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.
With Spring Training right around the corner, it’s time to evaluate the offseason moves made by Jim Hendry, the Cubs General Manager. Each and every year Cubs’ fans get excited around this time. We are ever hopeful that the new season will bring that elusive championship, but in the end, we are disappointed yet again. Could this year be different? Could 2011 be the breakthrough year to remember? Have the Cubs made the necessary moves to bring the right balance to a team that has struggled to reach its potential? I am going to gaze into my crystal ball and peek into the future and try to determine what kind of team we have to look forward to.
The first glimpse that may be indicative of a promising year dates back to the last month and a half of last season. After the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella, Mike Quade took over the helm and steered the Cubs in the right direction. Under Quade, the Cubs finished strong. The players responded to his style of managing and won nearly 2/3 of the remaining games. Quade made a strong impression on Jim Hendry and Cubs’ Chairman, Tom Ricketts, and the interim tag was removed as he won the managerial job over fan favorites such as Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi. There was much controversey over the process, but in the end, Mike Quade had earned the position. In 2011, Mike Quade will face the challenge of managing over the long haul of the season. If 2010 was evidence that he has what it takes to turn this team around, then indeed, the Cubs have much to look forward to.
As the Cubs searched the free agent market to fill some obvious holes, Jim Hendry finally found a left-handed first baseman in Carlos Pena. Was it the right fit? Some may argue, but seriously, Pena is a great defensive first baseman and has a powerful left-handed bat. Exactly what the Cubs needed. Is his .196 batting average and high strikeout ratio a concern? It would be, but Pena is working with Rudy Jaramillo, the Cubs’ hitting coach, and is totally committed to improving his swing. That willingness to learn is the key. There are far too many veterans who think that they are so great that they have nothing more to learn, the very same players who start to stink and drag everyone around them down. So it is refreshing to see a player who wants to get better. Carlos Pena is going to work out just fine, you’ll see.
The Cubs also re-acquired Kerry Wood. I am very happy about this because Woody is, was, and always will be a Cub. He is a club house leader and understands what it means to be a Cub. He gave the Cubs a huge discount to come home. He did an awesome job for the Yankees last season and he promises to do more of the same for the Cubs in 2011. Hopefully he can remain healthy and prove to everyone that HE’S BACK! I think that he will return with a vengeance. I am excited to see him again!
Then, there was the controversial trade for Matt Garza. The Cubs may have lost some top prospects, but they have gained one of the best pitchers in the game today. He will be a welcomed addition to the Cubs’ pitching staff. Coming to the National League where hitters aren’t very familiar with him will be to his advantage. I look for him to have a great year. Like Woody and Pena, I foresee him silencing the critics very quickly. I predict that he will win 18 games or more this season.
The Cubs have also made some minor moves, such as re-acquiring Reed Johnson, Todd Wellmeyer, and getting some players in the Tom Gorzellany trade. We’ll see how those work out as only time will tell. On a positive note, the Cubs have signed Geovanny Soto, Sean Marshall, and I believe, Carlos Marmol thus avoiding arbitration. So that is good news.
One important factor that will determine the Cubs destiny is whether or not they can stay healthy. Last year was a disaster as far as injuries go. A healthy team learns to play as a team and gel. A different line-up everyday is disastrous to team chemistry and that was something we saw too much of last year. The Cubs need to stay healthy, period! It is good to hear that Tyler Colvin will be back this year. Watching him being impaled by a broken bat scared us all. It’s great that he will return, we’ll need him.
The Cubs seem pretty solid up and down the line-up, except for one thing. We still do not have a protypical lead-off hitter. I probably sound like a broken record, but this could make or break the Cubs’ offense. Last season, there was no spark to ignite the offense and consequently no pressure on the opposition. If the Cubs truly want to contend, this crucial piece must be found. If no trades are made, then somebody will need to step up and learn how to get on base and rattle the defense. I hope that Mike Quade doesn’t just pencil in just anybody. He knows full well that the lead-off hitter sets the tone for what will follow. Anyway, we’ll see what happens. Perhaps Starlin Castro or Kosuke Fukudome will be willing to learn how to fill that role. Who knows, after all, there is still some time before the season begins.
