Finally!!!!!! We got Lester!!!

Finally!!  The Cubs have landed Jon Lester.  Look out!!  This is only the beginning.  With the left-handed ace in place, the Cubs have sent a clear message to the rest of the league that we are ready to compete.  The Winter Meetings have yielded positive results for the Cubs this year.  Not only did the Cubs add a solid catcher in Miguel Montero, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer aren’t finished yet.  Ken Rosenthal reported that IF the Cubs signed Lester, then there is a strong possibility that the Cubs will go out and try to get a “big bat”.  I would assume that an outfielder would be targeted next.  Will the Cubs offer Wellington Castillo as trade bait and sign David Ross who has been Lester’s catcher for some time?  So many questions.  Just remember that this is only the beginning.  This is the dawn of a dynasty.

The Dawn of a Dynasty

I’m back! It’s been a few years since this die hard Cubs fan has posted anything. Since that time I have quietly watched the Cubs Organization bring the dynamic duo of Epstein and Hoyer into the fold. Cubs fans were told to be patient and trust in the rebuilding process. While most baseball fans would balk at such a thought, a few more years of mediocrity is a small price to pay for us Cubs fans. Tom Ricketts deserves a ton of credit. As an owner, he has done his part in creating an environment conducive to winning baseball. Epstein and Hoyer have managed to transform the Cubs farm system into one of the best, if not the best, in MLB.
The “Plan” has moved on to the next phase of development. The Cubs got lucky when the highly coveted Manager, Joe Madddon suddenly became available. This was an unexpected surprise. It also complicated matters. The Cubs weren’t planning to be competitive till next year, but with Maddon in place there has been a huge buzz around baseball that the Cubs are ready to make their move. In fact, Cubs fans expect the Cubs to make a splash during the Winter Meetings. The Cubs have already lost out in the Russell Martin sweepstakes. He would have been a perfect fit to catch and lead a young Cubs team. Didn’t happen. Now the Cubs are waiting on an answer from left-handed ace, Jon Lester, who undoubtedly would anchor any pitching staff. The question still looms. Are the Cubs making their move this year or simply adding a few pieces of the puzzle?  I think if they land Lester, then the Cubs will make additional moves to solidify the 2015 Cubs. If the Lester deal falls through, then I look for the Cubs to go after James Shields and add a few small pieces here and there. We have to keep in mind that next year’s free agent class is very promising and the Cubs will not be going overboard this year by spending a ton of money on free agents. In addition, they are not going to trade away top prospects just so they can improve this year. Yes, the Cubs will make their fair share of moves this winter, but fellow Cubs fans, keep your expectations in check for now. We just have to wait and see how things play out. We are standing at the dawn of something incredible. The Cubs organization aren’t constructing a team that can be competitive. They aren’t putting together a team that can make a run at a World Series championship. No, Epstein and Hoyer are up to something even greater. The Cubs are building a DYNASTY!! Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer have a plan and they plan to build an organization that will dominate for years to come. Get ready Cubs fans!!! Are you excited? I am. Regardless of when it will happen, it will happen and it will happen right before our eyes. It has already begun. GO CUBS!!!!!!

Cubs Open Door For Girardi

The Cubs have a managerial opening now that Dale Sveum is officially gone.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will begin the process of finding a replacement immediately. Epstein has made it clear that the Cubs want a manager that can establish a winning culture in Chicago. The last couple of years have been dismal, but the farm system has flourished and that means the Cubs have some exciting prospects knocking on the door. Before the Cubs bring up Soler, Baez, Almora, Bryant and Olt, Epstein wants to have a manager in place that can cultivate this pool of young talent. The Cubs are looking for an established, experienced leader that knows what it takes to win. It all makes sense now. Sveum was hired to make it through the past two seasons while the Cubs traded payroll for prospects. So far, this phase has been successful in spite losing 197 games during that time. Sveum cannot be blamed for all of it, but let’s face it, he is not part of the winning culture that the Cubs are looking for.
Enter Joe Girardi. While having much success with the New York Yankees, Girardi may want the opportunity to take on a fresh challenge. The Cubs offer such a challenge. Girardi is from Chicago and has played for the Cubs during his career. In my opinion, Joe Girardi is the perfect fit for the Cubs. He brings everything a Cubs fan could want in a manager. He knows what the Cubs fans have suffered through and understands the importance of winning a World Series. Girardi’s contract with the Yankees is up and the window of opportunity to acquire him is now. Simply, the Cubs had to fire Dale Sveum to open the door for Joe Girardi should he choose to come home and attempt what some say is the impossible. Girardi understands what it would mean to Cubs fans like no one else. Ryne Sandberg would have been a likely candidate but he signed a 3-year deal with the Phillies. Girardi would seem to be the most attractive manager on the market. He has proven what he can do with young, talented players when he won Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins. Anybody that watches baseball knows the poise, presence, and power that Girardi has in the dugout. He understands the game, knows how to manage. I can’t see anyone else in the future as Cubs Manager. Joe Girardi is the perfect choice. Hands down.

