Cubs

Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

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Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 12:05 p.m. Updated: 6:37 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Alfonso Soriano walked into the clubhouse during Thursdays game with a big smile on his face.

Fight? Fight? he said. No? Ok!

Soriano is relentlessly upbeat, so you knew he wouldnt be shaken by any of this. But the Cubs have a first-year manager and are coming off a 75-87 season. Only four games into spring training, they already had what might be a defining moment.

The Cubs closed their clubhouse doors on Thursday morning to address the altercation between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez and the mental lapses that have plagued the entire group.

Manager Mike Quade ran a team meeting that wasnt aimed exclusively at Silva and Ramirez. The day before, the two teammates had to be separated in the dugout after Silva complained about the defense behind him.

Sometimes a little revolts not bad, Quade said. Im glad people were pissed off. We need to channel that anger at the opposition and within ourselves. (You) handle it the way (youre supposed to). I think we put that to bed. As far as Im concerned, we did, and then we move on.

If we were going to have everybody fighting that has made mistakes this spring, wed have the cage match of all-time.

Quade said Silva does not have any physical issues and will continue on his normal throwing schedule. The pitcher is trying to make the rotation but was sabotaged on Wednesday by three errors, including one by Ramirez, which led to a six-run first inning during a 12-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix.

Quade didnt want to go so far as to say that Ramirez was sticking up for his teammates, or that it showed flashes of leadership potential. But of all the crazy things that could happen to the Cubs this spring, Ramirez getting into a fight with a teammate would be one of the last things youd expect.

Its just the heat of the moment, Ramirez said Wednesday, sweeping it aside. I guarantee after you shower, you sit down and realize you made a mistake and that it shouldnt happen. Were going to be together for a long time in here, so we should be ok now.

It is part of a much wider problem. The Cubs had committed 14 errors through their first four Cactus League games. And it wasnt just anonymous players youll never see in Chicago. It was major pieces to the potential Opening Day lineup: Starlin Castro; Tyler Colvin; Carlos Pena; Blake DeWitt; and Jeff Baker.

Its not just about saying we need to clean up some of this stuff, Quade said. Its offering solutions and ideas that may help clean them up. And it doesnt mean it happens overnight, but we want to make damn sure people are committed to the work theyre doing.

Reinforcing the idea that the issues run deeper than just Silva and Ramirez, Quade did not meet with the players individually.

My sense was that things had settled down between the two of them, Quade said. I didnt feel it was that big an issue that I needed to have them both in the principals office. Theyre both veteran guys. They know whats going on. Im counting on them (to be) professionals. Theyll put it behind them. Lets go back to work.

Quade counted only one mistake during Thursdays 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers in which the Cubs generated 14 hits, Carlos Zambrano threw three scoreless innings and Braden Looper pitched in a game for the first time since 2009.

Earlier Quade had stood on a hill beyond right field at HoHoKam Park and watched the practice fields. He noticed a more focused approach. He had seen too many missed cutoff throws and base-running mistakes to let it go.

That little blow-up notwithstanding, it was time for me (to) say something about the sloppiness, not just the physical errors, but some of the mental errors, Quade said. I dont you think you walk through spring and then magically expect to turn it on and be a sharp club in these areas when the season starts.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

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USA TODAY

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

The Washington Nationals must have been sitting at home, watching the National League Championship Series and wondering: How did we lose to this team?

The Cubs poured so much physical effort, mental focus and emotional energy into those five playoff games against the Nationals that they didn’t have much left in the tank for the bigger, better Los Angeles Dodgers team that dominated the defending World Series champs in every phase and captured the NL pennant on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

By midday Friday, the Nationals announced that manager Dusty Baker will not return for the 2018 season, while the contracts for the big-league coaching staff have also expired, leaving a franchise with chain-of-command issues in damage-control mode.

This is a bitter disappointment for Baker, who needs a World Series ring as a manager to put the final bullet point on a Hall of Fame resume and still grumbles about how things ended in 2006 after four up-and-down years managing the Cubs.

Baker, 68, a former Marine, All-Star player and all-around Renaissance man with a great feel for dealing with people and managing the clubhouse, apparently couldn’t overcome last week’s elimination-game meltdown at Nationals Park, where the Cubs hung on for a 9-8 victory and forced Washington into its fourth first-round playoff exit since 2012.

Baker’s in-game decision-making was already under the microscope and his teams have now lost 10 straight postseason close-out games, a major-league record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Nationals also needlessly subjected Stephen Strasburg to withering criticism when Baker said the $175 million pitcher was feeling under the weather — maybe because of Chicago mold and hotel air-conditioning units — and being saved for Game 5. Only to flip-flop and watch Strasburg throw seven scoreless innings in a dominant Game 4 performance at Wrigley Field.

That unforced error and yet another manager search is not a good look for the Nationals, who made the announcement through the Lerner family ownership group after general manager Mike Rizzo repeatedly signaled that he expected to reach a new agreement with Baker after winning 192 games combined in two years and back-to-back division titles.

Since the franchise relocated from Montreal and abandoned the Expos logo in 2005, the Nationals have employed seven different managers and will be starting all over again in 2018, when Bryce Harper will be in his last season before becoming a free agent and probably wondering if Washington can finally get its act together.

What now for the Cubs?

What now for the Cubs?

OK, time to turn the page.

Nah, it doesn't have to be that sudden.

The 2017 Cubs season may not have resulted in a World Series, but it was absolutely a smashing success. There was a time not long ago that playing — and even losing — in the fifth game of the NLCS was a huge step.

But the Cubs now have a World-Series-or-bust mentality now and the 2017 season did not live up to those expectations.

"We're capable of more than we showed in the postseason," Ben Zobrist said.

So what now? What's next for these Cubs?

Well, quite literally: Rest. Rest is next.

"For those guys that are playing every day, they need to take the time that they need to take," Zobrist said. "Take the three weeks, month to let your body relax and heal up.

"I think from there, it's listening to your body for them. For me, I'm in a different place. I didn't play as many games as I normally play. I feel like my stamina, I have to work on my endurance and stamina to get back up to where it needs to get to where I'm capable of playing more games and not getting injuries and things like that like I had this year.

"...[Kris Bryant] and [Anthony] Rizzo, they were our horses and so they need to take more time than somebody like me does going into the offseason. They deserve to get some rest and relaxation. I think we're all very motivated going into the offseason to get back to where we're capable of playing as a team."

Other players have a different attitude as they approach the winter.

Albert Almora Jr., after his first full season in the big leagues, is anxious to get better. Immediately.

The young outfielder is planning on spending a lot of time hanging out with his wife and one-year-old son, but he isn't interested in all that much rest right now.

"[I plan] to get back to work," Almora said. "I think we have a big chip on our shoulder coming into next year."

Rizzo and Bryant, meanwhile, played 167 and 161 games, respectively, including the postseason. They combined for over 1,500 plate appearances from April 2 through Oct. 19.

Neither player has much interest in watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the World Series.

So what will they do?

"It's always tough," Rizzo said after the Cubs were officially eliminated. "You start a journey with all these guys and at the end of the day, these last couple days, you don't take anything for granted at all.

"The stretch, the cage work. Yesterday could've been our last day. Today's obviously our last day. We gotta enjoy these moments because you don't know how long they last.

"But you make a lot of friendships along the way. This next week will be tough and kinda scratching your head on what to do."