Cubs

Cubs prepared to make last stand at Wrigley

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Cubs prepared to make last stand at Wrigley

Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
8:14 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

In six days Wrigley Field will go dark until April 1, 2011. The front office has approximately 117 more innings left in this season to help it decide which pieces should be kept for the next Opening Day.

The San Francisco Giants will wake up Tuesday morning in first place in the National League West, though less than two games separate them from the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies within the division.

That will give some meaning to a three-game series that begins Tuesday night in a city that has moved on to the 2-0 Bears. The years final homestand ends with the St. Louis Cardinals, who could be mathematically eliminated by the weekend.

The goal is to again become playoff contenders, and general manager Jim Hendry has said that the Cubs are only a few moves away, though at this point its unclear what they will be or how much money he will have to spend.

The stronger you finish this year, the more positive things (can happen) next year, Ryan Dempster said. Thats why I think its important to go through the finish line and not to it, because a lot of good comes out of it.

Lets say you were one of the 41,306 fans walking out of the ballpark on April 12 and someone stopped you on Clark Street to tell you all this. After the 2010 home opener, would you take it?

Carlos Zambrano hasnt lost a game since June 25. Dempster is closing in on a 15-win season. Ted Lilly is nearing 30 starts and almost 200 innings with his surgically-repaired left shoulder.

Carlos Marmol has more strikeouts by far than any other reliever in baseball and could finish with close to 40 saves in his first full season as closer. Sean Marshall has developed into one of the best set-up men in baseball.

Alfonso Soriano hasnt spent any time on the disabled list this year. Marlon Byrd is an All-Star. Geovany Soto can put his offensive numbers up against any other catcher. Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

That of course isnt a complete view of the big picture. With all that has gone right, the Cubs (68-81) wont spend a single moment above .500 all season.

No one knows if that masks deeper flaws on this roster what if theres a drop-off in any of those areas next year? or maybe you can write-off Aramis Ramirez still hitting under .200 in July as a freak occurrence and bank on some of the 16 other rookies the Cubs used this season to show significant growth in 2011.

(Lets) just keep riding it out, Jeff Samardzija said. Trust me its better to end a season on a positive note than a negative note.

Soto and Colvin spent Mondays day off in separate hospitals roughly 1,300 miles apart. Soto underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in Chicago and is expected to be at full health by New Years Day. Colvin will remain in Miami for further observation after a broken maple bat punctured his chest cavity the day before.

That Colvin became such an integral part of this unpredictable season even though its now over for him will go down as one of its biggest surprises.

Pieces from teams that won two division titles were sold off to the Los Angeles Dodgers (Lilly, Ryan Theriot) and Atlanta Braves (Derrek Lee). Mike Fontenot will be back at Wrigley Field this week in a San Francisco uniform.

If you bought tickets months in advance hoping to see a team fighting for a playoff spot, then the Giants are as good as its going to get. And what might have been a farewell tour for Lou Piniella will instead be a homecoming for Mike Quade.

The Cubs are 17-7 since Quade took over for Piniella and that represents the best start by a Cubs manager in 78 years, since Charlie Grimm in 1932. They just finished an 8-1 road trip, something that had never happened before in club history.

You mean that dude in 32 didnt do that? Quade joked when relayed the stat.

Its hard to ignore the results, and just as difficult to make evaluations once the pressures off and the rosters expand in September.

But the pitching staff did post a 1.46 ERA on the nine-game trip. The veterans still seem very much engaged, and the young players have responded to a new voice. Taken together, that cant hurt Quades candidacy, though he wont say so publicly.

I got Oct. 3 on my mind to do the best job that we can do for the next two weeks, Quade said. Its foolish for me to go any further than that.

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

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Sitting down with new Cubs coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey

Spring training baseball games are up around the bend, but before the boys of summer get into organized action, two of the team’s new coaches Chili Davis and Jim Hickey sit down with Kelly Crull.

Plus, Vinnie Duber joins Kelly to discuss these baseball conversations including the memorable first words of Kyle Schwarber to Chili Davis, “I don’t suck!"

