Tagged: Tyler Colvin

Seriously, Are The Cubs Going To Be Any Good This Year?

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?

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Would The Red Sox Consider Trading Jacoby Ellsbury To The Cubs?

The Cubs need a spark to ignite the offense, a legitimate lead off hitter.  The Red Sox will undoubtedly try to sign Free Agent, Carl Crawford, and Jacoby Ellsbury could land on the trading block.  Could a trade between Jim Hendy and Theo Epstein bring Ellsbury to Chicago?

It is no secret that the Cubs have had trouble finding a hitter that can effectively lead off.  The Red Sox have shown some interest in Kosuke Fukudome, who has 1-year left on his contract, however,  Boston seeks to restock their farm system with pitching prospects.   
thumbnailCAQ8XLIC.jpg  Is it possible that the Cubs will pursue a bonafide lead-off man to set the table for an offense that sorely lacks the abilty to score runs?

Jacoby Ellsbury was injured last season and only played 18 games so the Red Sox have made adjustments to their outfield.  Boston is reportedly in the mix to acquire Crawford and Ellsbury may be more valuable on the trading block.  If so, the Cubs should seriously consider this particular trade option.

thumbnailCA6DILJH.jpgEllbury is 27 years old and has only played 2 full seasons.  On a 162 game average, Ellsbury bats .291 with 9 HR’s and 60 RBI’s.  He averages a .344 OBP which could be better, but in 2008, he swiped 50 bases and in 2009, he stole 70 bases.  He is a base-stealing threat.  Ellsbury is the type of lead-off hitter that can put pressure on the defense and make things happen.  To acquire Ellsbury, Jim Hendy will need to move an outfielder. 
thumbnailCAUDU6RX.jpgThe Cubs have 4 to choose from.  Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, and Tyler Colvin are all possibilites.   I think that such a trade would be mutually beneficial.  Jim Hendry has alot of work to do next week as the Winter Meetings get under way.  Let’s see if Hendry can find the Cubs a legitimate lead-off hitter.  Jim Hendry does a pretty good job finding trades that work for both sides and Jacoby Ellsbury would be a perfect fit for the Cubs.  He has led the American League in Total Zone Runs, Stolen Bases, Fielding %, Defense, and Triples.  According to http://content.usatoday.com/communities/dailypitch/post/2010/11/jacoby-ellsbury-trade-boston-red-sox/1?csp=34, the Red Sox are prepared to trade Ellsbury and Epstein is looking to restock pitchers at the minor league level.  So a trade between the Red Sox and the Cubs certainly looks possible.  I hope so, the Cubs need a solid lead-off guy and some solid defense in the outfield and Boston needs to replenish the farm system.  Jacoby Ellsbury can spark the Cubs’ offense with his base-running prowess and defensive skills.  He has a tremendous amount of energy, something that has been missing in Chicago.

The Cubs Need A Spark… The Search For A Lead-Off Hitter!

This week, the GM Meetings are under way in Orlando.  Now is the time to start entertaing trade possibilities.  Will Jim Hendry make a move to acquire a legitimate lead-off hitter?  With an offense that has struggled to score runs, the Cubs could use a “spark” at the top of the order.

In 2010, the Cubs juggled the batting order relentlessly in pursuit of somebody to fill the lead-off spot.  Ryan Theriot began the year leading off, but was traded to the Dodgers.  Kosuke Fukudome took his turn, but stuggled with his bat.  Alfonso Soriano was moved down in the order and his days of leading off are over.  Other players were given the opportunity to ignite the offense, but nobody fit the role.
thumbnailCACZI4JA.jpg  Starlin Castro was the best available option, but hasn’t developed much in the stolen base department.  Hopefully, he can work on it and find success.  For the time being, he really isn’t ready for that responsibility.  The Art of Stealing bases requires an astute student of the game.  It requires a player to read the pitcher, the catcher, and the defense.  There is more to it, then just taking off for second base.  It is an art, to be sure.  Tyler Colvin, Blake DeWitt, and Jeff Baker, have all led off for the Cubs, none could pull it off.  A lead-off hitter requires the ability to get on base and put pressure on the defense.  It requires the ability to steal bases.  It is a huge responsibility that requires knowledge, talent, and skill.  Not just anyone can be inserted at the top of the order.  It requires a special player, a player with athletic prowess and brains.

