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Cubs Archives

Cubs Moving Towards to Signing Kerry Wood

The Cubs, who have a major need for a veteran right handed reliever are moving towards finalizing a deal with free agent Kerry Wood. Wood, who spent the first 10 years of his major league career with the Cubs spent 2010 with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees and compiled impressive numbers down the stretch for New York as the Yankees qualified for the post season.

Acquired by the Yankees at the trading deadline, Wood went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 24 games. If he finalizes his deal with the Cubs, Wood should provide tremendous support to Cubs closer Carlos Marmol and along with left hander Sean Marshall will form a very formidable back end of the bullpen.

Wood has made Chicago his permanent home and told me just last week that whatever decision he made about where he would pitch in 2011 had to be a good fit for his family. Being able to stay home and his longtime relationship with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry are huge factors in the Cubs favor.

More to come....

A Slice of History

One of the things we love about baseball is its history.  Baseball dates back to the 19th century and the game was the gateway to America's love for professional sports.  Attached here are some box scores from some of the first baseball games in its storied history. 

These box scores and game stories date back to 1876, and involve the Chicago White Stockings, the first professional team in the Windy City.

Box Score 1

Box Score 2

Box Score 3

Box Score 4

Box Score 5

Box Score 6

Box Score 7

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Box Score 10


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Cubs Continue to Evaluate Brandon Webb

Baseball sources confirmed to me tonight that the Cubs continue to evaluate the medical reports on starting pitcher Brandon Webb who has been sidelined for the better part of the last two seasons with a shoulder injury. Webb, a former Cy Yound award winner with the Arizona Diamondbacks has serious interest in the Cubs and should his medicals check out he could find himself competing for a spot in the Cubs rotation next spring.

Also on the Cubs beat are rumors that the club is evaluating the cost of trading for Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. An excellent source in Tampa told me tonight that the Rays have not yet decided if they even want to move Garza who won 15 games in 2010 and appears to be heading into the prime of his career. Should he become available the price in terms of players going back would be large.

A Tribute To Ron Santo: Audio Edition Part II

There really is no way to upload every great moment of radio between Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, but here are some more gems we had in our archive. 

The Yogurt Machine:
Pat - Ron and yogurt.mp3

Ron's Lip:
Pat and Ron - Ron's Lip.mp3

Tom Cruise's Height Argument:
Pat and Ron - Tom Cruise's height.mp3

Shultzy:
Pat and Ron Hilarity 061510.mp3

Ronnie always made fun of himself:
Ron doesn't make sense.mp3

The Coffee Spillage:
Ron Spillage.mp3

The Praying Mantis:
Pat and Ron - Praying Mantis.MP3

And last, at least for this post, but certainly not least, some great Ron Santo highlights:
Ron Montage.mp3

Listening back to these just illustrates how much we'll all miss Ron Santo.  What a man he was.

A Tribute To Ron Santo: Audio Edition

Whether you were a Cubs fan or not, you had to love Ron Santo's passion for baseball.  And that passion shined through each and every day as the radio analyst for the Chicago Cubs.  There were so many hysterical moments each and every year with Ronnie, and the conversations between him and Pat Hughes were great.

Here are some of those great moments to listen back to, and enjoy.

Ron: Flossing and Cake


"They Oughta Shoot Him"


Kumbaya
KUMBAYA FULL.MP3

Ron yells at a fan in San Diego
ronny yells at fans.wav

Ron and Pat discuss his famous hair piece
ron's hairpiece segment.mp3


Ron's reactions were as good as any.  He embodied the Cubs fans' spirit every play.
ron mad reactions.WAV

There are countless other moments that exemplify Ron and the humor and entertainment he brought to the broadcast.  I would love to hear your favorite moments or post a clip if you have it of your favorite Ronnie moment.

Ron Santo Dies at 70

I just finished hosting a 3 1/2 hour tribute show to Ron Santo who died this morning from complications of bladder cancer at the age of 70. I was privileged to call Ron a close friend and a broadcasting colleague at WGN Radio for the past 16 seasons. Ron wore his emotions on his sleeve and he was as real as a person could get.

The toughness that he displayed while dealing with a myriad of health problems over the past decade never dampened his love for life and the sunny disposition with which he chose to live every single day. Ron was a tremendous role model for millions of diabetics and for countless others who looked to him for inspiration as they battled their own serious health problems.

Below are some photos of Ron from both his playing days and from his life at WGN Radio as the analyst on the Chicago Cubs radio network. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Ron, we love you.


Gallery sneak peek (21 images):

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Are the Cubs Interested in Signing Adam Dunn?

According to an interview conducted by Clint Evans from Diamond Hoggers, and Mike Rosenbaum from The Golden Sombrero in their podcast called "The Baseball Show", baseball agent Matt Sosnick believes the Chicago Cubs are interested in signing Adam Dunn to a multi-year deal.

"If I was going to guess, I would say [Adam Dunn] is probably going to the Cubs, and he'll probably get, you know, 3 years and 40 million bucks," said Sosnick, of Sosnick and Cobbe Sports.

Listen to Sosnick talk about the Cubs interest in Adam Dunn


Sosnick represents numerous baseball players including the Reds' Jay Bruce and the Giants' Freddy Sanchez.  He argues that while Dunn's defense is poor, he is a consistent slugger who can hit 40 homers and drive in 100 runs year in and year out.  For this reason he is a desirable commodity for any team.  However, he says it's unclear whether the Nationals will attempt to bring him back to Washington.

"Like I said, it's very difficult to see whether the Nationals are trying to build a contending team,"  Sosnick said.  "They signed the GM for five years, they have a pitching staff that, sometime in the next couple years is going to come together where they're going to have a really strong 1, 2 and 3.  But you also have to have hitters."

Whether or not the Cubs truly are interested in Dunn has not been confirmed by the team.  But if nothing else, it could be a window into the plans the team has this off-season as they prepare for 2011.

Read the articles, and listen to the entire podcast here. 


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Hendry Says Sandberg is Welcome Back In Iowa....

I just spoke with Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry and he assured me that Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is welcome to return to the organization as the manager at Class AAA Iowa. Sandberg, who was bypassed by Hendry for the managerial vacancy in favor of Mike Quade is reportedly "highly disappointed" that he was not given the Cubs job and yesterday indicated that he had been offered nothing by the Cubs going forward.

"He is certainly welcome to return to Iowa. We think he did a great job there. This was a very tough decision and one that I tossed and turned over. However, I love Ryne Sandberg and have tremendous respect for him," Hendry told me this morning.

In an interview with Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune, he said, "I haven't been offered anything," not long after the phone call came informing him of the decision. Not a coaching job on Quade's staff, not his old post at Triple-A Iowa, where he had just been voted Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

Asked if he would return to Iowa, Sandberg said on Tuesday, "I don't know. I'm hoping there's something else out there. I'm hoping to manage or coach at the big-league level.I'm just kind of digesting it right now and I have my agent getting feelers out.

This morning when I reached Sandberg at his home in Phoenix he told me "there was nothing offered to me yesterday. I was unaware that they wanted me back until I heard it from you. I guess it is an option. I'm going to take my time and see what is out there."

Quade Gets The Gig....Will Sandberg Leave the Organization?

The Cubs have removed the interim tag and have named Mike Quade their full time manager giving him a two year deal with a club option for 2013. So how did General Manager Jim Hendry arrive at this decision after interviewing several candidates over the past three months?

According to Ryne Sandberg who just appeared on multiple radio shows and spoke with the Chicago Tribune's Dave Van Dyck, he was informed by team chairman Tom Ricketts on Tuesday morning that the Cubs were going with Quade over him because, according to Sandberg, Ricketts said, "it was a tough decision" choosing Quade over him, but that "it was (general manager) Jim Hendry's call and he was going with his gut feeling."

"I told him I'm disappointed and that I appreciated the process and being involved," Sandberg said by phone. "That was the end of the conversation."

Sandberg was not "offered anything" by Ricketts, including the top job at Triple-A Iowa, where he was just named Pacific Coast League manager of the year. "I'm just kind of digesting it right now and I've got my agent getting feelers out," said Sandberg, who wears a Cubs cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Asked if he would return to Iowa, Sandberg said, "I don't know. I'm hoping there's something else out there. I'm hoping to manage or coach at the big-league level."

So now the question is why was Sandberg passed over and why wouldn't the Cubs wait to at least talk to Joe Girardi whose contract with the New York Yankees is up whenever the Yanks finish their postseason run? These are questions that will be asked at the press conference this afternoon to introduce Quade. The answers should be very telling.

Quade is a solid baseball man and a terrific guy. He grew up in the Chicago area and he understands the Cubs culture. He was well liked as a member of Lou Piniella's coaching staff and he impressed the current Cubs players when he was named the interim manager for the last six weeks of the 2010 season. However, whether or not he can take the Cubs where they haven't been for 102 years remains to be seen.

This much is for sure. General Manager Jim Hendry has made his final managerial hire for a long time because if this one doesn't work he probably won't be around to hire the next one. He needs to have a solid winter and he must show that the direction of the club is pointed upward because after a rough 2009 and a horrific 2010 he must get things turned around and it must happen relatively quickly. He turned the trick when he was named GM in 2002 and had his first team 5 outs from the World Series in 2003. He turned the trick again in 2007 after a terrible 2006 season winning back to back division titles and crafting a team that won a National League best 97 games in 2008. He had better be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat in 2011 or he may be looking for work. 

The Cubs Managerial Search

The Cubs managerial search is rolling along as GM Jim Hendry continues to his homework on several candidates both in-house and outside the organization. He has interviewed Eric Wedge (just named the manager of the Seattle Mariners), Don Wakamatsu, Bob Melvin, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Quade, and others and he has talked to several baseball types he knows around the game to hear their thoughts and opinions.

Before he makes a hire he had better look himself in the mirror and realize that the last two full time managers of this team were unwilling to hold players accountable despite coming in with reputations as locker room leaders. From the ridiculousness that derailed the 2004 Cubs to the antics of Carlos Zambrano this season no one has ever had the courage to lay down the law and be the tough guy that the Cubs have needed for far too long. That is squarely on the field manager and upper management who did absolutely nothing to control the players who let the broadcasters and the extraneous noise distract them in 2004 to Lou Piniella completely losing his team in 2010 as the season spiraled out of control. Set down a way to play and let no one operate outside the rules. Period, end of story. If a player misses a team flight because of his birthday then he doesn't pitch no matter who he is (think Big Z in 2009). If a player doesn't run hard out of the box then he is removed from the game and he sits. Whether he signed a 136 million dollar contract or is a minimum salaried rookie. Operate that way and you have a chance. Anything less and you will lose the respect of your team very quickly.
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An Honest Assessment of the Chicago Cubs

With the 2010 regular season now over it is time to turn our attention to 2011 and that means fixing all that is wrong with the Chicago Cubs as they ended the season in 5th place with a record of 75-87 and 16 games behind the division champion Cincinnati Reds.

What Went Right

The signing of Marlon Byrd was a solid decision as he was excellent defensively, was well liked in the clubhouse, and contributed a solid season offensively. Ryan Dempster was solid winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings as well as providing tremendous leadership in the clubhouse. Carlos Marmol was excellent all season long saving 38 games and dominating like no other reliever in the game. He does have his occasional control problems but he should be an elite closer for many years to come. Sean Marshall settled into the setup role very well and has emerged as one of the better relievers in the National League. His emergence calmed a very shaky bullpen that struggled in April and May. Finally, shortstop Starlin Castro exploded on the scene when he was called up to the big leagues in early May. He was solid at the plate and showed flashes of brilliance defensively despite commiting 27 errors. He should be a fixture in the Cubs infield for many years to come. 


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Forbes on the Cubs: Least Efficient Team in Baseball

Forbes Magazine just released an article that ranks every major league team on what they received for their payroll expenditures. The news is not good for the Chicago Cubs who finished dead last in all of baseball, getting the least production for the obscene amount of money that they spent on player payroll in 2010.

Check it out....

Undercover Boss Comes to Wrigley Field

The Ricketts family are newcomers to the baseball world and despite the rough season the Cubs are having on the field it has been a learning experience for all involved in the family.  
I have learned that Todd Ricketts just completed nine days of shooting today on an episode of the popular CBS show "Undercover Boss" at Wrigley Field. Ricketts was in complete disguise including a beard and was not recognized by any Cubs employee as he performed a variety of jobs including hot dog vendor and security guard.

The family looked at this as a great way to learn the inner workings of the business from the ground floor up, despite the poor season. We hear that Ricketts really connected with his "fellow employees".

The show is being rushed into production because as one source who works closely with CBS told me: "Todd Ricketts was a natural and he made the show. It may be the best Undercover Boss we have ever done." It could air within a month. More to come.

Girardi To The Cubs? Harold Reynolds Says Yes

MLB Network Analyst Harold Reynolds told Dan Patrick on his radio show Monday he believes Yankees Manager Joe Girardi will be the next skipper of the Chicago Cubs. In the interview, Reynolds said Girardi has too many ties to the Windy City, and feels that will be enough to lure him back to the Friendly Confines.

I have been saying for a long time now that Girardi would be the best choice for the Cubs should he be available for Jim Hendry to bring into the fold.  Have a listen to the interview below.  We'll be discussing all week on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet and on The Cubs 10th Inning Postgame Show on WGN Radio 720.

 

**Breaking News** Cubs Close to Trading Derrek Lee

**Breaking News** The Cubs are close to trading first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, I have learned exclusively. The trade was first discussed on Sunday evening when the Braves called Cubs GM Jim Hendry and expressed interest after learning that one of their best offensive players, Chipper Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury.

As a 10-5 man (10 years in the major leagues and the last five with the same team) Lee has the right to reject a trade as he did when the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim tried to acquire him in late July. However, sources close to Lee tell us that he will approve a deal to Atlanta because the Braves are leading their division thus giving him a shot at winning another World Series ring. Lee was a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins who beat the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic.

The deal that would send Lee to the Braves has not yet been finalized but MLB sources characterize the trade as nearly done. One holdup has been Lee's balky back which has kept him sidelined the past couple of days. The trade is not expected to land the Cubs much in the way of talent because of Lee's subpar 2010 season but it will provide some salary relief as Lee makes 13 million dollars and the Braves are expected to assume most if not all of his remaining money.

Stay tuned and I will update as soon as I confirm that the trade has been completed. For all of the breaking news that I cover please follow me on Twitter @thekapman. Kap

A Look at the Trade of Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot

The Cubs started their overhaul of the roster for the 2011 season by trading pitcher Ted Lilly and 2nd baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2nd baseman Blake DeWitt and two minor league pitchers.

The two minor leaguers the Cubs received were both drafted reasonably high but only one is projected by minor league talent evaluators as a probable big league arm. Brett Wallach, the son of former major league infielder Tim Wallach is a recent convert from position player and pitcher to full time pitcher and has, according to the scouts I spoke with a solid chance of pitching in the big leagues as a back of the rotation type or as a set up man. Kyle Smit was a touted prospect in 2006 when he was drafted in the 5th round but has not progressed as the Dodgers had hoped. Here are a couple of scouting reports on the two pitchers from the MLB Daily Dish:
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Andre Dawson Says the Cubs Should Go After Girardi

Recently inducted Hall of Famer Andre Dawson said this week that the Cubs should pass on Ryne Sandberg and should instead take a run at New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Here are the comments that Dawson made in an interview on WSCR in Chicago.

Please post your thoughts on the Cubs managerial position in the comments section. Thanks! 

Derrek Lee Says No Thank You to a Trade

The Cubs were approached recently by the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers regarding a potential trade for first baseman Derrek Lee. No names were discussed but the Cubs then went to Lee to see if he would waive his 10 and 5 rights which under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement allow him to block a trade.

Lee informed Jim Hendry that he will not accept any trade and would like to wait until the season is over to decide on his future. His current Cubs contract expires at the end of this season.
Several reports have criticized Lee for his position but who are we to determine what is best for his future? He has the ability to block a trade and he exercised that right, plain and simple.

The Next Manager is a No Brainer Hire

With Lou Piniella's announcement last week that he is retiring as the manager of the Cubs the speculation has been in high gear as to who will replace him. From Ryne Sandberg to Bob Brenly to Bobby Valentine there has been no shortage of names tossed about.

I have looked at this decision for a while now knowing that Lou would not be returning to the Cubs and there is really only one name that should be on the Chicago Cubs shopping list. New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Girardi is so obvious that I am stunned to hear some people tout others over him. Girardi is a winner who has multiple World Series rings as a player and has won one as manager of the Yankees. He was also named Manager of the Year when he was with the Florida Marlins and took a team with a 14 million dollar payroll and nearly made the playoffs. He has had small payrolls, large payrolls and has handled both situations very well.


Gallery sneak peek (8 images):

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Lou Piniella To Retire

Cubs manager Lou Piniella will announce this afternoon that he is retiring at the end of the 2010 baseball season. I just spoke exclusively with Piniella and he did confirm that he is stepping down but he is very upset that the news leaked out before he had a chance to inform his team.

"Yes, it is true that I am retiring. I am 67 years old and it is time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and to spend more time with my family. However, I am very upset that the news leaked out before I had a chance to inform my team," Piniella told me.

Bill Madden of the NY Daily News learned of the impending announcement from Piniella's agent Alan Nero who told him the news in confidence. However, Madden did not keep the news quiet and thus the story broke, angering Piniella and his family.

Piniella will address the media at 4:15 from the interview room at Wrigley Field. I will have full coverage of the announcement both on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 and on the Tenth Inning Show immediately after tonight's Astros/Cubs game on WGN Radio.

What Keeps The Cubs From Winning?

We all know it has been 101 years and counting since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 and it isn't looking like this season will end the longest drought in sports history either. On Saturday I interviewed Cincinnati Reds star Scott Rolen who has played many games in the Friendly Confines and asked him why he thinks the Cubs don't win. What he told me might surprise you but give the man credit. He spoke from the heart and was extremely passionate in his comments.

DK: There is a lot of talk about leadership in a locker room. What is your take on the importance of leadership?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
That word is thrown around a lot. It was thrown around a lot when I was in Philadelphia. Leadership means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The leadership aspect is a bunch of guys going out together and playing good baseball. When you're playing good baseball your winning baseball games then you have good leadership and you have good personnel. When you're going out and playing sloppy baseball and not winning ball games then we have bad leadership. I don't take it, I appreciate it. I take it as...a high regard and very complimentary. But we're trying to be professionals on and off the field trying to go out and play good baseball and stay on top of things and not let things get out of hand and have little brush fires along the way, just keep a nice clean clubhouse.

DK: We hear all the time about bringing in winning type players because they have won championships and they have "been there before". Do you agree?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
Well, again I'm kind of a downplay guy, I think it's a little overblown. A winning player is a player that's on a team that won. That maybe didn't get a lot of at bats or get a lot of playing time. Whatever, there's something to it with individual guys, but it's individual personnel, case by case, there are special people in all sports that play the game that are infectious that have a way of putting people where they need to be. In the clubhouse keeping things loose, keeping things going in the right direction without a doubt. I do believe in that, but being a winning team and being a winning player, yeah I don't know.

DK: You have played a lot of games here at Wrigley Field during your career. Why do you think the Cubs haven't been able to win here?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
I think I don't know is probably the politically correct answer. True answer? The facts or the truth? The facts? The facts as I see it, I think they have their hands full a little bit. I think they're limited in their facilities here, their batting cage, I think it limits their work. A little restricted obviously in the clubhouse and their weight room. A lot of facilities that other teams have. They play a different schedule than everybody in baseball. There's three things in my mind that are facts. I don't know if that's the truth because to me there's a difference between the facts and the truth. Well it's a night game now basically. You sleep in during the day, you play a lot of night games and you struggle with travel days and everyone struggles with day games. They're playing 50, 55, 60 whatever day games a year. It's a different schedule. So I know for us coming here playing four day games, we're beat. That's their season. That's what they're doing. It puts their backs against the wall a little bit. They have good players, they have good personnel, they know how to play baseball. They have a good organization, but you know honestly I think it's difficult for them. Like I said, when we're talking about facilities everyone talks about Wrigley Field. Great atmosphere we love coming here, the fans, batting practice, everything. Fantastic, the ivy the whole works. I'm in. There's a lot in the game today, there's a lot of beautiful facilities. That are geared towards working, towards perfecting you know your skill, towards video, you know a lot of things have changed in the game and I'm not sure what the other side looks like but you know batting cages and stuff, I think are a bit restricted. They have to work pretty hard, they've got their hands full. But great place to play, everyone loves playing here and good personel, good ball club, good players.


How to Start Rebuilding the Chicago Cubs

If the Cubs do not show signs of life heading into the all star break I fully believe that we will hear from Chairman Tom Ricketts on his and his family's thoughts about the team and their plans for cleaning up the mess. So with that in mind here is what I would advise them to do to prepare for a very tough meeting with the media and the July 31st trading deadline.

1) Management must let the fan base know how frustrated they are with the on field performance and also let them know that it will not be tolerated and that change is coming to the Cubs in a big way.

2) Identify those pieces that have trade value and can be moved. That means there are no untouchables on the roster. However, it would take a huge deal to pry some of the best youngsters away from the Cubs.

3) Be willing to eat significant dollars to clear out the dead wood on the roster so that a complete overhaul of the team can begin as soon as possible.

4) Show the paying customer how much this season has upset you. They are paying a tremendous amount of money to support your team and they also invest their heart in a team that has broken it more times than they care to remember. They have to know that you are as upset as they are or you could see further declines in attendance and support.

5) Lay out a plan for the future. The Cubs fans will buy a plan if it is spelled out to them in a clear and concise manner. There has never been a definitive plan to rebuild the team. It has always been about trying to upgrade and compete all at the same time. Unless you spend Yankee level money that plan has very little chance of succeeding.

6) Talk about playing with pride and fire. That is much more of an indictment on the players than it is on the manager. However, when you see players like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez struggle day after day and they continue to remain in the 3-4 hole on the days that they are playing it is no wonder that it appears as if poor play is accepted. Lee and Ramirez have been awful all season long but never have we seen them dropped down to the 6-7-8 spots in the order.

When the White Sox were struggling in early June we heard Kenny Williams say that it would not be tolerated and that changes were coming if things didn't improve. He also said that "I'm tired of looking at this and so are our fans." By doing that he let everyone who buys a White Sox ticket know that he was as frustrated as they are and that it was unacceptable. We have not heard much of that from the North Side and that too is unacceptable.


Cubs Trying to Move Fukudome

Several baseball sources have confirmed to me that the Chicago Cubs have been extremely active in trying to move Kosuke Fukudome to open up regular playing time for rookie Tyler Colvin. Fukudome is owed approximately 8 million dollars for the remainder of this season and an additional 14 million for 2011.

My sources tell me that Cubs GM Jim Hendry has offered to pick up the bulk of the remaining dollars on the 2010 commitment and half of the money in 2011 but so far has found no takers for the under performing right fielder.

I have also been told that upper management is being extremely patient despite the poor performance of the Cubs so far in 2010. They will wait a few more weeks and evaluate the club's position at that time before they determine a course of action in advance of the July 31 trade deadline.

What Would You Do If You Were Tom Ricketts?

I host the Tenth Inning post game show on WGN Radio after most games and I am inundated with calls from fans who want to blame Lou Piniella for the poor play of many of the Cubs highly paid stars. So it got me to thinking. If you owned the Chicago Cubs what moves would you make? Not just in player personnel but in all aspects of running a major league baseball franchise from the team to the front office to the concessions to the marketing plan.

Put some thought into this and post your ideas in the comments section. I will take the best laid out plans to Tom Ricketts and hand your ideas to him. Be creative, think outside the box, and remember there are a ton of aspects that are included in owning a major league team that you probably haven't even considered. Where would you build the new spring training facility? Who would be your manager next season if Lou doesn't return? How much would your payroll be?

These are all interesting questions and questions that I want you to answer. Be thorough and have fun building a franchise but remember it is not as easy as it looks!

