That is right my friends and followers (those who read my blogs on here without getting them through my facebook or twitter) this will be my final blog on this site. I am leaving the great MLBlogs network and venturing out on my own! My own web page has been built and is still under improvements but everything is operational.
You can find me at http://www.worldseriesdreaming.com to get all the same blogs that I have been writing since 2008!
Go Cubs Go
With the 2011 Chicago Cubs season officially over now, the time has come to move on and look forward. Unfortunately, you can not move forward until you look back to see how you got to where you are. That is what I am going to do today, and then we can put this whole mess behind us and prepare ourselves for what has to be a brighter future.
There are many villains that played a role in the demise of the 2011 season, but Cub fans like to focus all their energy and hatred on two people. Both former General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Mike Quade have been in the crosshairs of the fans since day one, in fact Hendry has been in their sites since the 2008 collapse. That is where the blame should lie, with the former General Manager and not so much the Manager. He can only work with what he is given, and there is not one manager who could have made this incompetent team into a team who was ready to go toe to toe with the best teams in baseball.
You heard me right, I do not care who the manager was this year, no one would have been able to win with this crap fest. Not Quade, not Charlie Manual, not even the great Ryne Sandberg. This was a hot steaming pile of garbage that Hendry gave Quade to compete with. Could a more qualified manager have gotten a couple more wins? Sure, a competent manager is worth a handfull of wins every year, but for the most part the players are the ones who win the games; not the manager. Besides, do you really care if you are a slightly better version of suck? Cubs still would have finished under the .500 mark.
Do not mistake what I am saying, Quade is not a great manager, in fact he may not even be a very good manager, but that is not the point. Managers do not play the game, they only set the lineup that they feel gives them the best chance to win based on the players they are given. Fans got pissed at Quade because he did not play the kids over the players who were over paid and underperforming, that is understandable as long as the players the fans want to play actually perform when given the chance. If the kids do not show anything when they get their opportunities then what would make the manager want to play them? His job is to win games, and if you have a guy hitting near .100 for the majority of the season (Tyler Colvin) getting consistent playing time is not going to be easy, even if you are competing with a completely inept defensive player hitting around .250 (Alfonso Soriano). While both are statistically in baseball hell, you want to go with the guy who has a track record of carrying a team when they are hot.
That is where this season died, not with having an inexperienced Major League manager at the helm, but having under performing players taking the field. Yes, Quade made some very inexcusable baseball decisions, as he was learning on the job. Yes, he left pitchers in too long at times, he took them out too early at others, and he started Koyie Hill far too many times, but the reason the season failed was not the main reason why this team failed as miserably as they did. The main reason they failed, would fall squarely on the shoulders of the players.
Say what you will about the great season by soon to be free agent Aramis Ramirez, his absence in April and May had more to do with the Cubs failures than having Quade in the dugout. Fans will chime in about his stat line and say how valuable he is to this franchise, but how valuable is he really? Yes, he put up impressive stats this year. They are even more impressive when you take note of them being produced in four months, but his absence in April and May led to a lot of losses which helped to dig the Cubs into a hole they just could not climb out of.
There will always be some fans that say something like “I don’t care when he puts up the stats, he is a super star”. That is the problem with the standard back of the baseball card thinking. The end of the year stats look great, but when they are produced is much more important than how much. The games in April and May are worth just as much as the games in August and September, some would say they are more valuable early on, because as the old saying goes, “You can not win a pennant in April, but you can lose one”.
The same goes for Carlos Pena, who also had an impressive stat line at the end of the year. But where was he in April? He, along with Ramirez, fell asleep in the starting gate and did not get started until the season was put on life support. That, too, had much more to do with the failure of the 2011 season than Quade sitting in the dugout.
