Meeting Your Idol

Growing up in the 80s and 90s I was a Braves/Cubs fan. I liked the Braves cause my Dad did, but I liked the Cubs because my favorite player was Ryne Sandberg. I wanted to play 2B/SS in little league just like Ryno, and was disappointed every time I played LF or pitched.

I collected every Ryne Sandberg baseball card I pulled from a pack of cards or could trade for. I had t-shirts, jerseys, pictures, posters any and everything of him. I honestly could not tell you why at the age of five or six I chose him as my favorite, but I never wavered.

Flash forward to the present. I bought tickets for the Louisville Bats game on May 12, without knowing much about who they played. The night before the game I read a Twitter post via @LouisvilleBats of Ryne Sandberg signing before the game. I had forgotten Sandberg was the Phillies AAA manager and the Bats were playing them at home. I was pretty excited at the chance to meet my childhood idol.

I’m not one to ask for autographs or to hound a celeb when I see them, but I had to make an exception for Sandberg. I arrived at the field two hours before the game started, stood in line for an 1:15 prior to him coming out and yes, even asked for an auto on my Sandberg shirt. I couldn’t help myself.

It’s been a pretty cool season so far as a Cubs fan: winning tickets to opening day, meeting Paul Maholm, winning another pair of Cubs tickets for the May 20th game (which I could not attend, so I did not accept the tickets), meeting my idol Ryne Sandberg and being able to share all these experiences with all you Cubs fans.

And I have insider scoop, Ryne will be at Ron Santo’s induction; as if that wasn’t expected, but I heard it straight from the source…

Dempster: to Trade or Not to Trade…

After posting a blog suggesting five moves the Cubs front office should make, many fans agreed with my views. However, the most discussion on varying views was that of Dempster. I discussed through the blog, other social media sites and “water-cooler chats” on why or why not the Cubs should move Dempster. Being that fans are seemingly adament on their beliefs of the topic, I decided to devote a post to the discussion.

Fans who support the Cubs retaining Dempster support their arguments by the Cubs needing a workhorse, an All-Star, a dependable pitcher who gives a team confidence on the mound. The Cubs sorely need a vital, confident focal point on a struggling team. As of now, Dempster is that player. Through five starts, his stat line of a 1.02ERA, 0.85WHIP, 36K and only allowing 4ER in 35.1IP is suggestion for an All-Star ballot; yet his record is 0-1 with four no-decisions. Dempster is off to a great start.

However, Dempster is 36 years-young. He has already spent time on the DL this season with a quadricep strain. He is in the last year of his contract, where he is to receive $14 million. Dempster is still pitching strong and clearly the “Ace” of the team. But what is the likelihood that the Cubs front office resigns Dempster and giving him the money he wants or deserves?

If the organization does not plan to resign Dempster after this season, the best option is to trade him. With the Cubs in yet another rebuild mode, trading Dempster will save money for the remainder of the season going into the next. In addition, the Cubs could acquire a RP with potential to be a closer, a young talented SP or any combination of the two.

Any team with money and in the hunt for a World Series Crown would be interested. Of course teams like the Yankees and Red Sox will be in the mix. But other teams like the Rays, Rangers, Dodgers, Braves, Indians, Orioles and even the Phillies should consider adding Dempster to their rosters. Most of these teams are leading their divisions, while others are performing well under expectations. Only two of these teams starters combined are performing in the “Top 5″ of the league, with the majority in the lower half of the league.

I would think the leading contenders would be the Red Sox – as Theo knows the young talent in the organization; the Yankees – as they have the money for any player; and the Rangers – after two World Series loses in back-to-back years have them thirsty as ever.

Yet with the Yankees and their star Closer Marino Rivera possibly ending the impressive run, would they be willing to part with a top prospect closer? Would the Cubs organization be willing to make another deal with the Red Sox? I feel the Rangers would offer the most for a SP like Dempster.

It’s too early to tell at this point, but I feel the Cubs will be fielding offers from now until August, hoping Dempster keeps performing the way he is and staying healthy. By August, the true World Series contenders will be known, weaknesses/needs will be at the fore-front of each team and the injury bug will have some teams sweating. This is when the Cubs could get the most for Dempster and better assist with the rebuilding process.

At least, that’s the opinion of this blogger.

The Times They are a Changing

Since the Cubs are rebuilding, many discussions have been held on who should stay and who should go. Here is my take:

1. Dempster: For teams who are legitimate World Series contenders, Dempster would be a great addition for any team in need of an improvement to their staff. His stock is high at this point, as he is pitching lights out. But he is aging and maybe has two good seasons left. Epstein should be looking to acquire a closer or a highly sought after young SP with great potential.

