Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’
I’ve been on this Earth for 33 years, and for the better part of my time here I have been a Cubs fan, so disappointment comes with the territory. With that disappointment comes hope that is usually misguided, and a catch phrase of “wait till next year” drives that misguided optimism year after year. The National narrative doesn’t help things with a constant “don’t worry, the Cubs will screw it up because they’re the Cubs” refrain. That repetitive opinion starts to creep into our subconscious; maybe all those experts are right, nothing good ever happens. It was even evident last year during what I can say was honestly the most enjoyable baseball season of my life, there was doubt. A daily rollercoaster of emotions based on whether or not the Cubs won. What did the Giants do? Look out for the Nationals, they’re getting hot. The Diamondbacks are making a run; did you see the schedule down the stretch? Its typical pennant race behavior which I totally get, but something about last year changed my views on hope, it made me realize something important and fun… it’s real.
I got into a number of discussions last year on the inter-webs about this very thing and it was startling how many people, good baseball people, hoped that other teams would take care of the Cubs’ business for them. In the past I would be right there with them, but the leadership group of this organization, the players, and their overall attitude towards winning, and competing made it very clear to me that I no longer had to worry about that. This Cubs team was going to leave everything on the field and for the most part the opponent couldn’t keep up. It was never more obvious than during that four game series against the Giants at home. We all thought that Hector Rondon and a rare bout of wildness was going to derail the game, and the season, it was over. Then it wasn’t, Rondon wiggled off the hook, and the Cubs pounded the Giants right out of the wild card lead into an October without playoff baseball.
A postseason of Cardinals’ devil magic followed. 2016 was full of horrible losses to the Cardinals, it was impossible to ignore those losses heading into the NLDS. The reason for most losses was the dreaded Cardinals’ devil magic because it was more fun to talk about that then talk about how the Cardinals made their own breaks or came up with a clutch hit or two. Things went wrong in Game One for the Cubs as worries of the unbreakable Cardinals, and the “too young to be here” Cubs were coming to fruition. Then Javier Baez massacred a mistake from John Lackey en route to Dingerpalooza 2015 taking place at Wrigley…. Hello NLCS!
I would say that a large number of people converted over to less fatalistic thinking as the season came to a close against the Mets. The Cubs were getting beat by the Mets because the Mets were a good team, and the Cubs couldn’t get out of their own way. I was pretty excited to see a lot of fans recognize what was going on; it wasn’t the Cubs blowing an opportunity as only the Cubs could do. It was the Cubs just losing a game and losing a series in the infancy of their window of opportunity to win a World Series.
So now the Cubs are on the brink of starting the 2016 season with the highest expectations possible. The organization identified needs heading into the off-season and sent a powerful message to this fan base and the rest of baseball that they are not going anywhere by bringing in Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey. The players have clearly bought into what Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer are selling. I suppose it’s okay that some fans are still overcome with worry when they see the Cubs as World Series favorites. I’m just glad that the players taking the field are embracing it, and ready to win a World Series, not because of any curse or because of the losing History, but because they expect to.
I’ve never been one to call for a managers head, or question a manager openly, unless their first name is Mike, and last name is Quade, that’s not what this is. I’ve played the game, nowhere near the MLB level, and I’ve never been a manager so I cannot relate to what Sveum goes through on a daily basis with one eye on his team, one eye on his future, and one eye on the organizations future, wait, that’s too many eyes, I digress. Sveum has been a popular target on social media, specifically twitter the last week, and really all the season when the Cubs flame out, but rarely receives any credit when he does make the right move and it pays off. Now, I understand that this is usually the case with managers, but it’s worth pointing out that Cubs fans are slowly turning their hate and ire towards Sveum. Last night didn’t help, and it added fuel to the fire of the keeping Shawn Camp decision, more on that later.
