Rambling About the Cubs While Wondering If It Will Ever Get Better

Hello again, everybody. The weekend got off to a good start. The Cubs were close to finishing it out with a four-game winning streak, but the Cardinals salvaged the Sunday Night game, and then it got stupid. The bad kind of stupid … in case anyone thought there was a good kind. And while stupid is as stupid does, this was not a good week for the Cubs.

So with all of that stupidity out of the way, let’s get down to it and go rambling.

  • If you needed further proof that Samardzija is on his way out of town, you got it this week when he told the Front Office to … well, shut up, and them some.
  • And if I could guess, Theo is just way too annoyed by all of this. Things have not turned as soon as all hoped, and this just has to be very, well, annoyed by it. As Theo said, it is a non-story.
  • Ricky has gotten tossed three times. Ha. That is funny. It is good for the team to know the coach is in your corner, but he is on record for 15-18 ejections.
  • That is a Bobby Cox like trend.
  • Yes, I know it has been less than two months! I am just saying.
  • I am glad the Cubs decided to help Gordon Beckham rediscover his career this week.  That is a very nice thing to do.
  • If Olt’s average does not improve soon, Ricky is going to have to admit that the brass is thinking about sending him down. They can avoid it for about another two weeks.
  • Watching Olt rip the homers at the Cell is a tease.  The kid has talent. Here is hoping the Cubs can unleash it.
  • I really hope this whole “Crosstown Cup” thing ends soon … like yesterday. I really do not think anyone cares. I mean, does anyone care about that trophy? Seriously?
  • I really like what Rizzo is doing, and the longer he keeps it up, the longer my crazy expectations keep growing. The guy just knows how to get on base.
  • Kris Bryant is just stupid right now. Stupid good, to be exact. So, yea, I guess stupid can be good at times.
  • Are we finally seeing Castro’s power? Pundits continually talked about his impending power, and when it would arrive. He is on pace to hit 20-plus long balls.  It will be interesting to watch.
  • Yes, I am grasping at straws now. I thought the Cubs would be improved this year, but thus far, I am wrong. And that makes me look at stats. But that is all I have right now.
  • Castillo got hot really fast, and he cooled off just as quickly. He will be interesting to watch.
  • What do the Cubs do about Darwin Barney? I ask that seriously. If we are going to talk about sending Olt down, Barney has to be right behind him. I know he won the Gold Glove, but his is not the future, and his offense continues to deteriorate.
  • Hat tip to Rusin for his no-no. Let’s get him up and starting.
  • I have always been a fan of sabermetrics, but was slow to come around on tracking a pitcher’s “wins.”
  • Not anymore. The Shark is winless with one of the best ERA’s in the game. Jackson and “Wood the Lesser” have two wins each.
  • I still believe this Cubs team will have fewer losses than the two that preceded it, but there must be a great deal of improvement in the next 12 months. Must.

That is all for now.  I understand rebuilding and completely support the idea.  However, the rebuilding effort is approaching four years, and there has not been a lot. I understand the prospects are there, but if the crowd at Wrigley on Monday and Tuesday did not speak volumes, I am not sure what will.

And until next time …

Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!

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  • Ripsnorter1

    It’s real simple with Samardzija: the Cubs aren’t going to pay him because they have no money to spend. He’s not a FA this year or next. So the Cubs have a decent starter for arbitration money next year. Samardzija, despite his [ridiculous] claims that “it isn’t about the money,” is all about money. Remember, it is always about the money. So he’s running his mouth, ala Carlos Zambrano, hoping that Team Theo gets tired of his act and runs him out of town. Meanwhile, he’s pitching lights out because he wants a contract and he wants out. Team Theo isn’t going to trade a pitcher that they have over the barrell like they have Samardzija. They know he’s going to keep pitching so he can get the money. They also know that they have absolutely no intention of ever paying him. And so this is going to continue for 2014 until July 2015: a running mouth, an effective pitcher, tankers full of Blue Hope brand Kool-Aide for the fans hoping they keep him, and no Cub payday for Samardzija.

    • Richard Hood

      Rip we normally disagree on a lot of stuff but this one I totally agree with. Why move Shark this season unless you get totally blow away?

