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Tag:Chicago Cubs
Posted on: December 8, 2010 1:53 am
Edited on: December 8, 2010 4:01 pm
 

Cubs get their 1B: Carlos Pena

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Moving to plug their hole at first base, the Cubs have agreed to terms with first baseman Carlos Pena on a one-year, $10 million deal that is expected to be announced Wednesday, sources with knowledge of the discussions said late Tuesday night.

Pena, part of Tampa Bay's surge toward the top of the AL East during the past three seasons, gives the Cubs the first baseman they need, the left-handed bat they desire and an excellent defender. Pena was awarded a Gold Glove in 2008.

A 10-year veteran, Pena over the past two seasons has become more of an all-or-nothing hitter. He slumped to a career-worst .196 batting average with a .325 on-base percentage over 144 games for the Rays in 2010, though he did hit 28 homers with 84 RBI.

He is just two seasons removed from a 39-homer, 100-RBI campaign, and in helping Tampa Bay to its first-ever World Series in 2007, Pena hit .282 with a career-high 46 home runs and 121 RBIs.

Among other things, the Cubs are hoping hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo can help Pena make more contact.

"Even if he hits .230 or .240," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "If he hits .240, that might take him to 40 Johnsons [homers].

"He's a good defensive player, he's good in the clubhouse, he's great in the community."

Looking to re-tool last season's highly disappointing club under new manager Mike Quade, the Cubs this winter need a first baseman and are planning to add pitching depth -- a starting or relief pitcher, whichever comes their way and makes the most sense.

Posted on: December 7, 2010 3:00 pm
 

Cubs targeting 1B Adam LaRoche

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Looking to plug their hole at first base, the Cubs are targeting free agent Adam LaRoche, according to CBSSports.com sources.

There are several available first basemen on the market, including Carlos Pena, Casey Kotchman, Paul Konerko (who is widely expected to agree to terms with the White Sox soon), Lyle Overbay and former Cub Derrek Lee.

The Cubs, who essentially created this opening when they traded Lee to Atlanta last summer, have talked with several of them but would like to close the deal with LaRoche soon.

Pena is being courted by the Nationals and Diamondbacks, among other clubs.

LaRoche, 31, played in 151 games for Arizona last season, hitting .261 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI. He compiled a .320 on-base percentage and a .468 slugging percentage.

The seven-year veteran broke into the majors with Atlanta in 2004 and since has played for Pittsburgh, Boston and Arizona.

Currently, the Cubs' only option at first base is Tyler Colvin, who had a big rookie season at the plate in 2010 (.254, 20 homers, 54 RBI in 135 games) while spending all of his time in the outfield.

Looking to re-tool last season's highly disappointing club under new manager Mike Quade, the Cubs this winter need a first baseman and are planning to add pitching depth -- a starting or relieving, whichever comes their way and makes the most sense.

Posted on: December 3, 2010 2:10 pm
 

Love Letters: Readers on broadcasters

Few people get into the hearts of baseball fans the way broadcasters do. I wrote a Thanksgiving column about this, and primarily about the passing of legends Dave Niehaus (Seattle), Harry Kalas (Philadelphia) and Ernie Harwell (Detroit), and about the heart scare with Bob Uecker (Milwaukee), and the reaction follows.

Before we get to that, though, Cubs play-by-play man Pat Hughes, as a labor of love, has spent his past five offseasons producing CD audio tributes to several legendary broadcasters. The latest CD features Niehaus. Others available feature Uecker, Kalas, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Bob Prince and Red Barber. They're great items, and if you're interested, you can get more information here.

And now, on the sad day that we learned of Ron Santo's passing, here are a few readers telling their own tales following Giving thanks for the great voices in baseball. ...

FROM: Jeremy D.

Scott,

Great article, especially this time not only for the giving of thanks, but [for writing this while next season] is still a ways away. I am 33 and have been a Phillies fan for most of those years. Harry, as we call him around here in south-central PA, still holds the most memorable call in my many years as an avid sports fan: Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. When he passed away last spring, I, as many others were, was devastated. It was like losing a close, long-time friend. I have spent more time listening to Harry than I've spent listening to many of the friends and relatives I know personally. I still love to hear Vin Scully call a game, as well as Jon Miller on the radio, and Marty Brenneman. Some of the newer guys have promise, but Scully's voice flat-out IS summer. Thanks again for the pleasant cold-November-day read.