I don’t care what word you want to use, disaster, debacle, mismanaged, I think they all apply to last night. After Matt Garza made a successful return to the mound going five scoreless innings giving up one hit while walking three and striking out five he was lifted by Sveum, this was after 82 pitches, and it was the RIGHT move. Sveum screwed up last night, but one of the things he did right was lift Garza, Garza means more to the Cubs healthy with a no decision, then hurt again, and 1-0 on the season. The head scratching came after he lifted Garza. Shawn Camp was warming up in the pen during the fifth inning in case Garza couldn’t get out of some trouble, Garza did get out of the trouble, then Camp sat down. Hector Rondon got up instead and was slated to come in for the sixth, that was the first issue I had. Shawn Camp has been awful this year, Shawn Camp has shown signs of a dead arm this year, you don’t get him up to come in then sit him down, doesn’t work, usually doesn’t. Rondon struggled, which can happen, then Sveum reached a new level of second guessing by bringing in James Russell, arguably the best arm in the pen…. in the sixth. Sure, one could argue that this was a turning point in the game, but what happens after the sixth if Russell gets out of it? Who’s left out of the pen to work the seventh, Camp? The same Camp that just sat down an inning ago? Marmol would probably come in for the seventh, but as you will read Sveum had no intentions of letting Russell get out of the sixth.
Let’s stop there for a second to discuss something else. When Garza’s return to the rotation was announced, last week, Sveum said that Villanueva was going to go to the pen. Okay, given that Garza was on a strict pitch count last night, Sveum had a day or so to figure out what he wanted to do when Garza was lifted, and he was most likely going to be lifted early. So one would think that it would have made perfect sense to bring in Villanueva to not only get through the sixth, but piece together the game and have Villanueva get the ball to the ninth assuming he was effective. But Villanueva was nowhere to be found, and I do understand that he might not have been available, but for argument’s sake I figured I would at least bring it up as another possible option for Sveum in the sixth.
Okay, back to what actually happened last night. So in comes Russell in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out to face Pedro Alvarez. I get the lefty/lefty match up thing in a big spot but after Russell walked Alvarez Sveum removed him. The best arm in the pen faced one batter in the sixth and that was it. If you are going to bring Russel in for that situation let him get out of it, or at least attempt to. I don’t care if it’s a righty or lefty at the plate, Russell can get both out, instead he faces one guy, and leaves the game in the same situation as he entered it. Now comes the decision to bring in Shawn Camp with the bases loaded and one out, he gets the first guy, but then is left in to face a lefty in Travis Snider, why? If Russell is being lifted after one hitter because of matchup’s why is Camp being left in the game for an unfavorable matchup? Probably because he was the third pitcher of the inning already. But if this was the most important spot in the game, important enough to use Russell, why wasn’t Fujikawa brought in, or Marmol, both have been better than Camp, and that’s alarming given Marmol’s struggles. Dale completely botched this whole situation as he then was forced to stick with Camp the rest of the inning because no one was left out of the pen if he went to a fourth pitcher in the inning.
So, what could have been done differently? Garza had to come out, no question, I absolutely agree with that move. I’m indifferent on bringing in Rondon in that situation, but I would have went with Marmol, but have a quick hook ready if he can’t find the zone. Ideally, Marmol works the sixth inning, Russell works the seventh, Fujikawa works the eighth, and Gregg closes it out. I don’t see any reason why Rondon HAD to be used, when in the past Sveum has shied away from using him late with a lead, but my biggest complaint is Russell for one hitter, makes no sense. Now, this is the scenario if Villanueva was not available, if he was available then this game was the perfect spot for a former starter easing into the pen. Use him for as long as he is effective then go from there, we’ve already seen our fair share of bullpen disasters, but I think this one could have been avoided with better decision-making from Sveum.
That brings us to the other question, why was Camp still available to be used in the first place? To make room for Garza one pitcher had to be designated for assignment, and that pitcher was Michael Bowden. Bowden was having a solid season on the heels of having a really good finish to 2012, but now the Cubs risk losing him completely, and he’s only 26, why? I can’t really answer that question, and ultimately that decision comes down to the front office. Both Theo and Jed said that all decisions regarding the roster are made with a large input from Dale, so my guess is that he lobbied hard for Camp, and the front office showed faith in their manager and player by keeping Camp around. The Cubs had options here, they could have placed Rondon on the DL with a “middle body” injury to by some time before making a decision, or they could have released Camp who looks done, there is nothing telling me that he is going to bounce back in any way, shape or form. Let’s not forget the only reason the Cubs got him was that he was released by Seattle during spring training the year before. He’s also 37 years old, all of these things just don’t add up in regards to keeping him, so Sveum and the front office have to share the blame on that one, and if I had to guess Camp won’t be on the Cubs by the All-Star break. Been a while since I’ve been able to share my thoughts in this space, felt I needed to after last night, today’s another game, let’s get a win!