Overall, I think the Cubs will be much improved. If the lead off role can be filled, I think the Cubs will be in business. Once again, I am excited about the upcoming season, unfortunately, my crystal ball isn’t as clear as I’d like it to be, but that would take all of the fun out of watching the season unfold now wouldn’t it?
The Cubs have been busy this offseason improving the team for 2011, but there is still one piece that has yet to be addressed to elevate them to the next level – a legitimate lead off hitter.
In 2010, the Cubs lacked one crucial element which failed to spark the offense. All season long, the offense struggled to score runs. There was nobody at the top of the batting order to ignite the spark and put pressure on the defense. Lou Piniella and Mike Quade exhausted every option at their disposal to find somebody that could fill the role. Ryan Theriot was traded to the Dodgers and consequently left a huge hole to fill. Many attempts to try different players were unsuccessful. As a result, the offense struggled to offer much run support. Too much reliance on the long ball resulted in a lack of run support for a pitching staff that deserved better.
During an interview, Mike Quade was asked who would be the Cubs’ lead off hitter in 2011.
His response was disturbing. He admitted that the Cubs did not have such a player that he would consider a true lead off candidate. He acknowledged that the Cubs simply lacked what was needed. At least he was honest. Given the fact, his response was that the lead off role would be by committee. In other words, he would be forced to pencil in anybody and everybody to fill the slot. A repeat of last season apparently. This disturbs me because last season was a disappointment due to the lack of run production. There was no spark to ignite the offense. So is 2011 doomed to failure?
What exactly is the role of a legitimate lead off hitter? A lead off hitter, first and foremost, must be able to get on base. He should be able to draw walks, bunt for a base hit, and hit for average. In other words, he must have a high on-base percentage. Secondly, he must have speed. Once on base, he must apply pressure to the opposing pitcher and defense. He must be a base stealing threat. He must cause the pitcher to be nervous and disrupt his concentration. He must draw the defense out of position and wreck havoc. Not only should he have the abilty to steal bases, but have the abilty to reach third base on a hit and run. He must be able to get himself in scoring position, somehow. He must be fast enough to score runs and make things happen. Such a player causes the opposition to make mistakes and opens the door for the offense to score runs.
The Cubs have made some improvements this offseason, but still lack the necessary spark to ignite the offense. With all due respect to Mike Quade and the current roster, the Cubs will be in for another long season if this isn’t addressed.
The Cubs’ General Manager, Jim Hendry, needs to find a way to fill this hole. It is too important not to. I was reading another Cubs’ blog, Strictly Cubs Baseball, http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/, I began thinking about this problem and reached the conclusion that this IS a HUGE problem. The lack of offense last year is directly attributable to the lack of a legitimate lead off hitter. There simply was no run support. Opposing pitchers were entirely too relaxed while facing the Cubs. Jim Hendry still has work to do. I hope and pray that he does something to address this glaring hole or 2011 could be disastrous. The Cubs are on the right track, but to be truly competitive, we need a solid lead off hitter. Only then, will we be in good shape to reach the playoffs.
The Cubs made a major move to acquire Matt Garza, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. In return, the Cubs traded their minor league pitcher of the year, Chris Archer, and their minor league player of the year, Brandon Guyer. The highly touted shortstop, Hak Ju Lee was also thrown in. So did they give away the farm just to get a top-notch pitcher?
It is arguable.