      Your youth window begins to open with Baez and Bryant hopefully making the show by next spring. You need that guy you can write in the rotation every 5 days that gives you a chance to win almost every time out. So unless Shark gets replaced by someone who is a TOR arm that is ready right now there is no need to trade him.I got a feeling that Team Theo is looking at it the same way which is why he was not moved this last off season.

      • Ripsnorter1

        Baez….having trouble adjusting at this time. Look at this quote:

        “Aside from Buxton, Baez has arguably the highest ceiling of anyone in the minors. Unfortunately, what we are seeing right now are all of the warning signs that point towards him not reaching that amazing ceiling. The strikeouts are coming in droves and his stock is slipping.”

        • Ripsnorter1

          This is why I said he reminded me of Mookie Wilson’s boy, Preston Wilson. Huge strikeout numbers. Scouts were all over the board on him as he rose through the minors because he had huge K numbers, but also they said, “Few ML hitters, when they hit the ball, have it sound like his does when the ball comes off of the bat.” Huge power. He did not become a Hall of Famer, but he did have several productive years.

          • Richard Hood

            I like the comparison to Wilson. The one I like the most is Wil Cordero and that should scare every Cubs fan that has followed the game that long. Wil Cordero was suppose to be the next everything for the Expos but just never got over the hump.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Wil Cordero would start for us right now:
            .273 lifetime hitter
            .330 OBP
            .428 slugging
            .758 OPS
            13 yr career

            Played LF, SS and 1B.
            I’d sit Sweeney and let him play.
            LOL

          • Richard Hood

            LOL that is true but he is a long way from what he was suppose to be.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Yup. Get that .400 slugging going for us. : )

          • John_CC

            More recently, Brandon Wood. It is disconcerting, but I have not given up hope, not in the least. (OK maybe a little)

        • Tony_H

          He is still just 21 and has moved up through the minors very fast.

          Kane County average age is 21.6
          Daytona average age is 22.8
          Tennessee average age is 24.2
          Iowa’s average age is 26.7

          • Richard Hood

            Average age verse level has nothing to do with our discussion Tony. There have been very few prospects that actually get a better K-rate closer to the majors. Even though I say it is a little premature to say it is a huge hole in his swing or something like that. I think that a little tempered expectation should be given at this point.

            Baez has a chance to be special there is no doubt about that. But he also screams a true slugger. When he is hot you can not get anything by him but he struggles most of the time with junk so far. Now the question is will he be able to adjust to the 6/7/8 type starters that have major league break on their pitches but not the average fast ball to man a rotation. Right now AAA is the perfect place for him to work on that.

          • Tony_H

            It actually does relate as they are more experienced pitchers and I agree he should be in AAA. He is always going to strikeout a lot, but the reason he is in AAA is to face pitchers who are like you said, 6/7/8 type starters who are more experienced and can exploit his over agressiveness.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Brian wrote, “and then it got stupid. The bad kind of stupid … in case anyone thought there was a good kind.”

    What a great quote! I think Neil ought to keep that one and use it for his quote of the day series.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Olt looked good against that AAA starter the Sox put out there for us last night.

  • Ripsnorter1

    Darwin Barney: why didn’t Team Theo just non-tender the guy last December? He had the gall to take the Cubs to arbitration. He’s getting paid $2.3 million this year!–and that after his stellar 2013 campaign.

    Trade “value?” Barney isn’t even a starter for the second or third worst team in MLB. (Houston owns the crown for the worst with one less win than the Cubs; Arizona has one more win than the Cubs but a lower winning percentage). If one cannot start for the Cubs, how desperate do you think other GMs are to acquire this .127 hitter?

    What I think will happen is that Barney plays for Your Chicago Cubs all year long. That contract will keep him on board for the ride.

    • Tony_H

      Sorry Rip, that is not the best way to see if anyone could use Barney, basing it on records. A good team that is playoff bound could have a need for a 2B that is defense first and not need offense from that spot. A team could have a need for a late inning defensive replacement because they have a big bat in the lineup that has a bad glove. Barney can play SS and I am sure 3B and OF if a team wanted to make him a super utility guy.

      • Ripsnorter1

        We shall see as time will tell. : )

        You can pick him up for your team, but I’m leaving him off of my team. : )

        • Tony_H

          I have no use for him in fantasy, no defensive points.

