Archive | February, 2009

Was There a Riff Between Mark DeRosa and Lou Pinella?

Posted on 28 February 2009 by Lou

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A Chicago Sun-Times reporter recently wrote an article that said Cubs utility starter Mark DeRosa and Cubs Manager Lou Pinella “never really hit it off”.  Not really sure what that means, but I find it hard to believe.

I remember hearing DeRosa talk fondly of Pinella in his weekly conversations with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman on the Waddle and Silvy show on ESPN Radio 1000’s morning program.  I recall a story in which DeRosa was upset Pinella did not include him in the lineup the day after a bad outing for the player, and after DeRosa expressed his feeling towards Pinella, Pinella re-inserted him into the lineup because of his respect for DeRosa.  DeRosa also commented that Pinella was like a father-figure to a lot of the guys on the team.  Pinella always expected the best out of you because he believed in you, and if you couldn’t handle Pinella’s expectations, than maybe it wasn’t the best environment for someone who failed to live up to those expectations.

DeRosa and Pinella have each commented on the article:

Pinella said:  “How can they say that?  I have nothing but respect for Mark.  He played exceedingly well, I used him all over.  I think he had his best season playing for me.  I’ve never had any problems with him.”

DeRosa said:  “Whoever wrote that article is wrong.  I had a great relationship with Lou.  I respect what he did as a player, and I respect what he does as a manager.  I enjoyed playing for him.  He lit a fire under me.  That guy has it wrong.  I hope Lou didn’t feel I gave that writer any reason to think we didn’t have a good relationship, because it couldn’t be further from the truth.”

I guess that answers my question and is consistent with everything I ever heard out of DeRosa’s mouth on radio interviews.  Just goes to show you why the Sun Time is going down the tubes.  They can’t even write an accurate article and are probably trying to stir the pot to get more readers…

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Derrek Lee Looking To Play More Consistent Ball in 2009

Posted on 27 February 2009 by Lou

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Derrek Lee is on a mission.  Winning 97 games and helping the Cubs reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the 1st time in 100 years just isn’t enough.  The single goal is to win the World Series.  As Lee puts it:  “We want to win a championship bad, we all want rings, we know it’s been a long time in Chicago.  We know how bad the fans want it. But you can’ttake all that with you.  Nothing should change in the playoffs.  You should just go play.  That’s the lesson we have to learn apply.”  Lee went on to say that he thought the Cubs may have pushed too hard last fall.  Coming off of a disappointing sweep the year before against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Cubs felt like they had a lot to prove during the playoffs in the fall of 2008.  Unfortunately, the team ended up collapsing under the stress and burden of trying to win that world championship for the city of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere.

Lee is hoping to play more consistent offensively throughout the entire MLB season.  Lee put up respectable numbers in 2008 – .291 batting average, 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s – but he only hit 5 homers after the All-Star Break.  In addition, this is the 2nd consecutive year in which his power numbers have declined – in 2007, Lee hit 22 homers and drove in only 82 runs.  Compar those numbers in the 3 years preceding his 2006 broken wrist injury, and you have to think that the injury caused some decline in his bat speed or strength (2003 – 31 home runs and 92 RBI’s; 2004 – 32 home runs and 98 RBI’s; and 2005 – .335 batting average champion, 46 home runs and 107 RBI’s).

Lee’s mission is to maintain a more consistent offensive flow during the year and try to carry that offensive production into the post-season.  Lee knows that the Cubs still have a good team and believes that if the 25 guys can come together at the right time in September and October, it is very realistic to believe that the Cubs can win that elusive World Series.  “We had three bad games.  That doesn’t change the fact that we had a good team and a good season.  The best teams get to the playoffs, but the hottest teams win it.  We have to find a way to be the hottest team at the right time. ”

We hear ya Derrek – go get ‘em in 2009, and this time around, make sure you get ‘em in October too…

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Cubs Defeat Dodgers 5-3 In Spring Opener For Each Team

Posted on 26 February 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1st spring training game for both teams.  Micah Hoffpauir slugged a 5th inning grand slam to put the Cubs ahead for good.  Alfonso Soriano walked and singled in his first 2 at-bats.  On the mound, after retiring the side in order in the 1st inning, Jeff Samardzija struggled through the 2nd inning – 2 earned runs, 3 hits and 2 walks.

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Carlos Zambrano Not Pitching in World Baseball Classic

Posted on 26 February 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs and Cubs fans all across the country got a little scare when World Baseball Classic rosters were announced on Tuesday.  The Venezuelan team included Carlos Zambrano as a starting pitcher on its final list of players submitted to the WBC.

