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The Chicago Cubs had a big day yesterday. Despite boasting a losing record and the second-worst record in the National League Central Division, the Cubs have won three in a row. Yesterday, the backup catcher Dioner Navarro had the best hitting day of his career. Navarro hit three home runs against the White Sox. He finished the day 3-for-3, BB, 3 HR, 4 R, 6 RBI. That’s a pretty good day for a guy that doesn’t play every day. It brings even more joy that he did this against the hated White Sox.
In honor of this rivalry, I present Ron Swanson vs. Darryl Philbin:
Until later friends…
So, the Cubs lost their 100 game of the season yesterday. This is the third time in their history that they have lost 100 games in a season. This is the first time it has happened since 1966. It is safe to say that this is the worst I have ever seen from my beloved Cubbies.
So, this season has seemed like an exercise in futility. In spite of all of this, there are some things that I liked about this season. Here they are in bulleted format:
- Dale Sveum is going to do great things for this team
I was really disappointed when Ryne Sandberg was passed over for the manager position, but I think Dale Sveum was a great choice. Sure, he lost 100 games in his first season, but no one expected a winning season. He has led the team to better defense. He has built a team atmosphere. I expect good things
- The Cubs are committed to young talent
Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson did not put up near the numbers that I hoped for. They struck out more times combined than most the other team. OK that was a slight exaggeration. They may not have been ready to compete on a Major League level, but this season was a wash and I think it was wise to give them some meaningful Major League experience. I expect good things next year.
- Darwin Barney can play second base really well
This season Darwin Barney tied the Major League record for errorless games at second base with 141 in a row. Considering he started off as a shortstop, this is great. One of the reasons I loved Ryne Sandberg was his superior fielding (.989 career fielding percentage). Glad to see a golden glove at 2B again. (There is no reason why Darwin Barney should not get the Golden Glove btw. Brandon Phillips does not deserve it this year)
- Alfonso Soriano can still hit
If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season that Alfonso Soriano would hit 30+ homeruns, and have a career mark for RBIs, I would’ve made fun of you. Apparently Soriano can still hit. Hopefully this means we can deal him and his bloated contract in the offseason.
- Anthony Rizzo is going to be a Cubs hero
Rizzo was called up halfway through the season. If you take his current stats and extrapolate them to a full season, you have a 30 homerun/100 RBI hitting first baseman. This excites me to no end.
So, this season was awful. We probably won’t have a winning season next year either, but we certainly won’t lose 100 games again. This may be exactly the depth the Cubs needed to sink to in order to rise to the top. I have high hopes in the next few years. With consistent young stars in Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo, and with the potential of guys like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, the Cubs’ future is bright. And it sure can’t get any darker than the present.
Until later friends…
My Cubbies are doing pretty awful this season. Currently they are sporting a record of 43-64, and they are sitting 22 Games Back of 1st Place. Yet, for all of the bad this season, there have been some exciting developments. The Cubs have debuted a lot of young talent this year. Chief among these is our future-star First Baseman – Anthony Rizzo.
“Since making his debut June 26, Rizzo was second among NL rookies with a .314 average behind the Rockies’ Jordan Pacheco (.327), but led in home runs (eight) and RBIs (20)” (source). Rizzo has been a blast to watch. I haven’t been this excited about the promotion of one of the Cubs’ prospects since this kid named Starlin Castro got called up.
Starlin has been to the All Star Game twice already. I predict Anthony Rizzo will join him there next year. While they are no Tinker, Evers, and Chance, I expect great things from Castro, Barney, and Rizzo.
All of us (Cubs fans) knew this season was not going to be great. It was pretty obvious it was going to be a rebuilding year. This was confirmed by our abysmal first half of the season, and left no room for doubt at the trade deadline. Thus far this season, we have traded away Marlon Byrd, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker, and Ryan Dempster for a heap of minor league players. It was hard to see most of those guys go (even though Marlon Byrd has subsequently fallen from my graces for testing positive for PEDs). I was a huge fan of Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm, and Ryan Dempster. All three of those guys were super classy. I am thankful that the Cubs traded them to the Braves and Rangers respectively. The Braves are my second-favorite National League team, and the Rangers may be my favorite American League team (close contest with the Red Sox). I’ll admit…it’s a little difficult to see a bunch of quality players traded for players you’ve never heard of. But then, I remind myself that players like Ryne Sandberg and Fergie Jenkins came to the Cubs via trades. Maybe one of these anonymous minor leaguers could be the next Cub legend.
As a result of all of this trading (and an unfortunate injury to Ian Stewart – a very classy player in his own right), the Cubs made a big move on Sunday. They called up two of their prospects that Cubs fans have been begging to see in the MLB for years: Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.