  Ricky Henderson was probably the best lead-off hitter ever.  He knew how to get on base, then once there, he knew how to rattle the pitcher and defense. 
thumbnailCA9BYNVB.jpg
thumbnailCAC5QLP8.jpgRicky Henderson got on base and made things happen.  He didn’t wait to be bunted over.  He didn’t wait for somebody to get a hit.  He didn’t wait for anything.  He was off to the races.  He set his goal and went after it.  He would steal second, but Henderson didn’t stop there.  Very often, he would steal third base as well.  The defense was in disarray and the pitcher lost concentration.  Ricky Henderson was a very effective lead-off hitter.  He set a record for walks drawn.  He set a record for stolen bases.  Ricky exemplified what a lead-off hitter should be.  That is why he is in the Hall of Fame today.  The Cubs need such a lead-off hitter.  The Cubs need a spark to ignite a sleeping offense.

With Brett Jackson and Brandon Guyer still developing, Starlin Castro is the closest thing to a lead-off hitter that the Cubs have.  However, it appears that Castro is better suited for the #2 hole, which brings us back to the question of WHO will lead off next season?  If Jim Hendry is to acquire a true lead-off hitter, then he will most likely need to trade for one.  But who?

I have compiled a short list of candidates that Jim Hendry may be interested in trading for.

thumbnailCASB5AES.jpgRajai Davis, of the Oakland A’s, an outfielder that swiped 50 bases last season.  His OBP was .320 and his batting AVG was .284.  Oakland is in search of power hitters.

thumbnailCABP6CS0.jpgBrett Gardner, of the New York Yankees, another outfielder, stole 47 bases.  He had an OBP of .383 and a .277 batting AVG.  He was the spark that ignited the Yankees’ offense time and time again. 
thumbnailCASAG0VA.jpg Gardner gives 150% all the time.  The Yankees are in need of a solid, left-hander to anchor their bullpen.

Chone Figgins, of the Seattle Mariners, had 42 stolen bases, a .340 OBP, and a .259 batting AVG. 
thumbnailCA2PCH2H.jpgFiggins is a third baseman, but played second base last season, and has played in left field as well.  The Mariners are searching for power hitters.

Will Venable, of the San Diego Padres, another outfielder, had 29 steals, .324 OBP, and a .245 AVG.  He appears to have more potential than his numbers reflect.
thumbnailCAUOWQOF.jpg  The Padres are looking for more power, not to mention, prospects.

Michael BournE, of the Houston Astros, recently won a gold glove and led the NL in stolen bases with 52.
thumbnailCA3852RL.jpg  He batted .265 with a .341 OBP.  Houston needs pitching and power.

Former Cubs, Corey Patterson and Angel Pagan, turned in solid numbers last year, but whether the Cubs are interested in their return, is another story.  Patterson stole 21 bases and Pagan stole 37.

The 5 players listed are my personal favorites to lead-off.  The Cubs need a spark at the top of the order and will need to make a trade to make it a reality.  Who will lead-off in 2011?  Will Jim Hendry make a move to improve the top of the batting order?  Will Starlin Castro learn the Art of Stealing bases?  What do you think the Cubs should do about the lead-off situation?

Should The Cubs Pursue Adrian Gonzalez?

The Cubs have a hole at first base and Adrian Gonzalez is at the top of every Cubs’ fans wish list, but how realistic is it for the Cubs to acquire him?  The Cubs have expressed interest in Gonzalez and he says that he would like to play in Chicago, so is a deal imminent?