One more great thing about these broadcasters that come into our lives: Unlike certain relatives, they don't show up uninvited for the holidays!

FROM:
Jim W.

Thank you for that great story on the voices of summer. I moved to Seattle in 1993 and I will always remember Edgar's double and Griffey scoring from first to beat the Yankees in the 1995 Divisional Series. It was the year after the strike, and Dave's call is the reason I love baseball again.

The great ones can do that for us, can't they?

FROM: Rob

Great article! XM radio is the best thing to happen to baseball and the MLB app is great with the ability to hear both radio feeds.

Love XM. What a perk it is to be able to sit on my back patio on a Saturday in the summer, Cheez-Its within reach, clicking around the satellite radio dial listening to broadcasts from each city.

FROM:
Keith B.

I think you are right on with your column about the great baseball announcers. I became a big fan in the summer of 1962 listening to Harry Caray, Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell. I lived in Rapid City, SD. After dark I could pick up the various stations that carried MLB games. Sometimes it was not very clear but I could hear enough to know what was going on. My great grandfather & I would listen to Vin Scully on KFI out of Los Angeles. Happy Thanksgiving.

South Dakota, Michigan (where I'm from) ... one great thing about the Midwest is the flatlands allow strong radio signals to carry unimpeded for hundreds of miles. I could listen to the Tigers, Reds, Indians, White Sox, Cubs. ...

FROM:
Dan L.

Dear Scott,

As a fellow broadcaster and Michigander, I was blessed as well to grow up listening to the National Treasure that was Ernie Harwell. I was lucky enough to do a 20-minute interview with him on my radio show a couple years ago and felt like I had lived some of the moments that Ernie described to me from an era that I was not even alive during. He just helped make you feel part of something special, and through the sharing of his experiences throughout his amazing career, I kept thinking to myself just how lucky we are to have had Ernie be a part of our lives and us a part of his. I think CBS is very lucky to have you writing for them and I would love to stay in touch and have you on my show in the future. Keep up the great work!

Very kind. Thanks.

Posted on: December 3, 2010 12:59 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2010 1:02 pm
 

The twinkle in Santo's eyes said it all

People will dwell on the Hall of Fame snub, which was shameful and wrong and remained an open wound until his dying day.

Which, sadly, came overnight Thursday when that Great Cub in the Sky waved Ron Santo home one final time.

Me? What I'm going to recall, even more than Santo's 2,254 career hits, five Gold Gloves and clicking heels, is the sunshine and the broadcast booth and the long lines of fans.

You should have seen Santo at work in spring training in Mesa, Ariz.

Well, not really at work, because, technically, that would have meant broadcasting that day's Cactus League game with his graceful and talented radio partner, Pat Hughes.

No, you should have seen the scene before the game, the lines of people in front of the broadcast booth, looking for an autograph, a photo with Santo, a handshake. They came armed with Sharpies, digital cameras and stories to tell the legend about the time when they went to Wrigley Field with their daddy back in 1965 and. ...

And the incredibly accommodating Santo had a smile for all.

Rarely have I seen a man with such devoted, unabashed love for a ballclub than Santo, who carried a torch for the Cubs that never dimmed.

But what set him apart was, the only thing he maybe loved as much as or more than the Cubs was people.

If you were lucky enough to witness him in public even once -- especially at spring training -- you couldn't help but smile. Rarely does life produce a man so genuine, so magnetic and so humble.

If you ever watched This Old Cub, a documentary made with the loving and talented touch of his son Jeff, who co-produced the film, and saw the things Santo had to go through simply to get himself ready for each new day, this sunny optimism was even more incredible. Stricken decades ago by diabetes, Santo long ago had both legs amputated below the knees.

On his bad days, Santo, a nine-time All-Star, was a fount of inspiration.

On his good? My goodness.

What a shame that he never made the Hall while he was alive, but that's another argument for another day. Yes, his career hit total was low. No, he never led his team to the postseason. But his glove strengthened his case immeasurably. Obviously. Hall voters never did size him up correctly.

Besides, if the Hall is nothing but a numbers game, then why don't we simply compile a series of qualifying statistics and let the computers spit out the final verdict on who gets in?

Yes. Another argument for another day.

Today is about celebrating one of the greatest Cubs who ever lived.

It is about toasting those anguished groans clearly heard behind Hughes' play-by-play when another Cub ran into an out, about raising a glass to the man who would climb right back up after every fall and ooze more optimism.