I am excited about these guys. I am especially excited that they get to play 50+ games this season without any pressure of a playoff run. I personally don’t think they’re ready to shine at the MLB level yet, which was evidenced by Jackson’s 4 strikeouts yesterday. People are worried about Jackson’s strikeouts and Vitters’s defensive play. I think calling them up now is great. Let them work on those things at the MLB level, and then they can produce like crazy next season.
Overall, in spite of the fact that the Cubs are terrible this year (and will only get worse since we traded our best pitchers and Matt Garza is hurt), I am enjoying the developments of this season. An infield of Vitters, Castro, Barney (who just broke Sandberg’s single-season errorless game streak), and Rizzo is very exciting to me. The influx of young talent (14 rookies debuted this season) on this Cubs team has me hopeful for the future. It makes me feel like we are getting back to our winning roots, because the Cubs earned their name for having so many young players back in the day when they dominated the National League. Here’s hoping
Until later friends…
I blogged about Ron Santo after his passing last year (Ron Santo 1940-2010). He has long been passed by in voting even though his numbers are very similar to Brooks Robinson. Carrie Muskat reported:
“Hall of Famer Billy Williams, Santo’s former teammate, was on the 16-member Golden Era Committee, and campaigned for the third baseman. Williams was joined on the committee by Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton. Major League executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen, and veteran media members Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck also were on the committee. A 75 percent vote was needed, which, in this instance, would be 12 votes.”
Congrats Ron Santo.
Until later friends…
Today is Marlon Byrd‘s birthday. Happy Birthday Marlon. I’ll admit it, I was unfamiliar with Marlon Byrd when the Cubs acquired him, but I am so glad they did. Marlon Byrd is legit. He has an excellent work-ethic. I love that I can always count on him to do everything he can to make a play. He hustles when he makes contact, and he sacrifices his body to make plays in center field. He is a true veteran that has played on several teams, and has earned respect from everyone along the way.
He was great in the All-Star last game (even if Joey Votto was a royal jerk towards him). He made a spectacular put-out on David Ortiz, and he scored the winning run. That couldn’t have happened to a classier guy, and I was thrilled for him.
I was at the game where Marlon Byrd got hit in the face by a fastball. It hurt from where I was in the outfield seats. I was scared that it could be the end of his career. Seriously, people have died that way. Remember the Kirby Puckett beanball?
I am so glad to see Marlon Byrd playing again. Especially with the sweet custom-helmet he is wearing (see picture at the top). Marlon Byrd exudes manliness and class. I hope he has a great birthday today by beating the San Francisco Giants.
Happy Birthday Marlon
Until later friends…
Marlon’s Blog – The Byrd’s Nest
In case you haven’t heard, Jim Hendry was dismissed as the Chicago Cubs General Manager. In other words, Jim Hendry got fired. Why did Jim Hendry get fired? Because the Cubs have royally stunk for the past two years. Jim Hendry did some great stuff in his career with the Cubs. The Cubs won three division titles under him, and he signed such players as Kerry Wood, Derrek Lee, Starlin Castro, and Darwin Barney. However, he also signed Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley. Between Sammy Sosa storming out under his lead, Soriano being the most lazy player in the league, Milton Bradley being Milton Bradley, and Kosuke Fukudome never living up to his hype, Jim Hendry had awful luck with outfielders. Other than that, and the atrocious record the Cubs have had the past two seasons, Hendry was a decent GM. I met him personally in Boston, and he was great. Everyone in the organization has a lot of respect for him. The team just didn’t win enough games under him. He finished with a 749-748 career with the Cubs. I’m glad he got to leave with a winning record (that’s better than the Cubs are going to do this season). He also left with class. After receiving notice of his dismissal, he stayed with the team long enough to trade away Fukudome (thank you), and sign some great young talent from the draft. So…Happy Trails to you Jim. Thanks for the good memories. Good luck with some American League team.
The question remains…So, now what?
Here are my suggestions to make this team a playoff contender, and eventually, a world series champion team.
1. Hire Andrew Friedman as General Manager
Remember when the Tampa Bay Rays were awful? That was before Andrew Friedman. He has made them what they are. He does not blow money on stupid contracts (like Alfonso Soriano’s). He builds a good team around good young players. This is exactly the kind of guy we need in Chicago.
This is not just me being bitter about my childhood hero getting passed over last year. Quade did ok at the end of last season winning games that didn’t matter. He has proven this season though that he does not have what it takes to manage a professional team. He’s a great assistant coach. He’d make a great bench coach, but not a manager. He does not have a good grasp on how to manage a pitcher. He alternately leaves pitchers in three batters too long, or takes them out an inning early. His hiring was my biggest problem with Jim Hendry, and now that it is time for a new GM, I think it is time for a new manager.
