Category: Insight

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.

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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?

It’s Tough Being a Cubs’ Fan…

We as Cubs’ fans have learned through the years that it’s tough being a fan of our beloved team. From the longest non-championship drought in sports history, the countless number of losing seasons, the humiliating defeats, the bitter taste of the 2003 NLDS; the list is endless. But on personal level, the toughest part of being a Cubs’ fan is the constant trash talking.

I’m not talking about the meaningless banter of “the Cubs suck” or “the Cubs’ fans are losers.” I’m referring to the trash talking that is based on facts, especially from fans of winning teams.

Being that I live in Kentucky, I unfortunately work with a lot of fans from the NL Central. Fans of the Cardinals and Reds are strongly represented throughout my work place and I am not a closet Cubs fan, which comes at a price.

The typical water cooler sports talk involves the latest news of our teams, which I unfortunately am very limited with reporting positive news of the Cubs. But I have enlightened others to the performance of the starting pitchers, the play of a few players and the development of the AAA players. But the razing quickly ensues.

Comments like: “the Cubs have been rebuilding for 103 years,” “the last time the Cubs won the World Series [insert factual information from the early 1900’s here],”the Cardinals have won 11 World Series since the Cubs won their last,” etc. There is nothing I can retort with and all these statements are true facts!

But, as I have for the past 20 plus years being a Cubs fan, I remain loyal, faithful, committed and hopeful of our Cubs. I take the jabs on the chin and appreciate the clever, thoughtfulness of some comments, and keep on trucking. This is why Cubs fans are the best fans in the world.

So while the Cubs may lose 100 plus games this season and cause us to hang our heads in humility, I’ll continue to support our Cubs and patiently wait for the Cubs to end this amazingly embarrassing losing streak.

In Theo we trust!

Changes the Cubs Must Make… Now!

Cubs’ fans know, just as the previous 103 seasons, this is likely not the year.  Expectations of ending the longest drought of a professional sports team without a championship is unlikely to occur during the 2012 MLB season. However, amassing countless number of losses is greatly unacceptable. Many fans would be grateful if the Cubs finish one game above .500, but doubt this will likely happen (read Bullpen Brian’s post of the subject here). I simply ask the Cubs to be contenders in each game, playing one game at a time and giving the fans the best possible lineup from our club for each game. Here are my two suggestions to Dale Sveum and the Cubs’ ownership that need to change now!

Improve the Bullpen

Every game when the Cubs have a lead and Wood comes in as the setup man and/or Marmol comes in as the closer to get the win, Cubs’ fans will be holding their collective breathes all season long; I’m sure the organization and coaching staff will do the same. The issue is these two pitchers are the veterans of the bullpen. If, and when, one of them struggles, the depth of experience within the pen is cut in half. And if both of these pitchers struggle as we’ve seen in the first two games of the season…!?

The Cubs recently called up Rodrigo Lopez, a 10-year veteran righty who made his season debut last night (2IP, 0H, 0ER, 1K, 1BB) and also have Shawn Camp, an 8-year veteran righty who is 0-1 in relief appearances this season (3.1IP, 7H, 3ER, 3K, 0BB). But both pitchers are 36 years-old, likely nearing the end of their careers and are not a longterm solution.

The Cubs have three active relief pitchers with a combined three years of experience in Lendy Castillo (23), Rafael Dolis (24) and James Russell (26). The three relief pitchers have combined for 6.1IP, 1H, 1ER, 5BB, 4K, 1.00ERA, 0.86WHIP. The trio has promising numbers, well, at least better than Wood and Marmol have performed so far this season. If the Cubs’ organization is not going to pursue options outside of the organization, then Sveum should focus on developing these pitchers throughout the season to establish potential setup men and/or a future closer.