This will be our inning. This will be our day.

Ron Santo is not yet in Cooperstown. But he is well settled in the hearts of so many thousands of people in Chicago and throughout the land.

What a place that is to be. And what a blessing it must have been to soak in the heartfelt love of so many.

Posted on: October 19, 2010 9:58 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 11:01 pm
 

Giants rotation keeps history, Posey busy

SAN FRANCISCO -- You've got Tim Lincecum, with his two NL Cy Young Awards, sizzling fastball (even with this year's reduced velocity), killer slider and mind-bending curve ball.

You've got lefty Jonathan Sanchez, who has a sneaky fastball, wicked slider and solid curveball.

And you've got Matt Cain, who spots his fastball that creeps up to 94.

All along, the Giants were the one team in the NL that could hang with the Phillies' killer front-three of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels if things broke right. And so far, especially after San Francisco's 3-0 Game 3 win, things are breaking right for them.

So, rookie catcher Buster Posey, which of those three is the easiest to catch?

"I'd have to say probably Cain," Posey says. "Johnny and Timmy's stuff is just so electric. Tim's fastball moves a ton. Jonathan's tremendously deceptive.

"Matt's command, he's pinpoint a lot of the time."

With the Phillies sticking with Joe Blanton for Game 4 -- despite some calls for Roy Halladay on short rest -- their hitters will get a crack at Giants rookie Madison Bumgarner, who went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA this season.

Bumgarner is riding a pretty good wave of momentum: The Giants' shutout in Game 3 -- Cain, Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson combined -- following Tim Lincecum's Game 1 shutout of Atlanta last round gives the Giants two shutouts at home in the same postseason for the first time since they blanked the White Sox in Games 3 and 4 of the 1917 World Series.

The Big Three," Wilson said. "Or you can call them the Fab Four, I don't know. Madison shouldn't be counted out.

"You never know. At 21, he might be our secret weapon."

Likes: Tuesday afternoon by the Bay was so gorgeous it makes you wonder why every October playoff game isn't in the afternoon. Oh, yeah, the television money. My bad. ... San Francisco really has become a great baseball city. Loud, loud crowds. ... Robinson Cano's home run in Yankee Stadium against Texas should have been reviewed via replay, but it was not comparable to the Derek Jeter/Jeffrey Maier disputed homer in 1996. Maier reached over the fence into the field of play. These fans Tuesday night did not. ... Mike Quade as the new Cubs manager. He did a fantastic job after Lou Piniella left. Here's a column I did on him in late September. ... Gorgeous shot of Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay on jumbo board in center field before seventh inning started Tuesday. ... The gnocchi at Umbria Italian Ristorante in San Francisco. Great find, that place. ... Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie singing the national anthem. Great voice.

Dislikes: Obese mice.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
"There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
"And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
"A time to be born, a time to die
"A time to plant, a time to reap
"A time to kill, a time to heal
"A time to laugh, a time to weep"

-- The Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn

Posted on: September 5, 2010 12:32 pm
 

Reds hoping to get Bruce back soon

ST. LOUIS -- Accelerator down and looking to extend their eight-game NL Central lead even more, the Reds were happy on Sunday to find that outfielder Jay Bruce is feeling better.

He still wasn't in manager Dusty Baker's lineup Sunday, the fifth consecutive game that Bruce will sit with a sore right side, and he'll likely miss Monday's series opener in Colorado as well. But the Reds are hopeful that Bruce, hitting .274 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs, will return this week.

The Reds aren't penciling in an exact day, however.

"I don't want him until he doesn't feel it anymore," Baker said Sunday morning. "Running, throwing, hitting ... when he comes back, I want him to stay back."

Bruce went down at the worst possible time, not simply because it's September, but because he was red hot when he hurt his side. From the time the Cardinals swept the Reds in Cincinnati in early August until he was hurt on Aug. 30, Bruce was batting .396 with eight homers and 15 RBI over 16 games.

In his absence, the Reds have played with an outfield of Jonny Gomes in left, Drew Stubbs in center and Chris Heisey in right. With Jim Edmonds and Laynce Nix banged up, those three are pretty much locked in. The Reds have been hitting fly balls to infielder Miguel Cairo and view him as an option in an emergency.

"But hopefully, we don't need him," Baker said.

Especially in Colorado's Coors Field, where the outfield is one of the league's biggest.

"You need Willie Mays, Curt Flood and Paul Blair out there in Colorado," Baker quipped.