Finally!!! Ron Santo Is In The Hall Of Fame!

After all these years, it now seems like a miracle! Ron Santo had two dreams. The first, of course, was to see the Cubbies win the World Series. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the heavens to open up for that one. The second dream seemed almost as impossible as the first one. More than anything, Ron Santo craved the respect that he had earned as a player. Although a modest man, we could see the hurt in his eyes each year that Hall of Fame passed over him. The legendary Cubs’ Third Baseman is finally going to receive the credit that he deserves as he is enshrined into Cooperstown. It is sad that he wasn’t inducted prior to his passing, but you can rest assured that Ronnie is smiling now, wherever he is. His family must be thrilled that he is finally earned baseball’s greatest honor. As a die hard Cubs’ fan, I am pleased that it has finally happened. It has been long overdue, just like that elusive World Series Championship! Who knows? Maybe this marks the end of “the curse”. The fact that Ron Santo has finally reached the Hall of Fame might just be a prelude to greater things to come. Brace yourself, Cub Fans, we might have just turned a corner in Baseball History!

Another Season, Another Year of Frustration!

It has been a while since I written about the Cubs. My mother always said, “If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all!” There hasn’t been anything positive about the Cubs in 2011. It has been a long season and we’re only half way through it. Disappointed and disgusted, I stopped watching the Lovable Losers back in May. Even had my satellite shut off so I wouldn’t have to endure the pain anymore. What can I say at this point? It’s the same old story and the same old outcome. Very predictable. Very sad.
As a die hard Cubs’ fan, I can only hope that someday, things will be different. Someday, this team will learn how to win. But when? Back in March, I bought tickets to see the Cubs take on the Phillies. Two games actually. Monday and Tuesday. Apparently, I will be lucky enough to see two of the greatest pitchers of this era, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Unfortunately, they pitch for the other guys! I do not expect much from the Cubs, but on a positive note, perhaps I will get to witness back to back no-hitters. It is a very real possibility, especially the way the Cubs are going.
I will be rooting for the Cubs, but I have to admit, I don’t have much hope for this team. When will this frustration and disappointment end? When? Cubs’ fans are the greatest people on this planet and deserve so much better. The Ricketts family said that they were committed to winning a championship. When? As long as Jim Hendry continues to make bad decisions, the Cubs will continue to be the laughing stock of baseball. Isn’t it time to clean house and bring in the right personnel? SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE!!! I love baseball. I love the Cubs. Until this team learns the art of finding ways to win, I cannot look. I will peek every now and then, but it has become too painful. Maybe someday, I will look forward to watching the Cubs play. Maybe someday, the Cubs will be World Series champions…. Maybe someday.

Cubs Win First Game With Teamwork!

Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!  How?  A combined effort of solid pitching and timely hitting gave the Cubs their first victory of 2011.  Everyone contributed and provided the kind of teamwork that will carry this team to new heights.  As a diehard Cubs’ fan, I am very encouraged by this team’s tenacity to hang in there.  I am pleased by the effort that everyone gave.  Indeed, this will be a fun group to watch.  Mike Quade deserves a world of credit for the way this team has come together.  I think there is good reason to be optimistic this season.

Carlos Zambrano struggled early but managed to keep the game close.  Cramping in his hand forced him to leave the game, but Kerry Wood came in and took care of business.  Sean Marshall followed Wood and also shut down the Pirates.  Then in the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs came to life and battled for a 5 run inning.  The beauty of that inning was that everyone contributed with timely hitting. 
60602722.jpg Alfonso Soriano had a key hit and of course, Blake DeWitt delivered in the clutch.  Dewitt, who struggled in Spring Training, deserves a lot of credit.  His confidence needed a boost and he needed that hit as much as the team did.  It was a total team effort. 
60602747.jpg I like the way that this team sticks together and supports one another.  It is refreshing.  Carlos Marmol came on in the 9th and struck out the side for his first save of the young season.
60602748.jpg  In fact, the bullpen retired the last 9 Pirate batters of the game.  Now that’s a solid bullpen! 

Matt Garza is on the bump today.  He will be starting his first game in a Cub uniform.  If he can have a solid outing, then the Cubs should win again.  Garza seems like a really good teammate.  He’s a gamer, you can tell.  With the addition of Garza, Carlos Pena, and the return of Kerry Wood, I believe the club house chemistry is finally coming together.  Mike Quade has good reason to like his chances this year.  Teamwork is what champions are made of and the Cubs are showing signs of having the right chemistry. 