Reorder the Batting Lineup

Many analyst/fans agree Starlin Castro is a great player and possible future star at shortstop, but he is in wo-way shape or form a #3 power hitter. I believe the theory behind Sveum placing Castro third in the batting order is in belief if the first two batters get on base and Castro can duplicate his batting average from 2011 (.307: 207 of 674), than the Cubs will ultimately score runs often. However, my arguments for moving Castro back to first in the order are as follows:

1) The third position in the batting lineup should be a guy who can physically handle the position, but more importantly, mentally affect the game. He should rattle the nerves of an average pitcher from the opposing team, while also giving you the potential for late game heroics. Castro does not have this effect. He only hit 10 home-runs in 2011 with 674 AB. The power to hit balls out of Wrigley with the wind blowing in is not there and the intimidation he projects is less than many batters in the same position (as seen in the 9th inning against the Brewers).

2) Castro had 24 stolen bases throughout 2011 and has the speed to improve on this number for 2012. Granted Castro has four stolen bases within the first week of the season, his attempts will be limited throughout the season if even one batter ahead of him reaches base. With the aggressive base running Sveum wants to use, Castro could easily be in scoring position before the second batter even leaves the box. This would greatly improve the potential for runs being scored within the first inning and thereafter. He would also intimidate pitchers by his on-base presences and potential for stealing bases.

3) With his .307 batting average from 2011, Castro is bound to reach base. Soriano has hit 20+ home-runs in each of his last 10 seasons and is currently batting a .353 with four RBIs. Soriano has the power and presences needed that a #3 hitter HAS to have. He intimidates pitchers and can change the outcome of a game with one swing of his bat. He has the experience and confidence to bat in that position with runners in scoring position.

As I stated, realistic Cubs’ fans don’t hold high expectations for this season, however, that doesn’t mean a high number of losses this season will be easily tolerated. This fan would like to see the perviously mentioned changes to occur sooner than later, especially the reshuffling of the batting order.

What are your thoughts?

10 Things We Know After Tonight’s Game

Few things we know are for certain going into tomorrow’s 10 April 2012 series of MLB games:

1) The Brewers are a fundamentally sound ball club at the plate: advancing runners, sacrifice flies and scoring on squeeze bunts down the line.

2) Sveum is going to use the season in order to develop the young players of this ball club; winning isn’t as important at this point.

3) DeJesus’ arm will be sore after throwing at least four cross-field throws to 3rd and home plate from right field.

4) Soriano was unable to chase down fly balls that a younger left fielder would have been able to snag. What we are not certain of is why: is it age, past hamstring problems, other injuries or commitment issues?

5) Maybe it was the intra-division rivalry, but Braun faced negative reactions during his first game away from the safety of his home field. This will likely continue throughout the season.

6) Cubs’ fans are mixed about Ramirez’s return to Wrigley, and the errors continue as seen in during bottom of the 9th.

7) This young Cubs team is full of fighters who will not quit, even when down four runs in the bottom of the 9th (as many fans felt differently during the past few seasons).

8) Axford is not invincible.

9) Whoever tracks the attendance record for Cubs home games may not be the best attendance record keeper in the MLB. The reported attendance was 38,136. I watched from home, but there seemed to be a lot of empty seats for only having 3,000 less in attendance from the home opener.

10) Cubs’ fans are diehard and will tweet all game long and thereafter!

It was another loss, but this loss stung much less than the previous two and I’m left with a feeling of hope for the remainder of this series.

Stay Classy Cubs Fans…

I was fortunate to attend Cubs’ Opening Day for the start of the 2012 MLB season (a great recap of the game can be found here). While driving back to Fort Knox, I listened to ESPN 1000 to catch highlights of opening day from around the league. Instead, what I found myself listening to was disheartened Cubs fans angry and bitter about the Cubs opening day lose. I had to turn off the radio, I felt so betrayed.

Fans commented on many aspects of the game: stating this was typical Cubs fashion, a sign of things to come throughout the season, terrible pitching from the bullpen, poor decisions from Sveum, a lackluster ball club, Theo should become accustom to these events and many others. These were not the same Cubs fans I have read and listened to throughout spring training. Where was the excitement, the hope, the understanding that the organization is in a revamping stage?