Every year around this time there is a name or two that shows up on the spring training roster that send the interwebs into a delirious state of being because THAT guy might make the team. This year I think it’s safe to say that guy is Javier Baez. Baez was highly touted last year, but after a stellar 2012 he is now considered a legit top twenty guy, not just in the Cubs system, but in all of baseball. Jonathan Mayo put that notion to paper, or internet web page, when he came out with his 2013 MLB prospect watch list, which has Baez sitting nicely at sixteen. That is seven full spots up from last year when he was at twenty-three, sure, seven spots might not seem like a major jump but when you crack the top twenty more people pay attention.
Before we get too far into what is expected of Baez in 2013, let’s recap what solicited that seven spot jump by remembering what he did last year. Baez destroyed Midwest League pitching, he hit .333 with 12 home runs, and 33 RBI’s in just 57 games, he also stole 20 bases. He made the jump to Daytona late in the season and struggled, part of that was due to the increase in talent on the mound, and part of it might have been playing once a week because apparently August and September is monsoon season in Florida. Baez capped off his 2012 season with a stint in the Arizona Fall League for the Mesa Solar Sox and he destroyed the ball when he made contact. A thumb injury ended his AFL season too soon, but Baez still managed to hit the second most home runs (4) in the league, and had 40 less at bats than the leaders (5). There was a lot of talk about his bat, and rightfully so, but the knock on Baez was his ability, or inability to stick at short-stop as he progresses through the Cubs system. A lot of people, including myself, think that a move to third base would make the most sense, but another thing Baez did during the 2012 season was show everyone that he can stick at short-stop if he has to, as evidenced by this Jonathan Mayo quote, “Many were ready to move Baez to third right away, but he showed some ability at shortstop, with a very good arm and good hands. His instincts allow his average speed to play up on both sides of the ball. Even if he has to move to third, his bat should profile just fine there.”
We made a few trips to see the Cubs farm system in action, obviously the guy who impressed us the most was Jorge Soler, but a close second was Javier Baez. Why you ask? I’ll tell you my inquisitive friend, he exudes confidence, some might call it cockiness, well most everyone will call it cockiness, because that’s what it is. Baez knows he belongs, and knows he is good (the tattoo on the MLB logo on the back of his neck should tell you everything you need to know), he is twenty years old, I really don’t expect much more from him, but that’s where this whole experience thing comes into play.
This camp isn’t about can Baez make the team, it’s about seeing how guys who will make the team go about their business, and for him to work on things at a different level. Jed Hoyer spoke to that, “He’s here to get a feel for what big league camp is all about, see how these guys go about their business,” general manager Jed Hoyer said of Baez. “It’s nice for fans to be able to see him, nice for us to be able to see him. But it’s not about making the major league team. This is about (getting) experience.” That’s exactly what I was hoping to hear out of Hoyer, there shouldn’t be unnecessary expectations for Baez, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get excited about seeing him in a spring game. Theo Epstein expanded on Hoyer’s comments by giving Cubs nation the following quote, he said that Baez “has a lot of work to do” before he gets called up. Most of that work will be learning how to work counts, because after all there is a Cubs way now, regardless, Baez needs to see more pitches to have his game translate to the big leagues successfully. So if you want to get excited about seeing Baez in a Spring game this year go for it, but don’t get excited because you think he will make the team, get excited because you are watching him take the next step towards making the team when he is ready, maybe that will be this year, you never know.
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MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has done an updated top 100 prospects lists as well as each organizations top 20. Mayo will probably come out with a list prior to the 2013 season, but here is where Cubs prospects stand as of now according to Mayo. To check out the entire top 100 list and to read a little more on these Cubs prospects.
