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.
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 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballots have officially been released. One name that is not among the candidates to be enshrined is Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader.
Some names that will appear on the ballots are names connected with steroid use. There is no forgiveness in baseball, unless your method of cheating was by steroid use. Why? Why is betting on baseball a worse crime? Pete Rose never bet against the Reds so it wasn’t like he “fixed” the games to ensure he would win a bet. He lied about his gambling at first, but finally broke down and admitted his wrong-doing. He regrets his mistake. Players like Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro denied any wrong doing despite the evidence that proves otherwise. Roger Clemens will deny his actions till the day he dies and even then, will never admit it. Alex Rodriguez denied reports of his usage, but finally revealed the truth after the evidence was leaked to the press. His reward? He gets to keep playing as if he did nothing wrong. Why? Why does a player that tests positive for steroid use gets to get caught 3 times before he faces a lifetime ban? Why are steroid users allowed to be on the Hall of Fame ballot? Are they not cheaters?
Dear Mr. Selig, I don’t understand why Major League baseball has crucified Pete Rose. Sure, he made a mistake. He bet on baseball and that is strictly against the rules. He made a mistake and is truly remorseful. As the Commissioner of MLB, are you afraid to overturn a previous Commissioner’s ruling? Why? Is there no forgiveness in baseball?
In light of the steroid era, haven’t we learned anything? The steroid users have been glorified. In 1998, fans of MLB enjoyed the greatest homerun race ever. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire slugged it out and the fans went wild. At the time, we thought we were witnessing history, only to discover that it was all smoke and mirors. In hindsight, it was a major disappointment. Then there’s Barry Bonds, who belted 70 homeruns to become the homerun king. Again, it was all an illusion, wasn’t it?
Considering the fact that steroids not only tarnished the game, it destroyed the integrity of America’s past time. So why do players like Palmeiro get rewarded by appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot? I don’t get it. MLB has always taken the stance that baseball is a pure sport, a sport with integrity. Let’s face it, baseball has been stained by steroids. Players looked for an extra edge and found it. They cheated, pure and simple. The problem that I have is that if a player fails a drug test, he gets suspended for 90 days or whatever it is. then, if he tests positive again, it’s a 180 game suspension. The third offense results in a lifetime ban. So why is it, that Pete Rose received baseball’s death penalty for one mistake made after his playing days were over? Pete Rose played the game the way it should be played. He set the example for everyone. He never used steroids or cheated in any way, shape, or form as a player. As a manager, he bet on his team to win. Big deal. Why is his case a greater crime than steroid use? I think there is something wrong with that picture.
Here is my proposal, Mr. Selig. I have an idea that might actually prove to be the right thing to do. I hope that you read this post and seriously consider what I am about to suggest. Why? It is the right thing to do and I am confident that you are a man of integrity. Here’s my idea.
Since Pete Rose bet on baseball while managing the Reds, then he should be banned as a manager. However, since Pete has alot to offer, he should be allowed to coach, mentoring young players and teaching them how to play the game the way it was meant to be played and teaching them about the dangers of cheating. Pete Rose should be allowed to participate in the game of baseball in some capacity. He was the greatest hitter ever. Have some respect and give him his due. Pete Rose has paid the price for his mistake and is sorry. He should be forgiven. Perhaps a little forgiveness would bring back some of the integrity that has been lost in Major League baseball.
In addition, Pete Rose deserves to be in the hall of Fame, period! His numbers speak for themselves. His success came the old-fashion way, he earned it. He worked hard to get where he had gotten. He deserves to be on the ballot to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that the writers will vote him in, although I think he deserves it. He should at least have the opportunity to be on the ballot. It’s time to be a leader, Mr. Selig, and give Pete Rose a reprieve. It has been long enough. Don’t you believe in giving people second chances? Steroid users get second and third chances. Pete Rose needs only one second chance and you are the only one that has the power to forgive. There is no forgiveness in baseball, but maybe there should be.
Pete Rose was my favorite player when I was a youngster. He inspired me to play baseball. He inspired me to hustle. He inspired me to dive head first into whatever base I was trying to reach. He inspired me to aspire to becoming a big leaguer some day. Pete Rose was awesome. My very first MLB game was at Riverfront Stadium and Pete Rose was playing third base. He was the reason I wanted to see the Cubs and the Reds play. Rose captivated my imagination and made me realize that a player had to work hard and give 100% all the time. He inspired a strong work ethic in me. Watching Pete Rose chase Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak was unbelievable. Every game was exciting. That was what made baseball so great. He chased the 3,000 hit milestone. Then, the incredible 4,000 hit milestone. He finally broke Ty Cobb’s record for most hits all-time. It was amazing. Pete Rose kept me interested in baseball, no, more like obsessed. Pete Rose deserves some credit. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Have a heart and reinstate his eligibility status. It’s the right thing to do. If it wasn’t for Pete Rose, I would not be the diehard baseball fan that I am today. I hope that somehow you read this, Mr. Selig. I have the utmost respect for you and your integrity and I trust that you will consider doing the right thing. Thank you, Scot Blust.