With a massive hole at first base, the Cubs have a difficult decision to fill the void.  Speculation of who will play first base next season has been swirling.  The Free Agent market is full of available players that could fill the need for the Cubs, but it isn’t clear what Jim Hendry is planning to do. 

thumbnailCAH81SCW.jpgAdrian Gonzalez has one more year left on his contract and the San Diego Padres have made it clear that they will not be able to re-sign him to a long-term deal.  Gonzalez is reportedly seeking a long-term contract worth over a hundered million dollars, something comparable to the deal Mark Teixeira struck with the New York Yankees.  The Padres will most likely trade Gonzalez sometime between the winter meetings and the July trade deadline.  A trade would bring something in return as a consolation to his departure.  Adrian Gonzalez will be a free agent following the 2011 season.

So are the Cubs interested in trading for a hitting machine like Gonzalez?

thumbnailCAJOCFRR.jpgHere’s the problem.  If the Cubs traded for Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres will be looking for as many prospects as they can.  They will be asking for the sun, the moon, and the stars.  In exchange, the team that lands Gonzalez will acquire his services only temporarily.  Remember, after the 2011 season, AGon will be gone as he files for free agency.  So does it really make any sense to trade away the farm system to acquire a player for one year or less?  No. Unless a team is making a run at the playoffs, it just doesn’t make much sense, so a trade for Gonzalez is highly unlikely.  The only positive to such a trade is that it would be easier to lock Gonzalez in to a contract should he decide to stay in Chicago.

If the Cubs are serious about signing Adrian Gonzalez, then they will most likely wait until next year when he becomes available on the free agent market.  However, there are question marks surrounding the Cubs’  Ownership’s willingness to spend that kind of money on free agents.  If the Cubs are waiting until next year to sign Gonzalez, then that still leaves a glaring hole at first base for the 2011 season.  The Cubs would still need to sign a free agent to play first next year or move Tyler Colvin there for the time being.  As of now, it is unclear what the Cubs will decide to do.

If the Cubs sign any free agent to a contract of 2-years or more, then Adrian Gonzalez will remain a dream.  Should the Cubs install a temporary fix for first base, then the door should remain open to acquire Adrian Gonzalez at a later time.

Adrian Gonzalez is a left-handed hitting machine, just look at his career numbers.  In 7 seasons, he averages 170 hits per year, 32 HR’s, and 99 RBI’s.  Those numbers reflect his hitting at Petco Park.  At Wrigley Field, Adrian Gonzalez would probably hit over 40 homeruns per year, have a batting average in excess of .300, and he would surely drive in well over a hundred RBI’s a season.  AGon would definitely be the cure to what ails the Cubs.  He is a perennial All-Star and a Gold-Glove first baseman.  He is the complete package.

Adrian Gonzalez is definitely my favorite candidate to play first base for the Cubs.  Hopefully it will work out that he comes to Chicago.  He would be welcome in my book. 

Is A Foreign Exchange Trade In The Works?

It has been reported that the Cubs have been in discussions with the Boston Redsox negotiating a deal that would send Kosuke Fukudome to Boston in exchange for Daisuke Matsuzaka

Jim Hendry has said that he would like to create a spot in the line-up for Tyler Colvin and the possibility exists that he may trade Fukudome to make room.  Fukudome has one year left on his contract and hasn’t performed up to expectations.  He is still owed 14 million in 2011.

Fukudome batted .263 with 13 homeruns and 44 RBI’s last season. 
thumbnailCA0H4NZ3.jpgSomewhat a disappointment offensively, but defensively has been solid.  However, the Cubs are seeking more solid numbers offensively from the right field position.

thumbnailCAVRURZF.jpgMatsuzaka has been plagued with injuries the past two seasons.  Last year, in 25 starts, went 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA.  He is still owed 10 million over the next 2 years. 

Jim Hendry worked out a similar contract exchange last offseason that sent Milton Bradley to the Seattle Mariners for Carlos Silva.

While the possibility of a trade is intriguing, to say the least, it is unlikely.  Matsuzaka has a no-trade clause in his contract.  Dice-K showed great promise until his injuries.  If he could get healthy and the Cubs could acquire him, I think he would make a fine addition to the Cubs’ starting rotation. 

The Diehard Cubs’ Fan Suggestion Box: Who’s On First?