Good job to everyone!  Keep up the good work!  Go Cubs Go!!! 

Spring Training Assessment

With Opening Day less than a week away, it’s time to assess the Cubs and determine what we can come to expect in the upcoming season.  There have been some positives and negatives that have emerged.  Let’s take a closer look.

In his first full season as a Major League Manager, Mike Quade has been impressive with the way he has conducted himself in Spring Training.  Quade has demonstrated that he is a hands on type of guy.  He brings a ton of energy to the ballpark and that has to rub off on the players.  I have heard reports of how Quade has been actively involved in every phase of the game.  When he spots a mistake, it is immediately addressed.  Mike Quade has proven that he is one of the guys, which is important to teamwork.  He doesn’t maintain the distance that other managers might keep between him and his players.  Perhaps, that is the reason that the players have responded in a positive manner.  Anyway, I like what I have seen thus far.  He is an honest, candid, and a no non-sense man on a mission.  He has gained my confidence that he was indeed, the right man for the job.

Mike Quade and the Cubs are in the process of trimming the opening day roster, which is no easy task.  Many players have already been optioned to the minor leagues.  One of the biggest questions revolve around the starting rotation.  Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Garza will be the top three starters.  Randy Wells has had a good Spring and has earned the #4 spot.  Carlos Silva thought that he deserved to pitch in the starting rotation but didn’t back it up.  His performance this Spring was terrible.  He had an ERA over 10 and was optioned to Triple A, but refuses to go.  The Cubs will most likely try to trade him.  Braden Looper had a rough Spring and consequently, did not make the team.  He decided to hang it up and retire once again.  Andrew Cashner was named the 5th starter, however, I am not so sure that he is the right fit for that role.  Cashner has done very well in relief.  He has the tools to be an awesome set-up guy.  Last season, he opened our eyes.  Many people feel that he would make a good starting pitcher, but even while he has earned a spot in the rotation, Cashner has not really demonstrated his effectiveness in that role.  Personally, I think Sean Marshall is better suited, but I cannot argue his effectiveness and value in the bullpen.  Another possibility is Kerry Wood, although like Marshall, that is unlikely to happen.  The only other option for the Cubs would be to trade for a solid starting pitcher and move Cashner back to the bullpen where he can be the most effective.   Hopefully, Cashner will settle into his new role, but time will tell.

The Cubs have a similar outfield situation to the one they had last year.  Alfonso Soriano will be the left fielder.  Of course, he will need to have a good year and stay healthy.  He will need to produce if he wants to keep the Cubs’ faithful off his back.  Marlon Byrd has had a good Spring and promises to be a team leader.  Right field is where the problem lies.   The Cubs have Kosuke Fukudome, who has not done well at all.  It seems like he has nothing to offer the Cubs but defense.  It may be time to unload him and get it over with.  Tyler Colvin can definitely hit, but his defense remains a bit shaky.  I do not share most Cubs’ fans optimism concerning Colvin.  He simply needs to work on his defense.  Reed Johnson was re-acquired this offseason.  Reed will definitely help the Cubs this year, particularly against left-handers.  If I had my way, I would platoon Soriano and Colvin in left, move Marlon Byrd to right, and bring up Brett Jackson to play center and lead off.

The infield needs to tighten up the defense.  Darwin Barney has earned the job at second base, period.  Blake Dewitt and Jeff Baker can be used as back-ups.  Barney has shown all the signs of a promising second baseman.  He has won me over this Spring.  He has the right attitude and work ethic to succeed. 

Carlos Pena remains a bit of a mystery.  He is a gold glove first baseman, but his hitting still needs work.  He has the left-handed power that the Cubs were looking for, but still struggles at the plate.  Pena has a lightning-fast bat, but has difficulty with pitch recognition.  Hopefully, that will improve and he can raise his batting average to a respectable level.

Finally, Geovanny Soto will be the primary catcher, but there is much debate over who should back him up.  Koyie Hill handles the pitching staff well, but simply cannot hit.  Wellington Castillo has had an incredible Spring, batting over .600, but the Cubs will probably elect to send him back to the minors where he can get regular playing time.  That is unfortunate.  How much more does Castillo have to do to prove that he is ready for the big leagues.  He is way better than Hill who has contributed nothing to the offense or the defense.  Wellington Castillo has earned a spot on the Cubs’ roster, pure and simple.  To deny him the opportunity to play in the big leagues would be a travesty.

Well, Mike Quade and the Cubs’ front office still have work to do.  There remains much to be optimistic about, however, there also remains some wrinkles to work out and decisions to be made.  Let’s hope the Cubs can figure it out.  As Spring Training winds down, Opening Day will soon be upon us.  It’s time to “Play Ball!”  I can’t wait.