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.
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.
Mike Quade is now the new Cubs’ Manager, but that’s not why diehard Cub fans are angry. While Q may be deserving, many fans are bitterly disappointed and some are downright outraged by the lack of loyalty and disdain demonstrated by the Cubs toward Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi.
After replacing Lou Piniella in August, Mike Quade made a case for himself to be the next Cubs’ Manager as the Cubs finished the season strong. The Cubs went 24-13 under Quade, who made an immediate impression as he proved that he can manage. A new attitude was adopted by the Cub players and Quade influenced the team to get better, and they did. Rather than playing out the season, the Cubs stormed back and compiled the best record in the National League, next to the Philadelphia Phillies, during the last 37 games of the season. The Cubs’ Pitching Staff was vastly improved, Carlos Zambrano was unstoppable, and the bullpen was lights out. The new look Cubs looked like a different team under Mike Quade, who deserves alot of credit for the turnaround. Q made a statement, and seemingly out of nowhere, emerged as the leading candidate for the Cubs’ managerial position.
But that’s not why Cub fans are angry.
As the interview process dragged on, many diehard Cub fans waited eagerly as the drama began to unfold. The Cubs interviewed Freddi Gonzalez, who withdrew his name as the Atlanta Braves announced that he would replace the legendary Bobby Cox following his retirement after the Braves lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS.
Eric Wedge was interviewed but ended up getting a job with the Seattle Mariners. Bob Melvin was also on the list, but many felt that he was not a good fit for the Cubs. Finally, Bob Brenly, the Cubs commentator, withdrew his name from consideration because he felt that he was not a good fit. Brenly was supported by many of the fans, but it appears that he will look elsewhere. No one really knows why.
Ryne Sandberg was a leading candidate as well. After managing 4 years in the Cubs’ farm system, many believed that he was being groomed to take over as the next Cub Manager. The former Cub second baseman and Hall Of Famer, managed the Cubs’ Triple A affiliate, Iowa team to a first place tie this past season. Sandberg won the Pacific Coast League Manager Of The Year Award and proved that he was a legitimate candidate to manage at the big league level. Upon hearing the news that Quade was named Manager, Ryno expressed his disappointment and decided that he will explore other opportunities. He has said, that it is his dream to manage in the Major leagues, if not in Chicago, then somewhere.
Finally, many diehard Cub fans expected Jim Hendry, the Cubs’ GM, and Tom Ricketts, the Cubs’ Owner and Chairman, to wait till after the post-season to talk to New York Yankees’ Manager, Joe Girardi. The Cubs have stated that they wanted to have a manager in place by the November Organizational Meetings in November, but there was no hurry to rush the interview process. That led many to speculate that the Cubs were waiting to interview one last managerial candidate, particularly former Cubs’ Catcher, Joe Girardi, whose New York Yankees were still alive in their quest for another World Series championship. Apparently, Joe Girardi, who many believed to be the most experienced, successful, qualified candidate for the job, was never even considered. Upon hearing the news at a Yankee press conference, Girardi appeared shocked by the news but quickly congratulated Mike Quade on the decision.
So why are diehard Cub fans bitterly disappointed and angry?
No one can argue that Mike Quade earned his right to manage. The reason that the diehard Cub fans are outraged is the complete lack of loyalty and disdain that Jim Hendry and Tom Ricketts have displayed toward two of the diehard Cub fan favorites, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi. First of all, the fans expected Jim Hendry to wait for Joe Girardi. While Girardi’s contract with the Yankees expires at the end of the season, there was some question as to whether or not he will return to New York for another season. Many believed that he might have interest in coming home to Chicago. He has said in the past, that managing the Cubs was his dream job. He interviewed for the Cubs’ managerial position before, but failed to land the job because of his inexperience managing. Since then, he managed a young Florida Marlin team and has led the New York Yankees to a World Series championship. This time around, Joe Girardi was completeley snubbed by the Cubs. He wasn’t even granted an interview. Sad. The other sad part of the managerial search was the treatment of Ryne Sandberg. Many believed that if Mike Quade did get the job, then Ryno would be promoted to Bench Coach. Instead, Sandberg was snubbed once again. He was never offered the position. Now Ryno has to deal with the disappointing news and will most likely leave the Cubs’ Organization to manage another team somewhere else. Two former Cubs, unwelcomed in their own backyard. This is why Cubs’ Fans are furious.
Tom Ricketts trusted Jim Hendry to make the final decision. Jim Hendry demonstrated a complete and utter lack of loyalty in the managerial search. He has shown disdain toward former Cubs, who have become fan favorites over the years. While it was a great day for Mike Quade, who finally gets the opportunity to manage in the big leagues, it remains a sad day in Wrigleyville. Tom Ricketts has stated publicly, that the Cubs should listen to the diehard Cub fans more. Unfortunately, no one is listening and the diehard Cub fans are extremely angry and disappointed by the PR disaster that Jim Hendry has created. Many fans have expressed their anger by deciding to no longer support the team. Many will stay away from Wrigley. Many have cried for Jim Hendry’s resignation or termination. Many diehard Cubs’ fans have simply given up. I have been a diehard Cubs’ fan for the past 32 years and my hopes and dreams of seeing the Cubs win a World Series has been crushed, not because Mike Quade was named Manager, but because two of my all-time favorite Cubs, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi were treated with a lack of respect and a lack of loyalty. Somebody please tell me why I should remain loyal to the Cubs when there is no loyalty in the Cubs’ Organization. I will have to search my heart before I will watch the Cubs again. My faith and trust in this organization has been shattered. It breaks my heart. Thank you, Tom Ricketts and Jim Hendry, your lack of loyalty has just cost you thousands and thousands of loyal Cub fans everywhere. What were you thinking?