Cubs

The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

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The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010
7:27 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

This week Bud Selig spoke with Tyler Colvin as the Cubs outfielder rested at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, recovering from the wound left in his chest by a shattered piece of a maple bat.

It remains to be seen whether all the headlines generated by Colvins freak injury will result in significant change. But the commissioner defended baseballs safety record on Friday at Wrigley Field, saying the industry has reduced broken bats by 50 percent across the past 20 years.

Every time a bat cracks, Selig said, its sent to Major League Baseball headquarters in New York, and then forwarded to researchers retained at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin to study the issue.

You watch something like the Tyler Colvin incident (and) it scares you, but were making progress, Selig said. Our experts think we may have some solutions, so hopefully this offseason we can really finish solving the problem. But progress has been made. We just need to do more.

Selig deflected part of the responsibility to the Major League Baseball Players Association, whose members like to use maple bats and figure to make it a negotiating point once the collective-bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season.

Selig pushed several items like expanding the playoff field to his offseason agenda during Fridays session with reporters that lasted nearly 13 minutes inside Wrigley Fields press box dining room.

(Im) the guy who brought (in) the wild card and took a lot of abuse, Selig said. Two or three years ago we had a special committee (and) I really thought we were going to increase it then. (But) the more we talked about it, the less desirable it became for a lot of reasons. However, this winter, its time to revisit that and we will.

The commissioner remains intrigued by the concept of expanded instant replay, but come October you shouldnt expect to see radical changes for the postseason. Hes brought it up for review, but is concerned about the pace of the game.

I know that some (in the media) would like us to do it for the playoffs, but if were going to do anything, were going to do it permanently, Selig said. If you play all year 162 games (in) six months you ought to play by the same rules when you get to the playoffs. But well take a look at it again. Im not averse (to it).

On Friday Selig toured Wrigley Field which he first visited as a kid in 1944 with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and he later dodged a question about the 2014 All-Star Game.

The Cubs have lobbied the commissioners office for the event which is expected to go to an American League city andor a new facility as a way to commemorate the stadiums 100th anniversary.

They didnt put you up to asking me that, did they? Selig said. There are a lot of people begging for All-Star Games.

Wrigley Field will pass the three-million mark in attendance on Saturday, but the vast stretches of empty seats have been noticeable this season.

Selig recognizes this, but projects that 73-plus million fans will go to a game in 2010. The former Milwaukee Brewers owner remembers when the average attendance for a franchise was around one million in the 1970s.

Look, here we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Selig said. I could bring a hundred economists and nobody (would disagree). This year the average team will draw 2.4 to 2.5 (million) with every game on television.

Overall were doing remarkably well. The game has never been stronger than it is today.

This season Selig points to the on-field success experienced by smaller-market contenders like Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Texas, Cincinnati and San Diego as evidence of the industrys health.

The safety of fans and players is one piece to a giant puzzle. Colvins rookie year is over, and hes said to be in decent shape. For Selig and his partners, the issue wont go away once Colvins at full strength.

With Tyler it was such a scary thing, but its not shocking because thats how bats are these days. You see (bats flying) all the time, Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny said. We got a guy with a punctured lung at home right now. Its just a matter of time, so hopefully something can be done about that. Its frightening.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.