      • John_CC

        I’m not so sure anymore Tony. To be a “super” utility player he’d need to at least have an OBP around .300, and that would be bad. Luis Valbuena is a “super utility” player – good defense at multiple positions, decent bat but good OBP skills. He is a defensive replacement only, not even a pinch runner.

        Sorry but I am with Rip on this one (not sorry to be agreeing but sorry it is the truth) that Barney is losing any and all value he had. At this point he is a throw in on a trade just to get rid of him without having to DFA – which I’m sure they don’t want to do to their gold glover.

        • Tony_H

          Actually that is what I said on a post before this one. Barney is a throw-in type guy now. Doesn’t mean that some team would want him added, if defense is what they need.

      • mutantbeast

        Tony, nornmally we agree, but in the case of a .127 hitter who can field, you still need some offense. Even Mendoza hit around.200 or Mark Belanger.

  • Richard Hood

    I had some time this morning so I was looking a little deeper at the Cubs stat sheet. The one worrisome point I came across was team slugging. Where have all the doubles gone? I think this is actually where we miss DeJesus the most. His busting butt right out the box to get that extra base when he could set the tone last year. Right now we just do not have that hustle guy to set the tone.

    Even Bonnie, who has been solid, only has a slugging percentage of .371. Sheirholtz’s slugging is way down as is Valbuena’s. The only regulars that have a percentage over .400 are Castillo, Rizzo, Castro and Lake. We should expect better than that.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Bonifascio had one great week, and he’s quietly returning to the same player he was when KC released him. Here’s his splits:

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=bonifem01&year=&t=b

      Last 7 days: hitting .105. I don’t care if every hit you got was a HR, you are not slugging much off of that.

      Last 14 days: .205
      Last 28 days: .231 with .295 slugging.

    • Ripsnorter1

      I don’t miss DeJesus. Look at his Cubs’ stat line for 2013–he didn’t slug .400 for us. Theo didn’t get anything for him except a little salary relief.

      I don’t think the Cubs are not hustling. I think the problem is that the Cubs cannot hit. Look at those K numbers:

      Lake= 39 ks in 87 AB. It’s a miracle that he’s hitting .241. With those k numbers, combined with his low walk rate, he shouldn’t be hitting anything above .160. And he won’t as the summer continues, and pitchers get a better grip on the baseball.

      Last night: 4 AB, 3 K’s.

      Here’s a fantasy tip: whatever team is facing Lake, pick that starter for K points.

      • John_CC

        I was a supported of Junior Lake but there comes a point when you have to let go of the hopes you had for prospect. The first time I saw him in AZ three years ago I was impressed by his size, athleticism and “tools.” He was young and raw and showed all that potential.

        Well he’s not all that young anymore (24) and still very raw. I don’t see him changing his approach at the plate enough to make him an everyday hitter. It’s too bad, I hope I am wrong.

  • Tony_H

    Actually, the rebuild is approaching 3 years.

    Barney will be a throw in in a trade this summer.

    • Ripsnorter1

      Barney’s contract may make him “unthrowable.”

      • Tony_H

        I doubt it, it really isn’t that much. Look around at what some teams are paying vet utility guys. It is more than he should be paid, but in the grand scheme of tings, if a team needs a glove, it is not going to stop anyone from getting him.

    • GaryLeeT

      Even before Theo got there, the team had begun positioning itself for a rebuild. This is year 4.

  • raymondrobertkoenig

    If the Cubs address their Major League needs through trades and free agency, then the rebuild will get better.

    • Richard Hood

      It is not bad now. That is one things the fans and the media seems to look away from. We are not competitive on the major league level yet but as soon as we stripped down to the rafters we started seeing progress in the minors. If Jackson and Vitters would have panned out and Stuck would have stayed healthy we would be on the verge of competing with the next wave on the way.

      Those were big losses to the rebuild and we are now struggling to make up ground on the lost 2 years.

      • Ripsnorter1

        From 1995-2006, only 8% of 1st round draft picks became ML stars.

        Risky business building by way of the draft. Some astute trades and definitely FA make the difference.

        Brett Jackson: I feel bad for him, but it appears that he’s never going to play MLB. What a good looking kid. Does everything well, but excels at nothing. I still think that without the messing with his swing by Team Theo, he makes it.