1. Javier Baez – SS (#24)
When the Cubs picked Almora they new his bat was going to play and that is exactly what happened. The Cubs top pick from 2011 was outstanding in his time with Peoria this year hitting .333/.383/.596 with 12 home runs, 33 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He struggled a bit when moving to Daytona, but overall it was very successful season for the young shortstop.
2. Albert Almora – OF (#52)
The Cubs top pick in this years draft didn’t sign right away, but when he did he didn’t disappoint. He started with the AZL Cubs and moved to Boise shortly after. Combined he played in 33 games hitting .321/.331/.464 with two home runs and 19 RBIs. He also hit 12 doubles.
3. Brett Jackson – OF (#74)
It has been an interesting year for Brett Jackson who has dropped a bit in the prospect watch. The good news first he has made it to the show and when he makes contact does some damage as he left Iowa with 22 doubles, 12 triples, and 15 home runs, to go along with 27 stolen bases. He also plays great defense, the bad news is he has really struggled making contact striking out over 200 times between his two stops.
4. Arodys Vizcaino – RHP (#76)
Vizcaino was considered one the Braves best young pitchers and was deemed untouchable last year. Things changed a bit this year as he missed the entire season after elbow surgery in March. The Cubs are very pleased to have acquired Vizcaino, but it remains to be seen how he will recover from surgery. Lets hope it is as a starter, but at the least he is a power arm out of the pen which the Cubs need badly as well.
5. Jorge Soler – OF (#77)
Jorge Soler did quite well in getting accustomed to baseball in America. He is still very raw, but at 20 the Cubs feel very strongly he will be a big contributor to the big club in the future. He spent time with the AZL Cubs and moved to Peoria where he finished the year. He combined to hit .299/.398/.463 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in just 34 games.
6. Matt Szczur – OF
The speedy outfielder had a nice season in Daytona hitting .295/.394/.407 with 38 stolen bases, but struggled a bit in 35 games with Tennessee.
7. Trey McNutt – RHP
McNutt did not have the year he was looking to have going 9-8 with 4.26 ERA. He struggled a bit and was moved to the bullpen, but maybe it will be better for him and the Cubs.
8. Junior Lake -SS
Lake played the entire year in Tennessee and did a pretty good job going .279/.341/.432 with 10 home runs, 50 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He is still very raw and will continue to work on his game.
9. Pierce Johnson – RHP
The Cubs took Johnson with the 43rd overall pick in this years draft and he did quite well making six starts, two with the AZL Cubs and four with Boise.
10. Josh Vitters – 3B
The former first round pick, number 3 overall finally put it all together this year in Iowa hitting .304/.356/.513 with 17 home runs and 68 RBIs. The PCL All Star got the call up, but has struggled so far with the Cubs, but at only 23 the future is still very bright for Vitters.
11. Dillon Maples – RHP
It took a while for Maples to make his first appearance, but when he did he showed signs of what he could be. He was a bit inconsistent in his six appearances, but he will have more opportunities next season to show what he has. He has tremendous upside.
12. Robert Whitenack – RHP
Coming off of Tommy John surgery Whitenack struggled pitching for Daytona going 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA. Although the numbers don’t look good, remember he is coming off of major surgery and has good upside.
13. Dan Vogelbach – 1B
Not many Cubs prospects did as much damage as Vogelbach did this year. The big first baseman played in 61 games this season between the AZL Cubs and Boise Hawks. He hit .322/.410/.641 with 17 home runs and 62 RBIs.
14. Ben Wells – RHP
A 2010 draft pick the 19-year-old Wells missed most of the season with a right elbow strain. He made a few appearances at the end of the year, but will look to stay healthy in 2013.
15. Paul Blackburn – RHP
Another 2012 draft pick Paul Blackburn was chosen 56th overall out of high school. He made nine appearances for the AZL Cubs going 2-0 with a 3.48 ERA.
16. Jeimer Candelario – 3B
Candelario played the entire season at Boise and at only 18 the corner infielder showed he can hit a little bit. The switch hitting Candelario hit .281/.345/.396 with six home runs and 47 RBIs.