Consider the following factors:

1)     Before Wood/Marmol gave away the Cubs’ lead, Dempster pitched an impressive game (7-2/3IP, 2H, 3BB, 1ER, 10SO). However, it took Dempster three innings to adjust to the weather conditions (explained in my next point) and to the home plate umpire’s strike zone. Dempster struggled with his command early (his three walks were in the first/third innings) and gave up two big hits (which could have resulted in seven runs for the Nationals, but thankfully the wind was blowing into Wrigley). Wood had 25 pitches and Marmol had 16 pitches to make adjustments; it took Dempster 54 of 108 pitches to make these same adjustments before he ultimately gained his composure and retired the next 11 batters. Wood also had 41,000 fans chanting on opening day with a 1-0 lead, which would shake any vets’ nerves.

2)     The drastic change in weather conditions between Mesa, AZ and Chicago was evident for Dempster and Wood. Granted, the weather in Chicago has been above average this spring, the average temperature throughout March in Mesa was 77 degrees (84 degrees the last 10-days of March). Yesterday’s high temperature was 49 degrees with winds bellowing between 17-22mph during the game. The cold was obviously hindering Dempster and Wood’s grip and control of the ball as they both blew hot air on their pitching hand in attempts to warm-up.

3)     Yes, the Cubs have struggled with base running and the coaching staff indicated they worked on this area throughout the spring. Joe Mather’s performance yesterday has fans scratching their heads in wonderment, thinking “Really!?” Understand, Mather came into the game as a pinch runner, standing on third, representing the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning, on opening day. Should he have run? No. Why did he run? More than likely the excitement got to him. This is in no-way shape or form an indication of unimproved base running.

Granted, Cubs fans have every reason to be disgruntled with the organization throughout the past 103 seasons. However, if I felt that the true blue Cubs fans were betraying their team after just one game (the first game) of the season, I’m sure the Cubs players/organization feel the same way. My advice to Cubs fans: remain loyal to your team; don’t go off the deep-end after the first blown game of the season (it happens in 162 games!); and have hope, understand the organization is revamping and look forward to the next few seasons – we’re moving in the right direction.

IN THEO WE TRUST!

Can’t Make Opening Day? Don’t Worry, We’ve Got You Covered…

Do you have “opening day blues” because you are unable to attend the Cubs 2012 home opener at Wrigley Field? Are you hoping for some “opening day miracle” to occur with tickets falling into your lap (like the author of this post; having won two tickets from Paul Maholm)? Are you chancing catching the game by scalping tickets in front of Wrigley Field April 5th? If you feel as if all hope is lost and your 2012 MLB season is ruined, don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

Having been a Navy brat, and now enlisted in the Army for the past 10 years, I have moved frequently and often. I have had many different opportunities to experience baseball on TV. But no broadcast equals that of a Cubs game live on WGN.

One of my fondest memories from my youth, and still occurs to this day, is summer time baseball. Having the windows open in my house, a warm/humid breeze blowing around me, the smell of hotdogs and hamburgers cooking on the grill, opening a cold beverage of my choice (a few additional choices became available once I came of age) and watching Chicago Cubs baseball recreates a romantic nostalgia that many fans look forward to after a long cold winter. Especially if you’re from Northern Illinois.

Len and Bob (Twitter: @LenandBob) conduct a very entertaining broadcast for our beloved Cubs. They talk of past, present and future Cubs, the current game, upcoming games and MLB news. They discuss game day events from around the ballpark, respond to emails live on TV and even encourage “tweets” from followers during live broadcasts. Their commentary is upbeat, joyful and clever.

The production staff does a great job of showcasing not only the game, but the players, the fans, the atmosphere and Wrigley Field. Each and every game I have watched, I have felt as if I was at the ballpark without even leaving the comfort of my home. They really do an amazing job of highlighting the entirety of Cubs baseball.

So I encourage you to hold your head high if you are unable to attend the Cubs Opening Day at Wrigley Field. With the unseasonably warm weather around the nation, invite friends over, bust out the grill, open a few cold beverages of your choice (responsibly), bring out the Corn Hole boards/bags and tune in to WGN on April 5th at 1:20pm CST to experience the beginning of the Cubs 2012 season. You’ll be happy that you did.

And if all else fails, you can follow this author on Twitter @Helms83 as I will be at Wrigley Field for the home opener and posting tweets/pictures. I’m just saying…

Go Cubs, Go!