Likes: The Cubs dedicating a statue of Hall of Famer Billy Williams on Tuesday. Great outfielder, great guy. ... The Cardinals planning to move back to 50,000-watt KMOX next season, which was their radio home for 51 years through 2006. Hope Detroit follows suit and re-connects with WJR sometime soon. Part of the reason for the huge fan bases of some of the Midwestern teams is that even people who couldn't get to games could pull in the radio signal from thousands of miles away. I know things are different now with television and satellite radio, but I still think the move to smaller radio stations for more lucrative contracts was short-sighted. ... Glad to see Notre Dame win under new coach Brian Kelly. College football is better when the Irish are good. ... What a great ending to the LSU-North Carolina football game Saturday night. ... The baby back ribs at Joe Buck's joint in downtown St. Louis. ... The weather this weekend. Sunshine, 70s, no humidity, just a gorgeous weekend with a hint of fall in the air. Perfect baseball weather, great for the opening of football. "These are the prettiest days I think I've ever seen in St. Louis," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday morning. "I'm serious." ... Ah, memories. My dad had a Plymouth Valiant, too, but it was green (see rock 'n' roll lyrics below). First car I drove.

Dislikes: The combination of the Cubs' awful season and St. Louis' fade has the Cardinals offering tickets to the Cubs' series at Busch Stadium later this month at 50 percent off. How about that?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I was sitting with Mary
"In my dad’s blue Valiant
"Rain was coming down
"And the radio was playing
"Mary was talking
"A million miles a minute
"I could not hear one word she was saying"

-- Marc Cohn, Listening to Levon

Posted on: August 22, 2010 1:10 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2010 8:50 pm
 

Piniella was one of a kind, and so are the Cubs

Lou Piniella always did take to losses as he would third-degree burns. Never one blessed with patience as one of his baseball "tools", Piniella was a magnet for television cameras and a delight for fans when things weren't going well.

He would frown in the dugout, then fret, the slow-burn often reaching full-scale eruption sometime before game's end with an unfortunate umpire bearing the brunt of his wrath. Or in its immediate aftermath, with some unwitting reporter asking the wrong question -- or, even the right question using the wrong words. Bases would fly, caps would be launched, choice words would whistle through the air like missiles.

When I spent 30 minutes sitting with him in the Wrigley Field dugout on a sweltering Friday afternoon before a game in June, things definitely were not going well. The Cubs, nowhere near as brutal as they would become, were losing. Piniella was waist deep in his public spat with White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone.

Wrigleyville was not a happy place.

Yet Piniella that day vowed that the rabble that eventually always devours Cubs managers would not get him.

"They're not going to suck the life out of me," Piniella said that afternoon for what became this column. "I'm not going to get the life sucked out of me. That won't happen.

"I'm a little too competitive for that."

But managing the Cubs always is a one-way ticket to the Land of Dashed Dreams, whether your name is Jim Frey, Lee Elia, Whitey Lockman or, yes, in the end, Lou Piniella.

What started out a dazzling honeymoon filled with warm afternoons and vivid dreams ends for Piniella like it usually does when you're sitting in the Cubs' manager's chair, with the walls closing in and the wolves baying in the distance.

From the high of 97 wins in 2008 -- one of the three most memorable Cubs seasons, along with 2003 and 1984, in the past four decades -- to the pieces of another wreckage in an empty field, the blasted billy goats wandering freely throughout.

Though Piniella several weeks ago announced that he would retire at season's end, he pushed that up to Sunday because of family concerns. His ailing mother Margaret, 90, is not doing well and Piniella has taken two leaves of absences this season to tend to her.

Rare is the person who gets to write his or her own ending, and this isn't exactly the way Piniella envisioned leaving. But it surely fits well within the Cubs parameters: No Cubs manager has lasted five seasons since Leo Durocher, from 1966-1972 (this was Piniella's fourth season).

The worst thing about it is that 2010 has become such a crash-and-burn season for the Cubs that people may have a hard time putting Piniella's run on Chicago's North Side into the context in which it should be viewed. Which is, far more good than bad.

Though last season was disappointing as an encore to the 97 wins the year before, Piniella became the first manager to guide the Cubs to three consecutive winning seasons in more than three decades. Not since Durocher's North Siders finished on the north side of .500 from 1967-1972 have the Cubs had such a sustained run of success.

