The Second Week in February

It is just three short days until pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park. The countdown to Spring Training and Cactus League action has everyone thinking of warmer weather, regardless of the fact it is still winter, and all of the possibilities that lie ahead in the upcoming season.

Hot Stove Game Day aired for the last time this winter on ESPN 1000 Saturday morning. Bruce Levine had plenty of Cubs topics to discuss, including the latest on Brian Roberts. So as the players begin the trek to Mesa, here is the latest from the mill plus news and notes from around the league….

Brian Roberts

Bruce Levine and Jonathan Hood discussed the Brian Roberts rumors on Saturday morning. Levine briefly talked about the Erik Bedard deal and said Andy MacPhail wanted to max out as many players as he could with Bedard….MacPhail did receive three of the Mariners top 10 prospects from a year ago according to Baseball America. Levine said if MacPhail ends up trading Roberts, the Orioles would end up receiving 14-15 players for their 3 stars.

Levine said the Cubs and Orioles talked on Friday about Roberts, will continue to discuss the deal throughout the weekend and into the new week. Levine said he “would be shocked if something is not culminated between the Cubs and Orioles before camp opens on Wednesday and Thursday.

If the Cubs end up working a deal for Roberts, Ronny Cedeno will be dealt according to Levine….he said Cedeno is number one on the list. Sean Gallagher would be traded and possibly Sean Marshall and Matt Murton. The Orioles are very interested in Donnie Veal as well and the Orioles will receive 3 to 4 players for Roberts.

Hood asked Levine what a possible Roberts trade would do to the Cubs rotation. Levine said Jeff Samardzija could be a factor this season (possibly June or July) and is one prospect to “keep an eye on.

Levine stated toward the end of the show if the Cubs trade Ronny Cedeno for Brian Roberts, they will sign Alex Cintron….from what he has been told. Cintron will serve as the backup middle infielder.

Roberts is back on the Cubs’ wish list according to Chris DeLuca. The Cubs need Roberts to be their leadoff man, move Alfonso Soriano down in the lineup and free up Mark DeRosa to be the super utility man are among the reasons given by DeLuca for Jim Hendry adding Roberts.

DeLuca said Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno are the names he is hearing the most and Sean Marshall could also be included in the deal. The Orioles are interested in Felix Pie.

The Bad Oriole would rather have Eric Patterson than Ronny Cedeno but they question if Peter Angelos will allow Brian Roberts to be traded.

Jason Marquis

Levine discussed the possibilities still exists that Jason Marquis could be traded. The Cubs continue to “field calls” about Marquis and he said Marquis does have value around the league. Levine mentioned the Mets, Red Sox (Curt Schilling’s injury) and the Angels (Kelvim Escobar’s injury) could be possible destinations for Marquis.

Pat Hughes

The voice of the Chicago Cubs was on ESPN 1000 Saturday morning with Levine and Hood. Pat Hughes discussed his ongoing project, Baseball Voices. Hughes has assembled CD’s with highlights of the careers of the greatest announcers in the history of the game….including Harry Caray. For fans and historians of the game, this is a must have. Hughes has done a tremendous job with these wonderful collections.

Hughes talked about the upcoming season and pronounced Kosuke Fukudome’s name correctly right off the bat….did we expect anything less? Hughes talked about his love of the game and mentioned an announcer has to have fun in order to be good at his job. It is easier to call a game when the team is winning and is in a pennant race and it is much more challenging to do the job when the team is losing, unless you love your job according to Hughes. Baseball is fun and Pat Hughes helps make it so.

Jonathan Hood asked Hughes how good he thought the Cubs will be this year. Pat responded with, “If we stay healthy it could be a very good year.” Hughes said the health question is always front and center for all 30 teams. Hughes went on to say the rotation behind Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly is a concern to him as well as the bullpen, especially the closer.

Aramis Ramirez is one of the most productive third basemen in the game and Alfonso Soriano should be better in his second year with the Cubs. Hughes specifically mentioned Geovany Soto and what he could bring to the Cubs offense. Lou Piniella is surprisingly underrated around the league according to Hughes. Piniella is well respected by the players and has shown the ability to make the right moves when necessary. But Hughes added a manager is only as good as the health of the club.

Levine and Hood

Other Cubs’ topics discussed on Saturday morning included the bullpen. Levine and Hood talked about how good Carlos Marmol was in winter ball but did mention Marmol blew his first save the other night. Levine added that the argument could be made Carlos Marmol was the most important Cub last year.

Levine believes Bobby Howry is the front-runner to land the closer’s job with Kerry Wood being a wild card. Carlos Marmol could be more effective in the role he had last season….the bridge between the starter and the setup men. Marmol did get the Cubs out of a lot of “sticky” situations last year.

The Cubs

A report from Yahoo Sports ranked the catching corps in the National League. The Cubs came in 9th. Geovany Soto has a good arm and is mobile” while Henry Blancofits the catch and throw profile of a backup.

Spring Training

While in Arizona this year for Cactus League games, check out the ‘Pink Ponyaccording to the Sun Times. Been there, done that….decent steak and a good atmosphere. The Phoenix/Scottsdale area is full of great places to dine after a full day of baseball.

From Around the League

Dayn Perry talked about the top free agents still remaining as camps open this week. In his top 10…. #2 Corey Patterson, #3 Kenny Lofton and #9 Sammy Sosa.

The Reds signed Kent Mercker to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

No Football, No Problem

A video of Jim Hendry for your viewing pleasure.

Finally…. A report in the Daily Herald talked about the fact baseball is close to being just about baseball again. In regards to the Cubs, “At this time of the year, even a Cubs’ championship seems possible.” Apparently the Osher Institute thinks so as well, they picked the Cubs to win the World Series this year and have declared, “The curse is over. The Cubs will be champions of Major League Baseball in 2008.

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt