Tag:Chicago Cubs
Posted on: November 18, 2008 4:44 pm
 

Cubbies on the move

The Cubs didn't necessarily guarantee themselves a World Series win by re-signing Ryan Dempster on Tuesday. Depressing truth on Chicago's North Side, of course, is that the move probably didn't even guarantee them one playoff win.

But it's important to remember that, before the fall, this is a team that won 97 games last year and, as general manager Jim Hendry swings to get better this winter, bringing Dempster back so swiftly was a key move.

It frees up Hendry to set out for new business, and not worry about the old.

"A week before Thanksgiving, pitching-wise, we're in good shape compared to a lot of teams in the industry," Hendry said Tuesday afternoon.

Don't underestimate the Cubs getting pole position in the winter race to set 2009 rosters thanks to the ultra-aggressive Hendry.

Think Atlanta, which needs two starting pitchers, failed to trade for Jake Peavy and was spurned in negotiations with Dempster, isn't envious right about now?

The Yankees, who made a monstrous offer to CC Sabathia and are also chasing A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe and every other starting pitcher in Free Agent-land?

The Cubs' rotation is at least four-fifths set now with Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly. Chicago's rotation led the National League in ERA (3.75) and winning percentage (.633) in 2008, and the winning part wasn't even close.

In going 69-40, the Cubs' starters far outdistanced St. Louis' rotation (second in the NL with a .587 winning percentage, 64-45).

Now, things change, and none of this guarantees cake and ice cream in 2009. But as far as starting points, the Cubs are far ahead of most of the rest of the industry.

There is still plenty Hendry would like to do. The Cubs' never-ending quest to add a significant left-handed batter remains a high priority. Adding even more depth to the rotation would be helpful, too. The Cubs have had several conversations with San Diego about Peavy this winter, and free agent left-hander Randy Johnson sure would be a nice fit in the rotation's No. 5 slot.

Dempster, 31, was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA for the Cubs in '08.

"It's huge for us," Hendry said. "It was such a priority. Ryan did a terrific job. He had a phenomenal season. He's as good a clubhouse guy and teammate as we've ever had here."

Hendry, who acquired Kevin Gregg from Florida last week to help strengthen the bullpen, plans to meet with assistant Randy Bush and the rest of his brain trust again on Wednesday to plot where the Cubs' next moves.

"I don't think we're ever done looking," Hendry said. "There's always ways to get better. ... I wouldn't necessarily rule out anything."

Dempster's deal is four years at a reported $52 million, and he freely acknowledged he probably took a hometown discount to stay.

"For me, it's about being somewhere you like being," Dempster said in a conference call with reporters. "It's about being somewhere you think you can win.

"For me, it's more money than we deserve to be getting, but it's the marketplace."

Here's one more glimpse at the marketplace: Dempster said he did not receive any other firm offers, but since the free agent period opened up on Friday, he named Atlanta, the Mets, the Yankees, Toronto and the Los Angeles Dodgers as some of the teams that expressed interest.

Posted on: November 10, 2008 5:42 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2008 5:43 pm
 

Trade could knock Peavy out of WBC

If the San Diego Padres trade ace right-hander Jake Peavy, as they are expected to do as early as this week, it could mean the end of the ace's availability for Team USA in next spring's World Baseball Classic.

Peavy has filed the necessary paperwork to play, according to Barry Axelrod, his agent. But Axelrod, who opposed the right-hander's participation in the '06 WBC for protective reasons, indicated that he again will try to talk Peavy out of playing -- especially if he's traded. Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs remain the front-runners to acquire him, according to multiple sources.

"If I'm his new team, I'd say, 'You know, we kind of need you in camp with us,'" Axelrod said.

Peavy pitched for Team USA in 2006 and absolutely loved the whole thing -- the competition, the patriotism, the camaraderie with some of the game's best players. He developed good friendships with Roger Clemens and Derek Jeter, among others.

But he also battled elbow tendinitis as the '06 regular season wore on and told me at the time that he thought the extra WBC work was the major contributing factor. His 4.09 ERA that summer was the second-worst of his career over six full major-league seasons.