The Free Agent frenzy is about to begin.  The Cubs have some holes to fill and first base is first on the list for Jim Hendry.  Let’s explore the options and find the right fit.  I have some suggestions that might make sense, so listen up, Mr. Hendry.

Since the trade that sent Derek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, Xavier Nady took over at First Base.  Now that Nady has become a Free Agent, the Cubs have a glaring hole at First.  With First base open, the Cubs have been considering moving Tyler Colvin to First, a position he hasn’t played since college.  On the surface, it seems like a good idea.  The transition would allow Colvin more playing time, but considering he hasn’t played the position in quite some time, it would require a lot of extra hard work and practice to make a successful conversion.  This may take some time.  Until then, the Cubs would probably be better off finding a suitable veteran player that will fit in with the Cubs’ game plan.  That means, of course, signing a Free Agent.

Let’s consider the options that are available on the Free Agent Market.  We’ll try to determine who is the best fit for the Cubs,

First, there have been many rumors surrounding the Cubs having interest in Adam Dunn.  Here you have a left-handed slugger with a ton of power.  Dunn is tops on the list if the Cubs are seeking a clean-up hitter.  He has the power to hit 40-50 homeruns a year.  For Fans of the long ball, he’s your guy. 
thumbnailCAZHE3AZ.jpgBut is he the best fit?

Adam Dunn has a downside and the negatives may outweigh the positives.  Up front, Dunn will be asking for a 4-5 year deal worth upwards of 40 million dollars.  That is another high priced, long-term contract that the Cubs may not have the resources or the desire to entertain.  In addition, Adam Dunn strikes out a ton.  Do the Cubs really want a player with a high ratio of strikeouts?  Offensively, that is a huge weakness.  Also, he has no speed on the basepaths and figures to clog the bases with his inabilty to take the extra base.  Finally, Dunn lacks defensive prowess.  He has struggled since converting from the outfield to first and the Cubs do not need any defensive liabilities.  Sure Dunn can hit the homerun, but does it outweigh the negative factors?  I think not.  Adam Dunn is NOT the best fit for the Cubs.

It has been reported that Jim Hendry, the Cubs GM, is looking for “… the likes of a Nick Johnson“.  This really puzzles me.  Why?  Nick Johnson did not play much last year.  He spent the season on the DL after having wrist surgery.  Besides, when he did play, he was nothing more than a DH.  He didn’t even play first.  When he did in the past, he wasn’t anything special.  His offensive numbers weren’t very good either.  I don’t know why Hendry would have an interest in an injured player like Johnson.  The Cubs acquired Xavier Nady after he had surgery and that didn’t exactly work out did it.  In Nady’s defense, he might actually be healthy in 2011 and have a better year.  The Cubs may consider bringing Nady back but it is doubtful since they really want a left-handed bat to balance the line-up.

The biggest name that surfaces among Cubs’ Fans is Adrian Gonzalez, but the San Diego Padres have picked up their 2011 option and for now, will stay in San Diego. 
thumbnailCAH81SCW.jpgGonzalez has expressed a desire to play in Chicago, but won’t hit the Free Agent Market until next year.  Whether he will become available at the trade deadline is unknown at this time.  Also, he is having shoulder surgery so it may take a while to bounce back.  When healthy, Adrian Gonzalez is arguably the best First Baseman out there.  He is a hitting machine, plays great defense, and is my personally favorite for the job.  Unfortunately, at this time, AGon is unavailable, unless the Cubs can work out a trade, but it is unlikely.  The Cubs have others on the radar.  Who?

To narrow down the field of first basemen, let’s focus on the left-handers that will add hitting prowess in the middle of the line-up.

The San Francisco Giants were World Series Champions this season and were led by first baseman, Aubrey Huff, who will now be a Free Agent.  Huff is a lefty and he is consistent, year in and year out.  He hits around .300 and has power. 
thumbnailCAA26SZX.jpgAubrey Huff is a proven leader in the club house and on the field.  In my opinion, Huff had a lot to do with the Giants’ success this year.  He was a valuable piece to winning.  Aubrey Huff was a bargain when San Francisco acquired him.  He may be one of the best options for the Cubs, provided the Giants’ don’t want to keep him around.  If he becomes available, I would sign him.  He adds leadership that the Cubs definitely need.