Add in all the injuries the Cubs faced throughout the season, and you have a formula for failure and not success. I do not care who you are, losing two starting pitchers in the first week of the season is a great way to put yourself behind the eight ball before the season begins. Even if they were the number four and five starters, the drop off in talent level will hurt you. Maybe not if you only need them for a game or two, but if you need replacements for three or four months? That is no way to field a contender. Whether or not you think that the pitchers actually have the talent to compete in the majors is up to you, but there is a big difference between your four and five starters and your sixth and seventh starters.
Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals lost their ace pitcher Adam Wainwright for the whole season and won the wild card, but they still had another pitchers on their team who could qualify as an ace of just about any pitching staff. Everyone moves up a peg, and your long reliever becomes your fifth starter. With the Cubs though, they had to bring up a few pitchers to fill those voids. How is that the managers fault? Is he able to prevent injuries? Again, that falls on Hendry for not providing enough depth.
On top of everything else, there was the whole situation surrounding Carlos Zambrano. While his blowup took place long after realistic contending had long since past, that was still a big part of the season. I will not write much about this as I covered the incident in a blog when everything took place, but when a player walks out on your team, that is a good way to take out whatever chemistry there was with the team.
Overall, the team this year was a complete three ring circus. There was the dimwitted ring bearer, the first time lion tamer who gets his head bitten off because he is learning on the job in front of a live crowd, and you had a car full of clowns who tried to keep you entertained. Is Quade the reason this team fell apart and died a slow painful death? No, he is not why the team lost, but he should not escape blame. That falls on everyone from the General Manager on down to the 25th man.
Tonight, Chicago Cub fans will finally be able to find the peace they have been lacking since the beginning of the season. The last game of the 2011 season will be played, and the Cub fans will finally be put out of their misery. There will be no popping of celebratory champagne for a division clinching performance, though some might throw back a few beers in celebration for what will likely be the departure of current Cubs Manager Mike Quade.
While I will never celebrate in the firing of anyone, I doubt I will shed a tear if he receives news that he will not be retained for the 2012 season. When that happens though, is anyone’s guess. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts may leave that decision for the new General Manager to make; which means that Quade might technically still be the manager of the Cubs for at least a little while longer. No one knows how long the processes will take for the Cubs to find the person they feel is the right choice to fill the spot vacated for Jim Hendry, though I still believe that they almost have to already have reached a handshake agreement with someone to assume the responsibilities of the job. Otherwise some of the recent moves by Ricketts do not make me feel too optimistic about who will be the new General Manager.
In a recent blog, I wrote that Ricketts may not be a brilliant baseball man, but he is a brilliant businessman. This was in reference to the re-hiring of Oneri Fleita as the Vice President of player personnel, saying he would not hire a new General Manager and tell him that he has to take this person on as a key member of his team; at least not someone who was already established in that job. When Fleita was re-signed I assumed that Ricketts and the General Manager that he must have a handshake agreement with had to of signed off on the move to retain him. Now I am not so sure if the Cubs and Ricketts have a handshake deal with someone to take over the running of the team, at least not an already established General Manager.
In yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times there was a report that the Cubs and Ricketts were reaching out to Ryne Sandberg to mend fences. There was speculation that he may be tabbed to be the new manager of the Cubs for 2012. While I would not be against such a move, I do not want him to be hired before the new General Manager is named. That would almost certainly be the end of any speculation that the Cubs will hire someone like Theo Epstein or Andrew Freidman. There is no way that they would take on a job where they were forced to take someone that they may not want managing their team, that is unless as I have said (and I am sounding like a broken record here) they have a handshake agreement with Ricketts and the Cubs and have signed off on the move.
If the Cubs do not already have something worked out before hand, then I do not want Sandberg hired; at least not yet. They must leave something for the new General Manager to do if you want to get someone who is already known as a great General Manager. I know that the chances of getting Epstein or Freidman has been a long shot from the beginning, but the hope is still alive as long as Ricketts and the Cubs do not take all the decisions out of their hands. In all reality, the Cubs will most likely wind up with the assistant General Manager of Epstein or Freidman, or maybe even the assistant General Manager from the south side Rick Hahn. Those people may be willing to take the job and be told who their most important personnel members will be.
