Cubs

Stuck between Iowa and Wrigley Field

Stuck between Iowa and Wrigley Field

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
8:56 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Once the Cubs promoted Bobby Scales from Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 7, general manager Jim Hendry mentioned a running joke that he has with Oneri Fleita, the vice president of player personnel: Whenever Scales is done playing, lets try to make him an employee.

Scales, who will be 33 next month, attended the University of Michigan. Hes bright, articulate and doesnt want this to be taken the wrong way. But hes not interested at least not yet in being an asset to the front office.

The main reason I havent really thought about it is because I still feel like I can play, Scales said.

As Hendry interviews Ryne Sandberg this week in Arizona and Mike Quade continues with his 37-game audition as manager the Cubs are focusing on their in-house options. Whoever gets the job will need a strong background in player development, because this figures to be a younger roster in the years ahead.

Brad Snyder, another September call-up, hit 25 homers and drove in 106 runs this season for Sandberg in Des Moines, and described his style as subtle.

He didnt blow you up, Snyder said. As long as everythings fine (in) the clubhouse, (then) he wont say much. But if something needs to be addressed, hell nip it in the bud right away. We had a great team he didnt have to say much.

Managing Triple-A players is different because theyre not all kids. Quade said the constant roster changes help you adapt quickly and learn to deal with different personalities. The experience has surely helped Sandberg, wherever he manages next.

The Cleveland Indians chose Snyder in the first round of the 2003 draft out of Ball State University. There were injuries that slowed his development a broken thumb in 2007 and a sprained wrist two years later and he found himself listening to too many voices.

It seemed everyone in the Indians system had an opinion on what he should do with his swing. This marked his fourth consecutive season at the Triple-A level and he posted a .949 OPS. At the age of 28, he made his big-league debut on Sept. 7.

Its like, (Expletive), if I dont start doing something, Im going to be out of this game sooner than I want to be, Snyder said. I dont want to say I turned the switch on. But I basically focused a lot more on what I was doing and how I went out about preparing myself.

It took Scales more than 1,000 games and 11 seasons in the minors before he made it to the majors last year. He appeared in 51 games with the Cubs and then signed another minor-league contract, because he didnt want to bounce around to a fifth organization at this stage of his career.

Im not on a long-term deal and Im not a prospect, Scales said, so thats kind of the life that we lead, (the) guys who are kind of in the middle. (Its) a lot of uncertainty and its a lot tougher on our families.

You just roll with it. Sure, I would have liked to have been here all year. Who wouldnt have? But I was in the minor leagues and my job was to go there and play hard.

Beyond the thrill of putting on the uniform and running onto Wrigley Field, there are more tangible benefits. A September call-up can make a prorated portion of the major-league minimum approximately 60,000 and earn service time.

It can be addictive, which makes Sandbergs apprenticeship even more impressive. It makes you wonder how much longer hell want to do it and realize how difficult it would be for Quade to give it all up now.

Its even cooler than I thought, man, all the way around, Snyder said. The lifestyle, everything about the game its like I got a little taste of it now and I dont want to ever go back.

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

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

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AP

Game on as Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis and Alex Cobb turn down qualifying offers

During the middle of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young Award campaign, super-agent Scott Boras compared the emerging Cubs pitcher to another client – Max Scherzer – in the first season of a seven-year, $210 million megadeal with the Washington Nationals.

Now don’t focus as much on the money – though that obviously matters – as when Scherzer arrived for that Washington press conference to put on his new Nationals jersey: Jan. 21, 2015.

It might take Boras a while to find a new home for his “big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees.” Teams have been gearing up for next winter’s monster Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent class for years. Mystery surrounds Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s Babe Ruth, and the posting system with Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League Baseball’s competitive balance tax may also have a chilling effect this offseason.

As expected, Arrieta, All-Star closer Wade Davis and pitcher Alex Cobb were among the group of free agents who went 9-for-9 in declining the one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer before Thursday’s deadline.

With that formality out of the way, if Arrieta and Davis sign elsewhere, the Cubs will receive two third-round picks in the 2018 draft.

By staying under the $195 million luxury-tax threshold this year, the Cubs would have to give up a second-round draft pick and $500,000 from their international bonus pool to sign Cobb, an obvious target given their connections to the Tampa Bay Rays, or Lance Lynn, another starter on their radar who turned down a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals.

That collectively bargained luxury-tax system became a central part of the Boras media show on Wednesday outside the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, where he introduced “Playoffville” as his new go-to analogy at the end of the general manager meetings.

“The team cutting payroll is treating their family where they’re staying in a neighborhood that has less protection for winning,” Boras said. “They’re not living in the gated community of Playoffville. Certainly, they’re saving a de minimis property tax, but the reality of it is there’s less firemen in the bullpen. There’s less financial analysts sitting in the press boxes.

“The rooms in the house are less, so obviously you’re going to have less franchise players. When you move to that 12-room home in Playoffville, they generally are filled with the people that allow you to really achieve what your family – your regional family – wants to achieve. And that is winning.”

Boras also represents four other players who rejected qualifying offers – J.D Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland – another reason why this could be a long winter of Arrieta rumors, slow-playing negotiations and LOL metaphors.