My first reaction to the news was, “How could they let that happen?” I thought they were building the farm system, building for the future. However, after having some time to think about it, I have settled down and have come to the conclusion that the Cubs needed to do something to upgrade the starting rotation. Perhaps, it was the only way. Tampa Bay was insistent on receiving the best prospects for Garza. Perhaps, the Cubs have enough depth in the minors that they can afford to make such a move. I certainly hope so. It doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done. I am happy that the Cubs landed a big time pitcher. Matt Garza is definitely a big time pitcher. He tossed the first Tampa Bay no-hitter last year and has pitched in the post-season. Coming to the National League will benefit him since opposing teams aren’t very familiar with him. He won 15 games last season in the toughest league of all. I can’t wait to see what he can do with the Cubs. I expect Garza to perform at the highest level. He will be joining his first baseman, Carlos Pena, which will make both players feel more comfortable coming to the Cubs.
So was it a good move? Time will tell, but for the most part, I think it was. To make a trade for a top-notched pitcher, Jim Hendry had no choice but to give something up in return. It’s the nature of the beast. Once Matt Garza shows Cubs’ fans what he brings to the table, I think everyone will forget all about the prospects that were traded. The Cubs will certainly be in a better position to make a playoff push with Garza on board. I wish him well. Welcome to Chicago, Matt!
Welcome back, Woody! While some Cubs’ fans might be hesitant to get excited about Kerry Wood’s return to Chicago due to the injuries that haunted him during his first tour of duty, I am not one of them. Sure, Woody was plagued by injuries in the past but those days are gone. A skeptical fan need only to look at the year Wood had last season with the Yankees. During the post-season Kerry came out of the bullpen and was lights out. I thought to myself, “He’s back!”
Now, Woody is healthy and has returned to form. Now, he is back with the Cubs and I am excited. He has new life and the Cubs will benefit from his presence in the bullpen. Jim Hendry sought a veteran right-handed reliever to anchor the bullpen and Kerry Wood is the perfect fit. Personally, I was skeptical at the idea of bringing him back, but something dramatically opened my eyes.
Woody wanted to return to Chicago since his family has roots here. His wife is from the Windy City and he wanted to make Chicago his permanent home. That is great, but the reasons why I am excited about his return is that I was watching Chicago Tribune Live and Dave Kaplan was talking about a conversation that he had with Kerry Wood. He jokingly told Kerry that the White Sox were interested in signing him as a free agent and asked Wood if he had considered going there. Kerry Wood’s response, “Never!” Spoken like a true Cub!
Then, when I heard that Jim Hendry was considering signing him and Woody was willing to accept far less money on the open free agent market to come to Chicago to play for the Cubs again I thought, “Hmmm”. In essence, he was willing to take a pay cut to accomodate the Cubs who have had a huge payroll deficiency. He was taking one for the team. Wow, you don’t see that every day. Any player who is willing to turn down millions of dollars to help the team out is definitely my kind of player. Kerry Wood is truly a Cub!
I will never forget the day he struck out 20 while pitching against the Houston Astros in 1998, his rookie season. I have watched a million games and that, I swear, was the best pitching performance that I have ever seen. Better perhaps, than any no-hitter that I have watched. Kerry Wood was in the zone that day. It was incredible! Sure, due to injuries, he has had a disappointing career, but we can take heart that Woody is healthy now and he’s back, back with a vengeance. Kerry is a true Cub, a veteran presence, and a true leader in the club house. I am glad to have him back and wish him the best of luck as the Cubs set forth on their journey to the World Series in 2011. Don’t laugh. It could happen. As Mike Quade has said, “Why not us?”
The Winter Meetings in Orlando have been stalled by Cliff Lee, however, the Cubs have managed to find their first baseman for the upcoming season. Carlos Pena has agreed to a one-year contract worth about $10 Million.
Jim Hendry was running out of options as the search for a first baseman intensified. Adrian Gonzalez was traded to Boston, Lance Berkman was signed by the Cardinals, and Adam Dunn will join Paul Konerko on the White Sox. With available Free Agents dwindling, Hendry had to do something, something fast. Hendry has been talking to Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche, but has decided to go with former Tampa Bay, first baseman, Carlos Pena.