You can explain away keeping Fleita by saying you want the person who knows your farm system, and the young talent keeping his job so you do not lose a step. That is at least understandable to a point, whether or not you agree with that thought process. But hiring a new Manager before the General Manager makes no sense. Neither does firing the current one for that matter. Perhaps the new guy likes Quade and wants to see what he can do given a real team who has a real chance to win. I highly doubt this, as even with a talented team who had actual expectations, I am not sure that Quade could win a World Series. That is not to say that this season completely falls on Quade’s shoulders and he is the reason we looked as horrible as we did. There are other reasons why the Cubs failed besides the apparently ineptness of Quade, but that is another discussion for another day.
As the season winds down, the time has come to look to the future, and there are many issues that must be addressed for the 2012 season. Those issues are all well known. The Chicago Cubs must find and name a new General Manager and that General Manager must name a new manager. That is where all the fun will begin, as the General Manager filters through the roster and decides which players should stay and who should be sent packing. However, for the purpose of this blog, I will only be focusing on the first two. That, is where my idea for a contest comes into play.
Every year, I attend the Cubs Convention, and every year I have two extra passes. Normally what I do with those two extra passes is sell them off to a friend or to bring a family member. But with the changes coming in the Cubs organization I have come up with a better idea. Why not hold a contest for the extra two passes? So that is exactly what I am going to do.
The rules are simple, but winning the contest will not be easy. You must answer three questions correctly in a Facebook email to me by Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time in order to win the two passes for the annual kick off to the up coming season. The questions are as follows.
1. When will a new General Manager be officially hired?(within three days)
2. Who will the new General Manager be?
3. Who will be the manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2012
I must be very clear here, so please pay attention. Only ONE (1) person will win the pair of passes for the Cubs Convention. If there are multiple winners, everyone who got all three correct will go into a blind drawing. Whichever name I pull wins the TWO (2) passes for the 2012 Cubs Convention! Just to make things clear, you are only winning the two passes, all other expenses you are responsible for. Hotel fees, traveling, food ect. those are all your responsibility, but I shall supply the passes for you. Simply meet me at the hotel on the date of the event to pick up your passes. If you want to hang out with me during the weekend’s festivities you are more than welcome to.
Now, since there is a chance that more than one of you may get all three questions correct, fear not you are not out of luck just yet. There is a second place prize.
If there are people who have correctly guessed TWO (2) of the THREE (3), you could be one of the TWO (2) people who can win the second place prize, which will be an official World Series Dreaming hat. Everyone who guess two of the three correctly, as well as everyone who got all three right who missed out on the grand prize will also be entered into this drawing.
Then, there is the third place prize. FIVE (5) people will win an Anno Catuli autographed baseball! This is for everyone who guessed ONE (1) of the THREE (3) questions correctly and all those who guessed all THREE (3) questions correctly and TWO (2) of them correctly who missed out on the previous prizes.
You MUST be a friend of Anno Catuli in order to win this contest. (www.Facebook.com/WorldSeriesDreaming)
Once again, you must answer the following questions in a Facebook email to me.
1. When will a new General Manager be officially hired? (within three days)
2. Who will the new General Manager be?
3. Who will be the manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2012
DO NOT post the answers in the Linked Post on Facebook. This is done in order to prevent people from knowingly copying another person’s guesses. Any guesses made in that thread and not in my Facebook email box WILL BE DELETED
All Entries MUST be received by 11:59 PM Central Standard Time Wednesday September 28, 2011. This is because theoretically everything COULD happen as soon as the Cubs game is over.
Employees, Owners, Administrators Moderators and family of such are not eligible to enter or win. That includes anyone listed as an Admin on the World Series Dreaming page.
That about covers it. Good luck to all who participate!
