Cubs

Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

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Will Sveum hiring lead to Fielder signing?

Dale Sveum has spent the last six seasons coaching from various positions on the Milwaukee Brewers staff.

Or to put it another way, he's seen all but 39 of Prince Fielder's 998 career games firsthand from the top step of the dugout.

Fielder made his MLB debut in 2005 as a 21-year-old, but earned just 62 plate appearances. Sveum was hired as the Brewers' third base coach before the '06 season, a position he held for one season.

Sveum, who was a first-round draft pick of the Brewers back in 1982, spent time as the bench coach the next season, then moved back to third base coach, spent a short time as interim manager and then moved to hitting coach, a position he has held the last three seasons.

That's just a long way of saying he and Fielder have spent almost every day together for the the past six seasons, the last three of which Sveum directly impacted Fielder's performance as part of his hitting coach duties.

The slugging first baseman is currently a free agent and interested in reaping the benefits of his offensive prowess to the tune of a huge payday. Huge like 200 million over nine years huge.

He doesn't turn 28 until five weeks into the 2012 season and is right in the heart of his prime. As new Cubs president Theo Epstein said, he is not interested in signing free agents who have left their best years behind them. Given his age and history, it's conceivable to think Fielder's best years are still ahead of him.

Fielder has never been shy about his appreciation for Sveum, claiming the 47-year-old is one of the best coaches he's ever had.

Does this all add up to Fielder signing the megadeal he seeks with the Cubs?

Just imagine how many times he'd hit the ball out onto Sheffield Ave. He'd have a fan club just waiting out on the street for a chance to nab a home run, much like Sammy Sosa did in his heyday.

Imagine Fielder spending 81 games hitting in cozy Wrigley Field. Imagine when the wind is actually blowing out. With his huge uppercut, there wouldn't be a pitcher in the league that would want to pitch to Fielder.

However, it appears those dreams may just have to stay in our imagination.

"It's an interesting theory, but the sense I'm getting is the Cubs aren't really looking for that guy that will cost 25 million and would an eight- or nine-year commitment," Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney told David Kaplan on CSN after Sveum was announced.

"Theo and Jed Hoyer said all along how committed they are to building from within, from the ground up and that's really what attracted Theo to this job. So I think they're going to put their money into pitching and defense and more volume of pitching than just one big-name stud pitcher."

Sigh. That would have been awesome.

Mooney has a point. While the Cubs are still under Alfonso Soriano's and Carlos Zambrano's nauseating contracts, it would be tough to imagine the new regime shelling out that kind of money for one player, even if it is a guy young enough and good enough to build around.

Who knows, maybe something will work out. Maybe Theo and Jed are just giving everybody the runaround right now, playing this one close to the vest.

Cubs fans can only hope.

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.”