Go get em!

An Honest Assessment of the Cubs

With the Cubs currently sitting at 19-22 and 4 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central it is time to evaluate the roster, the off season moves, and the decision making through the first 6 weeks of the season.

General Manager Jim Hendry did not have much payroll flexibility this past winter and he had a number of things he wanted to address as he tried to retool his baseball team after a disappointing 2009 season. Hendry needed to land a center fielder, he needed to move Milton Bradley, he needed to upgrade his bullpen, and he needed to help some of his best players return to their previous form after having sub par 09' campaigns.

Let's look at the Cubs moves and decisions since the end of the 2009 season and grade them accordingly:


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Cubs Will Sign Bobby Howry

As I reported earlier tonight on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet the Cubs will sign reliever Bobby Howry to a deal that will be announced sometime in the next 48 hours. Howry was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this week and after clearing waivers the Cubs will only owe him the pro rated league minimum salary.

Howry spent the 2009 season with San Francisco where he appeared in 63 games with a 2-6 record and a 3.39 ERA. The Cubs are denying the signing but friends of Howry have confirmed that he and his wife have told them that they are indeed returning to Chicago.

An Open Letter From Tom Ricketts

I received this letter from several Cubs fans today so I decided to post it here on the blog so you could read it and decide to participate if you wanted to.

This is from Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts:


Are you a TRUE Cubs fan?

Date:
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Time:
12:00pm - 3:00pm
Location:
Chicago City Hall - Room 201-A
Street:
121 N. LaSalle St.

Description

If you're a true fan of the Cubbies then come on out and show the team your support.

Dear Friends,

You've probably been hearing about the Toyota sign we've proposed for the back of the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field. As fans and neighbors, we want you to know why this is important to the team and how it can help preserve the Friendly Confines.

As you know, Major League ballparks have historically relied on in-park signage to generate revenue. Legendary Fenway Park, older than Wrigley Field, has added significant signage throughout its outfield - and two World Series championships - in the last six years. Most other MLB teams also receive substantial public subsidies; we do not. In our case, we have asked for one sign in the outfield.

When we became owners, my family and I anticipated the need to spend tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars over the years ahead to preserve Wrigley Field. This past off-season, before we saw a single game as owners, we invested $10 million to shore up the infrastructure of the aging ballpark, renovate and expand its bathrooms, preserve our beloved scoreboard and replace some of the less attractive features of the park, like the concrete panels on the Addison street façade. As long-time Cubs fans, we know Wrigley Field is a special place and our hope is for future generations to share the wonderful experience of visiting the Friendly Confines.

In addition to the dollars invested in the park, we have maintained one of the highest payrolls in baseball and increased our budget for scouting and development - the key to future success. Winning a championship requires significant financial resources and we are currently reinvesting all profits - from the Toyota sign and otherwise - to make this happen.

Beyond the economics, there is an important principle at stake here. Wrigley Field has thrived for years as a privately-owned facility, albeit one where public interest is keen. We believe the park continues to be well-served by this principle which has guided its operation for nearly a century.

We have also been very respectful of the City's landmark designation and the process we have undertaken to win approval has been thorough. We've worked with the City and made adjustments, including modifying the location and design of the sign at the request of preservationists and City zoning officials. We've also worked with the rooftop businesses and in fact chose the proposed location because it least impacts those rooftop partners with whom we have long-term agreements. The landmark designation was never intended to put Wrigley Field in a time capsule. It's intended to allow flexibility and growth, within reason, to help the ballpark stay alive for the decades to come.

Finally, much of the opposition is rooted in commercial interests of one particular building and is designed to protect advertising currently on a rooftop across the street from Wrigley Field. Protecting the interests of one rooftop advertisement does not help preserve Wrigley Field or put together a championship team.

We would welcome your help and support for this sign. If you would like to lend your voice in support, please e-mail us at cubsfanfeedback@cubs.com.

I hope this information is helpful. Efforts like this are important as we continue to invest in our team and our 96-year-old ballpark. Improvements to Wrigley Field and modest changes throughout the years have kept the Friendly Confines alive while other stadiums have come and gone. Working together as we have allows us to remain viable and continue to flourish.

Thank you again for your help. And Go Cubs!

Sincerely,

Tom Ricketts
Chairman

The Latest on the Cubs, Zambrano, etc....

With the Cubs record now back to .500 at 13-13 and a 6 game road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati up this week it's time to take a critical look at the team and some of the issues that they are facing in the fairly near future.

Before I go position by position I feel it necessary to address Phil Rogers "Morning Phil" column on the Chicago Tribune website today. Phil addresses the hot streak that Alfonso Soriano is currently in and says:

1. Forgive us, Alfonso. We should know better, but how quickly we all forget. When Bob Brenly, David Kaplan and seemingly everyone following the Cubs was treating Alfonso Soriano with something between contempt and ridicule for failing to run hard out of the batter's box on a blast to the wall April 20 at Citi Field in New York, they missed the bigger picture: Soriano was showing signs of become a dangerous hitter again.

Well, Phil you are showing an incredible lack of understanding of how the game is supposed to be played. Sure, Soriano is red hot and he is carrying the team but you have once again missed the much bigger picture. There is a right way to play the game and a wrong way to play the game and when Soriano doesn't hustle that is the wrong way to play the game and that my friend is an undeniable fact. You can defend his lack of hustle all you want but if it is no big deal then why was he pulled into Lou Piniella's office after that game in New York and talked to about the play? Are you telling me Phil that when he hustled a double into a triple the next night that it had nothing to do with the tongue lashing he received from his manager less than 24 hours earlier?

C'mon Phil, I know that you are smarter than that. Reading this it sure doesn't show it though.

Now, onto an assessment of the Cubs through the first month or so.

Starting Pitching

With Carlos Zambrano now in the bullpen as a set up man the rotation has stayed surprisingly solid through the first month. Carlos Silva has been solid and Tom Gorzelanny has been very capable in the #5 spot. Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells have been excellent and if not for the failings of the bullpen prior to Zambrano's arrival the Cubs record would be far better than 13-13. Ted Lilly has had one good start and one poor one so it is far too early to pass judgment on his long term prognosis this season. While the back end of the rotation has been a pleasant surprise you still cannot convince me that the rotation is better without Zambrano and I fully expect him to return to his role as a starter at some point this season. Unless of course the Cubs make a major trade that includes Big Z.

Bullpen

With 3 rookies on the opening day roster it is not hard to understand why the Cubs pen struggled so mightily in April. Combine that fact with the struggles of John Grabow and you can see why the record is what it is. Will Zambrano be the steadying influence that bullpen needs to vault the Cubs into contention? He can be if he is willing to commit himself to the role and if the Cubs rotation stays solid. If one of the 5 starters struggles then Zambrano will go back to the rotation and the hole in the set up role will again become a glaring weakness. Look for Jim Hendry to make a trade to shore this area up but with very little trade activity in the industry over the season's first 45-60 days it may be a while before deal gets done unless the Cubs GM is willing to significantly overpay.

Infield

The corner spots have been an issue offensively but Derrek Lee is showing signs of breaking out of his April slump and should be a solid force going forward. Ryan Theriot has been outstanding offensively hitting .348 and while he is not a Gold Glove shortstop he is more than solid at the position. Aramis Ramirez has been awful through the first month but based on his career numbers you have to believe that he will return to form as a very potent offensive threat. If he doesn't then the Cubs have major issues because his production is irreplaceable from the backups currently on the roster. Second base has been a pleasant surprise offensively as Mike Fontenot is hitting over .300 but can that continue for an entire season remains to be seen. The Cubs top prospect Starlin Castro is currently hitting .354 in Class AA but he is 5 for his last 35 at the plate so it appears he is in line for at least another few weeks of seasoning before he could make his major league debut. When he does look for Ryan Theriot to move over to 2nd base on an everyday basis.

Outfield

With all five outfielders on the roster deserving of playing time this is perhaps the toughest part of Lou Piniella's job. Alfonso Soriano. Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome have all hit well but Tyler Colvin also is producing and has more than justified Piniella's faith in him when he put him on the opening day roster. Xavier Nady is a professional hitter and is not happy with his lack of playing time but with his surgically repaired elbow still an issue and the outfielders hitting well it has made opportunities for him to play scarce.

Catcher

A position of strength as Geovany Soto has rebounded from an awful 2009 and is a threat again at the plate. He is also throwing well and is a huge upgrade over the production the cubs received behind the plate in 2009. Koyie Hill is a very capable backup and has more than held his own when he gets an opportunity to play.

Summary

So, can the cubs make a run in the NL Central Division? Yes, if their rotation stays solid and the bullpen anchored by Zambrano and Carlos Marmol does its job consistently. Aramis Ramirez has to return to the form that he is capable of because without his bat in the lineup the Cubs have no chance to be solid enough offensively to compete for a playoff spot.

However, this is a station to station baseball team that does not have much team speed so when the wind blows in the Cubs are not very adept at manufacturing runs. They need to string together bunches of hits to score and that is not an easy proposition in the big leagues. I still have major questions about this team and while the past weekend was a solid step in the right direction let's not forget that they were playing the Arizona Diamondback and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Show us some excellent play against some of the better teams in the league and then maybe I'll start to believe.





The Cubs and White Sox Will Play for a Trophy

**Breaking News**

The Cubs and the White Sox have entered into a historic partnership today that will see the teams competing in inter league play, not only wins and losses but a new trophy called the BP Crosstown Cup.

Patterned along the lines of the various trophies that are staked in some of college football greatest rivalries, the Crosstown Cup will go to the team that wins the annual 6 game match-up between the two teams. What happens if each team wins 3 games you ask? Then the winner of the 6th game claims the trophy.

The Cup will be unveiled this season and should become a big part of the rivalry between the two great fan bases. The winning team will be presented the Crosstown Cup at the conclusion of the second series between the two teams, so there is a distinct possibility that a team could be awarded the trophy on the road in the other team's park.

Can you imagine the intensity of the moment if the Cubs were to celebrate with the trophy at US Cellular Field or the White Sox were to jump for joy with the Cup on the field at Wrigley? Those would be amazing moments to watch and will only intensify the already white-hot rivalry that runs generations deep.

In attendance at today's press conference in Millennium Park were Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Manager Lou Piniella, Chief Marketing Officer Wally Hayward and players Marlon Byrd and Randy Wells. The White Sox were represented by Chief Marketing Officer Brooks Boyer and players A.J. Pierzynski and Gordon Beckham.   

Kap and Caller Chuck

If you haven't seen this video yet, you've got to check it out.  A loyal listener, Edwardo, made this video with the audio from the Cubs 10th Inning Postgame show which I was hosting on Monday night. 

I was drilling Alfonso Soriano on the show for the double he hit on Monday night against the Mets that should have been a triple.  Instead of hustling out of the batters box, as he should have, he was holding his bat high in the air, admiring what he thought was a homer.  So in ranting on this, I had to address it, and caller Chuck...well, let's just say didn't like it.

 

Send this to your friends, retweet it, post it on your facebook.  And thanks to Edwardo for the great work.  This is great!

-Kap

 

 

Carlos Zambrano Moves to the Bullpen

Lou Piniella has just informed us that he is making a major change to the Cubs pitching staff by moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen as a bridge to closer Carlos Marmol. Stunning news but when you stop and think about it you can see the rationale because Zambrano has a good stuff and if he is mentally into the move it could work.

A critical review of the Cubs and their slow start will be up later.... 

Zambrano Pounded on Opening Day....Can He Rebound?

After a train wreck of an Opening Day for the Cubs in Atlanta on Monday I decided to crunch the numbers for Carlos Zambrano to see if we can come to a conclusion on whether or not he has seen his best days and is in a downward spiral that he cannot reverse.

Zambrano was simply awful Monday as he was pounded by the Atlanta Braves giving up 8 earned runs in less than 2 innings of work. Can he rebound? Certainly. He is only 28 (he turns 29 in June) and he should be entering the prime of his career. However, his trends over the past season and a half are not very impressive.

Here are Carlos Zambrano's pitching numbers since the 2008 All Star Break:

Starts 41
Wins 13
Losses 11
ERA 4.63
BAA .248 (.246 with runners in scoring position)
22 HR Allowed
239 innings (avg of 5.8 per start)
4.3 BB per 9 innings

106 pitchers in Major League Baseball have made 30 or more starts over the same span of time. Here is where Carlos Zambrano ranks among those pitchers:

ERA:  79th
Innings pitched:   60th
BB per 9 innings:  100th
Wins:  65th
 
The good news....Big Z has slugged 7 HR's in that span which ranks him #1 among all of the pitchers on the list.No one else has more than 3.

So is Zambrano a staff ace? At this point in time there is no chance that he deserves to have that label attached to his name. His numbers bear out the argument that he is extremely overrated and grossly overpaid. But, for the Cubs to contend he has to be a major piece of the rotation. That though, may be easier said than done.

Weigh in with your comments because last summer when I was critical of Zambrano many of the comments were definitely supportive of him. I wonder how supportive many of those same people are now. I would think the evidence speaks for itself that the Cubs are not getting anywhere near their money's worth at this point in time. Here's hoping that changes.

Below are the many faces and emotions of Carlos Zambrano....

Gallery sneak peek (9 images):

View the gallery...

The Last Words I Hope to Ever Write About Milton Bradley

I had pretty much closed the book on the Cubs' worst signing of the last 20 years, and one of the worst in franchise history after Milton Bradley was traded away last December. However, I feel compelled to address the ridiculous garbage that spewed out of his mouth in an interview with ESPN's Colleen Dominguez at spring training. In the interview he basically blames everyone but himself for his awful 2009 performance, both on and off the field, even going so far as to wonder if Cubs personnel were sending him hate mail.

Let's go through his thoughts here and dissect how deranged this person really is.  Here is Bradley on if Chicago is a tough place to play if you are African-American: "Well, I mean unless you go out there and you're Superman -- you're Andre Dawson, you're Ernie Banks, you're in the Hall of Fame -- then it's going to be tough," Bradley said. "People are just the way they are".

Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Derrek Lee? Lee is well liked and respected and loves playing in Chicago. So much so that he stated a couple of weeks back when I interviewed him at spring training that he wants to retire as a Cub. Want a less successful player who is African-American and was well liked and loved playing here? What about Doug Glanville? He was a solid, but unspectacular player who had two tours of duty with the Cubs and now makes his home in the Chicago area.  

Fans want players who play hard, are reasonably successful, and represent the team positively. Milton did none of that. He made no effort to fit in with his teammates, he was distant with the media from day one, and he was a lousy baseball player. He claims that he was told he had to hit 30 home runs, but I can tell you that was never expected from him. The Cubs wanted him to get on base, drive in runs because he he would have opportunities hitting in the middle of the lineup, and they wanted him to play a decent right field. 

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry met with the media on Wednesday in Mesa, AZ and here is what he had to say about Bradley's latest comments. Hendry has consistently taken the blame for the signing, repeatedly characterizing the acquisition as a complete and total mistake. However, after trading Bradley so he and the Cubs could get a fresh start, Bradley just can't keep his mouth shut. Hendry finally had enough of Bradley firing on the organization and met with the media in Mesa.

"We're all brought up in life to accept responsibility when we fail, and to judge people by how they act and how they carry themselves when things don't go well," Hendry said.

Bradley told ESPN some of the hate mail he received had no postage, suggesting it could've been sent in-house.

"Obviously, that couldn't be further from the truth," Hendry said. "I think maybe it's time Milton looks at himself in the mirror. It is what it is. He just didn't swing the bat. He didn't get the job done. His production, or lack of (production), was the only negative."

As for the hate mail that Bradley claims he received without a postmark, Hendry said people drop off mail at the front desk at Wrigley Field, which could explain why there was no postage on the alleged hate mail. He added that Bradley never mentioned the claim to anyone in the organization, and that the Cubs said the organization "couldn't have bent over backward any more than they did for the entire season, before (the suspension) in St. Louis."

Milton Bradley has no one to blame but himself for his poor performance in 2009. He was given the first multi-year contract of his career and he failed miserably. He was a sullen, moody person to deal with and never did anything, or made any attempt, to fit into the community or the locker room.

Could someone have said something racially motivated to him? Absolutely, however the rantings of a few lunatics were not the reason that Bradley had such a terrible experience in our city. He failed to produce on the field and continues to make excuses for his poor play. Milton Bradley, you need to look at yourself, not everyone else, when you try to figure out why the Cubs were so desperate to rid get rid of you.

The Signs of Spring

Here are some of the photos that I captured over the first two days at Cubs camp. The entire squad has reported and went through their first full day of workouts. As the snow falls and the cold weather blankets Chicago check out the blue skies in sunny Arizona. Enjoy! Kap


Gallery sneak peek (20 images):

View the gallery...

Kerry Wood Says Riggleman Did Not Misuse Him

Last week, Nationals manager and former Cubs skipper Jim Riggleman made news when he questioned his own handling of then Cubs rookie Kerry Wood in 1998. Speaking to the Washington Post, Riggleman said, "I think if anything that I learned from it, having to do it over I probably would have pitched Kerry less.  At the time that we had Kerry, my recollection of any criticism I had was 'Why did you take him out of the game?' After the fact it's "Well, you pitched him too much."

I reached Wood (now the closer for the Cleveland Indians) this morning and asked him for his opinion on Riggleman's comments. He was very open and honest telling me that he did not feel that Riggleman overused him.

"Wow, I hadn't heard his comments and I really don't agree with that. Look, I had bad mechanics back then and it was very hard for me to try to correct them when what I was doing was working. I remember many times thinking that I wish Jim would leave me in the game because I still felt strong."

Wood also talked about his mindset as a rookie.

"Back then I was a young pitcher with great stuff and when you are young and talented it is very hard to understand why you should be making changes to what you are doing when you are successful doing it the way you are. So, no I don't blame Jim at all. I definitely do not think I was overused or mishandled."

Gallery sneak peek (7 images):

View the gallery...

Cubs Expect Mesa Deal to Get Done

Cubs president Crane Kenney joined me on Sports Central tonight and had this to say when I asked him about the "Cubs Tax" that has riled up all of the other owners in the Cactus League:

 

Crane Kenney: Yes, we're really confident. I met with the mayor of Mesa today and we talked a little bit about the so-called "Cubs" tax. The state representative who's the sponsor of the bill has got a meeting Friday with all of the teams to talk about the various funding mechanisms and from our perspective that's not our business. The state and the city will figure out how to finance this. We're supportive of any measure that helps us get a facility, a world class one, and we've been led to believe by everyone from John McCain who I had lunch with last week on down that this will get done and we're going to have a few bumps in the road like lots of legislation but we're pretty confident.

The Baseball Season is Back

The Cubs first full squad workout is underway, and everyone on the roster has reported on time.  It appears the club as a whole is in the best shape that we have seen in quite a while. Carlos Zambrano and Geovany Soto, are both much lighter, which has been reported for weeks now, and in the case of Soto he has lost more than 40 lbs.

Derrek Lee met the media this morning and told us that despite Lou Piniella's opinion that team chemistry was bad a year ago, he felt that injuries and poor play were much bigger reasons why the team struggled throughout much of 2009.

"Chemistry is the million dollar question,"  Lee said.  "I think that when you are winning your chemistry always seems to come together and when you are not it is always questioned. It can't hurt to always have a good bunch of guys in the clubhouse and guys having fun but I don't think that was our problem last year. I think we just didn't play good baseball and the injuries mounted up on us."

The Ricketts family has just entered the complex, and they are getting ready to meet with the entire team. Then they will have a session with all of the assembled media. I'll file later today after the first workout is over. Stay in touch with all of the happenings by following me on Twitter. I will be tweeting all week. You can find me @thekapman

Have a great day! Kap 

Tony LaRussa on McGwire, Managing the Cubs, and More....

St. Louis Cardinals Manager, Tony LaRussa, joined me yesterday on Chicago Tribune Live and
talked about the possibility of working for Jerry Reinsdorf again,
whether or not he would ever manage the Cubs, and if we could see Mark
McGwire on the Cardinals roster. The interview is transcribed below.

KAPLAN: Tony looking at your career, you had a good run with the White
Sox then you ended up leaving and going to Oakland. You're still very
very close to Jerry Reinsdorf. Could you see yourself at some point
maybe working for him in the front office when your managerial days are
over and you leave St. Louis?

LARUSSA: Well there's two answers to that. One is that I know that he is
pleased with his management team. I know that he really has a lot of
confidence, and he deserves to have that with Kenny Williams, and the
assistant, and the farm director, and all that stuff. I mean I would
never think about managing. I know he likes Ozzie as well. So I don't
ever think that is going to be an issue, because I think he's got his
team. But the other side to that is if I ever left the field and went
upstairs, which I hope to do sometime maybe soon, you know thirty-one,
thirty-two years is enough and at some point I'd like to work for an
owner that I like and that I respect as much as I do Jerry because I
want to be motivated to make him happy. I worked as a manager for Jerry,
I worked for Walter Haas, now in St. Louis its nice when you like the
people you work for because that helps motivate you.

KAPLAN: If you were a free agent and sitting on the market and the Cubs job
was open, would you say I can't go there because of my relationship with
Jerry, or the rivalry with the Cardinals? Or would you say I would listen because
I"m looking for a gig?

LARUSSA: Well I don't think the Cubs would consider me number one, but
number two you've got a double-headed whammy there. I have a lot of
friends and fans that I'm close to with the White Sox. And you know
the White Sox and Cubs, they don't mix. I've got friends and fans that I'm
close to in St. Louis and the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cubs don't
mix. So I think if there is one place that I don't fit just because of
my past it would be the Chicago Cubs.

KAPLAN: Mark McGwire you've been very very positive about. You said hey
this guy is going to be a very good hitting coach for me. Mark has come
out and addressed his issues. Did you think there would be the backlash
to it when you hired him? Or that didn't surprise you?

LARUSSA: No, I knew it was one of the things we had to face. Let me make
sure I correct one thing. I'm very loyal to our players over the years,
White Sox, A's, and Cardinals. If you give back to the team which you
should, I don't grease the squeaky wheel. I like to take care of the
guys who are really good teammates.  Mark was a great teammate. But when
it comes to putting a coach on the staff it has nothing to do with
loyalty, it has nothing to do with friendship. You know, we have too
much at stake. I think he has the qualities of a great hitting coach,
and that's why he was hired. And you knew at some point, number one he
couldn't just take the job and not be forthcoming about I did do
something or I didn't do something. And I think when he came out we were
really encouraged that he pulled out all the stops and admitted more
than anybody yet that he made mistakes. He apologized sincerely. I think
a great majority of his peers, past and present, a lot of fans and some
media  wanted him to move forward. So I don't think there's a whole lof
left that he hasnt talked about, that he needs to talk about. I just
think at some point now, especially with Mark or anybody else, if you
had a celebrity coach, or you name a great player... Frank Thomas was a
great player and if he became your hitting coach. It's not about the
coaches, its about the players. We keep the distractions to a minimum,
and its about getting the most of our players.

KAPLAN: You said a couple months ago that if you got to the playoffs, you
could see Mark possibly being on the roster. Do you still feel that way
going to spring training?

LARUSSA: That was really a fun remark because when Mark left, he left
with a bad back. One of the things people talk about, you hear people
say that he has really good character and he's a good teammate. But he
had a $30 million signed contract by the Cardinals that he walked away
from. That to me is character and integrity, because he knew his back was
broken and he couldn't play. Seven or eight years later he is in great
shape, and his back is good. So we were kidding that he looks so good. I
was watching him swing in the cage and he's whistling it. I said, "You
could still swing!" He said, "why don't we talk about you activating
me?" We were just messing around and our tongues were so much in our
cheeks that its hard for anybody to understand what we were saying. He's
not going to play, he's going to coach. Hopefully we have a postseason,
but he wont be a part of it.