Yesterday, after Aramis Ramirez declared that he would be filing for free agency, I wrote up a blog which voiced my opinion that the Chicago Cubs should now begin the rebuilding process. Some fans agreed with the thought process, while others completely disagreed. This is probably the most confusing situation for most Cubs fans to be in, as a majority of them are completely contradicting themselves when saying they do not want to sit through a rebuilding phase.
For starters, there is a portion of Cub fans who have strong feelings against the Cubs, a big market team, going through a rebuilding phase. They do not believe that a team in a major market should ever have to rebuild, and be able to spend the money needed in order to contend. This is very true to a point, that would be what is expected from a team in one of the three biggest markets in the country. The problem comes into play, is that several fans of the Cubs want the team to bench, trade or cut several of the current veterans on the team to play various kids.
You will not go a single day without hearing at least one fan begging Cubs management to trade Alfonso Soriano or to just outright cut him. They beg and plead for the Cubs to give more playing time to both Tony Campana and Tyler Colvin. This situation will not take place unless Soriano is off the team, or at very least regulated to bench duty.
Fans also want to see Bryan LaHair get more playing time, if they want to see Campana and Colvin more the only likely position for him to play would be at first base. You could put LaHair in one of the corner spots, and either Covin or Campana in center, but I feel that would be counter productive. No one wants to see Colvin playing center field again, last time he was out there was a disaster. You could put Campana in center, but if you want him to make the team next year, you have to think about who you would rather have playing center field, him or Brett Jackson. No offense to the scrappy Campana, but I would rather have Jackson roaming centerfield and let Campy learn to play the corner. That means Byrd would remain in center leaving LaHair the odd man out, unless he plays first base. With LaHair at first base, that would result in the benching of Carlos Pena. He can not play third base so he would also be out of a job.
Then we have the problem of third base. Several fans want Ramirez back, while others do not want to waste the money on him since he rarely shows up in April and only occasionally comes to play in May. This leads up to who replaces him? There are no good free agent third baseman out there this off season or next, so that would lead to another kid playing third.
You see the problem yet? To me, a vast majority of fans can not make up their minds as far as what they want. They want to see the Cubs play the kids, but they also do not want the Cubs to go into a full rebuild mode. So I propose a question to all the fans out their who take the time to read my blogs.
Do you want the Cubs to ditch the veterans and play the kids to see what they have, or do you want the Cubs to go out and buy players to help them contend? You can not really have things both ways. Sure, you can do a mix of kids and veterans, but you would then have to decide which kids you want to see. Fans will have to chose between the overflowing population of young outfielders and which kids they really want to see.
Which kids do you want to see playing, and which are you willing to write off? From all of the calls for playing time I have seen on my Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/worldseriesdreaming) fans want to see a team filled with kids, but they do not want a rebuilding phase.
Confused yet? So am I.
Around 2:30 this afternoon, news broke that Aramis Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, informed the Chicago Cubs that his client will opt out of the final year of his deal, which also happens to be a team option, and file for free agency. However, Ramirez’s agent would not rule out the possibility that he would re-sign with the Cubs in the off season, but only if the team was not in full rebuild mode. In other words, unless the Cubs make a huge splash in free agency, likely by signing either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, his tenure with the Cubs is likely over, even though he has claimed in the past that he wanted to retire a Chicago Cub.
Since joining the Cubs midway through 2003, Ramirez has put on a show for the Wrigley Faithful and has cemented a place for himself in Cubs history. In his nearly eight years with the ball club he has become the second greatest third baseman in Cubs history, right behind the late great Ron Santo. He was also the first long term third baseman the Cubs have had since Santo was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the end of his career. With his apparent departure, you have to wonder when the Cubs will once again be able to fill the vacant hot corner. Last night, 30 years past before they found a solid fixture, hopefully this time the fans do not have to wait so long for a permanent replacement.