17. Gioskar Amaya – 2B/SS
Amaya played his season in Boise and put up some good numbers. He his .298/.381/.496. The 19-year old filled up the stat sheet with six doubles, 12 triples, and eight home runs. He also drove in 33 and stole 15 bases.
18. Tony Zych – RHP
Zych shared time between Daytona and Tennessee out of the bullpen. He combined to going 5-4 with a 3.67 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 61.1 innings.
19. Alberto Cabrera – RHP
Cabrera, who moved to the bullpen this year started in Double-A, but quickly moved to Triple-A before finally ending up with the big club. His minor league numbers were really good going 4-1 with 3.11 ERA with 74 strikeouts to only 14 walks. He has struggled since coming to the Cubs, but we’ll see where he factors in going forward.
20. Marcus Hatley – RHP
Hatley pitched well in Tennessee out of the bullpen going 3-1 with a 3.40 with 46 strikeouts in 45 innings. He then got the call to Iowa where he struggled in his time there.
It is good to see the Cubs have five players who are inside the top 80 in MLB. You can also see the emphasis the Cubs placed on pitching, drafting Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn in this years draft as well as bringing in Arodys Vizcaino in the Paul Maholm deal. Looking a little further into things is the talent Theo Epstein and company brought in this year. They obviously brought in the three pitchers above as well as Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. three of those five are inside the Cubs top five and Pierce Johnson makes it four in the top 10. The exciting thing is there are more who they brought in who I would guess are close to cracking this top 20 and who may even show up in the top 20 before the 2013 season gets underway. Keep checking back this offseason as we will talk more in-depth about these prospects as well as many more.
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In somewhat of a shocking move today, well depends on who you ask I guess, Oneri Fleita the Cubs VP of Player Personnel (former) has been given his walking papers. Just last September Fleita was given a contract extension by Tom Ricketts, keep in mind this was before Theo Epstein was brought in to take over. Fleita was outstanding when it came to dealing with the Latin American talent, and losing that could hurt, but I’m guessing the decision here might have been mutual. Fleita is going to be a hot commodity on the open market as he had over 15 years experience with the Cubs and a tremendous track record. The reason I say that it could be mutual is I wouldn’t be surprised if Fleita is on to bigger and better things, and he wouldn’t be able to do that unless he was fired because of said contract extension last year.
Up until this year Fleita was the head man overseeing everything having to do with the Cubs farm system. Enter Theo and Jed, they brought in Jason McLeod to assume that role before this season with Fleita acting as second in command. With the recent promotion of Tim Wilken to special assistant, and bringing in Jaron Madison to be the new scouting director, Theo is starting to make his mark on the Cubs organization as a whole and how he wants it run, and who he wants running it. Best of luck to Oneri, we will have more details if and when they emerge.
[UPDATE 1:24 PM] Theo means business today, according to Paul Sullivan, the Cubs have re-assigned Ari Kaplan from Manager of Statistical Analysis to a consulting position. Sullivan continues, letting us know that the Cubs have eliminated Chuck Wasserstrom’s position which was Manager of Baseball Information, Wasserstrom had been around forever, and per Toni Ginetti, the Cubs are looking to find a new position for Scott Nelson who was the director of player operations. The deck has officially been shuffled, we will be back with more.
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When Theo Epstein came on board this off-season one story he told really stuck with me. It was when Theo was with Boston in 2011, and it was during the 2011 first year player draft. As the rounds flew by, Theo remarked in the war room that the Cubs finally “got it” in regards to the players that they were drafting. On one hand it’s a sobering statement considering I’ve been a fan of a team that was viewed by other teams as basically incompetent when it came to drafting and building a strong farm system. On the other hand it might have been the first time that Theo had the thought of joining the Cubs to see this process through. I didn’t like a lot of what Jim Hendry and company did here in Chicago, but there were some positives, and the 2011 draft class is one of them. That draft class signaled the change in philosophy for the Cubs, and Theo has assumed control and the responsibility of making sure that the organizational depth gets better each year.
