasco on national television highlights the sad state of affairs afflicting the Cubs in 2011. If Friday’s firing of GM Jim Hendry was the culmination of bad on-field performance, ESPN’s showcase of the young shortstop Castro’s nonchalant daydreaming is the exclamation point on a Cubs culture in desperate need of positive change. With Hendry’s departure, the bullseye of this seasons poor performance is directly focused on Cubs manager Mike Quade and he sticks out like a sore thumb.
Mike Quade was Hendry’s hand-picked manager, but with a volatile mixture of underperforming, overpaid veterans, youngsters up the middle, an injured, suspect starting rotation and an unreliable bullpen, the Cubs were already a disaster waiting to happen. Add to that a couple of meltdowns by Carlos Zambrano, a head-scratching dedication in playing veterans over youth while sitting 16 games under .500 and 20 games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers, Quade is punching his ticket out of town post haste. Each day that Reed Johnson gets a start over a Tyler Colvin or a Tony Campana is a display of how far apart the perception of the Cubs manager is from the reality of where his team resides. Each mismanaged Zambrano outburst or Ryan Dempster confrontation or Starlin Castro maturity lapses is a stamp on how overmatched and over his head Quade appears as the manager of the Chicago Cubs. Somewhere in Reading, PA is Ryne Sandberg, thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t inherit the mess that is currently drowning Mike Quade.
If Cubs interim GM Randy Bush was smart, he would be pursuing every opportunity for waiver deals to move veterans in favor of increased playing time for the youngsters. Bush should also get on the phone and order Quade to play Colvin and Campana as much as possible so the organization can see what it has. On Sept 1st, bring up CF Brett Jackson, P Chris Carpenter, 2B/SS/3B DJ LeMahieu and possibly 3B Josh Vitters to get some major league innings under their belts. Of course Quade will continue to manage the Cubs as he has to date, thus reaffirming his eventual demise as Cubs manager. The new Cubs GM will want to start fresh somewhere. Minor League director Oneri Fleita and Scouting Director Tim Wilken are both highly regarded by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts so change will come elsewhere. The odd man out is clearly Quade and it’s just a matter of time.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Brett Jackson, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Chris Carpenter, Cubs, DJ LeMahieu, ESPN, Jim Hendry, Josh Vitters, Mike Quade, Milwaukee Brewers, Oneri Fleita, Randy Bush, Reed Johnson, Ryan Dempster, Starlin Castro, Tim Wilken, Tony Campana, Tyler Colvin | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008
The Chicago Cubs magical first half of the 2008 season has quickly turned into a circus-like atmosphere for destiny’s team in the month of July. The Cubs began the season with few distractions, allowing the team to concentrate on playing very solid baseball, leading to the best record in baseball for much of the first half of the season.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
As of late, a rash of off-field events have provided plenty of distraction for a team already bearing the weight of lofty explanations. Those events include:
- Injuries to OF Alfonso Soriano (twice), P Chad Fox, P Carlos Zambrano, OF Reed Johnson, OF Daryle Ward, P Scott Eyre (twice), P Jon Lieber and now, P Kerry Wood.
- The ownership issue recently picking up steam, with rumors that internet billionaire Mark Cuban is the first round high bidder.
- The Cubs answering the Milwaukee Brewers blockbuster acquisition of P CC Sabathia with their own high-profile deal for P Rich Harden, then the insuing media circus around how the Cubs plan to keep the injury-prone Harden healthy.
- Eight Chicago Cubs players elected to the National League All-Star team, the most in team history, but also preventing the 8 best Cubs players from getting well deserved and needed rest.
- The Cubs receiving a $500,000 fine from MLB for not reporting the signing of a draft pick, prompting Cubs GM Jim Hendry to respond “It was just a clerical error”.
- On July 10th, an 8-year old boy was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Cubs P Ted Lilly, fracturing his skull and ultimately a 10 day stay in the hospital.
- On July 24th, the Cubs Class A minor league affiliate Peoria Chiefs were involved in a bench clearing brawl with the Cincinnati Reds Class A affiliate Dayton Dragons, with 17 total players suspended and the Peoria P Julio Castillo arrested for angrily throwing a baseball towards the Dragons dugout, but instead, hitting a fan in the forehead.
- Finally, the constant and persistent daily reminders from anyone surrounding the Cubs, media, and fans that 2008 marks the the 100 year anniversary of the Cubs last World Series victory.
On the field, the Cubs have been less than stellar, posting a 9-11 record since July 1st. The off-field issues may have played some role in that record, but on-field, the Cubs have been a different team as of late. Some of the on-field issues include:
- OF Kosuke Fukudome hitting .185 in July
- IF/OF Mark DeRosa hitting .188 in July
- IF Aramis Ramirez hitting .176 in July including an 0-28 stretch between July 12-22.