With the third base free agent class being very weak, Ramirez becomes the best player available at that position, and should draw a lot of attention from several teams who need someone at third. The bidding war for the aging veteran will likely surpass whatever amount the Cubs would be willing to spend to bring him back, unless he gives the team he says he wants to return to a “home town discount”. With this being the final long term deal of his career, I am not so sure that he will be willing to give a significant discount to the Cubs in order to finish his career with them.
Now that you have a pretty good idea that Ramirez’s Cubs career is over, in my own opinion, the time has come to do what is best for both the player and the team. Sit A-Ram down for the remainder of the season and play a young player over at the hot corner.
How does that benefit Ramirez? The answer to that is quite easy. He has an injured qaud, so in the interest of his health, he should be sat the remainder of the year. Let the injury heal so he can fully heal before any physical that he would need to take before signing a new contract. I doubt Ramirez would have much problem with that scenario as he gets paid whether he plays or not. Why risk making an injury worse if you are about to reach free agency? I believe he will be happy to sit out the remaining six games while the Cubs begin the rebuilding process.
The question then turns to which kid do you throw at third base for the remainder of the year? You could turn to the kid who is playing there today, DJ LeMahieu. Let him test his ability and skill while the Cubs get a good look to see if he can play every day at the major league level. Sure, this is September baseball and no teams have advanced scouts so you need to take anything these call ups do with a grain of salt, but you would get an idea of what he can do.
Another option would be to allow Starlin Castro to spread his wings and fly over at the hot corner. He may not be a bad option, especially since he does have a strong arm and good range. Add in to his ever growing power, he could grow into an excellent option over there. Then the problem would be who plays short stop, or who plays second base if Darwin Barney shifts over as well. Time will tell how the Cubs will handle the third base position going forward, but you can be sure things will be interesting.
There is some good news that comes with the departure of Ramirez, even for those fans who do wish he would return. The Cubs will be saving the $16 Million that he would have made next year, which can be spent elsewhere, perhaps on the pitching staff or a certain first baseman who shall be left unnamed. That is not the only good news however. From the sound of some of the reports, because Ramirez was the one who opted out of the 2012 deal and not the team, the Cubs may in fact be off the hook for the $2 Million buyout to the contract. So that is another $2 Million that the Cubs can use to rebuild a ball club that seemed to have fallen apart. Heck, they might even be more willing to ship off Alfonso Soriano knowing that they suddenly have this extra money that they can throw into a deal to help a team pay his contract. However, that “saved money” might actually be put towards the Carlos Zambrano going away package.
Ramirez declaring for free agency, six games before the season actually ends, should open the flood gates that should have been opened for the trade deadline back in July. That means letting Carlos Pena walk, trading Marlon Byrd and trying desperately to send Alfonso Soriano packing. Without Ramirez, there is little reason to sign Pujols, Fielder or even bringing Pena back.
Let the rebuilding process begin. The only question is will Cub fans be willing to sit through a few years of what could be sub .500 baseball while the kids grow and learn on the job?
With the baseball season winding down in Chicago, the focus of fans of both ball clubs in town will be focused squarely on the management situation. The fans of both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox will be waiting to see exactly what is going to take place with both their General Manager and Manager of their ball clubs. But screw the White Sox, this is a Cubs blog, so that is where I will be directing my attention today.
At the time of this writing, there are only nine games left in the Cubs season, which means there are likely only nine games left in the managerial career of Cubs Manager Mike Quade. I am sure that there will not be many tears shed when Quade is officially shown the door and wished the best in his future endeavors. Before I go into exactly where I believe the Cubs might go next year in the managerial hunt, I have to give my two cents on why I feel that Quade was the right man for the job coming into the 2011 season.