        Vitters: didn’t work hard enough. Has the talent. Still might make a utility guy.

        With this team, I’d call both of them up and let them play.

        • Richard Hood

          I agree with Vitters. I think it is probably time to cut bait with Jackson.

        • Tony_H

          Why is it always messing with a player and not coaching? He obviously needed to work on things and that usually is associated with working with coaches. As you said, only 8% of 1st round picks become ML stars, were the rest messed with and ruined by their coaches, or is it just the numbers as not everybody can make it, only so many spots in the league.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Okay, Tony. Without the bad coaching by Team Theo, I think he makes it.

            Look, he was hitting enough to make it until they starting “coaching” him to change his swing and approach, just like they did with Rizzo and Castro.
            That’s my view. I understand your viewpoint: namely, that Team Theo is always right. You are certainly entitled to that viewpoint.

            Brett Jackson isn’t failing because we do not have an opening in our OF for him. In other words, it isn’t because there isn’t an opening in MLB for him. It isn’t even because he hasn’t the talent to make it, imo. It is confidence. It is the mental aspect of the game where he lacks, imo.

          • Tony_H

            I have never said that Team Theo is always right, no one is, not me and not even you.

            BJAX was not hitting enough in his stint in the majors and that is what led BJAX and the coaches to work on his swing. Most of the time when you are working on things you go backwards before you go forwards and sometimes it never works. I coach baseball and bowling. I always tell kids that if they want to get better they have to always be working on little things and big picture things. Some people need to rework a swing, footwork, etc. I let them know that it is their choice to do little things to try and improve what they have and realize their ceiling within that move versus doing an overhaul that will take them backwards for awhile, may never work, but if they are able to accomplish this overhaul will increase their ceiling.

            If I do that with kids, I am pretty sure that coaches that make it all the way to the majors have similar conversations.

            It is the player that makes it or doesn’t. Not the coach.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Well, his confidence is shot now.

            2011–before Team Theo’s coaching: .297 at AAA.

            2012–with Team Theo’s coaching: .258 AAA, and then the call up, and afterwards….

            2013: .210 across 4 leagues, RK, A, AA, AAA

            2014: .148 hitter.

            Finished. And I am sad for him.

            http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=jackso003bre

          • Tony_H

            Looks like most teams figured out where the hole was in his swing as well.

            He needs a fresh start somewhere. FYI – this is the type of guy that pops up in his late 20’s, early 30’s that gets a shot as a back-up, then has an injury give him a chance to start and has a good start and is the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy baseball in mid to late April.

          • Ripsnorter1

            I know–package him with Barney off to some playoff contender!

            lol

            He needs to go somewhere else. I hope he makes it, but he’s not going to make it here.

          • Tony_H

            At some point if things don’t turn around for him, they will need his 40 man roster spot and he will be cut.

          • Ripsnorter1

            Yes.

          • John_CC

            The year you reference, 2011, as before he was “ruined” he also had 138 Ks in 500 PA for a rate of 27%. Which was his major hole that everyone, including you, pointed to as why he wasn’t ready for the ML. Guys that strikeout in the minors at that rate are going to really struggle, you know that.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            If BJax didn’t change his approach he was never going to make it anyway. It’s a case of nothing ventured nothing gained.

          • Tony_H

            Also, BJAX has never struck me as someone who lacks confidence. I think he has a hole in his swing that lead to not enough contact.

          • Richard Hood

            I think we are all in agreement that Jackson is a train wreck right now. Fault does not matter. Even by his own admittion there was too much stuff being said to him in 2012 that it was going in one ear and out the other. This FO promoted him anyway. Yeah he will be paying attention after that.

          • mutantbeast

            “bad coaching”? Im wondering how many other teams might hire a Mariano Duncan or a Bill Mueller? Maybe the problem is where it is. The player doesnt have the ability to succeed , or the willpower. Team Theo drafted Dustin Pedroia-hes worked out pretty well, hasnt he?

          • Ripsnorter1

            Besides Pedroia, Team Theo has drafted many players who have not worked out at all. So, (and I say this kindly), what is the point of your post?