No Announcement on Spring Training Site Today

Numerous news organizations are reporting today that the Chicago Cubs will announce their future spring training home this afternoon. I have confirmed that they will be making no announcement today as they weigh proposals from both Mesa, AZ and Naples, FL.

Speculation is running rampant that the Cubs have settled on Naples or are close to making that decision but I do not believe that any announcement has been decided upon. Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan had a story that talked about a "bed tax" that would potentially seal the deal for a move to Naples.

I predicted months ago that despite an excellent offer from Naples that the Cubs would get a deal done that would keep them in Arizona and I still believe that will end up being true. Look for an announcement sometime next week.

Cubs Worries....

There may be no more optimistic Cubs fan than me, but I also try my best as an admitted die hard fan to be realistic about the team's chances before each season begins. Now, while I know that the season is still 82 days away, and there is still time to make a few more moves to improve the roster, I have to tell you that I have serious concerns about the 2010 Chicago Cubs chances.

The everyday lineup has big questions in it, starting behind the plate. Geovany Soto is coming off of a brutal 2009 campaign that saw him start the season out of shape, and saw him finish the year batting just .218 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI's. Numbers that were a far cry from his 2008 N.L. Rookie of the Year campaign that saw him hit .285 with 23 HR's and 86 RBI's. Can Soto rebound in 2010? I have my concerns, but his improvement is a huge key to the Cubs' chances in the NL Central.

In the outfield, Alfonso Soriano is coming off of a horrendous season that ended early when he underwent knee surgery. Can Soriano at least return to decent form so that he becomes an offensive threat in the middle of the lineup? Kosuke Fukudome will shift from center field back to his natural position in right, but he also needs to improve offensively to help revive a Cubs' offense that struggled to score runs in 2008. Finally, Marlon Byrd arrives via free agency to play center field, but is he the answer to a position problem that has plagued the Cubs for quite a while?

In the infield, the corners are outstanding with Derrek Lee at first and Aramis Ramirez at third. However, Ramirez missed 80 games a season ago after separating his shoulder, so keeping him on the field consistently is a huge key that is fraught with concern. At shortstop, Ryan Theriot begins what will probably be his final season at the position with minor league phenom Starlin Castro penciled in for the position in 2011. Theriot is then expected to slide over and play second base once Castro arrives and is playing regularly. Second base is a huge question mark with Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker battling for playing time. Is either guy an everyday player on a team with championship aspirations? I'm not so sure.

The starting pitching rotation is my biggest concern about this year's club as it is currently constituted. Carlos Zambrano possesses a world of talent, but is this the season that he harness his ability and his emotions and becomes the leader of the staff and the ace that he is expected to be? Ryan Dempster is working tremendously hard and is in the the best shape of his life, but he has to get back to the form he showed in 2008 when he was the staff leader with 17 wins. Ted Lilly is coming off of shoulder surgery and isn't expected back in the rotation until the beginning of May, so his impact is certainly questionable. Randy Wells had a fine 2009 rookie campaign, but can he continue where he left off, and will he be able to be a season long contributor in a rotation trying to return to the post season? The rest of the group of starters is suspect with Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, and prospect Andrew Cashner all in the mix. However, none of them has ever proven that they can be a regular member of a rotation and be counted on every fifth day.

Finally, the bullpen has some bright spots, led by ultra-talented closer Carlos Marmol, who has tremendous stuff. Yet he spent most of 2009 struggling with his command before finally overtaking the departed Kevin Gregg for the closer's job. Will Marmol be a reliable closer, or will he be a walks machine that can't seal the deal? John Grabow should be a solid set up man, as should Angel Guzman. But beyond them, who can the Cubs count on at this time? Esmailin Caridad, Jeff Gray (who arrived in the Jake Fox and Aaron Miles trade with Oakland), and a yet to be added veteran arm all will be in the mix but the depth in the bullpen has to be a concern.

There are still 82 days before Opening Day. There is still time to add another relief pitcher and a bench bat who can help out in the outfield. Most importantly, the Cubs must add another starter to strengthen the most important part of any team that has post season dreams. Jim Hendry, the ball is in your court.

Attention All Cubs Fans!!
Note: I will be in attendance tomorrow night (Thursday January 14th): at Billy Dec's awesome Rockit Bar and Grill in Wrigleyville which is hosting: 
A new night at Rockit Wrigley, 3700 North Clark, on Thursdays - Cub-aholics Anonymous. Apparently during off-season feelings of listlessness, abandonment and general malaise fill the hearts of Cubs and Wrigley Field fans, so Rockit Wrigley is launching a Cubs Fan support group. Join a lively Cub-friendly social scene to celebrate all things Cubs with sports media, ball players, giveaways and a nice view of Wrigley Field across the street. Hope to see you there! Kap

The Best of the Decade in Chicago Sports

As the first decade in the 21st century comes to a close, let's take a moment to reminisce about the best and worst moments and athletes of the past ten years in Chicago Sports.

Best Team: 2005 Chicago White Sox

Only one Chicago team could call itself champions in the first decade of the 2000s, and that team plays at 35th and the Dan Ryan.  The White Sox magical run to a world championship in 2005 erased an 88-year drought of glory on the south side.  Everything went right for Ozzie Guillen's club that year, as his starting staff of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia each won 14 or more games in the regular season, leading the club to a 99 win campaign.  Playing "Ozzie Ball", the Palehose used speed and timely hitting to scratch across runs with Scott Podsednik changing the team's offensive strategy.  The White Sox stormed through the playoffs, going 11-1 in October, which included a sweep of the then-defending champion Red Sox, and the Astros in the World Series.  Their bullpen was rock solid all year, as Bobby Jenks burst onto the scene as a bona fide closer, and earned the save on October 26, 2005 to earn the Sox a ring.

Worst Team: 2000-2001 Chicago Bulls

After a historic run of six world championships in the previous decade with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, things went very bad and very fast for the Bulls after the nucleus of the team left the Windy City.  The team did have Elton Brand, who averaged 20 points per game, Ron Mercer, who could still contribute, and Ron Artest--who by his own admission--was drinking on the job.  The team went 15-67, bad enough for a miserable .183 winning percentage, and ranked dead last in the NBA in points per game (87.6).  Need any further proof this team was a disaster?  This team only had three players average double-digit scoring, and Ron Artest barely qualified in double-digits with just over 11 points per game.  Also, how about these names that contributed minutes to Tim Floyd's club that year:  Dragan Tarlac, Khalid El-Amin, Dalibor Bagaric, A.J. Guyton, Jake Voskuhl.  Need I say more?

Best Athlete: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

Say what you want about Urlacher's attitude, or problematic character at times.  It's no question this city could have embraced him far more than they did over this past decade.  But when it comes to the best athlete in Chicago sports over the last ten years, Urlacher takes the cake.  After being drafted in the first round out of New Mexico in 2000, Urlacher immediately emerged as a standout linebacker for the Bears and quickly vaulted to the top of the NFL.  He had more than 800 tackles in the decade, 37.5 sacks, and 17 interceptions.  He was one of the most feared defensive players in the league for the majority of the decade, and led his team to multiple playoff appearances including a Super Bowl berth in 2006.  Note: Honorable Mention goes to White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, for a consistent and successful decade.

Worst Athlete: Corey Patterson, Chicago Cubs

Corey Patterson had a three good months as a Chicago Cub.  That's it.  Otherwise, his career as a Cub could really only be described as a debacle.  The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft figured to solve the Cubs center field problem for the long haul.  All we read and heard about him coming up was that he had great speed, great power, and could be a five-tool superstar type player to anchor the Cubs outfield.  Instead, he was a free-swinging, undisciplined, stubborn liability for the Cubs for parts of five seasons.  Other than the 83 games in 2003 in which he hit .298 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, he was detracting from the team's success.  (And funnily enough, when Patterson got hurt the Cubs acquired Kenny Lofton, who was a catalyst and a big reason why the Cubs nearly reached the world series that season.)  In 2004, he was a microcosm of the team's shortcomings, and his 2005 season was one of the worst statistical seasons put forth by an everyday player in history.  He's still toiling around baseball, last seen with the Brewers this past season.  The Cubs traded him to Baltimore before the 2006 year, and the Cubs have still not found a long term solution for center field.

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So Did The Cubs Shop Zambrano?

New York sources continue to insist to the Big Apple's news media that the Yankees took a run at Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano in the past week prior to re-acquiring Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves. In fact, Friday's edition of the NY Daily News says that the Cubs did indeed discuss a deal and that the Cubs were willing to take back left hander Kei Igawa and the 12 million dollars left on his deal to try to make the financial aspects of a trade possible.

So is it true? Were the Cubs shopping Zambrano? Sources very close to the Yankees who would not speak on the record told me that there was really nothing in the way of negotiations with the Cubs regarding Big Z. One phone call was placed to see if Zambrano was available, and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was told that short of an overwhelming deal in terms of talent, and the Yanks assuming all of the remaining 53 million dollars on Zambrano's contract, the Cubs had no interest in trading their #1 starter.

So while there was a call made to gauge the Cubs interest, there really was nothing to the frenzy that hit the internet early this week regarding Zambrano and the Yankees. With Ted Lilly coming off of shoulder surgery, and Rich Harden now pitching for the Texas Rangers, the Cubs are very thin in the rotation. Trading Zambrano would be a foolish thing to do, unless the deal was a huge win for the Cubs. And with the Yankees payroll already at $200 million, there was no chance that they were assuming all of Big Z's contract.

Tonight on Radio and TV

Tonight at 5:30 on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet we will be joined by White Sox GM Kenny Williams and his newest acquisition, outfielder Juan Pierre who was acquired in a trade this morning from the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor league pitchers.

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. on Sports Central on WGN Radio we will have an in depth discussion about the Chicago Cubs with three well known bloggers including Andy Dolan of Desipio.com. We will take calls and look at the 2010 season and the remaining free agents that the Cubs might have interest in.

**Please note that new Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly will join me on Sports Central on Thursday evening.

The Cubs Payroll Evolution

In 2003, the Chicago Cubs payroll was $80 million. In 2004, coming off a run to the NLCS, the Cubs payroll escalated to $90 million. 2005 saw the team shave the number to 87 million, and not until 2008 did the player payroll crack the 100 million dollar mark. So how did the Cubs go from spending 99 million dollars in 2007, to roughly 145 million, which is where their payroll is estimated to reach in 2010? 

Several factors played into the scenario that now has the ball club among the top 3 spending teams in baseball. First, 2006 was an abysmal season that saw the Cubs finish 66-96, dead last in the NL Central. Consequently, attendance in the latter stages of the season plummeted, and fans stopped paying attention to the team by September.

Second, the White Sox reached the pinnacle of the sport, winning the 2005 World Series. Their success rekindled interest from their fan base, and saw legions of Chicago area youngsters wearing Sox hats and jerseys. Cubs management took notice of their half empty stadium in September of 2006 and decided that something drastic had to be done.

Drastic meant the firing of Andy MacPhail as team president and firing manager Dusty Baker. The club kept general manager Jim Hendry and gave him a blank check to try to right the ship.  The Cubs knew with the resurgent competition in town and the fact that the franchise would soon be up for sale that they needed to increase the franchise's value to appease both the fan base and drive up the value for a prospective buyer.
  
In November of '06, after reeling in Mark DeRosa on a 3 year 13 million dollar deal, the Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million contract, which was unprecedented for the Cubs after years of avoiding the premium free agents. Hendry then went to the Winter Meetings in December of 2006 and signed Ted Lilly to a 4 year 40 million dollar deal. This all came after the Cubs re-signed Aramis Ramirez to a 75 million dollar deal, re-signed Kerry Wood, and added Lou Piniella as their new manager.

And do you really think Hendry, after sitting third on the depth chart behind MacPhail and Baker, was really acting alone?  No chance.  The company had as much to do with the team's free spending as he did. In fact, Hendry was given a mandate by management to spend freely, try to win,  and most importantly to management, to raise the franchise's value to aid the sale process.

That also meant that the contracts that were given out were to be back loaded as much as possible so that the new owner would pay much of the deals. However, the economy tanked, the credit markets dried up and the sale process took for longer than expected which made Hendry's job far tougher as he tried to navigate the deals that he had been asked to extend by his bosses.

Yet while the Cubs spent a tremendous amount to improve their team and improve their value, they added some enormous contracts of which the new owner would inherit the bulk. Consequently, the team has very little wiggle room to add marquee players now, or in the near future, since their payroll is tied up in players like Soriano, Zambrano, and Ramirez.  Had the Cubs had more financial flexibility a year ago, what's to say the team wouldn't have been interested in adding Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay at the trading deadline?

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The Truth About the Granderson Deal

I read Phil Rogers column in the Chicago Tribune yesterday and came away scratching my head at the premise that Phil is using-- that the Cubs should have traded for Curtis Granderson because the Yankees didn't need Granderson as badly as the Cubs. They already have Derek Jeter to be their leader and ambassador.

Phil, Granderson had a lousy 2009 season. He hit .183 against left-handed pitching. He had an on base percentage of .327, and he struck out 141 times. Yes, he is an outstanding defensive player and a wonderful human being. But the Cubs have to get better players in their clubhouse, not just better people.

The Cubs don't have the financial flexibility that the Yankees do, because the Yankees have $60 million more to spend on their payroll. The Cubs were interested in Granderson, yes, but not at the expense of trading a handful of their best prospects to acquire a guy who is a better person than he is a player.

The Yankees are planning on starting Granderson in center everyday, but he will not be their lead off man. The Yankees hitting instructors evaluated his swing by looking at tapes of his at-bats against left handed pitching in 2009, and compared it to his swing in previous seasons when he was much better against left handers. They now believe that they can correct what's wrong with his swing, and the tremendous talent that surrounds him in New York will make his transition to the World Champions that much easier.

He was much better against right handed pitchers in Detroit and in Yankee Stadium as a pull hitter with a short porch to right field he could have a much better season. It wasn't a fit for the Cubs given the price tag the Tigers set.  Phil, you don't trade a lot of your best young talent just to get a leader in your clubhouse. He has to fit as a player as well and the fit is much better in New York than it would have been in Chicago.

Yankees Covet Granderson, Cubs Won't Include Castro

The New York Yankees spent the better part of Monday at the Winter Meetings trying to acquire Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is available because Detroit is looking to cut payroll. The proposed deal was a three team swap that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks. But as of Monday evening, it appears that the Yankees were having reservations about the amount of young talent that they would have to include in the swap to acquire Granderson.

The Cubs are on the fringe of the discussions, hoping to hang around and see if the price falls a bit, so they can take a run at acquiring the outstanding defender and Chicago native. However, the Tigers reportedly are asking for Cubs top prospect SS Starlin Castro and two more good players in exchange for Granderson, and the Cubs are balking at including Castro in just about any deal.

The Cubs are also hot on the heels of CF Mike Cameron, who played for Cubs manager Lou Piniella in Seattle. He's not only a great defender, but he is considered one of the best clubhouse leaders in baseball. Jim Hendry told me last week that he can make moves even if a trade or signing puts him over the payroll limit set by ownership, as long as he meets his budget number by Opening Day. That was not the case in 2005, when Hendry was forced to let Moises Alou leave via free agency, and to pass on several other moves, because he had not yet moved the contract of Sammy Sosa. 

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The Weekend in Sports

It was an interesting past week in the sports world with the Tiger Woods scandal hitting new levels each and every day. Not a day went by that we didn't hear about another woman who was allegedly sleeping with the Tiger. Who knows where this whole sordid mess is headed. Here is the latest information on a deal that Tiger reportedly made to keep a story about an affair from being published.

In addition, the lurid details about his sex life are now surfacing which has turned the intensely private Woods into a late night talk show punch line. And with the count of women coming forward now at six who knows when this story will leave the news and allow Tiger and his wife some time to work on repairing their relationship.

Then you had the Bears who were coming off of an embarrassing blowout loss to the Vikings. Well, on Sunday the beloved Bear finally put a game into the win column by beating the completely inept St. Louis Rams 17-9 at Soldier Field.

The Bulls finally won a game after they beat the Detroit Pistons at the United Center earlier in the week. However, they were drilled both Friday and Saturday by the Cavaliers and Raptors respectively with the latter winning by 30+ at the United Center.

The Blackhawks won 2 of 3 this week with an 11 round shootout deciding a tough win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening before the Hawks lost to Nashville on Friday night at the United Center. However, the Hawks bounced back quickly beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in OT on Saturday evening.

Baseball now grabs center stage with the Winter Meetings officially underway in Indianapolis. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are expected to be very active participants with the Cubs hoping to move Milton Bradley while the Sox are considering dealing closer Bobby Jenks.

So who makes our week in pictures? Check em' out because we have the stars of the week and the women who are reportedly chasing a Tiger.

Enjoy and get ready for our updates of the Winter Meetings which are in high gear through Thursday and where we have a ton of great sources. Also, please make sure you tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7 p.m. Have a great week! Kap

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Vote for the Best in Chicago Sports

There is no better city in America for sports than Chicago and with the end of the year fast approaching it is time to ask for your help to vote for the best in Chicago sports in 2009.

Each year on Chicago Tribune Live we award The Kappy's to honor excellence among Chicago athletes. Click here to vote now! Your help is greatly appreciated!

Cubs Choose Not to Offer Arbitration to Harden

Tonight is the deadline for clubs to offer salary arbitration to their free agents. And for the Cubs, that means they have decisions to make on a handful of players, including starting pitcher Rich Harden and closer Kevin Gregg.

I have learned that the Cubs have informed Harden and Gregg as well as outfielder Reed Johnson that they will not be offered salary arbitration meaning that if those players sign with another club the Cubs will get no draft pick compensation.
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The Cubs have elected not to offer salary arbitration to starting pitcher Rich Harden whose injury history made it likely he would have accepted it putting the Cubs on the hook for a big salary.


The Cubs had an opportunity to trade both Harden and Gregg to the Minnesota Twins at the end of August but felt that being only 5 games back in the Wild Card race they did not want to wave the white flag of surrender. That was a tactical mistake because now the Cubs will lose both guys for nothing when they could have had a couple of prospects from the Twins.
Their competitiveness to stay in the race was admirable but misguided because the Chicago Cubs had no chance of contending in September of 2009.
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Who Would You Put On A Chicago Sports Mt. Rushmore?

A great topic of debate is who are the best athletes in Chicago Sports history. But how do you ask that question? Is it the best athlete? Or is it the most individually dominant in terms of statistics? Or perhaps you ask is it the guy who has won the most championships?

So here is how I have decided to ask the question. If you had to carve a Mt. Rushmore of Chicago sports who would be the four men who would have their likenesses carved into your tribute to their greatness?

Below I have pictures of the players that I have nominated. Am I missing someone? Please post a comment with your nominees and your thoughts. Soon I will have a competition to crown the winners based on your voting. However, I have to make sure that the ballot is correctly done. And for that I need your help. So please weigh in. Thanks, Kap

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A Look at Curtis Granderson

After a nice break on the beach in Maui it's time to get back to work covering all of the happenings in the Chicago sports world. So let's start with the Cubs, who are still trying to unload Milton Bradley after talking with a number of teams at the recently completed GM meetings.

The latest I am hearing has the Cubs and the Rangers seriously discussing a trade that would send the disgruntled outfielder back to the the team that he starred for before signing with the Cubs last winter. However, read this nugget in Rangers' beat writer Evan Grant's blog regarding a possible Bradley return to Texas, and you'll see just how tough it may be for the Cubs to move him.

As for the Tigers willingness to trade center fielder Curtis Granderson, things are starting to heat up, as they explore several different options in both the AL and NL.
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Detroit Tigers CF Curtis Granderson would be a huge upgrade for the Cubs outfield defense.

The Cubs are definitely on the Tigers radar, since they fit several of the requirements Detroit has in any Granderson deal. First, they have a handful of excellent prospects that are nearly major league ready and they would be the key to any deal. Also, the Cubs don't play in the AL and definitely don't play in the AL Central. That could make this deal more likely, since Detroit is very reluctant to trade him within their league and even more so in their division. If you were Jim Hendry, would you trade rising shortstop prospect Starlin Castro in a package to land Granderson?
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A Look at Zambrano and Lackey

It's amazing to see the reaction anytime I write about Carlos Zambrano and his performance as the ace of the Cubs rotation. If I point out anything negative about Big Z his supporters come rushing to his defense. If I say something nice about "Z" those who don't like him become very vocal.

Yesterday, I talked about free agent starter John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and his credentials which should earn him a huge contract this winter. I immediately heard from the Zambrano fan club who think that if I point out Z's shortcomings I must have a vendetta against him.

Look, I am not a Zambrano fan because he is lazy and he doesn't get the most out of his abilities. However, I agree that he is a tremendously talented guy who should be a staff ace if he could ever learn to control his emotions and would report to spring training in shape and would work hard enough during the season to stay that way.

Let's compare the statistics in a handful of key categories between Zambrano and Lackey since Z signed his 91.5 million dollar extension on August 17, 2007. The rankings are for all starting pitchers who are regular members of a rotation in either league.

                              Zambrano                                                Lackey
Innings pitched          406.1 (47th)                                              402.1 (52nd)       
Strikeouts                 320 (T-38th)                                              322 (T-37th)
Complete Games       2  (T-39th)                                                5 (T-8th)
K/BB Ratio                1.84 (115th)                                              3.35 (23rd)
Baserunners/9 IP        12.49 (85th)                                             11.57 (37th)

So in the categories of innings pitched and strikeouts the two pitchers are just about even but in the all important stats of strikeouts to walks and base runners per 9 innings pitched Lackey is far superior. Does that mean he is worth 12-15 million dollars a year? Probably not, but he will probably sign a deal somewhere in that range. Is he a true #1 starter? Again, probably not but his big game experience and tenacity does intrigue a number of teams and that should create a solid market for his services.

Some Ideas for the Cubs

The Cubs are starting to see the fruits of their labor to improve their farm system, as a handful of top flight prospects are nearly ready to play at the major league level. SS Starlin Castro is probably the closest position player to the big leagues, with 3B Josh Vitters not far behind, especially offensively.

So with Castro on the fast track to the Cubs everyday lineup, incumbent shortstop Ryan Theriot will be moved to 2nd base when Castro arrives. If Castro is being penciled into the starting lineup for Opening Day 2011, or perhaps sooner, why not move Theriot to 2nd base now? Rather than have two middle infielders in new surroundings when the 2011 season begins, why not let Theriot play there in 2010 and sign a veteran shortstop to a one year deal until Castro is ready?

What about a one year contract for Orlando Cabrera, who played very well for the Minnesota Twins down the stretch? The former White Sox has had a solid big league career for the past 12 seasons. He is excellent defensively, hits for average, runs fairly well and would not cost a ton of money to sign. Cabrera plays nearly every day, and brings a ton of postseason experience.

That would allow Theriot to play 2nd base, where he would be a better fit, and it would allow him time to get comfortable with the position before he has to help Castro with his transition to the big leagues in late 2010 or at the start of 2011.

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Ted Lilly Has Shoulder Surgery

The Cubs have announced today that Ted Lilly had shoulder surgery yesterday afternoon and probably will not start the season in the Cubs rotation. Here is the press release that the Cubs issued today:

TED LILLY UNDERGOES LEFT SHOULDER ARTHROSCOPY AND DEBRIDEMENT

CHICAGO - Ted Lilly yesterday afternoon underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement performed by noted orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles.  During the surgery, Dr. Yocum found no major damage to Lilly's shoulder and the procedure consisted of a washout and clean up of the shoulder.  The procedure took approximately one hour to complete. 

Lilly will immediately begin an aggressive range of motion and strengthening program.  After the first of the year, Lilly will be re-evaluated and the club will establish a timetable for him to begin his throwing program in preparation for the 2010 season.  Typically, recovery time for a procedure such as this would place Lilly's return to the Cubs rotation within the month of April. 

"We are pleased that Ted's surgery was a success and are eager to see him begin his rehabilitation program," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry.  "After Ted's re-evaluation following the first of the year, a determination will be made as to when he will begin his throwing program.  At this point in time, it is too early to precisely project Ted's return to the Cubs rotation; most estimates would place that return within the month of April.