"I was strongly opposed to him participating last time for that very reason," Axelrod said. "I thought it might make for a very long season. ... Jake had a tough time physically that season, as did others."

If he participates, Peavy would have to report to spring training on Feb. 14 -- a week before other, non-WBC-playing players -- and then he would report to the WBC training camp on March 1 and not return to his team -- the Padres or someone else -- until March 24 at the earlier.

"That's 3 1/2 weeks away from camp, and then 10 days to get ready for opening day," Axelrod said. "I think it's a rougher schedule than last time."

So far, Peavy has been intent on making himself available for the WBC.

"When I tried to make the case (against), he wouldn't let me get the sentence out of my mouth," Axelrod said. "He said it was one of his great life experiences, having 'USA' across his chest. I told him, 'I know what you think, but if you ask me. ...'"

Axelrod, though, said he and Peavy last spoke about the WBC before the trade talks started that appear to have him earmarked somewhere other than San Diego for 2009 and that they have not revisited the subject since.

"That's Jake's call," Axelrod said. "I don't know where his head would be on that. He may say, 'Hey, if I'm with a new team, I owe it to them to be there.' Or he may say, 'It's a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I want to be involved.'"

Likes: It's on to the third round of the Michigan high school playoffs for the Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central football team, who will host Manchester on Friday evening at Navarre Field. The Falcons knocked off Madison Heights Bishop Foley in a 34-29 thriller on Friday and were rewarded with a third home playoff game. Congratulations to Coach Jack Giarmo and the boys, and go get 'em Friday. ... Just finished a fabulous book, The Nightingale's Song, by Robert Timberg. The author traces the lives of five Naval Academy grads -- John McCain, Oliver North, Robert McFarlane, James Webb and John Poindexter -- weaving the threads together through the Navy years, Vietnam and on through the Reagan Administration, studying how their background at the Academy helped set the stage for their lives. Fabulous work by Timberg -- whether you're a Republican or a Democrat.

Dislikes: More federal money for insurance giant AIG even after their executives held a retreat here after they received a $70 million bailout from the government in September. The excess makes you sick. They should deduct the cost of the resort retreat from the bailout, at the very least.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Come gather 'round people
"Wherever you roam
"And admit that the waters
"Around you have grown
"And accept it that soon
"You'll be drenched to the bone.
"If your time to you
"Is worth savin'
"Then you better start swimmin'
"Or you'll sink like a stone
"For the times they are a-changin'"

-- Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin'


Posted on: June 12, 2008 8:09 pm
 

Down the road with Wood and Prior


You missed what undoubtedly was one of the season's more touching conversations last week. So did I.

See, you and I weren't privy to it when Cubs closer Kerry Wood picked up the telephone and called his old rotation-mate, Mark Prior.

Prior, battling more pain, was forced to abort another comeback attempt -- this one with San Diego -- last week to undergo another surgery. This time, Prior had another tear in his shoulder. This makes it two season-ending surgeries in two years for Prior.

Ironically, the 27-year-old right-hander was undergoing surgery while the Cubs were in San Diego last week. Wood phoned him just before Prior went under the knife.

"He's had the same s--- before," Wood said. "Hopefully, he'll get through this. He's been through it before."

There's nobody else in the world who could talk with either of these two men as knowingly and honestly as they can talk with each other. Can't be. Nobody has lived through what Wood and Prior lived through in Chicago in the early 2000s, attempting to live up to those incredibly lofty (and, as it turned out, unreal) expectations, battling the injuries, never quite living up to what Cubs fans hoped.

Five outs from the 2003 World Series and it never would get any better than that. Prior started Games 2 and 6 against Florida in the '03 NL Championship Series; Wood started Games 3 and 7.

When the Cubs blew it, everybody braced for Prior and Wood to lead them to the promised land in '04 or, surely, by '05.

Never happened. There was soreness and pain and ice and the disabled list.

Now Wood's career as a starter is ostensibly finished, and he's thriving as the Cubs' closer.

Prior already seems washed up at 27. He's finished for this season, but vows to make another comeback attempt in 2009.

"He'll get through this, and hopefully he gets the chance to be healthy and pitch again," Wood said. "And if he doesn't, he's got a great family.

"He'll be OK."

Likes: David Ortiz becoming a U.S. citizen. How cool is it that Big Papi cares enough to do that? ... Tampa Bay. What an exciting, athletic, smart team. ... Kerry Wood's success as Cubs closer. He's been through so much, and he's so competitive, it's nice to see him finally healthy and having some success. ... The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert. ... WGN running Nostalgia Night, or whatever it's called, and breaking out the WKRP in Cincinnati reruns. ... Correcting an old error by picking up a two-disc Dusty Springfield set. The error: Buying the Shelby Lynne disc of her interpreting some of Dusty's classics. No soul at all in that disc. Teaches me a lesson to just go for the original in the first place. Valuable lesson in a lot of areas.

Dislikes: Come on, give Ken Griffey Jr. the baseball from home run No. 600. The bickering is ridiculous.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Well she was blond and tall
"She was 23
"Brought into the world
"To get the best of me
"And she never paid back
"Half what she stole
"She wanted my money
"So I gave her my soul"

-- Mudcrutch, The Wrong Thing to Do


Posted on: February 27, 2008 6:56 pm
 

No outrage? You're not paying attention

TAMPA, Fla. -- So Tribune Company CEO Sam Zell lets drop that he'll sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field in a heartbeat if that can make him some extra money, and all you ivy-covered Chicago Cubs fans hit the roof.

Hey, I feel your pain.

And the best thing that can happen is this: Somebody gets the Cubs out of Mr. Zell's evil clutches as soon as humanly possible.

Now I realize all baseball fans probably aren't schooled in the world of journalism, and there's no reason you need to be. But in case you hadn't heard of a couple of recent highlights on the Sam Zell 2008 Offend the World Tour, allow me to fill you in.

He visited one of the Tribune Company's papers, the Orlando Sentinal, earlier this month to speak to the staff and address questions about his philosophies -- which can be summed up in one sentence: Find ways to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.

So during a staff question and answer session, a woman photographer asks him how the paper will balance his need to make money with the paper's need for resources to cover the news. He essentially said, making money comes first, even if that means squeezing resources to hurt the product.

OK, whatever, he's the boss. But he finished an answer to one of the woman's follow-up questions by saying, and I quote: "F--- you."

It's right there on YouTube if you think I'm exaggerating.

And that's not even the worst of it. A few days later, his Tribune Co. tour took him to the Los Angeles Times, where he met with that paper's newsroom staff. And where he explained that his main mission is to make money, and the Times must look at new ways to make money, including accepting ads from strip joints.

Now you can have a reasonable debate regarding the merits of that.

But when the troops expressed disdain for the idea, Zell, in defending himself, told them that, "everybody likes ----. It's un-American not to like ----."

I left the blanks so as not to repeat Zell's inexcusable use of a crass word for a female body part in front of a full -- and highly offended -- newsroom of profesional men and women. Here's a hint, though: Think "cat."

How quickly do you think you'd be in the Human Resources office explaining yourself if you talked like that at your place of employment?

This guy is a piece of work.

Meanwhile, Billy Goat Tavern at Wrigley Field, anyone? I can think of worse corporate sponsors.

And I'm sure we'll get one.

Likes: The Phillies' training complex in Clearwater. It's five springs old, but doesn't look a day over one. ... Charlie Manuel. If baseball could walk and talk, it would look exactly like the Phillies manager. ... Grapefruit League games again. ... John Mellencamp into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month. ... Springsteen back on the road this week.

Dislikes: Thunderstorms in the Tampa area were so severe Tuesday night that it knocked out satellite television transmission ... which left me, working in my room, with about a 15-minute gap in the Democratic debate. Maybe rabbit-ears television antennas weren't so bad afterall. ... Scott Kazmir's arm trouble in Tampa Bay. ...

Sunblock day? No. Jacket day. That thunderstorm kicked temps down into the 50s Wednesday, and the wind was howling. Brrrr.

Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:

"Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the price
For having learned how not to cry

-- Jackson Browne, Doctor My Eyes

 
 
 
 
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