When asked about the inclusion on Venezuela’s roster, Zambrano reiterated that he is staying put in Mesa and not competing in the WBC (set to begin next month).  Zambrano has been battling an infection in his right eye and is scheduled to undergo LASIK eye surgery once the infection clears.  Zambrano is expected to make his spring training debut on Monday in Mesa.  Zambrano made 30 starts for the Cubs during the 2008 MLB season.  Zambrano went 14-6 with a 3.91 ERA.  He also pitched his first career no-hitter against the Houston Astros.

The Cub shave 3 regular players participating in the World Baseball Classic – Ted Lilly for the United States; Geovany Soto for Puerto Rico; and Kosuke Fukodome for Japan.  Earlier this week, Carlos Marmol announced that he would not be playing for the Dominican Republic in the WBC.

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Jeff Samardzija To Start Cubs First Spring Game in Mesa Against Dodgers

Posted on 25 February 2009 by Lou

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Are you ready for some baseball???

That’s right, pitchers and catcher have only been in camp for about 2 weeks now, but we’re going to get our first taste of “2009 Cubs Baseball” today when the Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.  Jeff Samardzija is set to start the game for the Cubs.

Samardzija had an impressive rookie campaign for the Cubs during the 2008 MLB season.  Samardzija started 15 games for Double-A Tennessee and another 6 games for Triple-A Iowa before being called up to the major league level in mid July.  Used to playing in front of big crowds as a wide receiver at the University of Notre Dame, the stress of playing in front of thousands of fans at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field never seemed to faze Samardzija.  Samardzija pitched in 26 games for the Cubs, going 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.  In 27 2/3 innings, he gave up 7 earned runs, walked 15 batters and struck out 25.

Now Samardzija needs to show that he deserves to be part of the Cubs 25-man roster right from the start in 2009.  He will compete with Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin and Aaron Heilman for the 5th spot in the starting rotation.  If he doesn’t win that battle, we would find it hard to believe if the Cubs do not see a prominent role for Samardzija in the Cubs bullpen.  Samardzija’s fast ball is a game changer, and if he can show good control during spring training and keep the walks to a minimum, we’ll be seeing Samardzija inside Wrigley Field for many years to come.

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Update: Cubs Sale To Ricketts Family Moving Along

Posted on 24 February 2009 by Lou

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According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Ricketts family recently sold 34 million shares of common stock of TD Ameritrade, the company founded by Joe Ricketts.  In connection with the sale of the stock, the Ricketts family lost one of its 3 board seats and Tom Rickets resigned his board seat.  Tom Ricketts has been the main player representing the family in the purchase of the Chicago Cubs from the Tribune Co.  The Ricketts family still owns approximately 18% of TD Ameritrade’s stock.

This is a good sign that the negotiations between the Tribune Co. and the Ricketts family regarding the sale of the Cubs are moving along at a good pace.  The sale probably coincides with a commitment from the Ricketts family that they have the financing to complete the deal.  the 34 million shares sold had an approximate value of $403 million.

Tom Ricketts continues to run InCapital LLC, the family’s Chicago-based investment firm.  We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear anything more concrete about the completion of the sale.

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Carlos Marmol Decides To Skip World Baseball Classic

Posted on 23 February 2009 by Lou

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Carlos Marmol has finally made up his mind.  After carefully considering whether he should pitch for the Dominican Republic in next month’s World Baseball Classic, Marmol decided to skip the WBC and hone his skills with the Cubs for the entire duration of the Cubs spring training in Mesa.  Did  competition with newly acquired Kevin Gregg for the Cubs closer job impact his decision at all?  According to both Marmol and Cubs Manager Lou Pinella, the answer was a firm “No.”

The Cubs were behind Marmol 100% if he decided to play for his country.  Pinella informed Marmol that it was an honor to play for your country and that he should do what he felt most comfortable with.

Marmol was torn over the decision, but ultimately decided it would be best for him to get in more work with Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild in anticipation for the Cubs upcoming 2009 MLB season.  “I know what I have to do to keep my body ready for the season and my arm and my mind.  That’s what I need to do.  I’m not worried about the competition.  It was hard to say no.  I’d prefer to stay here and work with my teammates and the team.  For me, it’s hard because it would’ve been my first time to go there.  It’s kind of sad.”

Cubs fans should be relieved that Marmol has elected to stay in Mesa to fine tune his control and form for the MLB regular season.  Now Pinella and the Cubs can take their time evaluating Marmol’s performance and making sure that he is ready to assume the stressful Cubs closer role.

The Cubs still have 4 other players competing in the WBC – Ted Lilly for the United States; Vince Perkins for Canada; Geovany Soto for Puerto Rico and Kosuke Fukodome for Japan.

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Back-up For Catcher Soto – Bako or Hill?