Adam LaRoche is a possibility, but in my opinion, he is a better back up than a starter.  He has average numbers, both offensively and defensively.  The Cubs could sign him to an average contract, but I think they may be dissapointed by his production.  I think he is over-rated to say the least.  He would be a last resort.

Lance Berkman doesn’t make any sense.  He is getting older and his offensive numbers have declined dramatically.  He would want too much money and would fail to deliver the punch that he once had.  Not a good fit.

Some Chicago Fans like Paul Konerko, but he is right-handed and doesn’t fit in well with the game plan.  Not really a good idea, although I admit, he is a good player.

Jorge Cantu and Lyle Overbay are options, but I don’t believe would be good fits for the Cubs.

Carlos Pena is another, but he batted under .200 this past season, not exactly the offensive production that the Cubs are looking for.

There are several others that I will not mention, mainly because they have too many question marks, are either declining or simply don’t provide the offensive fire power or defense that the Cubs need at firstbase.

Finally, I have a suggestion for Jim Hendry. 

thumbnailCACT0XAX.jpgConsider Victor Martinez.  Here is a switch-hitting, explosive bat that provides a .300+ batting average with a great deal of power.  While he considers himself primarily a catcher, Martinez also plays firstbase.  Here is my suggestion. 

Sign Victor Martinez.  HE CAN PLAY FIRSTBASE AND BACK UP CATCHER.  He not only brings a switch-hitting bat for the middle of the line-up, he can double as Geovanny Soto’s back up catcher. Victor Martinez brings a valuable commodity, VERSATILITY.  If there is a downside to VM, it is that he is looking for a 4-year deal.  Even still, he would be worth it, in my opinion.  Here is something else to consider, when Victor Martinez has catching duties, Tyler Colvin could gain valuable experience playing First base, backing up Martinez.  It would make for a smoother transition.  In addition, the Cubs would have TWO versatile players in their line-up, Victor Martinez AND Tyler Colvin.

In my assessment, the Cubs have two very good options that I would encourage Jim Hendry to consider.  While Tyler Colvin should increase his versatility and practice playing first, he has not proven himself there yet.  So I have narrowed the field down to Aubrey Huff AND Victor Martinez.  Dollar for dollar, they possess the most value.  Both are consistently good, providing strong numbers and a strong presence in any line-up.  Adam Dunn pales by comparison and so do the others.  If the Cubs’ Front Office is paying attention, I hope that they would seriously consider Huff or Martinez.  Both would bring a lot to the table.  Both would be good fits for the Cubs. 

Let the Free Agent frenzy begin.

Next blog:  I will tackle the Pitchers in the Free Agent Pool.

2010 Diehard Attaboy Awards!

The 2010 season is finally over.  Now it’s time to reflect on the players who deserve special recognition.  Introducing the 1st annual Diehard Cubs’ Fan Attaboy Awards.

While my choices may not reflect the opinion of all Cubs’ fans, here are my selections nonetheless.  Feel free to leave comments regarding your choices.  It’s a free country.

The Ernie Banks Award goes to the player who exemplifies the heart and soul of the team.  The player who demonstrated heart, determination, and who led by example.
!cid_6EE51BB917EE44FAAA637C9D313E92FC@PC270429458147.jpg  Numbers aside, it goes to the player who contributed to the team in tangible and intangible ways.

The Ernie Banks Award goes to… Marlon Byrd. 
thumbnailCAGLQ18E.jpg His hustle and determination made him an all-star in 2010.  Marlon batted .293, with 12 homeruns and 66 RBI’s.  Byrd had a .346 OBP and defensively shined in centerfield.  He brought a winning attitude to the club.  Attaboy, Marlon!