Pena is the top defensive first baseman in this year’s free agent market. He is a Gold Glove Award winner. Despite his offensive struggles, Pena still managed to hit 28 homeruns last year. He only batted .196, which has some Cubs’ fans nervous, but by coming to Chicago, Pena will have the opportunity to work with Cubs’ Hitting Coach, Rudy Jaramillo. A change in his batting approach should improve his swing. Poor hitting is fixable, especially when a hitter is willing to learn and make adjustments. With a one-year deal, Pena will be motivated to make vast improvements to increase his market value next year. I think Jim Hendry made the right decision by signing Pena. In my humble opinion, Carlos Pena will be a good fit for the Cubs. He will improve a defense that struggled last season, he adds a left-handed power bat to the middle of the line-up, and he is a leader in the club house. The Cubs are in desperate need for all of those things. While I have criticized Hendry for not making any moves up to this point, I will admit that he has done the right thing in signing Pena. He will be a welcomed addition.
In other news, the Cubs have shown interest in some pitchers this week. According to MLB Trade Rumors http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/chicago_cubs/index.html, the Cubs have had discussions concerning Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, and Brandon Webb. There are talks of a trade with the Rangers for Chris Davis, a potential power-hitter, and Darren O’Day, a side-armed reliever with an ERA under 2.00. It has also been reported that the Cubs are shopping Tom Gorzellany around to create an opening in the starting rotation.
Good news! The Winter Meetings are starting to heat up, but the Cubs are just getting warmed up. I can’t wait to see what happens next. With pitching a top priority, look for Jim Hendry to target a pitcher to solidify the starting rotation next.
It has been a year of disappointment and frustration for Cubs’ fans. The Cubs’ have yet to make any moves to fill the glaring holes at first base and the lead off position. Time is running out and Cubs’ fans are getting nervous. What are the Cubs going to do?
The 2010 season was lost from the very beginning. The season brought many disappointments along the way. After Lou Piniella suddenly retired, Mike Quade took over and brought some renewed hope to Chicago. He managed to motivate the players and the Cubs finished strong. A glimmer of things to come?
Following the season, the managerial search was on. Fans argued over who should be the next manager. Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi were amongst the names that most believed would win the job. Of course, the Cubs decided on Mike Quade, who earned the position with the strong finish. Many diehard Cubs’ fans were angered that Sandberg wasn’t named manager, others were mad that Girardi never had the opportunity to interview. In the end, it didn’t matter what Cubs’ fans wanted, the Cubs had made their choice.
Next came the off season. The Cubs have many holes to fill, particularly first base. The Cub faithful once again started a debate. Who should the Cubs acquire? Many Cubs’ blogs have made suggestions. The Cub Den, http://cubden.mlblogs.com/ and Strictly Cubs Baseball, http://strictlycubsbaseball.mlblogs.com/ have explored all of the possibilities. I, myself, have made some suggestions. Unfortunately, our suggestions have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. Do the Cubs actually listen to the fans? Do they acknowledge what the fans want? It has been my opinion that they do not. Of course, I understand that the Cubs have all the experts that share their input when it comes to assembling a team. That’s what they get paid to do. However, since the fans are the ones that support the team, shouldn’t the Cubs take a more active interest in what the fans want? I think so. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any evidence of that. I suppose that we should leave the management to the professionals, but I would like to believe that the Cubs care about the fans. Obviously, the fans have a thousand opinions and not all of them are wonderful, but some are.
So what is my point to all of this?
I would like the Cubs to listen a little more closely to us diehard fans, that’s all. Sometimes we feel ignored. Many of us wanted the Cubs to acquire Adrian Gonzalez, but he got away.
As the Winter Meetings get under way, the Cubs need to get busy filling holes. The Cubs haven’t done anything yet and other teams are swooping down and plucking players left and right. Hopefully, the Cubs will make some moves that will earn the fans’ respect again. Cubs’ fans don’t want to wait till 2 or 3 years before the team competes. We want to compete each and every year. Baseball should be exciting, not disappointing. On that note, Jim Hendry needs to get busy. Cubs’ fans are getting restless.