"At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Cubs team doctors prescribed a conservative approach to managing Ted's shoulder in preparation for the 2010 season and, following a second opinion, Dr. Yocum agreed," Hendry continued.  "At the end of last week, Ted decided that undergoing a surgical procedure was the course of action he wanted to pursue, a decision the club supported.  We're glad the surgery did not reveal any major damage to Ted's shoulder and look forward to his return to our rotation."

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It's Official....The Ricketts Take Control

After a 30 month period filled with ups and downs it is finally official. The Ricketts family has taken control of the storied Chicago Cubs franchise, Wrigley Field, and a stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Here is the press release issued by the Ricketts family through their spokesman Dennis Culloton just minutes ago....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 (CHICAGO) -- The Ricketts family says it's official; the family has taken a 95 percent controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast Sportsnet after a financial closing today.

The closing on the deal, valued at $845 million, completes a more than two year effort that started when Tribune Company put the team, stadium and broadcast interest up for bid.  Family members Pete, Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts will now assume control of the team, forming a board of directors. Tribune Company will retain a five percent interest in the enterprise and also have a seat on the board. 

Tom Ricketts, 44, will serve as board chairman and issued the following statement:

"My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come and we thank Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for approving our ownership.  Now we will go to work building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly deserve. 

It's fitting that this closing takes place during World Series week. Out of respect for the Fall Classic, and at the league's request, we will wait to introduce ourselves to the media and fans until this Friday, a travel day in the series between the Phillies and the Yankees."

The news conference will take place at Wrigley Field at 11 a.m. Friday, October 30th.

More to come later in the day when we discuss this on Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 on Comcast SportsNet and tonight at 7:00 on Sports Central on WGN Radio.

No Chance the Cubs Spend the Spring in Florida

There are reports surfacing tonight that the Cubs have spoken with the city of Naples, FL about a possible move there as a new spring training home. Yes, the Cubs have met with Naples officials and they have toured the city as they consider all of their options for spring training.

However, there is virtually no chance that the Cubs will leave Arizona and the Cactus League for Florida and the Grapefruit League. The travel in Florida is much tougher with some of the cities much farther apart than the large group of teams that calls the Phoenix area home.

This is called negotiating folks, and as the Cubs look around it drives up the offers from the city of Mesa. And it will, in the end, make the deal that the Cubs agree to that much more lucrative. Look for the Cubs to develop a sort of "Disneyland" for spring training baseball in Arizona, with a hotel and restaurant complex located near the playing field and workout facilities at which the team will train.

When it is all finished, it will be a cash cow for the Cubs, who remain the #1 drawing team in the Cactus League. The new stadium will be larger than Ho Ho Kam, and it will be loaded with amenities that the Cubs currently don't have.

Yes, Naples would love to have the Cubs, but I just don't see it happening no matter what they offer. The Cubs and Arizona are a good match, and when Mesa finishes their proposal I see the Cubs staying right there.

Chicago Sports Needs Some Personalities

While I consider Rick Morrissey a colleague and a friend, we usually disagree on most of the topics we discuss in the sports world. However, his column this morning in the Chicago Tribune was outstanding. For a world class city with the best sports fans in the world, we sure don't have much in the way of colorful personalities who are compelling enough for even the casual fan to pay attention. How big would Chad Ochocinco be on the national stage if he played in Chicago or New York? He would be a mega star.

Outside of Ozzie Guillen, name me one guy who you think really keeps it interesting, and is engaging not only with the media, but in the way he acts on the playing field. Let's examine the coaches and managers first, then we'll look at the players who call Chicago home.

Managers and Coaches

Ozzie Guillen

He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I find him so entertaining to watch and to cover that he would probably the guy I'd hire if I owned a baseball team. Ozzie is honest to a fault, and he says what most fans are thinking even if his players don't like his frankness. His personality keeps the White Sox in the headlines even when his team may not be great. Plus, he has a World Series ring on his hand. So those who don't like him can't really argue much, because he accomplished something that no one else has done in this city in a very long time.
 
Lou Piniella

When Lou was hired by the Cubs, many fans and members of the media (myself included) expected a Mike Ditka-like presence in the Cubs dugout based on what we had seen of Sweet Lou during his time as the manager of the Seattle Mariners. However, with rare exception, we have seen a much more mellow Piniella, especially in 2009 when his lack of public anger frustrated many fans. When he shows his emotion, he is a colorful "Chicago type" personality. And that is what he needs to show in 2010.
 
Lovie Smith

While he may know his football, he is one of the most boring personalities we have seen on the Chicago sports scene in a long time. Smith is steady and unspectacular, but his lack of charisma drives fans who remember the days of Mike Ditka crazy, when every news conference and media moment was must-see TV. Smith is true to himself, but I believe that sometimes management forgets that professional sports are entertainment and you need to keep people watching even when you aren't going to the playoffs.

Joel Quenneville


Coach Q is very intense, and will flash a glimpse of his fiery personality from time to time behind the bench. But he does not usually show that side of himself away from game action. His news conferences are calm and informative, but he doesn't do much to garner attention.
 
Vinny Del Negro

Another of the modern day coaches who does not ever say anything to stir the pot. Del Negro is polished and concise in his comments, but like most of his Chicago counterparts he is not must-watch TV when he addresses the media.
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Programming Note....Jim Hendry on Sports Central

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry will join me tonight on Sports Central at 7:35 for an extended discussion. Hendry has always been very generous with his time and he has agreed to discuss this past season and the upcoming off season.

Please post any questions that you have as a comment  here on the blog. One request, please keep the questions to current issues with the team. Hendry is not allowed by baseball rules to discuss players on other teams. Also, please keep it clean. I know that Cubs fans are frustrated by the 2009 season but please ask solid questions. Inappropriate comments will be removed. 

Also, please note that new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will join me at 7:10.

Expect Jaramillo To Be Named Shortly

Expect the Cubs to put the money where their mouth is by making former Texas Rangers coach Rudy Jaramillo the highest paid hitting coach in baseball history sometime in the next couple of days. He is expected to sign a multi-year deal for approximately $800,000 dollars. They reportedly beat out a handful of other clubs who were also offering big money and a multi year deal. However, he sees the Cubs as a golden opportunity to turn around a talented team and help to get them back to the postseason. New owner Tom Ricketts approved the increase in payroll to land the talented teacher as the Cubs try to get back to the level of run production that helped fuel their 97 win team in 2008.

He is widely considered the best hitting coach in baseball but he will have his hands full trying to turn around a group of hitters who struggled in 2009. His first project is expected to be 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto who had a terrible season in 2009 slumping mightily in both batting average and in the power department.

More to come....

The Cubs Are Closing in on Rudy Jaramillo

Ask most major league baseball executives who the best hitting coach in the game is and most will tell you the name of Rudy Jaramillo [ha-dah-MEE-yoh], who for the last 15 years has been the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. Jaramillo turned down a one year contract from the Rangers last week, and he's in hot demand among the rest of baseball because he is highly successful in helping his hitters make dramatic improvement.

So if he is so good, you are probably wondering how Texas could let him get away. Here is the latest on the situation, and after you read it you will understand why he is looking to test free agency and to sign a contract with some solid job security. GM Jim Hendry has been super aggressive since Jaramillo made it known that he would be leaving the Rangers and most baseball executives expect Jaramillo to choose the Cubs. Look for the Cubs to land him and to sign him to a multi-year deal worth at least $750,000 per season, which would make him the highest paid hitting coach in the game.

More Cubs Notes....

The Arizona Fall League has begun, and in talking with several scouts and media types who are there watching the games, the two most impressive hitters so far have been Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro of the Cubs. Vitters timetable for reaching the big leagues could be as
Starlin Castro.jpg

Shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the brightest stars in the Cubs improving farm system.

quick as next September and he will be the Cubs starting third baseman should Aramis Ramirez exercise the opt out clause in his contract after the 2010 season. Castro is just 19 years of age and while he is young for the level he is playing at he could be in the Cubs Opening Day lineup as soon as 2011.




Cubs Bankruptcy is Approved

A Delaware judge has approved the Cubs sale from Tribune Company to the Ricketts family paving the way for the sale to close late next week and for the family to take control of the franchise.

Here are the details  of the announcement on the bankruptcy approval by Judge Kevin Carey who is handling the entire Tribune case. Tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7:00 p.m.for more on the process and when the deal should close and what moves could be made first by the new ownership group.

Random Thoughts From the Chicago Sports Scene

Once in a awhile I like to look at some of the happenings in the sports world rather than just concentrating a blog post on just one sport. So here are some thoughts and questions that I have been observing and wondering about for a while.

Did you know that the over/under total of wins for the Bears in Las Vegas when the season began was 8 1/2? You have to think that the large numbers of Chicagoans who travel to Vegas must have put some serious money down on the over. The Bears look pretty solid and with Jay Cutler at the controls it would take a real collapse to not win at least 9 games.

The total bet in Vegas that has the casinos very happy is the number that they posted on the Broncos of 6 1/2 after seeing huge money come in on the under with the total posted at 7 1/2. The casinos adjusted their number out of concern that they could lose a ton on the under. Several "wiseguys" continued to pound the under and the casinos could make a fortune with the Broncos already 4-0.
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Take That Cardinal Fans

So, I am watching the Cardinals/Dodgers NLDS game 2 on Thursday night and with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth inning I said to my wife and kids that the Cardinals were in great shape heading to St. Louis even in the series at 1-1.

Then James Loney hit a line drive to left and in comes Matt Holliday to boot the ball and give the Dodgers life. Two walk and two hits later the Dodgers were celebrating a most improbable 3-2 win and the Cardinals were leaving the field in complete disbelief. Well, take that Cardinal Nation. You are considered the best fan base in the game and while I respect your passion for your team, your arrogance makes me sick.

I find great irony that Cardinal fans, the same fans that buy Cubs jerseys with Bartman on the back today wake up to the reality that your team is in huge trouble. You have trotted out two Cy Young candidates in Games 1+2 and you lost both games. Then I look at the headline in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it says "These Cards are playing like Cubs" and that made me laugh hysterically because they are now dealing with the hell that we have lived with as Cubs fans since the day we acknowledged our fandom.

Here is a replay of the 9th inning from MLB.com  and it includes the Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully on it. What a great moment for Cubs fans to savor because there is no fan base that I would rather see this happen to than the Cardinals, who take great pleasure in seeing the Cubs suffer. They have had tremendous success in St. Louis but that is not enough for them. They wish their city was a world class city like Chicago but that will never happen. Instead, they cling to their pathetic jealousy of the Cubs and their great fans.

Well, welcome to what we Cubs fans have lived with for a long time. Being the butt of everyone's joke. Perhaps you will reget those Bartman jerseys.  My son and I will be wearing our Matt Holliday jerseys. Or should we wear a Ryan Franklin jersey? As your closer proceeded to gag the rest of the 9th inning away despite having multiple chances to get the final out.

Now here's hoping that the Dodgers can finish the job on Saturday.

 

Let's Clear Up a Few Misconceptions About the 09' Cubs

Now that the 2009 season has come to an end for the Chicago Cubs it is time to take a critical look at the team and dispel a few ideas that some in town seem to believe as gospel. First, as much as the signing of Milton Bradley was a bad idea it was not the reason the 2009 Cubs finished where they did. Repeat after me, Milton Bradley was not the reason this team is not in the playoffs.

Bradley was certainly a problem in the clubhouse and his productivity was not great but there were several other problems that helped derail the season. The fact that the entire starting outfield combined for 43 HR's and 99 RBI's was certainly one reason that the run production was down dramatically from 2008. Add in the fact that Geovany Soto had a brutal year and that Aramis Ramirez only played in 82 games and you have two more huge components of the 2008 offense that did not perform at the same level.
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The Cubs Have to Get it Right (or Left) This Winter

After the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers last winter, management was very open about its need to add another bat to the lineup.  And after listening to Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry, it was obvious that the bat had to be left handed.

Why? Who cares what side of the plate a guy hits from?

It is the same ridiculous logic that we see in baseball today when managers feel that they have to go to the bullpen to have a left handed pitcher face a left handed hitter in a key situation. Never mind that, in many situations, the pitcher may be better against right handed hitters than he is against left handed hitters. Remember Mike Remlinger?  He was brought in as a left handed specialist. But a look at his career numbers shows that he was far better facing right handed hitters than he was against left handed hitters.

Is there any doubt that Neal Cotts was on the Cubs roster as long as he was because he threw from the left side? If he was a right handed pitcher and put up the numbers that he did in a Cubs uniform he would have been released a long time ago. Yet, he was given chance after chance despite struggling mightily.

It is this mentality that is pervasive around baseball and it has to change. It is as foolish as pitch counts being used as a definite when it comes to deciding when to change pitchers. There is a great article in ESPN the Magazine about Nolan Ryan and how he has changed the mentality of the Texas Rangers and their use of pitch counts.
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Can Jim Hendry Fix the Cubs?

Yes, I know he had a brutal winter of 2008-09 and I know that the Cubs have had a very disappointing 2009 season. But I still believe that GM Jim Hendry is the man to fix what ails his baseball team heading into 2010. Sources have confirmed to me that Hendry will indeed be retained as the GM after the 2009 season ends and he will be given a fair shot to straighten out what went wrong with his club this season.

Hendry has been down this road before when he needed to do a far bigger overhaul both after the 2002 season when he was first hired as the GM, and again after the 2006 season when he changed managers, added several new players, and built the core of 2008's 97 win team. Add in three division titles in 7 years for a franchise that, until he arrived, hadn't had back to back winning seasons, and he has accomplished more than any other GM in the Cubs recent history.

Last winter Hendry set out to fix what he thought was the main problem with his team and that was a lack of left handed run production to add, as he said at the time, balance to the Cubs right handed dominant starting lineup. By acquiring Milton Bradley, Hendry felt he was adding a switch hitter who was an on-base machine in Texas last season and he envisioned Bradley driving in runs and being a constant presence on the base paths. 
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More On Milton Bradley

After the Cubs suspended Milton Bradley for the remainder of the season several members of the 2009 Chicago Cubs spoke out about how Milton never really fit in with the ball club. Ryan Dempster, who is one of the leaders in the clubhouse, had some very interesting things to say when he was questioned about Bradley's suspension.  "At the end of the day, he was provided a great opportunity to be part of a really great organization with a lot of really good guys," Dempster said. "It just didn't seem to make him happy -- anything. Hopefully this is a little bit of a wake-up call for him, and he'll realize how good of a gig you have.

"It probably became one of those things where you start saying things that you're putting the blame on everybody else. Sometimes you've just got to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself."

Wow, those are some very pointed remarks from one of the best guys on the club and one of the easiest to get along with. Bradley has been a pain to deal with almost from the day he signed with the Cubs last January. He was a guest on the TV show that I host (Chicago Tribune Live) and on Sports Central (the radio show that I host) and he spent the time on the air asking the fans of Chicago to give him a chance to start over and to have a clean slate.
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Milton Bradley Suspended

The Chicago Cubs have suspended outfielder Milton Bradley for the remainder of the season probably ending his disappointing stay on the north side of Chicago. Bradley has been a moody and problematic presence in the Cubs clubhouse all season long but not until he unloaded his feelings in an interview with the Daily Herald yesterday did the Cubs finally take action.
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Milton Bradley and Jim Hendry in happier times when he signed with the Cubs. Hendry suspended the outfielder for the remainder of the season today.


It is obvious that Bradley won't be returning to the Cubs next season but by suspending him the Cubs have essentially made it even more difficult to deal him this off season.  This action should not come as a surprise to anyone because Bradley has been a major problem to deal with most of the season for not only the media but the manager, his coaching staff, the front office, and even his teammates.

More to come on this story. Kap


The Cubs Need to Say Goodbye to Rich Harden

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Rich Harden's inability to pitch deep into games combined with his injury history makes it likely he won't be a Cub in 2010.

With the Cubs looking towards next year and trying to figure how to improve their team without having a big budget increase lets take a look at their salary commitments for 2010 and how their payroll may prevent them from making many major moves.

Here are the Cubs who are already under contract for next year:
Alfonso Soriano  19 million
Carlos Zambrano 18.875 million
Aramis Ramirez  16.75 million
Kosuke Fukudome 14 million
Ryan Dempster  13.5 million
Derrek Lee  13 million
Ted Lilly 13 million
Milton Bradley 10.33
Jeff Samardzija 1.0 million
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119.455 million

Add in to this number arbitration eligible players like Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol, Aaron Heilman, Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall, Mike Fontenot, and Koyie Hill and you have to figure that the payroll will swell to approximately $130 million or more and that is just for 16 players.

Add in needing to either re-sign or replace Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, and Reed Johnson and you have a payroll that is close to or more than 140 million BEFORE you attempt to improve the roster.

So those of us who like to play arm chair general manager and have the Cubs taking a run at Chone Figgins or another high priced free agent better understand that the Ricketts family is not going to be adding big money to the payroll in their first year of ownership.

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Let's Talk About Big Z

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Carlos Zambrano has his share of detractors, but should the Cubs consider trading him this off-season?

Paul Sullivan stirred up Cubs Nation over the last 24 hours when he talked about the possibility of the Cubs trading Carlos Zambrano this winter in an attempt to create more payroll flexibility and to add some young prospects to the club.

Since his article hit the Internet last night after the Cubs 2-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, there has been much discussion about whether or not it makes sense to deal the volatile right hander. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald thinks it would be foolish to deal Zambrano, because he believes Big Z has pitched much better than his record this season indicates.

Zambrano has been heralded as the ace of the Cubs staff for a long time.  And while he is paid like an ace he hasn't pitched like one since inking his 91.5 million dollar extension in August 2007.

But let's not blame him for his salary. He accepted what the market said he was worth and when the Cubs signed him he did what any one of us would have done, he signed the deal. So don't blame him for that.

Now if you want to complain that he is paid like a #1 starter and he isn't a #1 starter, that is an entirely different argument. I have complained that Zambrano doesn't win enough to be an ace. I know that wins are not the best statistic to judge a pitcher on, but the fact that he ranks roughly 30th in baseball in wins since the day he signed his extension is very disconcerting.
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The Cubs Need to Sign the #1 Free Agent This Winter

Fresh off of a great weekend in Las Vegas with my wife I am back to working the phones and looking at what the Cubs can or might do this winter to overhaul their very disappointing team. That means every area of the team and the organization is under review with new ownership taking over after the World Series.


There are some solid players available in free agency, but as a whole this year's crop of free agents is not particularly strong. However, there is one bona-fide superstar available, and if you land him you land a second piece of your puzzle as a bonus.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa's contract expires after this season and there is speculation throughout Cardinal Nation that he may walk away from St. Louis and look for a new opportunity. What better move could new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and his family make than to hire one of the greatest managers in baseball history to inject some life into his struggling baseball team?

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The best first move the Ricketts Family could make would be to hire Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan for the Cubs. Both men will be free agents this off-season


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Hendry Told the Twins He Wouldn't Wave the White Flag

After considering discussing a deal that would have sent pitcher Rich Harden to the Minnesota Twins earlier in the week Cubs GM Jim Hendry told the Twins that he was not ready to wave the white flag of surrender with his team 5 games out in the NL Wild Card race.

The Twins were very interested in acquiring Harden who they looked at as a potential #1 starter in the playoffs and were willing to pay a fair price to land him. However, after seeing Colorado struggle last weekend Hendry decided to go all in and try to make the playoffs rather than dealing one of his best arms. The talks really never got very serious.

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It's Official....Harden and Heilman Stay With the Cubs

The deadline is about to expire and I have confirmed from sources close to both sides that the Cubs and Twins could not agree on the players that the Cubs would receive in a Rich Harden deal. He is scheduled to make his start tonight at Wrigley Field against the Houston Astros.

Aaron Heilman will also be staying with the Cubs because they own his rights as he is short of service time for free agency.  So having him under their control makes more sense than just giving him away now.

It Appears That Harden and Heilman are Staying Put

With 30 minutes to go before the period to trade both Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman expires it appears that the Twins were unwilling to meet the Cubs asking price of a high level prospect for Harden. The Cubs weighed their chances of making a run in the Wild Card race and having more time to consider all of their options on Harden versus the lower level prospects the Twins were offering and it appears that they are staying put.

With 30 minutes to go could Minnesota GM Bill Smith change his mind and make an offer that Jim Hendry just can't refuse? Sure, he could do that but it does not appear likely. Give Hendry credit because he took a stand and refused to settle for something less than he wanted to make the deal. Will he offer salary arbitration to Harden is the next question he has to answer once the season ends.

The Latest From Minnesota on Rich Harden

Here is an update from Minnesota which seems to indicate a deal for Rich Harden appears unlikely. I am on this so keep checking back. Have a great day!  Kap

The Clock is Ticking on Harden and Heilman

With a noon deadline to complete a trade for both Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman drawing closer, Cubs GM Jim Hendry has been working the phones this morning as he tries to determine the best course of action for his club.

Does he trade Harden and/or Heilman for whatever he can get or does he hang onto both guys in the hopes of re-signing them or in the case of Harden offering him salary arbitration to get draft pick compensation if he signs somewhere else? Most of the baseball people that I have spoken with this morning believe that Harden will be traded but that belief is only if the Cubs have decided privately that they would not offer him arbitration for fear that he would accept it and that they could be stuck with a 10+ million dollar salary which they have no interest in paying to a pitcher with his injury history.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has an interesting post up on the Harden situation. In the story he relates a statistic from the folks at Baseball Prospectus who do a daily playoff odds report. They have computed the odds of the Cubs playing in the postseason at just 2.7% so a decision to keep Harden for the rest of this season really makes no sense if you do not plan on either re-signing him or offering him arbitration to get draft pick compensation.

I will post an update as soon as I hear anything on this situation. Kap


You Have To Trade Rich Harden

The Cubs have until Monday to decide what they want to do with the contracts of Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman who were both claimed on waivers in the past week. Harden was claimed by the Minnesota Twins who are desperate to add starting pitching as they try to catch the Detroit Tigers in the very weak AL Central. Heilman was claimed by the San Francisco Giants who are looking for a relatively inexpensive arm for their bullpen.
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Rich Harden could be on the move to the Minnesota Twins who claimed him on waivers.


Heilman will not bring you much back in return but since he has had such a mediocre season I would try to move him so that you don't have to deal with him going through the arbitration process in the off season. He is not good enough to be a factor in the bullpen of a championship caliber team so why bring him back next season?

Harden has some value on the trade market though because he is currently healthy and he can help the Twins as they try to run down Detroit. The Cubs probably will not bring him back due to his injury history and the price he will probably command on the open market. In addition, media reports that continue to say that the Cubs will get two draft picks if Harden signs somewhere else as a free agent at the end of the season are not entirely accurate.

To receive draft picks for losing one of your own free agents you have to offer that player salary arbitration. If the Cubs were to offer Harden arbitration there is a strong possibility that he would accept it and that would put the Cubs on the hook for potentially a 10-12 million dollar salary award. To have kept him reasonably healthy enough to make somewhere between 25-30 starts this season is nothing short of a miracle. The front office of the Oakland A's can't believe that Harden is still pitching as they were sure he would have blown out shortly after they traded him to the Cubs in July of 2008.

This is one of the things that Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild deserves tremendous credit for because no one in baseball thought that the Cubs could keep Harden healthy. However, why push your luck? Trade him now when you have a team in Minnesota who is desperate to add a talented starter for their playoff push. Don't keep him when you probably won't re-sign him and then get nothing for him. If you want to re-sign him as a free agent you can do that in November. Just trade him now and get some young talent from the outstanding Minnesota system.

How to Start to Fix the Cubs for 2010

With a new ownership group scheduled to assume control shortly after the World Series the
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Jim Hendry has three years left on his contract and he will probably get the chance to build the 2010 Cubs and to correct what went wrong in 2009.

