Even though I thought things got out of hand towards the end of Jim Hendry’s tenure with the Cubs I was happy to read today that he will be working for the Yankees as a special assignment scout. Good move by the Yankees and glad to see Jim is back in baseball. He had some good years with the Cubs, but it was definitely time for change.
Best of luck to Hendry in his new role.
As I sit here tonight about to watch the greatest rivalry in college basketball, North Carolina vs. Duke, it makes me think of the big 3 rivalries in baseball. There’s the Yankess/Red Sox, Giants/Dodgers and my favorite the Cubs/Cards.
First, let me talk about the UNC/Duke rivalry. The first game this year was great even if Duke won. And though I do not like Duke, I have a lot of respect for coach K, their players and their success. I also like how passionate their fans are. But the Tar Heels have been my team since I was a kid and a young Michael Jordan starred for Dean Smith. I’ve seen Roy Williams win two titles since becoming coach and I have a feeling he’ll win a few more before he’s finished coaching.
The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry definitely gets the most attention in baseball. I used to refer to ESPN’s Baseball Tonight as Red Sox Nation. And you can guarantee that these two teams will be televised nationally as much as possible when they play each other. Heck, the MLB Network aired their spring training game just a night ago. While I hear a lot of fans complain about these two teams, mainly Cardinal fans (remember, I live in Cardinal territory), I don’t mind watching these two teams clash.
I believe that the next rivalry, the Dodgers/Giants, is the most unique. It began on the east coast and has migrated to the west coast. WOW, MARSHALL JUST SCORED THE FIRST 2 POINTS OF THE GAME! GO TAR HEELS! Now, back to my post. I don’t know too many fans of either of these teams. Most of their fans I have met here on MLBlogs. I understand this is a fierce rivalry, but it is one that I have never experienced. I have experienced the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry in spring training a few years back for the record. Anyway, I still respect the Giants/Dodgers rivalry and definitely pay attention when these two teams play.
Finally, the rivalry I enjoy best in baseball, the Cubs and Cards. As a diehard Cub fan living in Cardinal territory it can be interesting to say the least. I imagine it would be the same for a Cardinal fan living in Cub territory. I have had total strangers approach me in stores and restaurants to talk trash to me when I’m wearing a Cub hat, shirt, jersey etc. Sometimes, it’s good natured ribbing between fans and other times people are just foolish. Every team has those fans including my Cubs so, I usually ignore these people. Anyway, I love watching the Cubs and Cards play. I’ve been on the metro in St. Lou wearing a Cubs jersey numerous times without any incidents and have had some great banter with Cardinal fans at games. I would venture to say this rivalry is the most peaceful of baseball’s big 3 rivalries.
When it’s all said and done, I think long lasting rivalries are great for their respective sports and the fans. For me, I’ve learned to respect the Duke Blue Devils and St. Louis Cardinals along with an overwhelming majority of their fans. GO TAR HEELS & GO CUBS GO!!!!
With the injury to Adam Wainwright, I truly think the Cards need to sign Jeremy Bonderman. He’s the type of pitcher that Dave Duncan could turn around and get 12 wins from this season.
Wow, the Cubs cannot seem to field the ball this spring. We’ve played 4 games and have committed 14 errors. That’s not a good sign. What’s worse than that. Carlos Silva blowing up at Aramis Ramirez. Maybe it was overblown, but you can’t have guys going at it this early in the spring. The grind hasn’t even begun yet. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.
As spring training is about to begin every fan has this sense of excitement that this will be the year their team puts everything together. This is something that I feel we Cub fans go through more than other fans. When you are a Yankees fan, you can rest assured that your team has a very strong chance of playing in the postseason and hoping for another World Series Championship. If you are a Pirates fan (sorry to my Pirate friends), you are hoping just to finish above .500 for the first time in almost two decades. The one thing these fans have in common is hope. Hope that their team meets or exceeds expectations. So, I am hopeful for a lot this season.
The first player that I will mention that I have high hopes for is Carlos Pena. The one year deal he signed is a combination of a rental and a tryout. As of today, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols could all be free agents at the end of this season. It is possible to think we “rented” Pena for a one year deal in hopes of signing one of those three players in the next offseason. Or we can look at it as a tryout for 2012 and beyond. If Pena is healthy and hits similar to 2007 numbers (I’m hoping so) then he stands a good chance to make a lot of money after 2011. Let’s see, I’m hoping he stays healthy, hits well and gives us the option of signing him to a longer deal. Yep, that’s a lot to hope for in one player. Yet, I think all of that is possible. Maybe it’s my stubborn Cub fan mentality or my optimistic viewpoint, but I cannot pretend that I don’t think it’s possible. He has a chance to do well in Wrigley this summer.
The next thing I am hoping for is a healthy season from Aramis Ramirez. We need his stick in the lineup. If Carlos Pena is to have a good year then he needs Ramirez to protect him in the lineup. I anticipate a big year from Aramis. He could be playing for a new contract since the Cubs have an option on him for 2012 worth $16 million. If the Cubs don’t exercise their option on him after 2011 it will cost them $2 million to buy him out making him a free agent. I could see that happening and then Aramis could sign a multiyear contract to finish his career with the Cubs. Anyway, he struggled with hitting and injuries last year and still managed to club 25 homers with 83 RBIs. I hope he’s healthy this year.