Posted on 22 February 2009 by Lou

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Bako or Hill – to be or not to be??? The race for the back-up catcher position comes down to veteran Paul Bako and youngster Koyie Hill. Bako has been around the block for several years on several major league baseball teams. Bako even caught for the Cubs during the 2003 and 2004 MLB seasons, hitting .218 for the Cubs as the back-up catcher. Bako’s main advantage is that he is a left-handed hitter – both GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella have indicated that the Cubs would like to have a more balanced offensive attack in 2009. Bako also brings experience.

Hill has spent some time with the Cubs on the big league level, but still has some learning to do. In his time in the big leagues, Cubs pitchers did comment on how well of a game he called despite his youth. But our felling here is that the Cubs take the conservative approach and go with the veteran Bako. If it doesn’t work out early on, the Cubs can then turn to the youngster Hill to fill the back-up void.

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Cubs Could Add Backup Infielder During Spring Training

Posted on 21 February 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs could face a lack of depth in the infield during Spring Training. You starters are Derrek Lee at 1st base; Aaron Miles/Mike Fontenot at 2nd base; Ryan Theriot at shortstop; and Aramis Ramirez at 3rd base. The problem lies in the fact that Miles is expected to back up Theriot at shortstop, while Fontenot is expected to back up Ramirez at 3rd base. If anything happens to the 5 “infield starters”, the Cubs could be in trouble.

Ideally, Cubs Manager would like to see Miles and Fontenot get at least 400 at-bats apiece, which should allow Theriot some ample days off during the course of the long season at shortstop. Adding another infielder who could help back up Ramirez at 3rd base would be huge for the Cubs. One name thrown around is former Cubs player – Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar can play both 1st base and 3rd base and playing more of a reserve role could help him stay healthy during the course of the long MLB season.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Pinella have not said that any pick up is imminent, but Cubs scouts will keep their eyes and ears open once spring training games start in both Arizona and Florida in the next few weeks. Hendry made a nice pick up in Reed Johnson last spring before the season started, so maybe he will be able to work some magic again right before the start of the season. We’ll keep you posted with the lasted from Mesa here at MyCubsToday!

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Could It Actually Be Possible – New Leadoff Man For Cubs?

Posted on 20 February 2009 by Lou

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Wow – can it really be true? Can we really believe Cubs Manager Lou Pinella at his word? We know it’s still early in spring training, but Pinella actually said that he wouldn’t throw out the possibility that Alfonso Soriano could hit somewhere else in the lineup other than the leadoff spot. Stop the presses, stop the presses!!!

Pinella was asked about the 3, 4 and 5 spots in his lineup, and although he was talking about Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and newly acquired outfielder Milton Bradley, Pinella also indicated that Alfonso Soriano could find himself in the mix for one of those spots. Pinella has also emphasized the fact that he wants to give Lee and Ramirez more days off during the course of the season, so who’s to say that Soriano couldn’t fill one of their spots on those off days or even more often.

Although Soriano doesn’t have the on-base percentage (.344 in 2008) or stolen base (19 in each of 2007 and 2008) numbers that you want out of your leadoff hitter, it’s hard to argue with his success for the Cubs in that spot in the lineup. During the 2008 MLB season, Soriano hit .287 in 105 games as the leadoff hitter and the Cubs won 69 of those games – a .657 winning percentage. In his other 4 games in 2008, Soriano hit 2nd in the lineup twice and 3rd and 7th in the lineup one time each. For the 2009 MLB season, other options for Pinella include Ryan Theriot, Aaron Miles, Reed Johnson, Mike Fontenot and Kosuke Fukodome (only if he shows can be more patient than he was at the end of the 2008 MLB season).

My prediction is that Soriano will remain in the leadoff spot once we make it all the way through spring training. One intriguing option, at least for me, is to put Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot. Theriot held his own during the 2008 MLB season and continues to build into an all-around dependable player. In 148 games in 2007, Theriot hit .266 with a .326 on-base percentage. In 149 games in 2008, Theriot made a dramatic improvement on both numbers with a .307 batting average and a .387 on-base percentage. With Theriot in the top spot, I would move Derrek Lee up to the 2-hole (since his power numbers have continued to decline – 22 home runs and 82 RBI’s in 2007; 20 home runs and 90 RBI’s in 2008), insert Alfonso Soriano into the 3 spot and follow them up with Ramirez, Bradley and Soto. In the 7th and 8th spots you can work with Fukodome and Johnson in center field, and Fontenot and Miles at 2nd base, depending on the match-ups. Will Sweet Lou take my free advice? I doubt it, but it would sure be nice to see Soriano in another spot in the lineup – at least for a few games in spring training…

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