Cubs will not only have a lot of tough decisions to make to improve their team but they will also have a new direction to plan with Tom Ricketts and his family as the architects.

What will the Cubs off season look like? Will Jim Hendry be the man making the decisions? Let's take a stab at answering those questions and trying to figure out what is on the horizon for the 2010 Cubs. First, let's start with who will be in charge of baseball operations. There is considerable angst among Cubs fans over the moves made by General Manager Jim Hendry last winter. Nothing that Hendry tried worked and after seeing a 97 win team go backwards he is certainly hearing complaints from the fan base.






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You Have to Love Ozzie's Honesty

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Ozzie Guillen unloaded on his team after today's 10-0 blowout loss to the Yankees in New York. Most managers and coaches wouldn't be so honest but Sox fans love Ozzie's frankness.

After the White Sox were blown out 10-0 by the Yankees this afternoon, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen unloaded on his team. Guillen ripped his club's offensive woes and defensive shortcomings in a rant we would never see from too many professional coaches and managers.

Whether you like Guillen or not, you have to respect his honesty and the passion he displays while doing his job. He calls it as he sees it and with his team quickly falling from the race in the AL Central and having no shot at the Wild Card, Guillen is making sure his players know just how disappointed in them he is.

Looking at the White Sox long term you see some good things to build on for next year, but you also see some major holes in their club. Their rotation is excellent with Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and newcomer Jake Peavy all considered solid to above average starters. Who fills the #5 starter's role is still in question, but how many teams in baseball can say they have excellent arms in the 1-4 slots and have all of them either under contract or under team control for the next few years?

The White Sox have a future superstar in Gordon Beckham playing 3B, but should they choose to use Alexei Ramirez in a trade this winter Beckham could slide over to his natural position of SS. The outfield has Carlos Quentin in LF, (and when he is healthy he is among the best in the American League) along with the recently acquired Alex Rios, who is a solid if unspectacular player with excellent athleticism and defensive skills.

One more outfield spot remains to be decided upon with the return of RF Jermaine Dye up in the air, as is the return of the surprising Scott Podsednik, who has been outstanding since GM Kenny Williams plucked him off of the scrap heap early in the season. One of these two is expected back, but not both.

Paul Konerko has one more year left on his deal and he will be back for another season at first base, as will A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate.  At second base the White Sox have Chris Getz penciled in to start next season but if they can find an upgrade they will most certainly consider it.  Defensively, this is not a good team.  The Sox have to make some tough decisions on how they can improve defensively without tinkering too much with the general makeup of their club.

The bullpen is where you will probably see more change than in any other area of the team before next season. I don't believe that closer Bobby Jenks will return because after making $5.6 million in 2009 his salary is expected to jump dramatically which will probably force Kenny Williams to shop him in the off season. Octavio Dotel's contract is up so he will not return, and with Scott Linebrink struggling the Sox will need to find a standout set up man to replace Dotel and to take most of the key appearances away from Linebrink. Matt Thornton is among the best left handed set up men in all of baseball, and will probably get the first shot at the closer's job if Jenks is traded.

All in all, the White Sox seem to be in better position going into this off season than their crosstown rival, the Cubs, who have major questions to answer and very little payroll flexibility with which to answer them. One thing the Sox do have going for them is manager Ozzie Guillen who is sure to keep things interesting and to keep the Sox in the headlines with his honesty and fire.

Bradley Says He Faces Hatred on a Daily Basis

Milton Bradley told the media after last night's game that he faces "hatred" on a daily basis and that he doesn't ever feel comfortable playing at Wrigley Field. "It's hard to be comfortable when you don't get a hit and get booed every time," he said. "When I go home and look in the mirror, I like what I see. My family is there. I have people I can talk to who are very supportive, in spite of everything and all the adversity and the hatred you face on a daily basis. But I'll be alright. I always have."

Milton, you don't face hatred. You face a fan base that is frustrated with your play this season and the fact that you were brought here to be a run producer and you have the grand total of  32 RBI's and are hitting just .259. Cubs fans want production and effort but when they see a guy who isn't producing he becomes a target of their frustrations. Chicago is a tough market to play in because of the intensity of the fan base, the years of losing, and scrutiny that you receive from the media.

If you didn't realize what you were getting yourself into before you signed here then that is your fault and no one else's. Players who succeed here embrace the city, the fans, and give a great effort every time they step on the field. Ask players like Mark DeRosa or Kerry Wood how they miss playing at Wrigley Field. Ask Andre Dawson who had to spend hours in the training room after every game so that he could find a way to play the next day if he loved playing in Chicago. Cubs fans don't demand all star play but they do demand an all star effort and an appreciation for their support.

You have chosen to be moody and reclusive and if you want to live that way that is your choice but then you better do a whole lot better than .259 with 10 HR's and 32 RBI's if you want to feel loved. Cubs fans don't hate you Milton, they just want you to perform at a much higher level than you have shown so far.

Ricketts Plan for Wrigley

Crain's Chicago Business has a story up regarding the Rickett's family's plans for Wrigley Field once they complete their deal to buy the Cubs from Tribune Company. As I reported a week ago the deal is done and will be approved by Major League Baseball shortly after the World Series.

Many fans are speculating that the first thing that Tom Ricketts does as the new owner is to clean house but sources close to the situation tell me that they do not expect immediate changes. Instead, they expect the family to assess every aspect of the team from an inside perspective both on and off the field before they implement the changes that they have been considering since they first decided to submit a bid.


Suggestions for the Ricketts Family

There are several moves both on and off the field that I would suggest to the new owners that would fundamentally change the team and the Wrigley Field experience for fans. Demand that things be done your way or else. You knew how to play that card when you had to during the long negotiations to buy the team.
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The Ricketts family reportedly played hardball toward the end of their negotiations to buy the Cubs. Now they have to play hardball and demand that things be done their way going forward.



Everyone in the media seems to be weighing in with their ideas so I figured I might as well give mine. So here we go:

1) Trade Milton Bradley and eat whatever salary you have to eat to make the deal happen. He had a good season in Texas in 2008, so the Cubs hoped it would translate into great productivity here.  But both on and off the field it is not working. So make the move this winter before it becomes a sideshow for the second consecutive season.

2) Say goodbye to Aaron Miles. The Cubs saw Miles hit .317 in 134 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and after making the insanely ridiculous decision to trade Mark DeRosa the Cubs figured Miles could do the same for the North Siders. His .178 average and whopping total of 5 RBI's in 146 at bats has to guarantee a ticket out of town despite the fact that he is owed another 2.7 million dollars in 2010.
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Lou Says He is Playing His Veterans....What The ????

So let's see, you manage a baseball team that has gone from first place to 8 games back in 19 days and you have a couple of highly paid veterans who are having terrible seasons. Do you keep playing them in the hope that they will turn things around or do you play the rookies who are producing in limited action and bring a spark to a team that is desperately in need of just that?

I believe that you reward players that play hard and earn the right to be in the lineup and Jake Fox and Sam Fuld have done just that. They both give maximum effort and they both are producing when called on. Yet, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had some interesting comments after Sunday's 3-1 win over the Dodgers, a game in which Jake Fox went 4-4 and drove in 2 runs and Sam Fuld made two tremendous catches. "I said I was going to play my veteran players. They're going to have to get it done," Piniella said. "I'm going to lean as much as I can on my veteran players to see what they can do and how far we can go."

Huh? Are you kidding me? So you see your team has a spark with the younger guys and you choose to play the guys who aren't getting the job done and haven't for a majority of the season? I believe Piniella knows the game and that he is a talented manager but quotes like that leave me wondering if he really wants to be here next season.

Soriano is hitting .157 in the month of August and looks completely lost at the plate. Unless the Ricketts family is interested in eating a huge portion of the 90 million dollars left on his contract, he will be on the roster next year.  So why not take some of the pressure off of him and allow him to only play sparingly the rest of the way?  Or at least allow Jake Fox to see how would do knowing he is in the lineup for the next several games playing left field?

The Cubs, despite what some out there believe, are not headed for a total overhaul as soon as the Ricketts family takes over. With guaranteed contracts and no trade clauses up and down the roster, the makeup of this team is not going to change dramatically between now and next April unless the Ricketts want to add a a lot of money to the payroll to cover up for under performing veterans on big, long term deals.. So find out what you have in the younger guys. You already know what you have in Soriano and Bradley and it isn't pretty for a number of reasons. Quit playing guys because of what they get paid. Play the guys who have earned the playing time.


**Breaking News** The Cubs Sale is Done!

As we first reported a week ago that it would happen by today, the agreement to sell the Chicago Cubs has been signed between the Tribune Company and the Ricketts family. The deal is for 845 million dollars and will be for a 95% stake in the ballclub, Wrigley Field, and Tribune Company's 25% stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

The Tribune Company will retain a 5% ownership interest but the Ricketts family will have total control of the operation of the baseball team. The next step will be to place the franchise into Chapter 11 so that the bankruptcy court can approve the transaction. After that step is completed then Major League Baseball's other owners will need to approve the transaction. Both of these steps are considered a formality and the Ricketts family is expected to assume control of the franchise sometime after the World Series is completed.

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As we first reported last week, the Tribune Company and the Ricketts family have signed an agreement to sell a controlling interest in the team and Wrigley Field to the Ricketts family. The deal is pending Major League Baseball approval.

 

MLB's next quarterly owners meeting is ironically in Chicago in November but the approval of the sale could be done via teleconference before then so that Tom Ricketts who is leading the family's ownership group could start to make critical decisions about the franchise's direction before free agency begins in early November.

Fans are already speculating on just what the new ownership group's first move will be but sources close to the sale process tell me that Tom Ricketts is not an impulsive person and that he will survey the situation with the ball club before he makes drastic changes to the front office and the team itself.

The sale process has been a difficult one and has dragged on for 28 months since the team was put on the block on Opening Day of the 2007 baseball season but this step is a huge one in the right direction because the club has been without definitive ownership since early 2007 when the Tribune Company was purchased by Sam Zell. From that point on the team has been on the block and speculation about its future has been major news. Now the team will have direction and a fresh approach as they try to win a World Series for the first time since 1908.

As for the radio future of the Cubs here is the latest after the agreement was signed today:

"As part of the sale, WGN Radio will remain as the radio play by play home of the Chicago Cubs, and we look forward to our continued partnership with the club for many years to come," said Tom Langmyer, Vice President and General manager of WGN Radio.

More to come on this story as it develops. Kap

 

What Would You Do If You Were the Cubs GM?

After dropping two of three to the lowly San Diego Padres the Cubs move on to face perhaps the best team in the National League when they open a four game series at Dodger Stadium tonight. Can the Cubs stay alive in both the division race and the wild card chase? A rough weekend could push them so far out of contention that the month of September could be fairly meaningless. However, a surprisingly good series could be the impetus to an excellent home stand that opens on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

In today's Sun Times Chris DeLuca wrote an article about Lou Piniella's obsession with getting more left handed bats into the Cubs lineup after last fall's sweep at the hands of the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. In the article DeLuca talks about Lou Piniella pointing out that the Dodgers threw no left handed pitchers at the Cubs in any matchup that they played in 2008.

The Cubs sat down at their organizational meetings in Arizona last fall and everyone seated at the table agreed that the Cubs needed a left handed run producer. Fine, you want to add a big bat to balance the lineup? That premise no one complained about. However, how did adding a left handed run producer turn into 13 different guys on today's 25 man roster from last season's 97 win team?


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Lou Piniella Gets a Warning for Jaywalking In San Diego

Cubs manager Lou Piniella was stopped by San Diego police today when he was warned about jaywalking while talking on his cell phone. Piniella was looking for a place to get a haircut and was warned about crossing on a red light.

He becomes the 2nd Chicago baseball executive to be stopped by police regarding jaywalking in the last 8 days. White Sox GM Kenny Williams was fined $56.00 after receiving a jaywalking citation in Seattle while on his cell phone.

Put This One Squarely on Lou Piniella

Don't blame Cubs closer Kevin Gregg for tonight's brutal loss.  Instead blame Cubs manager Lou Piniella who should never have used him in the 9th inning of a 1-0 game. How many times must someone watch the same movie over and over and see the same ending before they finally wake up and realize that the ending will not change?

Tonight, Kevin Gregg gave up a game tying double with two outs in the 9th that let the Padres tie the game and then after an intentional walk he gave up his 12th home run of the season, blew his 6th save of the season, and cost the Cubs another game in the standings to the St. Louis Cardinals who won in Los Angeles.

Sure, the offense again failed in the clutch time and time again and scored only 1 run against a bad San Diego team. However, they had the lead going into the bottom of the 9th and again the Cubs put a guy on the mound who gives up more home runs than any other reliever in baseball. In a 1-0 game those HR's are fatal and again tonight Kevin Gregg gave one up.

Gregg is not a good closer, he never has been, and he never will be. Why Lou Piniella keeps running him out there is unexplainable and until he decides to make a change the Cubs have no chance of contending. Do you really believe that Kevin Gregg can get the job done with the game on the line against the elite teams in the National League?  I don't.  So why keep running him out there with the season on the line?

Tonight's loss is a tough one and many fans will point their anger at Kevin Gregg for not getting the job done yet again. Don't blame him. He is trying as hard as he can. He just isn't very good. Blame the manager who keeps trying to fit a round peg into a square hole by having Gregg as his closer. This loss is on you Lou and every time Gregg blows a game the rest of the way will also be on you. You know exactly what Gregg is all about as a closer and you refuse to make a change. This loss is on you, Lou Piniella.

Finally, The Sale of the Cubs Should Be Signed This Week!

The long awaited sale of the Chicago Cubs should finally be signed this week between the Tribune Company and the Ricketts family. The process has been ongoing since April of 2007 but now it is finally about to be completed.

Excellent sources have assured me that there are no more hurdles to clear and the paperwork will be signed by Friday. It will then move on to an MLB ownership committee then a stop in front of the bankruptcy judge and finally it will need approval of the other owners in Major League Baseball. All of this should be wrapped up by the World Series or shortly thereafter and it should pave the way for Tom Ricketts and his family to finally have the keys to the Cubs kingdom.

This timetable will allow the Cubs to be active in free agency which doesn't begin until November and should allow the Ricketts to implement the beginning stages of their master plan in time for the 2010 season. What that plan will involve remains to be seen but rest assured Cubs fans, Tom Ricketts and Co. want to win and they have very definite ideas on what they want to do to improve the franchise.

Can the Cubs Make the Postseason?

Can the Chicago Cubs survive a very up and down season and advance to the playoffs after struggling to beat the better teams on their schedule all year long? They certainly can because their remaining schedule sets up very favorably with only 12 games left against teams that currently have a winning record.

A look at the schedule sees three at San Diego this week then four against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The Cubs need to just stay afloat during this next trip because they then come home to play three against the Washington Nationals, three with the New York Mets, three with the Houston Astros, and they complete the 10 game home stand with a makeup game against the White Sox on September 3rd. That home stand should be one of the main determining factors in whether or not the Cubs make a run in September or whether this team goes down as one of the most disappointing in Cubs history.

The Cubs should get back a number of their key players over the next 10 days as Aramis Ramirez is back in the lineup today and Ted Lilly returns to the rotation tomorrow night to open the San Diego series. Carlos Zambrano threw a side session this morning and is scheduled to make a rehab start this Thursday for Class A Peoria. If all goes well Zambrano will pitch the opener of the Washington series next Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Finally, Reed Johnson is expected to step up his rehab from a broken foot tomorrow when he starts a running program. His return is expected soon as well.

That should give the Cubs a full compliment of players just as they return home for those 10 games against teams they should be expected to beat in Wrigley Field a majority of the time. Can they deliver with the season on the line remains to be seen but they should enter September with a chance at the postseason and as bad as they have looked most of 2009 they are extremely fortunate.
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For the Cubs to return to the postseason for the third consecutive year Carlos Zambrano has to pitch at a higher level than he has since signing a big contract extension in 2007.


Now onto Zambrano who so many readers of this blog have found it necessary to defend since my last column about him. Today he spoke to the media for the first time since he went on the DL with a back injury and admitted that he is lazy. Wow, there is shocking news. Tell us something Carlos that those of us who are around the team regularly didn't already know.

The sad thing about his comments are that his laziness is affecting the rest of the team, the front office who paid him to be a #1 starter, and he has been unfair to the fans that pour their heart, soul, and money into following this club. When I wrote about Zambrano and his failure to be a leader, to pitch like an ace, and to work as hard as he can to succeed many of you thought I was being unfair.


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The Beer Tosser Does his First Interview!

Johnny Macchione, the beer tosser at Wednesday night's Cubs game did his first interview tonight with me on WGN Radio's Sports Central.

Here is the link to the podcast of his interview as well as an interview I did with Dan DeLaPaz who was the man who was first wrongly accused and also was on Sports Central tonight.

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Johnny Macchione, the beer tosser is the man in the white t-shirt with sunglasses hanging from them. He did an exclusive interview on WGN Radio's Sports Central Friday evening.

 

 

Here Are the Facts

The Cubs looked awful Wednesday night and were pounded by the Phillies 12-5 so with 50 games to go lets examine the facts and the questions surrounding the franchise. First of all, the Cardinals now lead the division by four games and after adding Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa they have become a much more formidable opponent than they were when the season began.

Let's look at the roster and discuss the situation the Cubs have put themselves in. First of all, manager Lou Piniella will be entering the final year of his contract in 2010. This season appears to be weighing on him heavily and rightly so. Sweet Lou came here to end a century of futility and as of now the picture for 2010 does not look pretty based on how his club is currently constructed and how they are playing. Will he want to return? Three million dollars is a lot to walk away from but Lou is 66 years old and he should be financially set for the rest of his life so is his happiness worth more than the money that he would earn in 2010? Does he have the energy to go into next season knowing how much work lays ahead of him to turn around his club?

He told me as recently as two weeks ago that he was definitely returning and that the fire burns inside of him to lead the Cubs to the title. However, with the team's ownership still up in the air and a number of big contracts to underperforming stars appearing to be diificult to move will Piniella reconsider his plan to manage the Cubs next season?

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The Cubs braintrust of GM Jim Hendry and manager Lou Piniella will have a lot of tough decisions to make this winter.

 

If he does walk away who would the Cubs hire as their field manager? Joe Girardi who desperately wanted the job and was the choice of many fans when Piniella was hired over him in 2006 is now the manager of the New York Yankees and has a club that may win the World Series this season. He is also under contract for another year so that would appear to rule him out.

Ryne Sandberg is currently managing in the Cubs minor league system but would the Cubs risk hiring a manager who has never done the job at the major league level before? He certainly knows the system and was a Hall of Fame level player but that does not guarantee success as a manager. All in all, if Piniella leaves the decision on who to replace him with will not be an easy one.  

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We've Seen The Same Old Movie

Last night's extra inning loss to the Phillies was a microcosm of how the 2009 season has gone for the Chicago Cubs. A lack of timely hitting limits the offense, the starter pitches a good ball game but makes one mistake and it costs him dearly, and then Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg combine to hand the game to the opponent.

Last night Marmol looked like he was going to have a fairly uneventful 9th inning when bing, bang, boom he walks two and hits a man and the bases are loaded. Another walk forces in the go ahead run before Lou Piniella is forced to remove him. Further scoring was prevented by John Grabow but the damage had already been done.

It was encouraging to watch Milton Bradley play yesterday though. He played an excellent right field showing all of us why GM Jim Hendry thought Bradley could make the move to the National League. He also had two more hits including a clutch, game tying single in the 9th off of Brad Lidge. Despite Bradley's struggles this season you have to give him credit for his improved play as of late. He finally looks comfortable in all aspects of the game and the man does hustle.

So how can the Cubs rescue the remaining 51 games? First of all you cannot keep using Kevin Gregg with the game on the line. Last night he served up his 11th home run of the season which leads all National League relievers. Here is his quote after the ball game: "A 2-1 slider, right at the bottom edge of the zone," Gregg said. "That's where we try to make our living. He just happened to hit it in the basket." Gregg the went on to say that the 11 home runs are more than he has given up in the previous three or four years combined.

Well Kevin, I have a news flash for you. Over the previous 4 years you have given up 28 HR's combined. That is far too many for a closer. Nearly every long ball you give up is fatal because of the magnitude of the situation. You need to be moved to a 7th inning situation with Angel Guzman given the closer's role. He may not be Mariano Rivera but he is far more reliable and less prone to the big home run.

As for Carlos Marmol, his stuff is otherworldly but unfortunately his command is terrible this season. Perhaps a week in the minors to try to shake what ever is causing him to struggle so mightily would do the trick. The Cubs have tried just about everything else with him. Maybe a demotion will be the shock to his system that he needs to straighten his act out. He is too talented to give up on but something must be done to turn him around.


Wow, the Zambrano Defenders are Up In Arms!

Earlier today I posted an article on my thoughts about Carlos Zambrano and my belief that he is very overpaid and overrated. Since then I have received a ton of e-mail from Zambrano fans who are furious at me for questioning Big Z.

Well, let's look at the numbers. E-mailer Shawn Goldman has some interesting numbers to back up his argument. He uses numbers from Baseballreference.com to support his argument. Check out his thoughts on the comments section of my Zambrano article. In addition, another post lists wins from 2003-2008:

2003-2008 MLB Wins
98 Johan Santana
96 Roy Oswalt
94 Roy Halladay
91 Carlos Zambrano
88 Mike Mussina
87 Andy Pettitte
87 C.C. Sabathia
87 Brandon Webb
85 Derek Lowe
84 Jon Garland
83 Mark Buehrle
82 Tim Hudson
82 John Lackey
82 Greg Maddux
82 Jamie Moyer
81 Josh Beckett
81 Ted Lilly
80 Jake Peavy

Let's look at some of the guys on this list. Johan Santana has won the Cy Young Award twice. He has won the pitching version of the Triple Crown (ERA, K's, and wins) and he has never had the emotional issues that Zambrano does.

Roy Oswalt has had back to back 20 win seasons and back to back seasons with a sub 3.00 ERA. He was the NLCS MVP and he is considered a leader in his clubhouse.

Roy Halladay has won the Cy Young, is considered by many active players to be the best starter in baseball, has won 20 games twice, and has 45 complete games in his career. Three times he has had a solid sub 3.00 ERA and his ERA this season is well under 3.00 as well.

Josh Beckett has been a World Series MVP, he has won 2 World Titles, he was the NLCS MVP, and he is considered one of the best big game pitchers currently pitching.

Andy Pettite has won multiple World Series rings, he has multiple 20 win seasons, he is a tremendous big game pitcher, and he was the ALCS MVP. Obviously, he is at the tail end of his career.

I understand that Carlos has exceptional talent but unfortunately he does not get the most out of his abilities. When the Cubs stepped up and paid him 18 million a season on a long term deal the expectation was that he would mature, pitch like a #1 starter should, and lead a Cubs staff. Instead, we hear about him melting down, having some of the craziest injuries in the game from hand cramping from too many Red Bulls, to back spasms from batting practice, to suspension for a run in with an umpire.

There are a ton of pitchers who would be taken ahead of Z if you polled current baseball general managers on who they would like to have. Sadly, very few have Carlos Zambrano's skills but unless he matures and harnesses his incredible physical gifts he will never achieve all that he could have. And that is a real shame.

Zambrano May Be the Most Overpaid Player in the Game

I am so sick of hearing that Carlos Zambrano is the "ace" of the Cubs staff and that he is considered one of the best starters in the baseball. That is such a pile of garbage and it is about time people start to call this guy what he really is, a fraud.

Zambrano is not a big game pitcher, he is not an ace, and if the Cubs can, I believe they will look to move him and his bloated contract out of Chicago as soon as possible. What qualities does a #1 starter have? How about piling up wins? Zambrano has averaged 14 wins a season since he became a full time starter in 2003. Does he play the role of leader on the club? Don't make me laugh. He is immature, doesn't work as hard as the Cubs would like, and he is not what one would consider a big game pitcher. Many times Zambrano has had a chance to stop a losing streak or to win a big game and he has failed a majority of those times.
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It's time for the Cubs to find a way to move Carlos Zambrano and his antics out of Chicago and find a #1 starter who actually is an ace.


