MLB’s free agent frenzy began at 12:01 (Eastern) on Friday morning….let the overpaying begin!
With the Kevin Gregg-Jose Ceda trade and the announcement that Kerry Wood would not be back with the Cubs next season, radio stations focused their attention on the Chicago Cubs. Lou Piniella on XM Radio….Jim Hendry on ESPN 1000….Ron Santo on WGN Radio….and Larry Rothschild on WGN Radio.
Here are notes from those interviews….
Lou Piniella joined Rob Dibble and Kevin Kennedy on The Show (XM Radio) Thursday afternoon and discussed his recent award and other Cubs’ topics. Piniella talked about how they must figure out a way to win games in October. He mentioned the fact they have lost their last six post-season games and how frustrating that is for everyone.
Dibble and Kennedy were extremely complimentary over the job Piniella did last season. Piniella responded to their comments by saying when a team wins games, the manager gets rewarded….when a team loses games, the manager gets booted.
Piniella said they are not satisfied once again with the way the season ended and brought up the fact that in his two years the Cubs have gone from a team that lost 96 games to a team that won 97 games. Piniella wants to rid the Cubs of the ‘loveable loser‘ tag and told Dibble and Kennedy that the bar has been raised and not only by the fans, but the team expects to win.
When the topic of the 100-year anniversary was brought up, Piniella said it did put a lot on the player’s shoulders….but in Game One there were a lot of walks, in Game Two they did not catch the ball and in Game Three they did not hit the ball. He brought up the need for a balanced lineup and the fact in the 10 games they played the Dodgers last season, they did not face a left-handed pitcher once.
Piniella mentioned his trip to Arizona a few weeks back (the organizational meetings) and said they just ‘need to tweak a relatively young lineup‘ and that not one of his players on the current roster is over 35 years old. He reiterated to Dibble and Kennedy that they are looking to add a left-handed bat and mentioned the balance they are looking for again. Piniella said a good left-handed bat would make the other manager manage. He also stated the team’s desire to get more athletic.
Piniella used the word ‘tweak‘ on several occasions when asked about their plans for changing the roster.
The Kevin Gregg deal was discussed briefly and Piniella said he spoke with Jim Hendry about Gregg a few days ago then “Jim pulled the string” on that deal earlier on Thursday.
The discussion then turned back to the Manager of the Year Award and Dibble stated he knew Piniella would rather have had the ring instead of the award. Piniella agreed and reminded Dibble that when the Reds won it all in 1990, that Jim Leyland was named Manager of the Year while Piniella finished second. And this year, Piniella received the honor and Charlie Manuel won the Series and finished second. Piniella said that managers win the awards but it is the front office that puts teams together. He added that it is a manager’s job to manage his team to their talent level and create a good atmosphere.
Kevin Kennedy brought up Geovany Soto and Piniella talked about his Rookie of the Year award. Piniella was very impressed with Soto’s offensive ability and especially with the way he handled the pitching staff. Piniella talked briefly about his Rookie of the Year award in 1969 and finished the discussion by saying that Soto will not have a sophomore slump.
Piniella stressed they are looking forward to improving the team this winter.
Jim Hendry on ESPN 1000
The Cubs GM was on the Mac, Jurko and Harry Show soon after the trade and Kerry Wood not returning to the Cubs was announced. Hendry said he had mixed emotions about what had transpired. He said they are thrilled to have Kevin Gregg and they feel he still as a lot left in the tank. Hendry added they feel it is time for Carlos Marmol and with adding Gregg it gives Kerry Wood an opportunity to get a 3-4 year deal on the open market. Wood will have more value if other teams know he will not just go back to the Cubs and sign a shorter deal for less money.
Hendry said it was unfair to keep Wood on a string and the feeling was it was strictly a business decision to not try to resign Wood. Hendry spoke with Kerry personally and the feeling was he could get a longer, better deal for he and his family elsewhere.
Hendry said there are other areas he would like to address by December. He would like to tighten up his rotation and adding a left-handed bat is a priority….but there are not many left-handed bats available. Hendry was asked about Marmol being the closer and he said they would not be assigning roles in November. Hendry added that he would like to “get the pitching lined up before the Winter Meetings.”
The final topic discussed centered on Felix Pie. Hendry brought up the fact that Pie is out of options and he needs to start hitting. Hendry said it’s “not about development at this level” and hopefully Pie will come to Spring Training ready to go.
Like Piniella, Hendry stressed the fact the Cubs will have a better team next season than they did a year ago.
Ron Santo on WGN Radio
Ron Santo joined Jim Memolo on Thursday night to discuss the end of Kerry Wood’s tenure in Chicago. Santo said the news came as a big surprise. He said another club might be willing to go to a three-year deal with Wood. Santo, like most, thought Kerry would always be a Cub.
Santo thinks Kevin Gregg is a good addition and that Jim Hendry made a good trade. Santo brought up the fact time and time again he was really surprised that the Cubs did not keep Wood. He said there has to be a real good reason and thinks that economics was the biggest part. Santo said he talked with Hendry after the season and he said Hendry was trying to resign both Wood and Ryan Dempster.
Santo liked Jose Ceda but added he was a little wild and Gregg gives the Cubs another good, experienced arm in the pen.
Santo said it took him over two weeks to get over the way the season ended.
Larry Rothschild on WGN Radio
The Cubs’ pitching coach was on the second hour of Sports Central with Jim Memolo on Thursday night. The obvious topic was Kerry Wood. Rothschild said he had been with Kerry for seven years and hopes he lands on his feet and is very successful. Memolo tried to pull a little more information out of Rothschild, but he would not elaborate. He did add the decision on Wood was based on a lot of things and he does not know the details on the conversation between Wood and Hendry. According to Rothschild a team can only keep so many guys and is not sure how far Hendry went with the discussions with Wood.
Larry Rothschild mentioned Gregg was available and he feels Gregg can help the Cubs in the 7th and 8th innings.
The topic of Jeff Samardzija was discussed briefly. The Cubs are going to get Samardzija innings in the spring and see how he can help the club either as a starter or as a reliever. Rothschild said he needs a second and a third pitch. Rothschild said Samardzija is a solid young pitcher with good stuff, very athletic.
Ryan Dempster was also discussed and Rothschild thinks other teams could run up Dempster’s asking price. He said there are teams out there with a lot of money. He added the fact he knows ‘Demp‘ would like to stay and they would like to keep ‘Demp‘. Rothschild thinks he can maintain his performance from last season. He feels Dempster has matured into a good pitcher and showed great command….other than the playoff game. He said Dempster was one of the best that he’s been around at deciphering scouting reports and figuring out how to approach hitters.
Rothschild finished with the fact he hopes the way the season ended will motivate players to come into Spring Training focused and ready to get back to work.