2. Soriano: Like Dempster, Soriano is aging and nearing the end of his career. He could benefit any team in need of an experienced bat and outfielder either due to improvement at position or injuries. The Cubs won’t get a great deal for him, but acquiring developmental players at key positions is worth the risk.

3. Soto: With Clevenger showing signs of promise, and Castillo serving as a backup, the Cubs could move Soto for developmental players, but more-so to free up money. I think the risk is worth the possible reward.

4. Wood: I really hope Kerry will retire as a Cub by the end of the season. He has shown devotion, loyalty and love for this organization and it’s fans. But his body cannot handle the big leagues anymore. But if he is unwilling to retire, than he has to be sent down or cut.

5. Marmol: He just needs to go and I don’t care where. The Cubs won’t acquire much for him, but Sveum could use a new razor.

Moving these players will also free up to $47.6 million. This will give Epstein a great deal of money to make moves come the off-season. I feel these are moves that will greatly benefit the organization, giving them the best opportunity for a sorely missed World Series Championship.

Possible Cubs Roster Moves

I feel sometime shortly before or shortly after the All-Star break that this will be the Cubs lineup:

After some further research and discussions, I changed my perception of the outfield positions. I’ll attempt to explain my reasonings for certain positions.

There is really no need to discuss the infield positions, as many fans understand and mostly agree here. The outfield leaves room for discussion.

I do not believe Campana is an All-Star CF. I feel he lacks power and arm strength needed for this position. However, his speed and presence on base is such a huge asset to this team, he HAS to be in the lineup. I may be crazy, but I would love to see Campana as a 2B, freeing CF for an additional power-hitter.

I feel LaHair would have better success in RF as he is accustomed to seeing the field from this prespective having been at 1B.

With a majority of batters in the MLB being right-handed, I feel speed, reaction and experience is needed in LF. Jackson is best suited here when compared to LaHair.

With all the positions clicking, I would like to see the batting order as follows:

1. Campana/Castro 2. Clevenger 3. LaHair 4. Castro/Rizzo 5. Campana/Rizzo 6. Jackson 7. Stewart 8. Barney 9. P

What are your thoughts?

A Wild Ride with the Bullpen

The Cubs bullpen has caused many heartaches, gray hairs and collective breaths to cease. Dempster and Garza pitched gems in the first two games of the 2012 season, carrying late game leads against the Nationals, while Cubs fans helplessly watched as the bullpen seemingly gave the games away. From this moment on, fans have been overly critical and skeptic whenever a reliever begins to warm-up.

The bullpen is 3-7, with 4 SV, a 3.90ERA, in 80.2IP. Collectively, the have allowed 70H, 35ER, 45BB, 6HR and struck out 61 batters. Most notably, the bullpen has given away 3 games in which the Cubs should have walked away with a win, squandering the lead late in a game. They have also been credited with 4 additional losses when the game has either been tied or the Cubs held a 1-run lead.

To Manager Dale Sveum’s credit, he has given every player on the active roster time to adjust to the 2012 season before making any roster moves. However, Marmol’s latest meltdown prompted Sveum to finally address the bullpen woes.

After Marmol single-handedly cost the team yet another win in a 3-4 loss to the Reds in extras, Sveum announced a change at the closer position, designating Russell and Dolis as a closer-by-committee duo.

Three righties: Dolis, Bowden and Camp, and a lefty: Russell, are now the perceived bullpen rotation. The four relievers have a combined record of 3-3, a 2.37ERA, allowed 14ER, 15BB and 30SO in 48.0IP. In last nights’ come from behind victory, Camp, Russell and Dolis combined for 5.0IP, allowing 3H and no runs or walks. This is exactly how the bullpen needs to conduct business day-in and day-out.

The Cubs batters have proven the ability to get hits and score runs throughout the season, as the team has yet to be shutout. The pen allowed for the hitters to come through late in the game, tie the score and ultimately win in extras. Had the pen been able to perform in this manner earlier in the season, the Cubs could be sitting atop the NL Central, with a record of 18-10.

I would still like to see the Cubs acquire a more experienced closer, one who has confidence and can also mentor a young future potential closer. But for now, at least Sveum finally booted Marmol and I’m certain the front office is looking for trade potentials. I just hope Russell and Dolis can carry the load for the interim.

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