My next hope is a big one. A mentally sound Carlos Zambrano. I can’t believe I am typing this, but I still think he can be successful for a full season and win 20 games. I know, I know…he’s bound to blow up at some point in the season……he’s going to have one of his classic high-speed-comeaparts…..he’s going to abuse a gatorade container or get in a fight with a teammate. All of that is possible without a doubt. But it is also possible that he pitches all season the way he finished 2010. It’s possible that he wins 20 games and surprises everyone in baseball by staying focused all season long. Look at his career stats. He hasn’t had a losing record during a season since 2002. He’s got a career 3.50 ERA. He’s eclipsed 200 innings pitched 5 times. He’s won more than 15 games in a season 3 times. He’s struck out over 200 twice. So, it’s not like he’s never won or been successful. It can happen!
For the Cubs to have a successful 2011 there are a lot of things that must go right. Zambrano, Ramirez and Pena are just the tip of the iceberg. Starlin Castro must have a solid sophomore campaign. Geovany Soto needs to repeat or improve off of last season. Alfonso Soriano needs to stay healthy and produce on the field. However, I truly feel that with all the things we need to have go right, it is possible. I am not asking these guys to do something they haven’t done in the past. I am not asking for the impossible. I just want them to stay healthy and produce like they are capable of. That’s why I have HOPE!
One of my favorite Cubs is Mark Prior. When he was drafted by the Cubs I was overjoyed. He had the makings of a legitimate Cy Young caliber pitcher. And he lived up to those expectation initially. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and he’s battled health problems for several years with his pitching shoulder. Now that he is attempting one last comeback it’s nice to see him sign with the Yankees. He will be reunited with Larry Rothschild this spring and I hope he’s able to finish his baseball career on his own terms as opposed to his ailing shoulder preventing him for playing.
On another note, I read today that Kerry Wood wants a two year deal. I think it would be a wise move for the Cubs to sign Wood to a two year deal and offer incentives as well. I think he will sign with the Cubs or Yankees. Either way, I hope his career continues to rebound and that he stays healthy.
What a dynamic due Wood and Prior could have been if they had stayed healthy. Wood’s 20 strikeout game in 1998 will be one of my favorite games ever! He was lights out that day against the Astros. And Prior put together an amazing year in 2003. That’s what I expected from him every year if he had not been injured.
Anyway, enough dreaming about what might have been. There is still work to do. We have several guys that are trade candidates in my eyes. Fukudome, Wells, Gorzelanny, Baker and Carlos Silva are just a few guys I think we should consider trading. We need to bring in a pitcher like Matt Garza. (Yes, I’m fixated on him!) We could also use an upgrade at secondbase, but I don’t see that happening. Bottom line, we need to get rid of some of our older guys that don’t fit into our longterm plans. We need to evaluate which minor leaguers we want to keep and who we are willing to trade. And finally, we need to spend our money wisely! Like I’ve said before, let’s build a dynasty!
Okay, it’s only been a handful of days since the winter meetings concluded. I was hoping that the Cubs would have made some progress by now on signing Brandon Webb, trading for Chris Davis and/or Matt Garza and shopping Kosuke Fukudome and Tom Gorzelanny. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything yet. It seems like the Cliff Lee deal has all other teams on hold for the most part. I’m sick of hearing about Cliff Lee. Everytime I turn on the MLB Network all I hear about is Cliff Lee and will he go to the Yankees or Rangers, or is there a mystery team, or who offered 7 years or……..you get the idea. I’m hoping he makes up his mind soon. I think once he does sign with a team that everything else will start falling like dominoes. At least that’s what I’m hoping.
Anyway, at the beginning of this offseason I created a “TO DO LIST/WISH LIST”. Here’s my own personal update with a few minor changes.
1. Find a job for Ryne Sandberg. AAA Manager, Bench Coach, ANYTHING!!!! Just keep Ryno! Well, it appears Ryno will not be with the Cubs organization at all this season. THANKS JIM HENDRY AND TOM RICKETTS FOR RUNNING OFF A GREAT MAN! YEP, RYNO’S NOW THE PHILLIES TRIPLE A MANAGER
2. Sign, Trade or put Tyler Colvin at First Base. We signed Carlos Pena.
3. If Colvin doesn’t move to First then we need to trade Kosuke Fukudome. I still want to see Fukudome traded even though his value is probably low due to his high salary, but this is the final year of his deal. I just want Colvin to get to play everyday.
4. Starting rotation. Sign Brandon Webb and trade for Matt Garza. Make sure we keep Hak-Ju Lee if we do trade for Garza though.
5. Try to sign Cliff Lee. Okay, I know this won’t happen, but I can dream a little bit. I would rather have Garza though. He’s younger and I am tired of all the drama this offseason about Lee and where he’ll end up. We could try to trade for Greinke too, but that’s not happening either.
6. Trade Alfonso Soriano and his ridiculous contract. I really doubt this one even comes close to happening, so it’s more of a wish than anything. The only other bad contract out there I think we could even trade Soriano for is Barry Zito. I think we just live with Sori’s poor defense and hope he stays healthy and hits 30+ homers this year.
7. Sign Kerry Wood to help the bullpen. Probably could get him for a fair price. I still think this may actually have a chance at happening. Unless he wants to reunite with Larry Rothschild in New York.
8. Hire a pitching coach. We hired Mark Riggins. It’s not what I wanted, but the type of move I expected from Hendry, Quade and Ricketts.
9. What to do with Jeff Samardzija. He’s out of minor league options. I can see Samardzija being included in a trade if the Cubs don’t have any future plans for him. Personally, I say we make some moves and let Samardzija and Casey Coleman compete for the 5th spot in the rotation.
Okay, there’s my list…..updated again. Not many changes. Here’s hoping things start happening this week. I am starting to get that optimistic feeling back!