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

Changes aren't exactly popular, but Cubs and Sox — except maybe Willson Contreras — will adapt to baseball's new pace-of-play rules

MESA, Ariz. — We know Willson Contreras doesn’t like baseball’s new pace-of-play rules.

He isn’t the only one.

“I think it’s a terrible idea. I think it’s all terrible,” Jon Lester said last week at spring training, before the specifics of the new rules were even announced. “The beautiful thing about our sport is there’s no time.”

Big surprise coming from the Cubs’ resident old-schooler.

The new rules limit teams to six mound visits per every nine-inning game, with exceptions for pitching changes, between batters, injuries and after the announcement of a pinch hitter. Teams get an extra mound visit for every extra inning in extra-inning games. Also, commercial breaks between innings have been cut by 20 seconds.

That’s it. But it’s caused a bit of an uproar.

Contreras made headlines Tuesday when he told reporters that he’ll willingly break those rules if he needs to in order to put his team in a better position to win.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If I have to pay the price for my team, I will,” Contreras said. “There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? … You have to go out there. They cannot say anything about that. It’s my team, and we just care about winning. And if they’re going to fine me about the No. 7 mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Talking about pace-of-play rule changes last week, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said his team would adapt to any new rules. In Chicago baseball’s other Arizona camp, a similar tune of adaptation was being sung.

“Obviously as players we’ve got to make adjustments to whatever rules they want to implement,” White Sox pitcher James Shields said. “This is a game of adjustments, we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go. We’re going to have to figure out logistics of the thing, and I would imagine in spring training we’re going to be talking about it more and more as we go so we don’t mess it up.”

There was general consensus that mound visits are a valuable thing. So what happens if a pitcher and catcher need to communicate but are forced to do it from 60 feet, six inches away?

“Sign language,” White Sox catching prospect Zack Collins joked. “I guess you have to just get on the same page in the dugout and hope that nothing goes wrong if you’re out of visits.”

In the end, here’s the question that needs answering: Are baseball games really too long?

On one hand, as Lester argued, you know what you’re signing up for when you watch a baseball game, be it in the stands at a ballpark or on TV. No one should be shocked when a game rolls on for more than three hours.

But shock and fans' levels of commitment or just pure apathy are two different things. And sometimes it’s a tough ask for fans to dedicate four hours of their day 162 times a year. So there’s a very good reason baseball is trying to make the game go faster, to keep people from leaving the stands or flipping the TV to another channel.

Unsurprisingly, Lester would rather keep things the way they are.

“To be honest with you, the fans know what they’re getting themselves into when they go to a game,” Lester said. “It’s going to be a three-hour game. You may have a game that’s two hours, two hours and 15 minutes. Great, awesome. You may have a game that’s four hours. That’s the beautiful part of it.

“I get the mound visit thing. But what people that aren’t in the game don’t understand is that there’s so much technology in the game, there’s so many cameras on the field, that every stadium now has a camera on the catcher’s crotch. So they know signs before you even get there. Now we’ve got Apple Watches, now we’ve got people being accused of sitting in a tunnel (stealing signs). So there’s reasons behind the mound visit. He’s not just coming out there asking what time I’m going to dinner or, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ There’s reasons behind everything, and I think if you take those away, it takes away the beauty of the baseball game.

“Every game has a flow, and I feel like that’s what makes it special. If you want to go to a timed event, go to a timed event. I’m sorry I’m old-school about it, but baseball’s been played the same way for a long time. And now we’re trying to add time to it. We’re missing something somewhere.”

Whether limiting the number of mound visits creates a significant dent in this problem remains to be seen. But excuse the players if they’re skeptical.

“We’ve got instant replay, we’ve got all kinds of different stuff going on. I don’t think (limiting) the mound visits are going to be the key factor to speeding this game up,” Shields said. “Some pitchers take too long, and some hitters take too long. It’s combination of a bunch of stuff.

“I know they’re trying to speed the game up a little bit. I think overall, the game’s going as fast as it possibly could. You’ve got commercials and things like that. TV has a lot to do with it. There’s a bunch of different combinations of things. But as a player, we’ve got to make an adjustment.”