The facts don't lie. The Cubs are paying for top flight performance from a pitcher who has the skills to be a big winner. However, Zambrano's performance does not warrant such a big contract and his 18 million dollar annual salary is one of the deals that is limiting financial flexibility for the front office. Talk to the scouts that attend every game the Cubs play and they all bemoan his incredible physical talents and lack of productivity for a guy whose reputation  is that of a superstar.

Zambrano has won all of 7 games this season. That's it. He has had incidents with a Gatorade machine, been suspended for his outburst towards a home plate umpire, and  has had two stints on the disabled list. Seven wins for 18 million dollars and enough headaches for management to drive them crazy.

Check out Zambrano's contract terms
and you will see that the Cubs have done their part in paying him to be a star. He has not lived up to his end of the bargain though and he has no one to blame but himself. He cannot control his temper and those who observe his antics on a day to day basis know he is far from the superstar pitcher that some believe he is.
 
Perhaps his back is injured this time. Maybe he truly needs to be on the DL and will be gone for an extended period of time. That may be true but it still does not explain his lack of emotional control and his startlingly poor productivity in big games. In four post season series Zambrano is 0-2 with an ERA of 4.34. He has won 18 games once (18-13 in 2007) and 16 twice. That's it. No 20 win seasons, no Cy Young Awards, a grand total of 8 complete games in 9 total seasons in the big leagues. He may be a #2-3 starter on a good team but to pay him as a #1 is ridiculous.

It is time for the Cubs to find a taker for the antics and the talents of Carlos Zambrano. I know that he has a no trade clause but perhaps Zambrano would also like a fresh start in a new city. He may have a golden arm but we have seen far too many other "qualities" from the man they call "Big Z" to call him an ace or a reliable starter on a team with championship aspirations. Pack your bags Carlos, it's time to take your act to another team. We've tired of you and your immaturity.

What To Do With The Cubs Roster

With Aaron Miles set to be recalled later today after a rehab stint in the minors GM Jim Hendry will need to make a roster move to make room for Miles. This one seems easy with Sam Fuld expected to be sent back to Iowa.

However, there are a series of other moves and decisions that are right around the corner for the Cubs. First, Geovany Soto is expected to return to the roster on Friday. Who gets sent down to clear a roster spot for him?  Reed Johnson will be ready to return in a couple of weeks so who goes to make room for him? Also, Ted Lilly will be ready to return in a couple of weeks and that will require yet another roster move.

So, barring an injury what will General Manager Jim Hendry do to make space available on the roster? Right now there are 13 pitchers on the club so if one goes that clears a spot for Soto. That leaves two more moves needing to be made to make room for Johnson and Lilly. Does Tom Gorzelanny stay in the rotation after pitching 7 shutout innings last night? Do you send down Jeff Samardizja who has had his ups and downs since returning from the minors? How about Jeff Stevens?
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It's Time to Make Some Changes

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Kevin Gregg had a rough weekend serving up home runs to his former team, the Florida Marlins and costing the Cubs a big win and a return to first place.

Many times when a baseball team struggles you hear the expression, "relax it's early" or "it's a marathon not a sprint" but after the all star break it is no longer early and with just 59 games remaining it is indeed a sprint.

This weekend was a lost one for the Chicago Cubs as they dropped two of three games to the Florida Marlins and could have very easily been swept. They also could have won two of three just as easily if their bullpen didn't put up a couple of horrific performances.

Friday evening the Cubs received a solid start from Rich Harden only to see the bullpen implode in the 8th inning with Carlos Marmol starting the inning off by walking the first two hitters and then hitting a man. He nearly escaped any damage by getting the next two men before giving up a game winning single. Sean Marshall then entered and allowed a double to Wes Helms that plated two more and the Cubs lost 5-2.

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Jim Hendry Worked the Phones but He's Happy With His Roster

Cubs GM Jim Hendry spent all day Friday discussing possible scenarios with other General Managers but in the end the price to add a bench player was too high to part with solid prospects from the Cubs rapidly improving system.

Sam Fuld will be officially recalled from Class AAA in time for tonight's game and will take Reed Johnson's place in the outfield rotation. Tom Gorzelanny is meeting the team in Florida where he will throw for Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild. He is on the Class AAA Iowa roster but should the need arise he could start Tuesday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Down on the Farm....A major league scout who I have known for several years regularly covers the minor leagues and told me today that he believes that the Cubs system is vastly underrated and he points to the hiring of Tim Wilken as scouting director as one of the most important additions that Jim Hendry has made during his tenure as GM. He specifically mentioned Josh Vitters as the 2nd best hitter he has ever seen come out of the Class A Midwest League (the best being Albert Pujols) and he was raving about SS Starlin Castro who was the MVP of the Florida State League All Star game after going 4-4. He projects Castro as a future major league 2B and puts Hak Ju Lee another shortstop prospect as a future star and a top of the order hitter. Lee is hitting .340 in Boise this summer and is just 18 years old. One other name that he mentioned was pitcher Andrew Cashner who is making the transition from reliever to starter. He says he believes the hard throwing Cashner will be in the big leagues at some point next season.




Grabow and Gorzelanny Traded to the Cubs....Kevin Hart in Deal

General manager Jim Hendry has been burning up the phone lines over the past 24 hours and it has paid off for the Cubs pitching staff as John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny have both been traded to the Cubs for starting pitcher Kevin Hart, reliever Jose Ascanio, and minor league infielder Josh Harrison who is at High A Daytona and is hitting .286 through his first 18 games there. He hit very well at Low A Peoria before a recent promotion. Harrison is not considered a "tools guy", but rather a polished baseball player who projects as utility man with a solid bat according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.

The deal makes sense for the Cubs because there are many around baseball who feel that Hart has maxed out his performance and that he will never be a big time starter. In addition, Ascanio is a hard throwing bullpen arm who should thrive in the Pirates pen because there isn't much competition down there for the setup role. Harrison is a decent player but is not considered an elite prospect. 

Jim Hendry Gets Busy

The Cubs are trying improve their pitching staff from the left side in a big way today and are trying to finalize a deal to add both setup man John Grabow and starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is the latest from the Pirates beat writer who travels with the team and always has excellent information.

The deal is not yet done but GM Jim Hendry has considerable interest in both players to strengthen a pitching staff that has had to deal with an injury to Ted Lilly who is one of the most consistent members of the Cubs rotation. Grabow fits as a situational lefty while Gorzelanny has a solid track record as a starter but is currently pitching in Class AAA for the Pirates.

Gorzelanny won 14 games for the 2007 Pirates and was considered at that time an up and coming star but he has not pitched to that level since then. A look at his numbers
from his best season in 2007 shows a guy who pitched 200+ innings and made 32 starts for a team that was never in the pennant race. He has struggled since then but there are scouts who feel that a change of scenery could be just what he needs to return to form.

Grabow has, according to scouts, a good makeup and would be used in combination with Sean Marshall to mix and match against good left handed hitters. A look at his numbers 
provides a word of caution because this season right handed hitters are hitting just .234 while left handed hitters are at a .275 clip which evokes memories of Mike Remlinger who was much better against righties than he was against lefties during his entire tenure with the Cubs.

Should the deal go through it strengthens the pitching staff because it gives Lou Piniella depth from the left side and if Gorzelanny is included it provides another option as a starter if Lilly has any lingering issues from his DL stay. The deadline is 3 p.m. tomorrow so there is still plenty of time for Hendry to add another left handed bat which Piniella would like to have.

Reed Johnson Goes Down...What's Next for Jim Hendry?

With Reed Johnson going on the DL with a broken foot, the Cubs have to make a move tomorrow to take his spot on the roster. What will GM Jim Hendry do?  And will Johnson's injury change his priorities in advance of Friday's non waiver trade deadline?

I believe that the Cubs will probably add another arm to take some of the heat off of their bullpen for a day or two and that arm will probably be Jeff Stevens who was just optioned to Class AAA Iowa on Wednesday. He was sent out because he had pitched enough over the past few days that he was unavailable if Lou Piniella had needed him on Wednesday. Thus, he went back and Mitch Atkins came up. Normally a player has to stay in the minors for 10 days when he is optioned out, but that rule does not apply if he is recalled because of an injury.

Look for Hendry and Piniella to add another arm for a day or two and then they will add another outfielder to the mix, most probably Sam Fuld who played very well in limited action in two earlier stints this season with the Cubs. The trade deadline is Friday and while Hendry would love to add a Reed Johnson type of player, guys like him don't just grow on trees. Whoever Hendry adds has to be able to play CF.  Fuld can most certainly do that,  but he doesn't hit from the right side.  So if that is a concern for Lou Piniella, Hendry can consider some other options via trade. 

Trade Deadline Info/Ownership Update

The non-waiver trade deadline is 3 p.m. CST on Friday and it has been a fairly quiet week so far devoid of the flurry of activity that some in the industry expected. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are looking to make additions to their teams but only if the cost is not exorbitant in both money and prospects given up.

The White Sox are better positioned to make a major move because of the stability of Jerry Reinsdorf as the owner and the financial flexibility that they have after this season. They have millions of dollars coming off of the books after 2009 and as evidenced by their aggressive pursuit of Jake Peavy, Kenny Williams is willing to move if the deal makes sense long term.

Yesterday's trade for Mark Kotsay of the Boston Red Sox was a minor deal but Williams may not be done. He is kicking the tires on adding a big name starting pitcher but only if Gordon Beckham's name is not part of the deal. He is considered an untouchable by the organization.

The Cubs are looking to add a bullpen arm, preferably from the left side but will not trade one of the top five prospects in their system to add a player who is not a prime time addition. That would seem to take them out of the running for Baltimore closer George Sherrill, who is very tough on left handed hitters and has closing experience.  The veteran will be tough to land though because of the price that Orioles president Andy MacPhail has hung on him.
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Here is a VERY interesting stat about the Cubs

Every day we learn new and unique stats in the sports world and once in a while the stat jumps out off of the page and really makes you think.

One such stat came up this morning courtesy of the famed Elias Sports Bureau who handles statistics for all of the major sports.

Check this out:

It was the first time since August 11, 1936, that the Cubs displaced the Cardinals as the first-place team in their league or division race this late in a season.

Wow, it took 73 years to pass the Cardinals this late in a season? What does that say about the Cubs pathetic play over the past 73 years considering the Cardinals have been one of the elite teams in the National League.

Did you know that tonight's Cubs starter, Carlos Zambrano, has a career 2.59 ERA vs Houston which is his lowest vs. any team he has faced more than once. Houston will start LH Wandy Rodriguez who is 4-0 with a 0.62 ERA over his last four starts.
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Upcoming Schedules in the NL and AL Central

The Cubs have moved into first place in the NL Central by virtue of sweeping the Cincinnati Reds this weekend at Wrigley Field. Their current four game winning streak combined with two straight Cardinals losses to the Phillies have propelled the Cubs to a 1/2 game lead in the NL Central.

Let's take a look at the upcoming schedule for both the Cubs and Cards to see what challenges both clubs will be facing over the next two weeks. St. Louis returns home Monday night to open a four game series with the team with the best record in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers while the Cubs begin a four game set at home against the Houston Astros who are also challenging in the division race.

Next weekend the Cubs will be in Florida to play the Marlins while the Cardinals will continue their home stand against the Astros. Then St. Louis travels to NY to play 2 with the Mets and then 3 at Pittsburgh while the Cubs will play 3 at Cincinnati and four at Colorado.

Meanwhile, over in the AL Central the White Sox are in a brutal part of their schedule with one more game tonight in Detroit and then a trip to Minnesota for three games with the Twins. The White Sox then return home for four games with the Yankees, three with the LA Angels, and three with the Cleveland Indians. A west coast road trip then takes the Sox to Seattle and Oakland for 6 games.

The division leading Tigers have it much easier with three games at both Texas and Cleveland before a seven game home stand with Baltimore (4) and Minnesota (3). The division race was tied last Thursday after Mark Buehrle's perfect game but the White Sox have not won since, losing three straight in the Motor City to the Tigers with one more game to be played tonight.

The trading deadline is this Friday for non-waiver trades but industry experts expect more activity than usual in August for waiver deals because many teams are leery of claiming players to block deals because of the state of the economy. Sponsorship sales are down all over professional sports so teams are trying to cut payroll rather than adding big contracts just to block a competing team from making a trade.

Tune in Wednesday and Thursday evenings on Chicago Tribune Live (Comcast SportsNet) and Sports Central (WGN Radio - 720 AM). We will be covering the trading deadline for not only the Cubs and White Sox but for every team and every deal in baseball.
 

Give Soriano Credit....He is Getting Hot at the Right Time

One good thing that seems to be turning in the Cubs favor is that LF Alfonso Soriano is becoming much more productive at the plate with three more hits today including a home run. After today's game Soriano said that he is feeling much more comfortable at the plate and that he is getting used to the 6 hole in Lou Piniella's lineup. I asked Cubs hitting coach Von Joshua if he had changed anything with Soriano's mechanics. He explained to me that they have shortened his leg raise which allows him to become more balanced and to get his foot back on the ground more quickly so that he can attack the lower part of the strike zone which is his favorite type of pitch to drive.

The month of July has been kind to Soriano who is hitting .323 this month and has an on base percentage of .373 for the the month. In addition, he is hitting .393 since the All Star break and looks more comfortable in his approach than he did in the leadoff spot.

With Soriano and Aramis Ramirez starting to become forces again offensively the Cubs offense should start to pile up the runs and take some of the pressure off of the pitching staff. They are dealing with injuries to Ryan Dempster who will return on Tuesday and now Ted Lilly who is expected to miss at least three weeks.

The Tigers Have No Interest in Bradley

So this afternoon Steve Stone sends out a Tweet on his baseballstone@twitter account saying that the Tigers are interested in Cubs RF Milton Bradley. I hear from a baseball agent who says the same thing and then after Stone's post hits the internet and I put the rumor on my blog all hell breaks loose.

So let's review what I posted this afternoon. The headline of the post says "Can it be? Are the Tigers after Milton Bradley? The post talks about the rumor and ends this way:  I will be working my baseball sources for more on this rumor but if it is indeed true the Cubs need to make that deal ASAP!

So from that post and Stone's Twitter everyone jumps to the conclusion that the deal is imminent. After talking with various people around the Cubs and Tigers we find out that the deal is simply just a rumor and is not going to happen. In fact, Stone even Tweeted from Detroit that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said he wouldn't want Bradley on his team.

So how did a rumor which happens all of the time take off so quickly? Perhaps because people are so desperate to see Bradley in another uniform they ran with a rumor that it turned out had no substance to it. Whatever the reason is it really doesn't matter. The Tigers aren't interested in trading for Milton Bradley and it appears he will be the Cubs RF for the forseeable future.



 

Can it Be? Are the Tigers After Milton Bradley?

Two very solid baseball sources confirmed for me just moments ago that the Detroit Tigers are interested in Cubs RF Milton Bradley. They believe that Bradley would be a much better fit as a DH than as a right fielder and that he would mesh well with Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

Both sources say that the Tigers have scouted Bradley and are interested depending on how much of his contract the Cubs are willing to eat. Here is the remaining money left on Bradley's deal which depending on certain clauses has two more years left on it.
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Milton Bradley has had a very frustrating season so far in a Cubs uniform. Could he be wearing a Tigers jersey soon?


I believe that Bradley is a much better player than he has shown so far during his brief time in a Cubs uniform but I also believe that the Cubs would be better off trading him and starting over in right field. If he is moved it opens up all sorts of possibilities because then Lou Piniella could put Kosuke Fukudome back in his natural position of RF and platoon Sam Fuld and Reed Johnson in center. The Cubs could also make a run at Nationals outfielder Adam Dunn who is putting up big numbers on a last place team and is on the trading block but one scout who is here at the game today just told me that he would never want Dunn on his team because he does not think he is a winning type of player. He also told me that the Red Sox passed on signing Dunn because they were concerned how he would fit in the high pressure environment of Boston. The scout also said that defensively Dunn would be a horrific fit in right field at Wrigley.

I will be working my baseball sources for more on this rumor but if it is indeed true the Cubs need to make that deal ASAP!


Ted Lilly Will Undergo Knee Surgery on Monday

Yesterday I posted a list of starting pitchers who will be free agents at the end of the 2009 season and with Ted Lilly on the DL the Cubs will have to move quickly to either add a starting pitcher or to add a couple of bullpen arms and move Sean Marshall into the rotation.

Lilly is being disabled because of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder but he will also have arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday to clean up a problem that has caused him discomfort for a while. He is expected to be sidelined for approximately three weeks.
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Ted Lilly's shoulder injury may force the Cubs to add another starter in addition to bullpen help before Friday's non-waiver trade deadline.


Here is a list of relievers who will be free agents at the end of the 2009 season. Some of these names will be of no interest to the Cubs and some will be unavailable for various reasons. However, regardless of how difficult the task might be to accomplish Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry has to find a way to upgrade his bullpen so that he gives Lou Piniella the ability to mix and match down the stretch of tight ball games.

In addition, if Lilly is gone for an extended amount of time that could severely hamstring the starting rotation and force Hendry to have to add another starter. Forget about Roy Halladay because the Cubs don't have the package of players necessary to get him from Toronto plus with the ownership situation so unsettled they cannot take on the type of money that Halladay makes and will make in the future.

Two names on the Arizona roster that could have great appeal to Hendry are reliever Chad Qualls and former White Sox starter Jon Garland who is a former #1 draft pick of the Cubs. Qualls is in high demand from most of the teams in contention but Garland, while not a top of the rotation guy could be serviceable in Lilly's absence. He also has a very manageable contract that is up at the end of this season and contains a mutual option for 2010. Should Hendry choose just to upgrade his bullpen he needs to give Piniella at least one solid lefty that can be used against the elite left handed hitters the Cubs will face the rest of the season.

Three lefty's that can be had without giving up a ton in return are Joe Beimel of the Washington Nationals, John Grabow of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and former Cub Scott Downs who is pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Downs is a fairly attractive option but Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has been telling other general managers that he wants to get the Roy Halladay deal done before he looks at other moves.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has rearranged the starting rotation to compensate for the loss of Lilly by moving Kevin Hart up to start today's game, Rich Harden goes tomorrow, Carlos Zambrano goes Monday night, and Ryan Dempster returns from the DL on Tuesday evening. Randy Wells will pitch Wednesday and Kevin Hart will conclude the homestand on Thursday afternoon against the Astros.

SIGHT SEEN....Carlos Zambrano and many of the Cubs pitchers took part in their pre game running from foul line to foul line accompanied by Zambrano's new dog, "Little Z" who is a Sharpei that is 10 weeks old. The dog was a big hit in the clubhouse before the game, especially when Zambrano dressed the dog in a t-shirt and hat.




Lilly to the DL....Now what Should Jim Hendry Do?

The 2009 Cubs have dealt with injuries on a much larger scale than those that the 2007 or 2008 division winning clubs did combined. With today's news that All Star starter Ted Lilly is headed to the disabled list with shoulder problems GM Jim Hendry's priorities with the trade deadline just 7 days away may have been dramatically changed.

Without being able to add a big money type of player what can Hendry do to improve his rotation which has dealt with disabling injuries to both Ryan Dempster and now Ted Lilly? Let's take a look at the starting pitchers who will be free agents to be following the 2009 season: 

Starting Pitchers
Brandon Backe HOU
Miguel Batista SEA
Josh Beckett * BOS
Erik Bedard SEA
Daniel Cabrera WAS
Bartolo Colon CWS
Jose Contreras CWS
Doug Davis ARZ
Justin Duchscherer OAK
Adam Eaton BAL
Kelvim Escobar LAA
Jon Garland * ARZ
Tom Glavine ATL
Mike Hampton HOU
Rich Harden CHC
Tim Hudson * ATL
Randy Johnson SF

John Lackey LAA
Cliff Lee * CLE
Braden Looper * MIL
Jason Marquis COL

Kevin Millwood * TEX
Brett Myers PHI
Vicente Padilla * TEX
Carl Pavano CLE
Brad Penny BOS
Odalis Perez WAS
Andy Pettitte NYY
Joel Pineiro STL
Sidney Ponson KC
Jason Schmidt LAD

John Smoltz BOS
Jarrod Washburn SEA
Brandon Webb * ARZ
Todd Wellemeyer STL


This list is courtesy of Cot's baseball contracts and the complete list of free agents can be found here.  

So, what would you buy with limited dollars and needs in the bullpen, on offense, and possibly now in the rotation? I'd love your thoughts for my trade deadline show that will air next week on Sports Central on WGN Radio.

The Sale Process is Moving Along....Slowly

MLB sources confirmed to me this morning that meetings between the Ricketts family and Tribune Co. are ongoing to try to finalize the sale of the Cubs. However, it appears that the transaction will not be formally completed for quite a while.

Tom Ricketts has been in New York meeting with MLB officials as well as with banks involved in financing the deal. However, the transaction is so complex that it is taking much longer to finish than was once expected. It is still believed to be on track to head to the bankruptcy court for approval but there are still several steps to complete before that hurdle is reached.

Don't look for Tom Ricketts to be in a position of saying yes or no to a major trade acquisition by the July 31 non waiver trade deadline. Until the deal is in the hands of baseball's other owners Ricketts does not have authority to get involved in management decisions. However, you can bet that the Cubs will not take on a large amount of payroll without someone who would be responsible for the money owed down the road saying yes or no.

The Utay group has not been formally told they are out which is smart business by the Tribune Co. because should anything fall through with the Ricketts family they have to have a backup plan. But a very good source in baseball told me this morning that he would be stunned if the Ricketts deal fell through.

Tom Ricketts is trying to bring the deal to completion and will not be too worried about things going on with the club until he is formally handed control. We will update this story tonight on Sports Central.

Let's Talk About the Cubs and the Trade Deadline

The non waiver trading deadline of July 31st is rapidly approaching and their is much speculation about what the Cubs might do or not do to improve their up and down club. Obviously GM Jim Hendry would like to add a bat to improve a struggling offense but the first question that has to be answered is what bat do you target and where do you play him in the lineup?

In today's Chicago Tribune Cubs manager Lou Piniella talked about his team's need to add a left handed bat. Wasn't that what the Cubs set out to do last winter when they dramatically reshaped their roster to clear enough salary space to add Milton Bradley? Here is the cold reality: White Sox rookie Gordon Beckham who made his major league debut on June 4th has 2 more RBI's than Bradley entering play today. Cubs outfielder Micah Hoffpauir has 5 more RBI's in 53 less at bats than the 10 million dollar man and 2B Mike Fontenot has 8 more RBI's than the left handed run producer the Cubs added last winter.  

Bradley has been nothing short of brutal at the plate but with 21 million dollars left on his contract after this season the Cubs are stuck with him. So if he can't be moved what options does Jim Hendry have to improve his team? The only positions that are open for discussion are either 2B where the available options include Pirates standout Freddy Sanchez who's contract status could be a problem with the ownership situation still unsettled. Sanchez is hitting .307 with 6 HR's and 34 RBI's and he has an OBP of .346. He is an excellent defensive second baseman and at age 31 he has plenty of baseball left in him.

However, Sanchez has an 8 million dollar club option for 2010 and after 2010 he will be a free agent which means that if you give up a lot to get him you need to get him signed to an extension at some point in the not too distant future. The price will be extremely high especially because the Pirates would prefer to trade him outside of the NL Central.

Other options for Hendry could be to improve his bullpen with a situational left-hander but the problem there is that the price is exorbitant for mediocre players. One guy that Hendry would love to bring in is Baltimore Orioles standout George Sherrill who can set up and close and is holding left handed hitters to a .125 batting average. However, former Cubs president Andy MacPhail is a notoriously tough guy to make a deal with as the Cubs can attest to in their failed attempt to land Brian Roberts last season. How much would you pay to land a left-hander who is not the final piece to winning a championship?