And granted, we're living in the age of the expanded playoffs ... but Piniella in '07 and '08 became the first Cubs manager to lead the team to the post-season in more than 100 years.

Piniella was 316-292 with the Cubs when he announced his retirement Sunday morning, his 316 wins ranking eighth among all-time Cubs' managers and his .520 winning percentage checking in as the best for a Cubs' skipper since the .547 turned in by Charlie Grimm (1932-1938, 1944).

Piniella's 1,835 wins managing in New York (Yankees), Cincinnati, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Chicago rank 14th on the all-time managerial list, which will make him a candidate for the Hall of Fame.

Never boring, Piniella should settle into retirement content with the mark he left on the game. But for a man as competitive as him, it surely will take a long time to wash away the bitter taste of 2010, his closing act.

As for the Cubs, who last won a World Series in 1908, the long, hard slog continues. As it will for whomever manages them next -- Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Valentine, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa ... take your pick.

As Dusty Baker, another ex-Cubs' skipper, told me earlier this summer, when you take the Cubs job, people "don't see that you've been there three years, four years, five years. They see the 100 years. Which wasn't part of your account."

But you sign on to manage that account.

And given more than a century's worth of baggage, it's become the most difficult, thankless job in the game.

 

Posted on: August 13, 2010 1:56 pm
Edited on: August 13, 2010 8:57 pm
 

DiPoto, Gibson making names for selves in Arizona

The reconstruction of the Arizona Diamondbacks has a long way to go, but the club this month has begun to settle in enough that it's worth asking:

Have the D-backs shown enough under interim general manager Jerry DiPoto and interim field manager Kirk Gibson that those "interim" tags will be removed?

Quick answer: Probably still too early, but let's just say the jobs that both men are doing is not going unnoticed by key head honchos.

"They've done a tremendous job," Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall says. "They both have. I think Kirk Gibson has really changed the makeup and the environment around the team. They've really responded to him.

"I'm pulling publicly for both of these guys."

One thing Hall has certainly noticed: Entering the club's series opener in Washington on Friday night, the Diamondbacks had either won or tied their past four consecutive series. They won three of four games in Milwaukee this week, took two of three from first-place San Diego, split a four-game set with the Nationals and won two of three against the Mets dating back to July 30.

Since the trading deadline, right-hander Daniel Hudson, acquired from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson trade, is 2-0 and has allowed just three earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. Hudson was one of six pitchers obtained in trades by DiPoto -- including three from the Angels for Dan Haren -- since July 25.

"There will be some candidates we'll talk to, with Jerry obviously being at the top of the list," Hall says. "After that, we'll look at managers."

Understandably, Hall wants a permanent general manager in place before the field manager so the GM can choose someone he's comfortable with.

As for Hall?

"If at the end of the day I end up with Jerry DiPoto as general manager and Kirk Gibson as manager, I'd be happy," he says based on how things are going now. "I'm thrilled with the work I've seen so far from both of them."

Likes: Wow, Jose Guillen and Pat Burrell now swinging it for the Giants. With them and the outspoken Aubrey Huff, the San Francisco clubhouse will not be dull. ... This weekend's Giants-Padres series will be great fun. The Padres won the first seven games against Bruce Bochy's club this year, but this is a different Giants' team now. ... Fine, fine acting performance by Derek Jeter in The Other Guys. He's got one line and he delivers it with the gravitas of ... well, OK. So I exaggerate. But the movie's funny, the plot entertaining, Will Ferrell is back on his 'A' game and in the aftermath of the Jeter shooting, the cops even get a line in ripping A-Rod. Good stuff. ... Tyler Kepner's excellent piece in the New York Times on Ryne Sandberg managing at Triple-A Iowa while hoping for a chance to do it with the Cubs. ... How entertaining was it when the Kings of Leon had to abort their concert in St. Louis a few weeks back because pigeons kept crapping on them? ... Puget Sound and Ferndale, Wash. ... A weekend at home with baseball on XM radio and on television with the MLB Extra Innings package.

Dislikes: When Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez unleashes his inner punk, it is not a pretty picture.


Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It was 1989 my thoughts were short my hair was long
"Caught somewhere between a boy and man
"She was 17 and she was far from in-between
"It was summer-time in Northern Michigan
"Splashing through the sand-bar, talking by the camp fire
"It's the simple things in life like when and where
"We didn't have no internet but man I never will forget
"The way the moon light shined upon her hair"

-- Kid Rock, All Summer Long

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com