If the Cubs were really rebuilding this year, I would gladly agree that the Cubs screwed the pooch by hiring an inexperienced manager to begin the road back to respectability. However, that simply was not the case. The 2011 Cubs were not in rebuild mode. In fact, I fully believe that they were in killing time mode. They knew full well that this years team would not be close to contending for anything, and wanted to wait until the young players got here and there was room in the payroll. That meant that there was at least one year that the Cubs would have to wave the white flag, and write off this season as a lost cause.
Honestly, in a no win situation where no one could have had success, I have no problem with throwing a bone to Quade. Why hire a perfectly good manager who is only to be attacked by the fans for a team that can not win? Hire a lame duck manager who you know may not be that good, so as to not start a good manager on a bad track with a bad team and have him start the real rebuilding with the fans already hating him. Now, moving forward the Cubs have a big decision to make as far as who the new manager should be when the team may actually be in full rebuild mode. That decision, will fall on the shoulders of the new general manager, whoever that may be.
With Cubs owner Tom Ricketts already having extended the player development director Oneri Fleta, there has been much talk about the new General Manager may actually already have been signed to a contract. Obviously, if he is currently under a deal with another ball club, his hiring would not be official until the current season runs the course. Which is why there has not been an official announcement.
In my mind, this has to be the case, because I can not honestly believe Ricketts would be dumb enough to extend the contract of Fleta before hiring a new General Manager! That would fall under the responsibility of whoever was hired to do that job. The mysterious man in the shadows must have signed off on the extension, or there would not be one at this present moment in time. Ricketts may not be a brilliant baseball man, but he is a brilliant business man and should know better than to hire someone and tell them exactly who their director of the minor leagues will be. The same thought process would also apply for scouting director Tim Wilkin, who will not be getting an extension. Rickets said that decision would fall on the new General Manager, which leads me to believe that if the new General Manager has already been signed, that he has decided to go in another direction.
Of course, this is all depending on whether or not their actually has been a pre-hiring of a General Manager. Whoever that may be though, is still unknown, but there are two names which get mentioned more than any others. The two top names are Billy Beane with the Oakland Athletics or Theo Epstein with the Boston Red Sox. The list of potential names is long, and filled with names that have the saber metric fans drooling.
Whoever the new guy may be, his first act will be hiring a new manager because lets face facts, there is no chance that Quade comes back next year. So the question is who should be hired to lead the Cubs into the future? The popular choice among most fans would be to bring back the man who many feel should have gotten the job last year, Ryne Sandberg. Whether or not he is the right man for the job, or will be able to deliver a winner to the north side is anyone’s guess. But, if Ricketts and the new General Manager are looking primarily for a Public Relations move that will see Wrigley Field sell out every one of the 81 home games, there can be no question that he is the right man for the job. Who knows, maybe they will get a winner out of the hiring as well. However, personally, I do not want to hire a manager based primarily on a Public Relations situation. I want the best manager for the job, if that is Sandberg, then sweet deal. Bring him in to lead our team to the future.
That being said, I want the new General Manager to look at, and interview several people for the job and not hire someone just because he is the popular choice. There are any number of managers who could very well be out there looking for work. Just look south for two of them. The rumor mill says that both Ozzie Guillen and Tony LaRussa will be looking for a job elsewhere. Neither one would sit well with Cub fans, and neither are all too likely, but I would be disappointed if LaRussa was at least not asked to come in for an interview.
In my perfect world, LaRussa would be hired to take the lead, and he would be asked to bring in Sandberg to be his bench coach. Best of both worlds don’t you think? The team would have a proven major league manager, someone who has won the World Series and has a track record of successful teams, and the fan base would get to welcome home their beloved Hall of Fame player who would get to actually manage games when LaRussa gets tossed out. He would learn on the job and just be a hop, skip and jump away from the real thing. On top of that great combination, if LaRussa is signed, one would think the Cubs would then be the favorite to land free agent to be Albert Pujols, if you are interested in him at all.
All the excitement begins in just under two weeks. This will be a very interesting off season, and everything begins Thursday, September 29, the first day of the off season!