The only other spot that the Cubs can add a player is in center field but with 2 more years left on Kosuke Fukudome's deal at 26.5 million dollars the chances of him being moved are non existent unless the Cubs eat most of the salary. He has looked better since moving to the lead off spot but a punch and judy singles hitter for 48 million dollars was not what the Cubs envisioned when they signed the Japanese star.

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You Have to Respect Obama's Loyalty to the Sox

Nearly every politician you come across is a front runner who says what he or she thinks everyone wants to hear when it comes to what team they cheer for. Except for Barack Obama who is absolutely 100% behind his team, the Chicago White Sox.

Obama threw out the first pitch at last Tuesday's All Star Game and despite being asked by executives from Major League Baseball to wear a generic MLB all star jacket he chose to wear his White Sox jacket. MLB officials were reportedly not that pleased that he was showing his favoritism to the Sox on such a grand stage but Obama insisted and for that you have to respect his honesty.

I spent some time with Obama shortly before he announced his candidacy for president when he was at a Northwestern basketball game that I was broadcasting. His brother-in-law Craig Robinson was the head coach at Brown at the time and his team was in to play the Wildcats so Obama sat behind the Brown bench and was wearing a White Sox hat. I sat and talked with him after the game and asked him if he would wear a Cubs hat  if I got him an official  one from the team. He looked me in the eye and said "never, I am a Sox fan and not a Cubs fan." When I pressed him for more on the topic he told me that he made a choice when he came to Chicago and that a real Chicago fan picks one side or the other.

Now, I am not saying who I voted for in the past election and it really doesn't matter but I do have tremendous respect for Obama who chose to be a real fan rather than a phony politician like so many others including a certain former senator from New York who claims to be a Cub fan but has also been chronicled declaring her love for the Yankees, Mets, and who knows how many other teams.
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You have to respect Barack Obama's loyalty to his team, even if some Cubs fans are unhappy with his choice of team.


I have received a ton of e-mails this week from Cubs fans who are unhappy that the president wore a Sox jacket. Get over it and respect the fact that he is a real fan who checks the scores even on his busiest days and knows what is going on with his favorite team.

The White Sox have a fan in the White House and we Cubs fans have Rod Blagojevich who may be headed to the big house. Oh well, at least we have Wrigley Field.

Listen up! WGN Radio's Cubs first-half recap

We took the best and worst from the first-half of the Cubs and put it all in one awesome recap from the tremendous WGN radio staff. Enjoy!

Listen to WGN Radio's Cubs recap of the first half

The Latest on the Sale and the Bankruptcy Filing

This morning I reported that the long discussed sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family is almost complete and needs approval from a bankruptcy judge and a vote of the MLB owners to make it official.

Here is the latest on the deal and what you can expect to see over the next several weeks....The Ricketts family has a verbal agreement that they and their attorneys are very comfortable with and while it technically is not a signed deal it will head off to the bankruptcy court very soon where it is expected to receive approval fairly quickly. The Cubs bankruptcy is related to the Tribune's filing and by going through the process it will give the Ricketts a franchise that has court approval that it is free from any liens or future debt related claims related to the Tribune's ownership period.   

The Cubs filing is called a pre-packaged bankruptcy and should move through the court and the entire process very quickly. The Tribune's bankruptcy filing is far more complex and the sale will need the approval of Judge Kevin Carey who is presiding over the case in Wilmington, DE but that is not considered to be a problem.

Once all of the bankruptcy related proceedings are completed then the deal will be sent to MLB where the owners are expected to approve the deal unanimously. That will complete the transaction and hand control of the team to the Ricketts family sometime before the end of August.    

DID YOU KNOW.... Standing on the corner in front of Wrigley Field on Saturday before the first pitch between the Cubs and Cardinals between the red marquee and the Ernie Banks statue was the future owner of the Cubs waiting for some friends to meet him to go to the game. He looked just like another Cubs fan and no one recognized Tom Ricketts as he stood there knowing that he is just a month or so from taking control of the club.Think he'll be that anonymous if the Cubs don't win on his watch? I think not! 

Question of the day: Does Cubs GM Jim Hendry deserve to keep his job?

My Prediction After BP....Soriano Will Have a Big Day

The Cubs are getting ready to play game two of their four game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at 3:05 and they have just completed batting practice at the Friendly Confines. After looking at the numbers, past history and trends I am ready to make a prediction on today's game.

Look for Alfonso Soriano to have a big day as he is starting to square the ball up better and I have a feeling that he will hit very well against Cardinals starter Brad Thompson. I have been very critical of Soriano who is mired in a horrific slump but if this Cubs team is going to turn things around and make a run at another playoff appearance he must hit well. I have Soriano getting three hits and taking one out of the ballpark as the Cubs will win 6-2.

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Can Alfonso Soriano have a strong second half and lead the Cubs back to the playoffs?

Also, if you missed the news Sam Fuld has been recalled to take Geovany Soto's roster spot as he has been placed on the 15 day DL with an oblique strain. GM Jim Hendry is also actively looking to add a backup catcher who is solid defensively. His offensive skills are not as much of a priority but he has to be able to call a game and throw enough to discourage a team from running on him with reckless abandon.

The Cardinals Will Kick the Tires on Roy Halladay

Cardinals sources confirmed to me this afternoon at Wrigley Field that they are interested in acquiring All Star pitcher Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue Jays. Tonight the St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper quotes Cardinals GM John Mozeliak on his interest in kicking the tires on a potential trade for Halladay.

Should "Doc" Halladay end up in St. Louis you can print the playoff tickets in the Arch City because that will put them over the top in a very mediocre divisional race. The Cubs are 4 1/2 back after today's loss and unless they can turn things around the rest of the weekend you will find a team 7 1/2 back and fading when the dust settles on the first half late Sunday evening.

Let's Clear Up Something Regarding the Sale Process in MLB

There have been some people in the media or the blog world who seem to think that if a prospective buyer of the team does not have his bid approved by the other owners that they could turn around and sue Major League Baseball. Well, these media types who think that are sadly uninformed on the process.

When you sign an application to purchase a Major League team you sign away all rights to sue MLB. They reserve the right without fear of legal action to admit who they want to their exclusive club of owners. To receive permission to look at a baseball club's financial books a bidder MUST sign away all rights to file a legal action. The group of baseball owners is a private club and they need no reason for rejecting someone. They choose who they want and it does not matter if they reject someone who offers more money than the person whose bid they do accept.

Dempster's Injury Could Force a Move

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For a Canadian and die hard hockey fan you have to think that Ryan Dempster has jumped over the boards before. What happened here? Check out the young Cubs fan who sure found it funny before he knew Dempster was injured.

Ryan Dempster's injury could cause real problems for the Cubs if he is out as much as 5 weeks which some folks around the Cubs are fearing. Kevin Hart pitched okay in yesterday's loss to the Braves but while Atlanta scored only 1 run in 5 innings off of him and only had 4 hits he did walk 5 which will be unacceptable against the better offensive teams the Cubs still have left on  their schedule.

I know Dempster's injury was a freak thing but he has to be smarter than that knowing how important he is to the club. He was a 17 game winner a year ago and he is one of the leaders of this club off the field and to have him out really hamstrings the pitching staff.

If Hart is not able to adequately fill in then the next option is Sean Marshall which would leave the Cubs with exactly no left handed set up man to use in a key situation in the latter innings of a close ballgame.

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Lou Puts it On the Players!

In today's post game press conference Lou Piniella was asked once again why his club isn't hitting. After covering for his players earlier in the season, today Sweet Lou put the blame right where it belongs....on the shoulders of his woefully under performing offense. "What do you want me to say? Go ask the players why they aren't hitting. Go ask the hitting coach."

You have to believe that an explosion from Piniella is close because he has seen his team look completely inept at the plate most of the season. Perhaps if Mt. Lou erupts it will wake up a team that right now looks awful.

 

Could B.J. Ryan be Worth a Look as a Left Handed Set up Man?

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Could Toronto Blue Jays castoff B.J. Ryan who is a former all star find a spot in the Cubs bullpen?

The Toronto Blue Jays have released one time All Star closer B.J. Ryan this afternoon after he continued to struggle out of their bullpen. His numbers this year are not good but he was at one time one of the best left handed specialists in all of baseball and could be worth at least a flyer because the Blue Jays are on the hook for another 5 million in salary this season and 10 million more for next season.

With the Cubs hamstrung by a lack of financial flexibility perhaps GM Jim Hendry will take a look at Ryan who would cost him nothing and with Ryan Dempster on the DL it could free up Sean Marshall to move into the rotation if necessary.

Ricketts Group Moving Towards a Deal

Baseball sources have confirmed to me this morning that the sale of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family is on track and should be completed as we first reported last Friday by the end of August. In addition, we have confirmed that MLB is not evaluating any proposed deal from the Utay group nor is one expected to be submitted.

Additionally, the bankruptcy court is not going to evaluate and weigh two offers against each other. The way that the process will be handled has only one offer submitted to the court and that will be the Ricketts offer. If the court rejects that offer then a second offer can be submitted. However, the Tribune has worked in good faith with their creditors and the court and has kept them informed throughout every step of the process so the judge's approval is considered a mere formality.
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Tribune boss Sam Zell will be a happy man to have the sale of the Cubs behind him.


Currently the framework of the Ricketts deal is in front of Major League Baseball and they are evaluating the extremely complex transaction. Once their ownership experts give the okay then the deal will be finalized and sent to Judge Kevin Carey who is presiding over the Tribune's bankruptcy. He is based in Wilmington, Delaware where many high profile bankruptcies are heard and his approval is expected to be a formality. The bankruptcy committee has been briefed every step of the way as the Tribune has tried to work with their creditors so nothing in the deal is expected to be a surprise to the court.

Once Judge Carey signs off on the sale then the transaction will go back to Major League Baseball and all of the owners
will vote to approve the sale which will be a slam dunk. Then, and only then will Tom Ricketts take control of the Cubs and end a process that has dragged on for far too long and had many twists and turns.
 

How Ryan Dempster Broke His Toe....

Excellent sources tell me that Ryan Dempster's toe injury was caused by a nail problem on his right big toe and may have contributed to him tripping on the dugout railing. No matter how it happened the bottom line is he is gone for at least a month and that is a big problem for the Cubs. Kevin Hart will replace him in the rotation for now and he will start tomorrow in the finale of the Braves series. 

Ryan Dempster to the DL

The Cubs have just placed starting pitcher Ryan Dempster on the 15 day DL with a broken big toe on his right foot. The Cubs are hopeful that he can return in 3-4 weeks but my sources tell me that 4-6 weeks is much more likely.

Additionally, I am hearing that the injury is non-baseball related so we'll wait to hear from Ryan on what happened. Carlos Zambrano moves up to start tonight's game against the Atlanta Braves in Dempster's absence. More to come. Kap

More on the Sale....

The Breaking News Center over at the Tribune has a new story up that is fairly accurate regarding the involvement of the Utay group in the sale process of the Cubs. The Utay group has several question marks surrounding their bid however, including the fact that their deal is much more heavily leveraged and they may not be as easily approvable to Major League Baseball as the Ricketts are.

A recent Wall Street Journal story also has some people involved in the process very unhappy because it keeps the Utay group in the process by removing any downside for them with the Tribune assuming all of the risk by offering the Utay group what is called a "kill fee".

The Ricketts family's bid is much farther along in the process and is still expected to be the winner when the smoke clears. In addition, Major League Baseball has final say on all sales so if they determine that they want the Ricketts and not the Utay group then Tribune Company will not have much of a choice. This process is still expected to be completed by the end of August.

 

All of the Misinformation Out There About the Sale of the Cubs

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Who will be sitting in the owners suite when the sale finally goes through?

There is so much misinformation regarding the sale of the Chicago Cubs from Tribune Company that I have to set the record straight and separate fact from fiction.

First, here is the fiction reported in a Reuters story this morning that is loaded with inaccuracies. The story quotes anonymous sources that say the Tribune has reached an agreement on the terms for a sale of the team to a group led by private equity investor Marc Utay.

That is 100% incorrect.

The Tribune has reached no agreement to sell the Cubs with ANYONE and that includes the Ricketts family, the Utay group, or the man on the moon. Tribune VP of Communications Gary Weitman confirmed to me today that no agreement has been reached with anyone.

The story also says that by reaching an agreement with the Utay group that the company now has two offers to submit to the bankruptcy court. This is also wildly inaccurate.

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Wrigley 2014 - An Inside Look

I have had the opportunity to look at the renderings for what a remodeling job to Wrigley Field that is proposed to coincide with the ballpark's 100th anniversary in 2014 would look like. It does not dramatically increase seating capacity but it adds several new amenities that will make the experience of attending the ballpark that much more enjoyable.

The sight lines inside Wrigley will not change but the plans do include upgrading the seats in the reserved grandstand directly behind home plate to create a premium seat with a private club at the top of the grandstand. Additionally, the space currently occupied by the Cubs offices will be vacated to make room for an upscale restaurant and private club that would be along the lines of the Jim Beam Club that is at U.S. Cellular Field.

The space that is currently used by the media for parking and the parcel of land that has the old Yum Yum Donuts Shop on it would be used to construct a triangle shaped building that would house the Cubs offices, an upgraded training facility for the team, plus restaurants, bars and gift shops that would allow the Cubs to maximize revenue streams that currently go to other establishments in Wrigleyville. A parking garage could also be part of the building but that has yet to be worked out in the plans.

The designs also include an overhead walkway and moving sky walk that would allow fans to enter the ballpark from new entrances that would be created during the overhaul. Between the proposed triangle building and the stadium the plans include for an open air area where fans could congregate after a game and have a drink or a sandwich. Wider concourses, greatly improved bathrooms, and upgraded concessions are also part of the plan.

One area that is still under discussion is what to do with the Cubs clubhouse. It could remain where it is but the size would be greatly expanded because the area underneath the stands would be dug out and the current space used for the umpires room, the media dungeon where Lou Piniella does his post game press conference, and some storage areas could all be used to expand the player's locker room. The team would also like to add an indoor batting cage that is available in every other stadium in baseball just off of the dugout of the home team so that Cubs hitters have a chance to get loose in the latter stages of a game before they are called on to pinch hit. Currently the only place that they can go is to stretch out in the cramped locker room.

The plans modernize Wrigley Field greatly and dramatically increase the revenue streams for the team. However, with the sale of the team to the Ricketts family just about done all of this could change as Tom Ricketts and his group start to examine everything about the organization from top to bottom. This much is certain, at some point over the next 5-10 years you will see dramatic changes to the Friendly Confines. Let's just hope that those changes include a new World Series banner flying atop the venerable stadium.    

Are You Kidding Me? Sam Fuld Goes Back to the Minors

Let me get this right, the Cubs bring up a guy who leads off in back to back games and goes 2-3 both nights and plays outstanding defense and they go 2-0. So what do they do? They send him back to the minor leagues because they have no room for him on the roster. Ridiculous!

Here are the roster moves that were just announced: Sam Fuld and Kevin Hart back to Class AAA and reliever David Patton to the 15 day DL with a slight groin strain. A groin strain I am sure that he was just informed about. Because Patton was unaware he had strained his groin it does not appear to be a long term injury.

If Jim Hendry, (whose number one priority was to get a left handed run producer in the off season) had his choice, Milton Bradley have more than 19 RBI's at the halfway point he could have kept Sam Fuld for defense, speed and contact.  Then he could have also sent down Micah Hoffpauir. Instead, they keep Hoffpauir for his bat with Milton and Soriano continuing to struggle mightily.

Cubs Trade Ryan Freel

The Cubs have traded infielder Ryan Freel to the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later. Freel was designated for assignment on July 2nd when Jeff Baker was acquired from Colorado. In 14 games with the Cubs he batted .143 (4 for 28) with one run scored and one RBI. He was originally acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Joey Gathright on May 8.

The Ricketts deal is not done ... yet

I reported on Friday night that the deal to sell the Cubs and a 25% stake in Comcast SportsNet was close to completion and would be done within two weeks. Today, various sources are reporting that the sale is done and is just awaiting league approval.

That is inaccurate as I write this at 12:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Excellent sources involved in the negotiations told me that no deal has been finalized. While the deal is expected to be reached soon it is not done despite what is being reported elsewhere. Tom Ricketts is on a plane and nothing can be agreed to until he lands and is involved in dotting the final i's and crossing the final t's.

In addition, minutes ago Tribune Co. Vice President Gary Weitman issued this statement: "We continue an active dialogue with the Ricketts family with an eye toward reaching a definitive agreement.  We don't intend to comment on the specifics of any potential transaction."

Sources on the other side of the bargaining table also insist that no deal is done but both sides do expect it to happen soon. The deal has taken 2 1/2 years to complete because of the complex nature of the transaction and the economic crisis facing the country that has made financing a deal of this magnitude much tougher than it would have been 2 years ago.

While an announcement that states the Ricketts family as the winning bidders clears one hurdle there are still more steps to climb before control of the team is handed over. The bankruptcy committee handling the Tribune's Chapter 11 filing has to give its approval to the deal and then and only then can it be voted on by Major League Baseball's other owners.

That part of the deal is a slam dunk as the Ricketts family has been a preferred ownership group to the MLB hierarchy since the process began in earnest a couple of years ago. It was originally thought that a group of investors led by Chicago businessmen John Canning and Andrew McKenna were the front runners but they elected not pursue the Cubs after making several inquiries early in the process.

Ricketts Deal To Be Done Soon

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Tom Ricketts is about to become the Cubs newest owner.

According to a good baseball source I spoke with a few hours ago, the Cubs sale is far more imminent than it was once believed.  Tom Ricketts and the Tribune Company are working towards the deal that would give Ricketts possession of the Cubs and it should be done in the next two weeks, barring any unforseen circumstance.

Since Major League Baseball then has to approve the deal before Ricketts is officially the Cubs new owner, the entire process should be finalized before the end of August.

Guess Who Was Sitting in the Second Row Tonight?

If you were paying attention to the Brewers/Cubs game at Wrigley Field tonight and watched the TV broadcast you probably saw a gentleman behind the Cubs on deck circle who was eating a hot dog and cheering for his Cubs just like any other fan. However, this fan had his eyes on the action as he imagined what changes he would make if he owned the team.

Well, the man who was sitting in those seats was Tom Ricketts who is working to complete his purchase of the Cubs from Tribune Company. Sources close to the sale tell me that the final hurdles are about to be cleared and that this deal is finally close to completion. Ricketts is a die hard Cubs fan and from watching him at the game you can tell that he is making this purchase because of his passion for the North Siders.

From what I am hearing, the radio/TV rights deals have been a stumbling block but after several discussions it appears that Ricketts and the Tribune Co. have found a common ground. This deal should move quickly through the approval process as soon as the final terms of the sale agreement are completed.

The Texas Rangers Have Serious Financial Troubles

With our nation's economy in turmoil it was just a matter of time before a team went into  serious financial distress. Today, I learned that the Texas Rangers needed to borrow 15 million dollars from Major League Baseball to make their most recent payroll.

Sources tell me that the Rangers will be sold to Nolan Ryan and that MLB is assisting in the process so that it goes as smoothly as possible. Rangers owner Tom Hicks also owns a professional soccer team but had no trouble making payroll there and that has the folks in the MLB offices not very happy that they had to send big money to bail Hicks out while he found the money to support another team that he owns. Stay tuned because unfortunately this won't be the last team we see in this situation.

Jeff Baker is in....Ryan Freel is Out

The Cubs have made a roster move today, acquiring utility infielder Jeff Baker from the Colorado Rockies for a minor league pitcher. In a corresponding roster move the Cubs have designated IF-OF Ryan Freel for assignment. The 28 year old Baker has been on the DL since April 29 with a sprained left hand and was activated off of the 60 day DL today. Freel  has struggled mightily in his time with the Cubs and batted just .143 (4 for 28) with one run scored and one RBI in 14 games with Chicago. 

Wow, a Leadoff Man Who Gets on Base and is Actually a Threat to Run!

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that I am not a huge fan of Alfonso Soriano as a baseball player. He has a very low baseball IQ, he is a terrible defensive outfielder and please quit telling me what a tremendous arm he has. His defensive inadequacies far outweigh the occasional throw he makes to nail a base runner.

Tonight, Soriano was rested and that gave Sam Fuld a start in LF. He led off the game with a double (his first major league hit), had a walk, a single, and made a great throw to cut down a runner at the plate. He has to be given another opportunity in the lineup after tonight's performance. It will be interesting to see what Lou Piniella does with the Brewers coming in for a huge four game series that begins tomorrow night at Wrigley Field.

Could There Be Any Truth To This....

In working the Internet this afternoon I came across an interesting article.

Could the Mets seriously have interest in trading for Milton Bradley? If I was an owner and my GM came to me about approving a deal for Bradley I would tell him absolutely not. I would not want a guy like Milton Bradley on my roster at any cost.

However, according to the article, Omar Minaya, the GM of the Mets, wants to add another bat to his team and with the health of Carlos Beltran in question and not much available without parting with their best prospects, Bradley could be on their radar screen.

Cubs Notes....Reliever Jose Ascanio has been sent back to Class AAA Iowa and right hander Jeff Samardzija has been recalled.....Sports Illustrated has come out with a poll of 380 major leaguers who were asked: What manager would you least like to play for? Lou Piniella came in first with 26% , Ozzie Guillen was second with 21%, Tony La Russa was third.

Question of the day: Who would you hire as Cubs manager?

Random Cubs Thoughts From the Breakfast Table

With Aramis Ramirez headed out on a rehab assignment on Thursday and looking to return to the Cubs everyday lineup next Monday it should change GM Jim Hendry's needs as the front office determines what moves they need to make before the July 31st trading deadline.

Do you add a utility type player who can fill in both in the infield and the outfield? Do you look to add a player who could potentially play everyday somewhere? What about improving the pitching staff?

Here is what my panel of experts told me yesterday as we continue our look at the 2009 Cubs:

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Question of the day: Where will the Cubs finish?

A Complete Look at The 2009 Chicago Cubs As of June 29th

With the White Sox series now in the rear view mirror it is time to analyze the 2009 edition of the Chicago Cubs with an eye towards the remaining 90+ games and their chances to save a sinking season. I spoke with my go to baseball sources today who include 2 former GM's, a former manager and several scouts and broadcasters and here is what we have come up with: (I would appreciate your comments and ideas on what you would do if you were put in charge of the Cubs).

Let's begin with the offense which is a far cry from the 2008 model which led the National League in runs scored. There is not one regular who would tell you that he is having a good season. At catcher, Geovany Soto's production is nothing short of awful. He is hitting just.223 with 7 home runs and 24 RBI's. At third base the Cubs are getting very little since Aramis Ramirez went down with a serious shoulder injury. Mike Fontenot has been brutal offensively and his lack of production has shown the spotlight even more brightly on Ramirez' absence. Ryan Theriot is having a solid season offensively but he is an average shortstop defensively. Several scouts concurred with what I wrote earlier that Theriot should be moved to 2nd base and the Cubs should look to acquire a standout shortstop. At first base Derrek Lee has been solid but unspectacular with his power numbers far below what a superstar first baseman should be delivering. Defensively, he remains one of baseball's best.

Moving on to the outfield, the Cubs may have the worst defensive outfield in all of baseball. There wasn't one expert that I spoke with who felt that the Cubs defense was even adequate to win a championship. Alfonso Soriano is hopefully showing signs of coming out of his slump having had 4 multi-hit games in his last five. However, defensively he is awful. He has no feel for the game and is a huge liability for his team. Not a single baseball source I spoke with would want him as the left fielder on their team. The former GM even went as far as to say that he would explore trying to move Soriano even if he had to pay half of his salary. Kosuke Fukudome is a very average center fielder defensively who plays far too deep in center because he is not comfortable going back on the ball. He is below average offensively and is struggling much as he did the second half of the 2008 season. The panel of experts do believe that he is an excellent right fielder and you could see more of him there with Milton Bradley struggling so mightily in all aspects of his game.