Rookie Of The Year Award goes to Starlin Castro AND Tyler Colvin.
thumbnailCAX4JZ3Z.jpg  While Castro would be thumbnailCARXR0C1.jpgmost fans’ choice for the award, Tyler Colvin has proven to be a valuable part of the team as well.  Starlin Castro batted .300, with 3 homeruns and 41 RBI’s.  Castro led the team with 10 stolen bases.  Meanwhile, prior to having his season end prematurely due to the broken bat incident, Tyler Colvin hit .254, with 20 homeruns and 56 RBI’s.  Both youngsters did a tremendous job in 2010.  While both players have room for improvement, Castro and Colvin had an excellent rookie season.  Attaboy, you guys!  Good job!

Most Dominant Pitcher Award goes to… Carlos Marmol.

Carlos Marmol has been one of the most dominant closers in the game today. 
thumbnailCA0U7BJV.jpg Marmol has become one of the most feared pitchers for batters to face.  He has a NASTY slider that when Carlos is on top of his game, is unhittable.  He has been lights out this year.  Marmol surpassed Bruce Sutter’s single-season record for strikeouts by a closer with 138 K’s.  Carlos finished the year with a 2.55 ERA and 38 SAVES.  Attaboy, Carlos!  Excellent work!

Comeback Player Award goes to… Carlos Zambrano.

thumbnailCAHAZ47R.jpgBig Z was on the verge of being finished in Chicago following his infamous tirade in the dugout after Derek Lee failed to dive after a ball driven down the first base line.  His outburst landed him on the Restricted List where Carlos was forced to undergo Anger Management classes.  Upon his return to the starting rotation, Big Z was resurrected and given new life.  Zambrano made the best of his second chance as he calmly returned and was better than ever.  Big Z made a statement to silence the critics, not with his mouth, but with masterful pitching performances.  Since the all-star break, Big Z proved that he is one of the best in the business as he went 8-0, with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts.  Zambrano finished the season 11-6, with a 3.33 ERA.  Big Z is back, better than ever!  Attaboy, Carlos!  Keep up the good work, and don’t forget to stay calm! 

The Mr. Consistency Award goes to… Sean Marshall.  Sean is a true team player.  He would rather be in the starting rotation but the team needed his services in the bullpen where Sean has quietly turned into one heck of a reliever.
thumbnailCAOO32DN.jpg  He has been the premiere set up man.  Marshall finished the season with a 7-5 record and a 2.65 ERA in 80 appearances.  Sean has proven to be one of the best left-handed relievers in the game.  Attaboy, Sean!  Nice job!

Special Award goes to… Mike Quade.  Since Lou Piniella retired, Mike Quade assumed managerial duties to finish out the season.  No one had Mike Quade on Jim Hendry’s ShortList but, Quade didn’t waste any time opening people’s eyes. 
thumbnailCACT6MC2.jpg He quickly turned the Cubs around.  Under Mike, the team finished 24-13.  Quade deserves a ton of credit for the turnaround.  No one expected that he would emerge as one of the front runners to win the 2011 managerial position, but here he is.  The players have endorsed him and have played their hearts out to finish the season strong.  The Cubs looked like playoff contenders the last month and a half, a huge accomplishment since there wasn’t anything to play for at that point.  In any event, the strong finish will undoubtedly carry over into next season.  I tip my hat to Mike Quade for making the end of the season enjoyable to watch.  Attaboy, Mike!  Good luck on the interview process!  You have proven your ability to manage and manage well!

The Diehard Award goes to… THE ENTIRE CUBS’ TEAM for not giving up when all was lost, for having the heart to play hard and finish strong. 
thumbnailCA3BRO06.jpg I salute you, Cubs!  This team has given me a new ray of hope as next season draws near.  I can’t wait till next year!  It should prove to be a different story, one with a happier ending!  ATTABOY, CUBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See you next Spring!  Get some rest, work hard in the offseason and come back healthy and ready to play!  We shall embark on a journey together, a quest for a World Series Championship!  BELIEVE!!!  What the mind can conceive and believe, the Cubs can achieve!  Believe it!