The reason I’m writing about this today, or at least the article that prompted me to put my thoughts out here today, is from Jim Callis of Baseball America. If you don’t read Baseball America, or Jim’s work I highly suggest you do as he is a tremendous prospects resource. Any way, a couple of weeks back he published BA’s top 50 midesason prospects list which featured Javier Baez coming in at 25th overall (2011 1st round draft pick). Jim followed up that list with a new midseason prospect report that includes where some of the 2012 draft picks would be ranked. All any Cubs fan has to do is take a look at this list to see the impact of Theo Epstein so far.
#25 – Javier Baez (2011 – 1st Round Pick) – Hendry
#31-32 – Albert Almora (2012 – 2nd Round Pick) – Theo
#36-37 – Jorge Soler (2012 – FA Signing) – Theo
Just like that the Cubs have three players in the top 40, two of which have yet to pick up a bat in a game as a professional. By the end of the year these players could be higher, and there could be even more players on the list. This list doesn’t include Anthony Rizzo who was called up in late June, but he would have been a top 10, maybe top 5 prospect at this point. Instead he has stabilized a Cubs team that was in a free fall to the tune of a 12-4 record since June 25th.
The one thing that is clearly lacking from an improved Cubs system is not only pitching depth, but impact, power arms. Enter the trade deadline, and Theo’s next test. The Cubs have a countless number of players that can and most likely will be traded by July 31st. With these trades hopefully comes some of that pitching depth that has been absent from the Cubs system forever. The 2012 draft, which we will expand on very soon, brought in a number of quality, yet unproven arms, at least at a professional level. If just a couple of those pitchers take big steps and Theo hits big on the impending trades then we might be talking about a top 10, maybe even top 5 farm system by this time next year.
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It hasn’t been the best week for Starlin Castro, or the Cubs for that matter. In the past week Castro has attempted a stolen base and didn’t slide (you rarely see that), and more troubling forgot how many outs there were on a potential inning ending double play so he didn’t even attempt to turn it. Some people say that it doesn’t matter because the guy would have beat the throw, wrong, it does matter, and it’s everything that Sveum, Theo, and the whole Cubs organization is trying to get rid of. The result of this rough week was Dale Sveum putting Castro on notice, ““It’s something that’s obviously unacceptable at any time,” Sveum said. “Whether we could have turned the double play is irrelevant to not knowing how many outs there are in the most important part of the game. These things have to stop happening or we’re just going to stop playing [him]. These kind of things are things my son does in high school. Maybe …. I’ll have a good talking to him. It’s the last straw. If he wants to play, he better start getting his head in the game, period.” Sveum has it exactly right, this can’t go on, and Sveum handled it correctly, something Cubs fans could learn from.
The overwhelming majority of Cubs fans be it on twitter, message boards, etc. are clamoring for Castro to be traded now. The erroneous USA Today report claiming that Castro could be had for the right price was what planted the seed in the head of Cubs fans, like Inception. Then Castro’s recent “brain farts” just made the thought of trading Castro make so much sense. Any good General Manager listens to offers for every player because there is no way of telling what another team thinks your player is worth until you hear what they will give up. That said, a great General Manager knows when to say no thanks, we will keep our superstar. I can see the argument from fans, I really can, move Castro and get two great prospects in return. I can see why some would say that, but I can’t see why a handful of mistakes from a 22-year-old are grounds to be traded. That leads me to ask the question, do Cubs fans really know what they have in Starlin Castro? My answer, no, they don’t.
Let’s break down the two different scenario’s that would be a reason to trade Castro. First, let’s say that some team will offer the Cubs two A level prospects in return for Castro. Seems like the perfect scenario for a rebuilding club that needs to get better in many areas. Plus the Cubs have the likes of Junior Lake and Javier Baez, both shortstops for now, rising through the system. Here is my problem with that. Junior Lake is the same age as Starlin Castro, yet fans can’t get enough of Lake because he is “already” at Double-A Tennessee. Guys, Starlin Castro received five Rookie of the Year votes in 2010, made the National League all-star team in 2011, and also received 23 MVP votes in 2011…. Junior Lake is in Double-A. Javier Baez is the other kid that gets mentioned when the talk of moving Castro comes up. You think Castro looks listless on the field, wait till you see Baez. The kid knows he’s good, and when that happens they come across to the average fan as not caring about their craft. Problem is the game is so easy for them and it has been for so long, kind of like it is for Castro right now. Baez currently sits at Low-A Peoria, and he’s doing well, he’s 19 years old….Starlin Castro hit .300 at the Major League level when he was 20. Seeing a trend here? Any “prospect” is just that, a prospect, no one knows how they will develop, why take the chance of having a prospect become a good player when Castro already is and he could be great. Same goes for what the Cubs would receive in one of these deals. There is no guarantee that anyone received in a deal, no matter how highly praised they are, turn out to be anything close to Castro, it’s not worth the risk.