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I'll Admit When I'm Wrong

I have been calling for Carlos Marmol to be the Cubs closer because I believed that if he was given that responsibility he would cut down on his walks and focus better than he has on his set up role. After today's abysmal performance where Marmol walked 3 (1 intentional), gave up 2 hits, and threw just 10 strikes in his 24 pitch appearance I will admit that I was wrong in wanting to give Marmol the closer's role when he obviously hasn't earned it.

Gregg has thrown the ball better over the past few weeks but the fact that he has given up 6 HR's in the closer's role was what had me so concerned in my post of a couple of days ago. However, with Marmol struggling so mightily there really is no other option to use as a closer at this point in time. Do I believe that Marmol will someday be the Cubs closer? Yes, I do. However, right now he is perhaps the most unreliable arm that Lou Piniella has in his bullpen and for this team to reach the heights that was predicted for them he has to return to last season's form. 

One Thing to Remember....The Cubs Are Only 1 Game Out in the Loss Column

Yes, I am as frustrated as anyone by the performance of the Cubs this season but we do need to keep their performance so far in perspective.

After today's 6-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers their record is 34-35 but that lackluster performance has them just 1 game out in the loss column and just 3 1/2 games out in the NL Central.

The blame for the Cubs poor play has to fall squarely on the shoulders of Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, and the rest of the offense that has woefully underperformed.

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Let's Discuss the Cubs Closer Role

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Kevin Gregg has had his ups and downs as the Cubs closer so far this season.

My post from last night regarding Kevin Gregg and the Cubs closer role has generated a ton of interest and judging by the large number of e-mails I have received at both WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet many of you want Gregg replaced as well.

There are also several of you who don't want to see Gregg switch roles with Carlos Marmol and many of you are very passionate in defense of your position.

One comment from "Bad Kermit" says that I am "dead wrong" in my desire to replace Gregg with Carlos Marmol. Well, while Kermit makes some good points about Gregg's performance in high leverage situations he also fails to recognize some crucial stats about Gregg in 2009.

There are 27 relievers in baseball this season who have a minimum of 10 save opportunities. Gregg's ERA of 4.18 ranks him 21st among those 27.

Okay, you say ERA doesn't matter for a closer? Let's look at home runs allowed by Gregg.

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Question of the day: Who should be the Cubs' closer?

Kevin Gregg blew another save last night in Detroit, and Cubs fans everywhere are up in arms over their lack of a dependable closer to nail down tight games.

Answer the question below and tune in to Sports Central on WGN Radio tomorrow night when I'll discuss your responses. Have a great day!

Kap

Enough is Enough

I am sitting here eating my dinner with the Cubs trailing 3-2 and when Micah Hoffpauir takes Joel Zumaya deep for a 2 run home run to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the 8th the leftovers that the "redhead" is feeding me suddenly taste a whole lot better. Zumaya is throwing 98+ mph and to turn around a 2 strike fastball and give the Cubs the lead was a huge accomplishment for Micah.
Now we head to the bottom of the 9th and we'll see if Kevin Gregg can find a way to lock this one down. I am not a big Gregg fan because I believe a closer must have swing and miss stuff to be a reliable guy in late inning pressure situations. Gregg is far from that and his propensity for the base on balls drives me crazy.
Here we go, the first hitter of the inning walks on a 3-2 breaking ball that is high. Ridiculous! Quit walking guys! Alright, Gregg settles down and gets the first out on a pop up to Andres Blanco. Now, how about a double play ball and we can get out of here with a win. Ryan Rayburn is up and he is not a power guy so keep the ball away from his wheelhouse and see if you can get him to try to pull a pitch and hit a ground ball to short. He is hitting .235 and has 5 home runs on the season.
Uh oh, a pitch on the inner half and that ball is driven to deep left center....hold it Comerica....it won't....and the Tigers beat the Cubs 5-4 on a 2 run home run by Ryan Rayburn. These leftovers suddenly taste lousy. I think I'm going to be sick! Please move Carlos Marmol to the closer's role and get Kevin Gregg out of any and all late inning, pressure situations. NOW!

Question of the day: Will Cubs win NL Central?

Hey Cubs fans, your North Siders came back to Earth on Monday in Atlanta but the loss to the Braves came after a nice run of huge wins.

So what do you think? Are they playoff-bound or not? Answer the question below and I'll be discussing the results on Sports Central tonight at 7!

The Offense Goes Back Into Hibernation

By giving some of his stars a night off Lou Piniella is looking at the big picture down the road rather than worrying about winning the smaller battles. With Alfonso Soriano dealing with a troublesome knee he was given Monday off entirely and Milton Bradley was limited to just a pinch hitting appearance. However, the Cubs couldn't get to Atlanta starter Javier Vasquez who scattered a ton of hits but surrendered nary a run in a 2-0 Braves victory.

In looking at this team and evaluating their off season moves it is becoming obvious that to this point in the season not much from the winter has gone right. The signing of Bradley has been a dismal failure so far as has the signing of Aaron Miles and the trading of Mark DeRosa. Letting Kerry Wood leave via free agency has not been the problem that many thought it might be but Kevin Gregg is far from a lock down closer himself.

One move that is flying under the radar is the decision to let Casey McGehee go. He is playing well in a backup role in Milwaukee and he could have been a solid insurance policy for Aramis Ramirez at third base. Jim Hendry thought McGehee had a slow bat and elected to get rid of him despite Lou Piniella wanting him to have a spot on the roster. McGehee is hitting .349 for the Brewers in limited duty but he would have been a far better option at the hot corner than Mike Fontenot has been, especially offensively.

The trade of Jason Marquis looks worse every day that he keeps winning for the Rockies as he currently leads the National League in wins with 9. Whether he can keep that pace up remains to be seen but when you pay roughly 5 million dollars to get rid of him, and you have nothing on your roster to show for that move, (after the release of Luis Vizcaino) that is a problem.

Hendry has won three division titles in his six full seasons on the job and he has obviously made some tremendous moves.  But if this Cubs team doesn't kick it into gear soon the winter leading into 2009 will not be looked at as a successful one. 

Lou, It's Up To You Now....

While the Cubs offensive struggles are the fault of several key players who are not producing the other question that must be answered is how long manager Lou Piniella is going to sit idly by before he makes significant changes to the lineup.
How long will Alfonso Soriano be left in the leadoff spot with his batting average down to .225? Why not sit Soriano for a few days and let Jake Fox play in left field? Many people seem to be worried about Fox's defense but Soriano's defense is not good and his offense is struggling so what would you lose letting Soriano rest his knee and seeing what Fox can give you?
In addition, put Ryan Theriot at the top of the order and leave him there for the forseeable future. He can only improve the Cubs offensive production because with Soriano leading off the team looks lifeless and their run scoring is among the worst in the league.

More to come on Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central at 7:00 p.m. on WGN Radio. Kap

Could the Cardinals Lose Albert Pujols? Go Get Him Tom Ricketts!

The folks down in that sleepy town known as St. Louis are starting to get a little nervous that the greatest baseball player in the world, Albert Pujols could walk away from the Cardinals when his contract is up after the 2011 season.

Bernie Miklasz, a very solid columnist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch brought the issue up in his column yesterday while Will Leitch who runs Deadspin.com (one of the best websites in the sports world) has a great column on the topic.
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Could the greatest baseball player in the world leave St. Louis when his contract is up in two years?


While Albert is under the Cardinals control for the 2010 season and they hold a 16 million dollar option on him for 2011 which they will most definitely exercise, rumors are already starting to brew that he may want out if Tony LaRussa leaves because of a lack of financial commitment to winning by management.

While the sale of the Cubs drags on it still appears likely that somehow, someway, Tom Ricketts and his family will eventually gain control of the Cubs. If that doesn't happen until after the 2009 season then Ricketts will probably spend most of 2010 taking stock of just exactly what he has and what he needs to do.

That timetable puts Pujols heading into the final year of his deal. What better way to show how serious you are about winning to the championship starved fan base of the Cubs than to sign "Prince Albert" to a mega contract.

While this pipedream is a long ways off it's still fun to dream and with fans in St. Louis already starting to get nervous about the prospect of losing their franchise player what better way to ratchet up the heat on the Cardinal fans than by having them wondering if the unspeakable could happen - Prince Albert in a Cubs uniform.

So is Sammy Sosa a Hall of Famer or Not?

With today's breaking news reported by the New York Times that Sammy Sosa tested positive in 2003 for using performance enhancing drugs (PED's) public opinion is expected to decidely move against Sosa's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sammy blew up over a 5 year period starting in 1998 when he seemed to be growing larger and larger as if he was being inflated with an air hose. His stats were huge, yes.  But it was obvious back then and was proven today with the news of his positive drug test that he, like many other players ,was cheating. In addition, Sosa was a prima donna in the clubhouse with many of his teammates questioning his commitment to the team and openly ridiculing his me first behavior.

There is no question that several players participated in the smashing of his boom box at the end of the 2004 season with Kerry Wood fingered by many as the ringleader. However, had he achieved his tremendous stats without the benefit of steroids he would have been a lock for Cooperstown no matter what many of his teammates thought of him.

Now though, Sosa becomes just another name in a sad chapter in baseball history. Recently, Sosa announced his retirement from the game and said "I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Don't I have the numbers to be inducted?" Yes, Sammy you have the numbers but unfortunately how you achieved them is the problem. If I have a Hall of Fame vote when Sosa's name appears on the ballot Sammy can count on one thing, he won't get my vote.

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Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds in happier times....2003

 

By the way, here is Sammy's statement from 2005, judge for yourself:

"To be clear," ... "I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything"

 

NOW should Sammy Sosa go in the Hall of Fame?

Last week I asked if Sammy Sosa should be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame and it was almost a draw. Now, with news that Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, I'm asking the question again:

The Cubs are Reportedly Considering Pedro Martinez. Why?

The Boston Globe reported late Thursday that the Cubs and Rays both scouted Pedro Martinez at a throwing session he had in the Dominican Republic. Why would the Cubs want to spend the few available dollars that they have to spend on an aging starting pitcher? Their rotation leads the major leagues in ERA and their offense is struggling mightily. Take the cash and try to find a player that can multiple positions, play third until Aramis Ramirez comes off of the DL, and can drive in some runs on an offensively starved team. Oh, wait we had that guy....his name is Mark DeRosa.

 

 

Could the Cubs Sale Process be Re-Opened?

I spoke with several sources today regarding the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family. There are some people who believe that the process is so bogged down between the two sides that the process could start over with other ownership groups given a chance to try to strike a deal.
However, a very well placed source who I spoke with this afternoon told me that he believes that one of two things will probably happen over the next 30-60 days. Either the terms of the sale will be agreed to promptly and it will then head to the bankruptcy court for their clearance before Major League Baseball gives their approval or the creditors of the Tribune Company could assume control of the company.

If that happens then the creditors can either keep Sam Zell and his management team in place while they call the shots on the day to day operations of the company or they can remove Zell and his team and run the company with their own people.

Should that happen then you might see the sale price of the team go down as the creditors look to get what they can so that they are not forced to run a baseball team that they know nothing about.

Whatever happens, it appears according to the baseball sources I spoke with today that there is no chance the team will make a marquee acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline.
There could be a tweak here or there but forget about Jake Peavy or another big ticket item calling Wrigley Field their home. That means guys like Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and Geovany Soto had better pick it up and Aramis Ramirez' shoulder has to return to full strength so that the Cubs have his clutch bat in the middle of their lineup.

Don't Look for a Big Move From the Cubs....Unless....

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While the Cubs would love to be active participants at the July trade deadline it appears that they will be forced to play a much smaller role than they might want because of the ownership situation which has pretty much tied GM Jim Hendry's hands.

Look for the Cubs to try to acquire a bullpen arm or two with finding a situational lefty a priority. As for adding another bat that appears to be a tougher thing to fit into the budget although two Major League sources told me that there have been some discussions about Mark DeRosa but for that to happen the Cubs would have to move significant young talent to Cleveland and be willing to admit that they made a mistake when they traded him away.

Personally, I think the smartest thing Jim Hendry could do would be to trade for DeRosa and add a lefty out of the pen. DeRosa's addition would energize the club and give Lou Piniella some flexibility both in the infield and on the outfield corners. He would also be a great presence in the clubhouse and that can never be underestimated.

As for a left-handed reliever, Hendry wants a guy who has a proven track record against left handed hitters and would settle for a guy who Lou Piniella would probably only use for one or two hitters a night. He already has Sean Marshall who can face multiple hitters and pitch significant innings but he is craving a solid situational LH pitcher.

Forget the talk about Jake Peavy coming to the Cubs. Unless the ownership situation is cleared up fairly quickly the Cubs will be hard pressed to add significant salary to their payroll. Here are the terms of Peavy's contract  (courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts):

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Question of the day: Should Sosa enter the Hall of Fame?

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As Meat Loaf Said....Two out of Three ain't bad

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Sweet Lou will be smiling if his offense can find a way to produce more than they have so far in 2009.

The Cubs head into an off day after winning two out of three games in Cincinnati over the weekend. While winning a series is key the club has to be looking back at Saturday's loss knowing they let a chance for a sweep get away. How much longer can Jim Hendry go without adding a significant bat to the lineup and if you add one where do you play him?


A year ago the Cubs were considered one of the best teams in baseball and rolled to a 97 win regular season before their three game implosion to the Dodgers.

A year later the lineup looks radically different in terms of productivity and I wonder if you gave the other GM's of any team in contention a chance to add any position player the Cubs have to their everyday lineup just who they would want.

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Let's Take a Blunt Look at the 2009 Cubs

After last night's heartbreaking 6-5 extra inning loss to the Atlanta Braves panic is starting to creep into the minds of Cubs fans everywhere. The loss spoiled another tremendous start from rookie Randy Wells and denied him his first major league victory yet again. Wells tossed 6 2/3 innings of no hit baseball and departed in the 8th inning with the Cubs ahead 5-1.

The suspect Cubs bullpen couldn't hold the lead and the shoddy defense that has been a hindrance for the first two months of the season cost the Cubs dearly. So let's take a look at the team and try to figure out what has gone wrong and how can it be fixed before it is too late.

The starting pitching has been decent despite ace Carlos Zambrano having a below average year so far. Ted Lilly leads the team in wins with 6 while in season callup Randy Wells has an eye popping 1.69 ERA in 5 starts. Ryan Dempster is 4-3 with an ERA of 4.48. Sean Marshall has been average and Rich Harden has been a disappointment and is currently on the DL which should not be a surprise to anyone as he has been on the DL seven times since 2005. Why the Cubs picked up his option is puzzling to me because he cannot be counted on to pitch effectively every fifth day. For those of you wondering I said this before Harden was re-signed last fall.

The trade of Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies for Luis Vizcaino is looking worse everyday. Here is the game log for Marquis whose home park - Coors Field is not especially kind to pitchers:

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Uh Oh ... Could Mark DeRosa be Headed to the Cardinals?

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The Cleveland Indians have had ex-Cub Mark DeRosa on the trading block for the past couple of weeks as he will be a free agent at the end of the 2009 season and they have no intention of re-signing him to a new contract.

While he would look great in a Cubs uniform especially with Aramis Ramirez on the DL for at least another month don't expect that deal to happen because the Cubs have zero room to add salary until their ownership situation is resolved.

Check this story out from the Indians website which is sure to send shivers up the spine of Cubs fans everywhere. The thought of Mark DeRosa playing for the arch rival Cardinals and driving in runs against the Cubs could make a Cubs-Cardinals series an even more intense experience than it already is.

Here's hoping that Jim Hendry is given the greenlight to make a few moves to upgrade the club over the next 4-6 weeks which should coincide with Ramirez's return and give the Cubs a real shot in the arm as they head into the second half of the season.

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Roy Oswalt Says No To White Sox, But Guess Who He'd Say Yes To?

This just in from the Houston Chronicle! Star hurler Roy Oswalt said no thanks to a potential trade to the White Sox but he did say to the media tonight that he would approve a trade to the Cubs! More to come on this developing story!

The Latest in Chicago Sports

Let's see....where should I start? The Zambrano meltdown? The Blackhawks elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs? Derrick Rose's name being linked to an NCAA scandal at Memphis? The Jake Peavy rumors that continue to link both Chicago teams to the superstar pitcher?

Let's start with the Derrick Rose story that was broken by the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper.

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Mr. T Just Another Brutal Take Me Out To The Ball Game Singer

I was reading one of my favorite websites today when I came across this funny article about Mr. T botching the Cubs 7th inning ritual, and the others who have famously done just a brutal job singing the song too. 

Check it out here, on BERNINGONSPORTS.COM.


Cubs Roster Shakeup

The Cubs made several roster moves today in an effort at jump starting the club after they snapped an 8 game losing streak in a rain shortened affair at Wrigley Field last night.

Sent down were pitcher Neal Cotts and infielder Bobby Scales and IF Aaron Miles was placed on the 15-day DL. Recalled were SS Andres Blanco, LH reliever Jason Waddell, and hitting star Jake Fox who was hitting .423 in Class AAA.

My sources tell me that Hendry continues to scour the major leagues for a trade that could solidify third base with Aramis Ramirez gone for probably another 4 weeks.

Aubrey Huff of the Baltimore Orioles is a player who is available and could fill in at other spots when Ramirez returns. He has more RBI's than anyone on the Cubs roster and his bat would be a welcome addition to a team that has struggled to score runs.

Look for Jake Fox to get a solid opportunity to earn a spot in the libeup and he immediately paid dividends with a ringing double in the 8th inning of today's win over the Pirates.

Ryan Freel pulled his hamstring today and he looks like a candidate for the DL. That probably means Bobby Scales is headed back to Chicago to take Freel's spot on the roster.

Also, talk around the major leagues is that Mark DeRosa is definitely being made available by the Indians and that the Brewers have some interest if they cannot fill Rickie Weeks position internally over the next couple of weeks.


8 Losses in a Row? Is a Trade Coming?

With their 8th loss in a row now in the books panic is starting to creep into the Cubs clubhouse. While all involved agree that the Cubs have a lot of talent on the roster it is also evident that this is a team that has some glaring weaknesses.

First, defensively they are less than adequate. They have no legitimate, everday 2nd baseman on a championship level club. They are trying to fill in at 3rd with either a player who is too short to play the position (Fontenot and Miles), a player who the Baltimore Orioles so wanted to get rid of that Andy MacPhail is paying ALL of Ryan Freel's salary, or a player who as of a month ago had never played in the big leagues - Bobby Scales.

The bullpen is a huge problem as the Cubs really have only 1 lockdown reliever in Carlos Marmol, a youngster who is getting better in Angel Guzman, and very mediocre pitchers in setup man Aaron Heilman and closer Kevin Gregg. Neal Cotts does not belong on this team nor does David Patton who may be solid down the road but currently is far too inexperienced to be forced to help a subpar bullpen.

While much of the trade talk in the media has centered on Jake Peavy who wants to pitch for the Cubs the prudent thing to do would be to add a bat and at least one bullpen arm. I wonder what it would take to re-acquire Mark DeRosa and struggling closer Kerry Wood from Cleveland who is in last place in the AL Central.

DeRosa gives you another bat, a clubhouse presence and something that the Cubs sorely need, a 3rd baseman until Aramis Ramirez comes back. Wood, while he has had his struggles returns to a more comfortable setting and could give the club a shot in the arm and change the locker room dynamic.

Major League sources tell me that GM Jim Hendry is desperately looking to add a hitter and is calling around both leagues with a real sense of urgency. Oakland's Matt Holliday is available but he is a LF so if you add him that means that Alfonso Soriano must move to 2nd base and that would weaken an already suspect Cubs defense.

I would call Texas and see if I could add SS Omar Vizquel and I would move Ryan Theriot to 2b where he could be an all star. Vizquel improves the team's defense and that should help relax the pitching staff. Then I would call Cleveland and beg them to trade me DeRosa.

Two other names that are rumored to interest Hendry are the Florida Marlins Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu. Both are excellent hitters but Cantu has had his struggles at both 2b and 3b before moving to 1b this season. Uggla is coming off of back to back excellent offensive season with 30+ HR's in 2008 but he is hitting just .205 so far in 09'.

Whatever Hendry does it is sure to be interesting over the next couple of weeks but whatever he does he better do it quickly before his team's season slips away. 

The Latest on Jake Peavy

While there is still no resolution on the proposed Jake Peavy deal to the White Sox there are several interesting factors at play here that must be considered as to why Peavy wouldn't approve the trade. First, Peavy knows that the National League is easier to pitch in than the American League. There's no DH in the NL, he has a comfort zone knowing the hitters and the teams, and he holds all the cards. He has a no trade clause for a reason. He gets to determine where he will play, period!

I spoke with his agent, Barry Axelrod regarding the deal and he told me that Jake wants to pitch in the NL and he is in no hurry to make a decision. He will wait out the next several weeks as he watches to see who expresses interest in him and then he and his agent will make a decision on what they want to do.

Look for the Cubs to re-evaluate their position if they suffer no more major injuries and don't have a significant need to upgrade their team in another area. They don't want to use up their remaining trading chips to strengthen an area that they are already set at. Should the sale of the club to Tom Ricketts get finalized fairly soon then the new owner could make his first signature acquisition by landing Peavy. Time will tell how this one will play out.

Look for Lou Piniella to Shake up his Bullpen

When Lou Piniella speaks his players and his GM listen and after he told the Chicago media this week that he wants to "fix" his bullpen you can bet that Sweet Lou means business. Jeff Stevens, who came over from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa trade has run off 14 consecutive scoreless innings in Class AAA and could be next in line for a call-up to the big leagues.

The thing that drives Piniella craziest is the ridiculous number of walks that his relievers have allowed. If Neal Cotts, David Patton, and the rest of the Cubs relief corps doesn't turn it around and quickly there could be big changes ahead in the bullpen on the North Side.

Also, with Derrek Lee back from his neck injury that will reduce Micah Hoffpauir's opportunities but should Lee struggle don't be shocked if Piniella gives D-Lee more rest to try to get him going and to get Hoffpauir's bat into the lineup.

The Cubs Have Some Problems

The Cubs entered the 2009 season with high expectations that they would return to postseason play and improve on their brutal playoff performances of the past two seasons. However, after little more than a month of the season has been played there are some serious problems that must be addressed immediately.

First, the bullpen is not very good. Aside from Carlos Marmol and Aaron Heilman (and even they have had their struggles) there is not one other arm that Lou Piniella can hang his hat on when he needs to stop a rally by the opposition and know that they will probably be effective. Neal Cotts, Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardizja and the rest of the crew have failed miserably to this point in the season.

In addition, the Cubs offense which was expected to be a strength of the team has been very spotty and when they have had chances to put teams away they have often failed to deliver. Now with the team's best hitter in Aramis Ramirez gone for up to two months the Cubs will have to find someone to pick up the slack offensively. Top candidates who need to assume that role include Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, and Milton Bradley who have all been awful so far.

Look for Piniella to show little patience if his team continues to struggle and to demand changes before the club finds itself buried in a very winnable division. However, adding bullpen help in May is not easy and replacing an All Star third baseman is next to impossible. Super aggressive GM Jim Hendry is already working the phone lines. Let's see what he can come up with. Is hot hitting Jake Fox who is tearing up Triple A the answer? What position could he play defensively? Is Jeff Stevens (who came over from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa trade) ready to pitch in the big leagues as a setup man in the Cubs bullpen? These and other questions must be answered quickly to right a ship that is listing just a bit. 

Aramis Ramirez to the DL?

Sources tell me that Aramis Ramirez will undergo an MRI today on his ailing left calf. Ramirez complained of increased discomfort after running and testing the leg in Arizona earlier this week.

Should a DL trip be required then Class AAA infielder Bobby Scales will be recalled. Scales is already in Chicago and would be available this evening when the Cubs host the Marlins.

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