- P Bobby Howry sports a 6.97 ERA in July, giving up earned runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances.
- Scheduling: From June 10th, the Cubs played for 26 consecutive days, including a rained-out affair at the Hall of Fame on June 16th, their only “day off” in that span. On June 29th, the Cubs played the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the week and then had to board a plane to fly to San Francisco to play a game the next night.
- Since June 10th, the Cubs record is 20-21. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs play 20 game in 20 days.
- NL loses to the AL in the All Star game for the 11th straight year, thus securing home field advantage for the AL team, not a good sign for NL contenders such as the Cubs who are substantially under .500 on the road (22-30).
The Cubs are certainly not playing with the same energy that they displayed in amassing the best record in baseball in the days leading to the All-Star break, looking game weary while grinding out a schedule with spans of 26 games in a row and now, 20 in a row.
The Cubs seem as thought they’ve forgotten that playing baseball is fun. The hitters look less patient at the plate, swinging at pitches they took for balls earlier in the season. The once-vaunted bullpen, considered a strength of the team, is in disarray, with the injury to Kerry Wood forcing nearly every other pitcher in the pen to new roles. Jim Hendry is unsure whether to make any moves when considering that considering that when healthy, there could be more players than positions. I don’t know if this is a one week slide or if it’s a longer term issue. I don’t know the cure to what ails the Cubs. I do know that as of today, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers for first in the NL Central and both teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, CC Sabathia, Chad Fox, Chicago Cubs, Daryle Ward, Dayton Dragons, Geovanny Soto, Jim Hendry, Jon Lieber, Julio Castillo, Kerry Wood, Kosuke Fukudome, Lou Piniella, Mark Cuban, Mark DeRosa, Milwaukee Brewers, Peoria Chiefs, Reed Johnson, Rich Harden, Scott Eyre, Ted Lilly | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on May 2, 2008
After yesterday’s tough to swallow loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago Cubs sit 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals after setting a team record for wins in April (17 wins). The Cubs offense has been way ahead of their pitching with the exception of Carlos Zambrano, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot and both performed very well in that role. The Cubs surged to the top of the league in virtually all offensive categories in Soriano’s absence. Both Johnson and Theriot bring a fiery presence to the top of the order. The Cubs would be unbelievably formidable in the middle of their order with Soriano batting in the 5th or 6th spot. The Cubs should make this move immediately.
2. Send LHP Rich Hill to Iowa, move RHP Jon Lieber into the rotation – Rich Hill has been a disaster this season, with tonight’s start the latest gaffe. Hill’s inability to consistently find the strike zone with any pitch has taxed the Cubs bullpen. Tonight’s 2/3 of an inning, 27 pitch outing where he walked 4 of the first 6 batters he faced has literally handcuffed Manager Lou Piniella for tonight’s game and possibly for the rest of a very key series against the Cardinals. Hill needs to work out whatever issues he has in AAA and come back ready to pitch every time out.
3. Send Of Felix Pie to Iowa and install Reed Johnson as the starting CF – Felix Pie is struggling big time against major league pitching. He looks clueless at the plate and is hitting just above .200. Pie needs playing time and not in Chicago. Reed Johnson was one of the best spring training pickups of the season for the Cubs and provides exactly what the Cubs need – a gritty, hard nosed, all out effort performance every game he plays.
4. Move Carlos Marmol to the closer role, Kerry Wood to long relief or setup – need I say more after yesterday’s game? Wood has almost as many blown saves (3) as saves converted (4). I love Kerry Wood, he is a competitor, a gamer, never complains, takes the ball in any situation. He’s a man, but not a closer when you have Carlos Marmol and his repetoire of nasty stuff on your roster. Marmol has been virtually unhittable this season. He has come into games this season in pressure packed situations and has been completely dominant. Give this guy the 9th inning and we have at least 3 more wins this season (and 3 less losses).
5. Continue hydrating Carlos Zambrano – or continue limiting/restricting his caffeine intake. Whatever the Cubs are doing to keep Carlos Zambrano healthy, focused and dedicated, continue to do it. Zambrano has been fantastic this season, a true top of the rotation starter since Opening Day. He’s 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA this season, by far, his best start to a season. He would have been 5-1 but for yesterday’s 9th inning implosion. Zambrano needs to have a big year for the Cubs to dominate. He is well on his way going into May.
This Cubs started the 2008 season virtually the way they wanted to start, with a 17-10 record in April. Their early season success (and at times, dominant play) have raised expectations even further for the remainder of the season. With these suggested moves, the Cubs can position themselves to continue their hot start into the meat of their season.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: AAA, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Felix Pie, Jon Lieber, Kerry Wood, Lou Piniella, Milwaukee Brewers, Reed Johnson, Rich Hill, Ryan Dempster, Ryan Theriot, St. Louis Cardinals | 1 Comment »