The free agent dominoes are about to fall. Victor Martinez has signed with Detroit and Aubrey Huff has re-signed with the Giants. The Cubs still need a first baseman and have talked to Lance Berkman‘s agent. So is Lance Berkman a good fit for the Cubs? Let’s consider it.
There is an upside and a downside to Lance Berkman.
First, let’s examine the downside.
Berkman made 14.5 million dollars last season. For a player coming off of orthroscopic surgery and having a disappointing season following his return, Berkman cannot expect to be signed to a big contract this year. He is 35. Berkman realizes that he is viewed as a declining player, but blames his poor 2010 performance on his knee surgery. Last season, between the Astros and the Yankees, in 122 games, Berkman batted .248 with 14 HR’s and 58 RBI’s. Berkman wants the baseball world to know, that the injury-plagued season of 2010 does not reflect his abilities. He believes, after getting healthy, that he can return to form. He also understands that he will need to prove himself.
The upside to Lance Berkman is his bat. When healthy, Berkman has been one of the best hitters in baseball. In his 12 year career, Berkman has hit .296 with a .409 on-base per centage. His career fielding per centage at first base is .995.
Lance Berkman is a switch-hitter, which is an advantage.
Due to his disappointing season this past year, the Cubs could get a discount. Berkman knows he will need to prove himself so he is likely to accept a short-term deal on a smaller contract. Financially, the Cubs could afford to take a chance on him for the 2011 season.
The Oakland A’s have had interest in Berkman, but want to use him as a DH, which is something that Berkman is shying away from. He wants to play first base. He prefers to remain in the National League where he feels more comfortable. With the Yankees, Berkman struggled against the AL pitching because he wasn’t familiar with them, which makes a difference.
I can only conclude that if Lance Berkman is healthy and can regain his hitting prowess, and will agree to a short-term deal for less money, then he may very well be the best fit for the Cubs at this time. With the knee in question, which affects his hitting, the Cubs will have to decide if Berkman is worth the risk. Any deal would need to be contingent on passing a physical examination to prove that he will be healthy. If he is, he’ll be back in business.
Personally, I would rather take such a risk with Adrian Gonzalez, who had shoulder surgery recently. If a deal with the San Diego Padres can’t get done to bring Gonzalez to Chicago at this time, then Lance Berkman may be a short-term solution. Stay tuned!
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.
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.
Ricky 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.
Rajai 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.
Brett 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.
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.
Figgins 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.
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.
He batted .265 with a .341 OBP. Houston needs pitching and power.
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?
A legend has passed away today. Sparky Anderson will be remembered for his World Series Championships in Cincinnatti and Detroit, but I will never forget my very first MLB game in 1977 between the Cubs and the Reds. Sparky was managing The Big Red Machine and I got to see the legend with my own eyes. I was only 9 at the time, but even then, I knew that I was witnessing a part of history, a legend.
As a nine year old, I was all about baseball. I lived and breathed it. I collected baseball cards and made trades like a GM would, using my keen insight and intuition to determine what players would hold their value and who I could afford to part with. Back then, I could rattle off every stat for every player at any given time. There wasn’t much about baseball that I didn’t know at that age. I only wish I could have played the game as well as I would have liked, becoming a professional baseball player was my dream, but that’s another story. Anyway, I was really into the Reds at the time. The Big Red Machine was the ultimate team, in my opinion. Sparky Anderson was the Manager, arguably the best in his time. There was something special about him, you could just tell. He was like the grandfather everyone wished they had. I remember having his baseball card and refusing to part with it. It didn’t matter that I had duplicates, because I knew that I had something special. I had Sparky Anderson. Well, my child’s intuition was correct in that assumption. Sparky turned out to be a Hall Of Famer and deservedly so. When I saw Sparky in person while attending the game between the Cubs and the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, I was in awe.
At the time, I don’t think I fully appreciated his managing prowess as I do now, but intuitively, I knew. It was an honor to be in his presence.
Sparky Anderson exemplified what a Manager should be. He was a kind-hearted man and a fierce competitor. He was wise, intelligent, and a keen strategist. He understood the game of baseball and knew what it takes to win. He was a leader and a motivator. Sparky Anderson was beloved by all, especially me, because Sparky was the kind of coach that I would want. Even though I am a Diehard Cubs Fan, have been since 1978, there will always be a special place in my heart for Sparky. God bless his soul. He will be missed.
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?