Ryne Sandberg is the perfect candidate for the new Cubs manager. They should sign him for ten years and let him work his magic. Ryne Sandberg is one of the classiest guys to ever pick up a bat. This picture is when he signed a ball for me while coaching for the Tennessee Smokies. He should have been hired as the manager last year, but Jim Hendry went with the emotional decision…Mike Quade. Ryno has proven that he can manage – and manage well. He is the best second baseman of all time, and Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro would quickly stop making errors under this .989 lifetime fielding percentage player. He also has a thing or two to teach these modern players that don’t want to sign autographs and are more concerned with making money than playing ball. He is a fan favorite, and his hiring would rejuvenate the Cubs team and fan base. Mr. Ricketts, make Ryne Sandberg the manager now. Thank you.
3. Do Whatever We Have to do to Get Rid of Alfonso Soriano and His Ridiculous Contract!
Alfonso Soriano has the worst work-ethic in all of professional sports. OK, that might be a bit harsh, but he at least makes the top 5. He does not care at all. He is fast, can knock the cover off the ball, and has a great arm. Yet, he misses routine fly balls, and he averages 1 less base per hit than he should (Come on dude, you’re being paid 18 million. HUSTLE FOR GOODNESS SAKES!!!!!). His contract his hamstringing this organization. To quote Ted Williams, “If I was getting paid $30,000 [or 18 MILLION!!!] a year, the least I could do is hit .400.” Let’s find a way to get rid of him, even if we have to eat a chunk of his contract. We have Brett Jackson, and I’m sure we can afford another decent outfielder that hustles like Reed Johnson.
4. Teach Carlos Marmol to Throw Strikes or Trade Him to Someone Who Believes He Can.
When Marmol is on his A-game, no one can touch his slider. When he is not, he can’t throw a strike to someone with the strike zone the size of Andre the Giant. Someone either needs to teach him to throw somewhere near the plate, or we need to trade him when his trade value is up. Sorry Jim Hendry, but you never should have deemed him “untouchable.”
5. Build Around the Young Guys – Especially Castro and Barney
These kids are going to be great. Sign them to long contracts, and let’s build the team around them. Don’t be concerned with all the errors they’ve made this season, they’ll get better defensively if Ryne Sandberg is their manager. These guys have the potential of being a double-play combo on the same plane as other Cubs greats Tinker and Evers or Sandberg and Dunston.
6. Do Whatever We Can to Make Greg Maddux our Pitching Coach
Maddux is one of the best pitchers of the past 50 years. He was dominant and brilliant. Please bring him in. If he were to coach the Cubs’ pitchers, I bet even Jeff Samardzija could be good. The Cubs’ two greatest deficiencies this year are defense and pitching. Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux could fix both of those in under a year – fact.
7. Do not go after Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols is an incredible player. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but I’m begging the Cubs to not spend $30 mil/year on him. With our luck, he will get injured and his numbers will decline – just like Alfonso Soriano. Let’s take that $30mil/year and go after three (or four) young and talented players that have their best years ahead of them.
If my beloved Cubbies follow my advice, we will have winning seasons for the next ten years and at least 2 World Series appearances. Let’s go Cubbies! Until later friends…
I found this video this weekend, and it made me laugh.
I am a die-hard Cubs fan, but if I had to choose my favorite American League team, I think it would have to be the Red Sox. I like the Red Sox for two reasons: 1) They are the Yankees biggest rival & 2) Their defeat of the Curse of the Bambino gives me hope concerning our little Billy Goat Curse. So, here’s to you Red Sox fans. Continue cheering against the Yankees in every single home game, no matter who you are actually playing.
Until later friends…
I wrote yesterday about Opening Day and how stinkin’ excited about it I am. I am even more excited today, because it is the Cubs’ Opening Day. My beloved Cubbies are taking on the cellar-dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates today. Ryan Dempster will be taking the hill instead of the
volatile erratic spirited Carlos Zambrano. Dempster is a class act, and I’m glad he is getting the start.
This weekend also will play host to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four: VCU vs. Butler and Kentucky vs. UConn. Those games are sure to be exciting. I am pulling for Butler, because I am morally opposed to John Calipari/UK and the Big East (i.e., UConn).
And if the sports world wasn’t exciting enough, Monday April 4th marks the beginning of the Masters week. I am not a huge golf fan, but any self-respecting sports fan loves the Masters. My dad has gone several times and it is one of his favorite things to do, and I like my dad, so I like the Masters. And, the Masters green jacket is one of the coolest prizes in the sports world.
So, the poll for this Friday is…
Until later friends…