            My point is that I think it is undeniable (to those who have an objective view of the Cubs), is that Castro and Rizzo’s careers were put in danger by Team Theo’s coaching, and that Jackson and possibly Vitters’ careers were ruined.

            But you don’t have to agree. And nothing I said here was intended to be rude. It was all said with a kind intention.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          I think building with FA’s is a thing of the past. Augment and supplement sure, but it’s not the way you can build a consistent winner over time.

          • mutantbeast

            Indeed Board. The only guys available anymore are guys like Fielder, Pujols, Hamilton or Cano, guys whose best years are behind them and become overpaid burdens(Soriano, anyone?) Or maybe you can overpay for Scherzer, who already turned down 6/144 at age 31.Id have no problem with 3-4 years for him, but not long megadeals for guys whose FB velocity is going to drop noticeably in the next 3-4 years.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            All those contracts have something in common. Within 3 years they all end up on those top 10 lists of the worst contracts in baseball. The only way they would do it is if it were a guy that couldn’t get the big long tem money and had to sign a 1 yea deal to prove he deserves the long deal. Not what were looking for. We don’t want or need short term deals for expensive players. Our plan would fit with long term, affordable larger deals or 1 year deals on the super cheap like Hammel or Feldman.

            It’s a different era and free agency is not the way you build a long term winner. Outside of the Yankees not one World Series contender has been built that way. We just have to tough out another year or two and things will strt Fallin into place. At that point it also make sense to take a flier in a risky long term deal. But only to fit into or be the missing piece with something already successful. Not to build a team around.

          • Richard Hood

            Pujols’s contract will never be viewed from a business sense as one of the worst in baseball if he stays on the field. The amount of buzz he brings with him as he chases records and gets accolades for what he has done will drive ticket sales and Media ratings (meaning more money for the team). Remember that there is more than one way to look at these contracts. Production from the operations sense and the business side of things. Ask any team president if they would take a Pujols contract and very few would be hesitant.

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    I think the team has improved.

    I like Castro in the 4 hole for now. He’s never going to be a big OBP guy so why not a run producer?

    • John_CC

      Really? Improved how?

      I see a few players that have improved: Castro, Rizzo, Jeff. The bullpen has improved, though it hasn’t really proven it yet.

      But compared to the 2013 Opening Day roster I don’t see much improvement to the team. The OF is much worse off. Barney is arguably worse this year than last. The starting rotation is arguably slightly less than last year.

      It doesn’t matter, this is just nit-picking. There has not been enough improvement overall. I do no think that is arguable.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        I guess I mean funner and more exciting to watch than the team that finished 2013. Olt, Lake and Kalish all are exciting. Castro seems to be back. Rizzo is much better. Pitching seems pretty decent. Starting and relief. Arietta just got back but has been good. Ramirez, Grimm and Rondon hav been fun to watch.

        They started off horribly but have steadily gotten better. They just seem more competitive. I don’t go into many games thinking its over before it has been played like the second half of last year.

      • bpot92

        I agree with Theboardrider about it being more fun at least with Castro and Rizzo hitting again and a few young guys in Lake and Olt. It gets less interesting with every 0-3 but if they can find even a .250 average from those guys the rest of the way they can be productive major leaguers in some capacity either as a 4th OF or off the bench.

        • John_CC

          Uh…a .250 BA means lots and lots of 0-3.

  • Ripsnorter1

    ESPN Insider lists some “sell high” candidates, which included both Mr. Jeffry Samardzija, as well as Mr. Emilio Bonifascio.

    “Sell now before the crash.”

  • BillyFinT

    Here’s my game (thinker) face: Olt has limited talent as a hitter. Observe his at bats carefully. He chased high fastball. He chased low breakers. He’s not ready to match big league pitching, yet.

    This year is obviously another rebuilding year, so the Cubs can field AAA talents and continue to lower fan expectation, while grooming farm impact players. We got that. The record shows it throughout the system.

    On the other hand, I expect the Cubs to show improvement from last year, and continue to build on this expectation. I’m not seeing that yet. The Cubs are way past the “shake up” phase. They need to call up and play younger talents. Let the farm products win or fail. They’ve been doing so with the pitching (clearly, the bullpen is interesting). They can do so with the position players (third base looks lousy, start from there, yea?).