The second scenario where Cubs fans could justify moving Castro is his mental lapses on the field during games. Think about that for a second, some Cubs fans are saying that an acceptable reason for saying goodbye to a 22-year-old shortstop that has 416 career hits in 338 career games is that he didn’t slide, or he forgot how many outs there were…. really? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for Castro, and I agree with the way Sveum is handling it by threatening a benching, but that’s it. Sure Castro needs to start focusing a lot better when playing this game, but his lack of focus is not even close to an adequate reason for dealing Castro. According to these fans then when Castro strolls into Wrigley five years from now (27 years old) and goes 4-for-5 with a home run, a triple, two stolen bases, and 4 RBI’s off of our still trying to figure it out pitcher it will be okay because he thought there was one out in an inning instead of two outs five years ago.
I have no problem with Cubs fans offering their opinion on what to do with Castro, but the fact that they think there is a need to do something with Castro other than sit back and watch him develop into an elite shortstop proves my point. Cubs fans do not know what they have in Starlin Castro. I know that the last thing fans need to see when a team is bad is a player that has repeated mental lapses. It’s easy to take your frustration out on Starlin Castro, but what he does contributes more towards winning than losing. Just remember who Castro’s influences at the Major League level have been. Year one, Lou Piniella on his farewell tour. Year two, Mike Quade who tried the approach that so many Cubs fans are right now, throw the best and youngest player on the team under the bus, we see how that worked out. Both years, Aramis Ramirez, if we learned anything from Aramis it was how not to hustle, how not to field your position, and how to care less about the game. Castro will get better with his focus, and with his production which is already terrific, if he doesn’t, he will sit down for a few games, but he will still be a Cub, and rightfully so.
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A lot has been made about the Cubs re-dedication, or should I say dedication to the defensive side of the game this Spring, but is it just all talk? I know it’s early, but the numbers suggest that maybe the Cubs are on to something. Through three spring training games last year the Cubs committed a whopping nine errors, this year, one. The typical excuse used by many, including the coaching staff last year was that it was early, and mistakes will happen. Well, maybe that’s why that coaching staff, well most of it, is now unemployed. Ballplayers are ballplayers, and typically most of them learn the fundamentals at a very early age, that doesn’t mean that those players shouldn’t continue to practice them. Half the battle with defense is a players desire to actually field a ball the correct way, for years Alfonso Soriano was allowed to hop when making catches. Aramis Ramirez was allowed to ole balls left and right, and there was no consequence, more importantly it never changed, those days are over.
Yes Cubs fans, you read that correctly, and it’s not up for discussion according to Cubs skipper Dale Sveum, “It’s Bryan LaHair’s job, and it’s not his to lose. It’s his job and the guy has earned the right to have it and he’s earned the right for me to have a lot of patience too if he’s not getting off to a good start.” As Dale Sveum begins to dive into his first camp as the Cubs manager, he is starting to piece together what the opening day lineup will look like. Much to the surprise of many, the first decision that was made was that of Brian LaHair not only starting at first base, but hitting 4th, arguably the spot in the lineup for a teams biggest run producer. Cubs fans got a taste of LaHair at the end of last season, and one could say that LaHair’s performance was one of the few bright spots in a very dark season. In 59 at bats last season LaHair hit a respectable, if not solid .288 with a .377 on base percentage. That type of on base percentage was unheard of for a Cubs player last year given the complete lack of discipline and patience at the plate from the team as a whole, in fact LaHair’s OBP led the team, not counting Steve Clevenger who only had 4 at bats.