Cubs

Sandberg, Girardi must move in another direction

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Sandberg, Girardi must move in another direction

Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010
10:42 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Tom Ricketts an investment banker whos shown that he will use data and analysis and not be ruled by emotion outlined the three qualities he wanted in the next Cubs manager.

In the chairmans mind, that man should first be a coach, able to teach fundamentals to the young players being hyped in the system. He should understand the unique history and culture of Wrigley Field. And he should be committed to the Cubs long-term (even if the contracts only guaranteed for two years).

That description fits two high-profile candidates who will not be in a Cubs uniform on Opening Day 2011: Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi. In the end, this decision to retain Mike Quade would not be influenced by how it would play in the newspapers, the bleachers or on talk radio.

In signing off on the biggest hire during his familys first year of ownership, Ricketts sat in the stadium club they purchased for more than 800 million and announced: A very thoughtful and thorough process over these last few weeks (has) brought us to a conclusion: Mike is undoubtedly the right man for the job.

That calculation, which Ricketts made clear was general manager Jim Hendrys ultimate responsibility, will likely cost the Cubs their relationship with Sandberg, who told multiple Chicago outlets that he wasnt offered a job and will be looking for potential employment with other major-league organizations.

Hours before Tuesdays news conference, Hendry phoned the Hall of Famer who had spent the past four years preparing for this moment by managing at Class-A Peoria, Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa.

We all think the world of Ryno, Hendry said. Hes a Cub icon. I think Tom Ricketts and his family are very aware of how important it is that Ryno long-term be a member of the Cubs family. Hes disappointed. He was tremendously classy.

Hendry didnt promote Sandberg when Lou Piniella announced his retirement on July 20 or when the manager resigned on Aug. 22 in part because he felt it could become a distraction. Hendry was sensitive to the criticism that he had preconceived notions about Sandbergs ability to manage at the highest level.

I have a lot of respect for Ryno and I get along very well with him, Hendry said. I get offended when I read this: He never had a chance. They never should have let him do the work in the system. Those things are so unfair and wrong.

Quade has managed only 37 games in the majors, so he will presumably need an experienced bench coach with a rsum different from Sandbergs.

This week Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush Quades former teammate at the University of New Orleans will meet with the 51st manager in Cubs history to finalize the coaching staff.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has already exercised his option for next season. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is signed through 2012. Quade said Tuesday that he would welcome his entire staff back, including Alan Trammell, though the bench coach could have opportunities elsewhere.

Hendry brought in three candidates for Ricketts to interview Quade, Sandberg and Eric Wedge, who by Friday was chosen as the Seattle Mariners new manager. The Ricketts family had dinner with each before Hendry made his final recommendation.

Girardi publicly congratulated Quade on Tuesday, but he and his Chicago-based agent lost leverage in their upcoming negotiations with the New York Yankees.

Girardis three-year deal will expire once the Yankees are done defending their World Series title. Girardi, who turned 46 last week, debuted with the Cubs in 1989, three years after graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in industrial engineering.

That background would have resonated with Ricketts. How much? As an organization, the Cubs cut off that question.

I wasn't really worried one way or the other, Girardi told reporters before Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. As I've said all along, I'm focused on what we are trying to do here. I'm not worried about next year. I'm not worried about the year after. I'm worried about right now.

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

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.