Blackhawks

Steve Stone's mailbag: The future of the Cubs and Sox

Steve Stone's mailbag: The future of the Cubs and Sox

Monday, June 28, 2010
3:11 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about the Cubs' future, A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Strasburg, and more!
Question from Jake R.-Highland Park, IL: Steve, as June nears its end it is becoming more and more apparent that the Cubs have little to no shot at making the playoffs. What would you do if you were the general manager of this team?

Steve Stone: First of all, far be it for me to give any suggestions to Jim Hendry because he runs his ball club and as many advisers that have certainly helped him over the years get in the position that he is in. The one thing ball club fans have to realize, the Cubs have obligated 9 players next year for 103 million dollars. There is a number of those players that have full no-trade clauses which makes it very difficult to move them.

Another factor that they have to deal with is the Carlos Zambrano issue and the millions owed to him and how best to resolve that. It is very rare for a baseball team to suspend one of their players, to have one team to suspend 2 players in 2 year is almost unheard of. While they were able to move Milton Bradley who is hitting a robust 205 for Seattle, one of the things I would be looking at, and this would be the only suggestion I would give Jim Hendry would be, while he is throwing the best baseball of his life, I would be looking to move Carlos Silva. Carlos has had a tremendous run of this half, been one of the most consistent, if not the most. Generally I take a great deal of heat for making predictions into the future on the health of various pitchers, I would say because Silva is very much overweight and starting to experience hamstring problems hamstring problems will eventually turn into back problems. While SIlva can still pass another team's physical and because I believe the Cubs owe him something along the lines of 7 million this year and another 12 next year, I would be looking to trade him assuming that the Cubs don't make a strong run before the All-Star break. Always better to trade a guy before he breaks down than to keep him until he is rendered unable to perform for you. As a couple of very good general managers who I have talked to, who have constantly reminded me, it is better to trade a guy a little to early than to hold onto him a little too late.

Question from Kristin P.-Dyer, IN: As a pitcher, how does it affect your mentality on the mound when you know that you probably wont be getting run support on a regular basis? Are the Cubs starters aware of the teams struggles at the plate, and does that create more pressure for them to pitch a gem?

Steve Stone: For the Cubs starters not to be aware of the team's struggles at the plate, they would have to be that great character from the song written by The Who about the deaf dumb and blind kid who sure plays a good pin ball. But that should and usually does not have any influence on a good pitcher. A good pitcher or a great pitcher doesn't really care how his team is struggling offensively because he feels that if his team gets one run, he will should out the other team. A good or great pitcher doesn't worry about what plays are made behind him or if his infield is going to hit or who he goes up against. The great pitcher thinks he will be better than that team on any other day; to go out without that mind set, you will go out with a self defeating prophecy.

David W.-Granger, IN: Steve, do you think that either Ozzie or Kenny will be let go during the season if the Sox continue to struggle? Does Jerry Reinsdorf owe either person anything because of the 2005 World Series victory?
Steve Stone: This question probably had a lot more relevance when they were struggling but they find themselves 1.5 games out of first and one game behind Detroit for second place. That being said, Jerry met with both Ozzie and Kenny separately during some of their more difficult times and said to both of them, time to fix this, put the squabbling to bed and get back to the business of baseball. Ozzie and Kenny, whenever it is that they happen to go out, will go out on their own terms. One has been a very successful Manager, the other a very successful General Manager and when the day comes when they can no longer do their particular job, most likely they will be gone. That day, however, is not anytime this year.

Andrew L.-Northbrook, IL: Steve, now that A.J. has his 10-and-5 rights do you still see the Sox trying to trade the veteran catcher, and if so, do you think A.J. would waive his no-trade clause if it would help the Sox build for the future?

Steve Stone: Again, this becomes a much more pertinent question when the sox found themselves 9.5 games in back of Minnesota but A.J. is hitting 242 which is 40 points below his lifetime average. He has a tremendous amount of value as calling pitches and going out every day he is called on. A.J. has his problems, driving in runs and throwing out base runners. I believe A.J. has a lot of value to a contending team because left handed catchers who play just about everyday have some value. A.J. being one of the smarter players on the team, I believe that the Sox at this point have no interest in trading him.

With 13 games left against Minnesota and 13 left against Detroit as well multiple series with Boston and Los Angeles, there is going to be ample time to see where this team fits in the AL Central and if it comes apparent that they are in the race, AJ stays. If it is apparent they are not in the race, A.J probably goes.

Max K.-Waukegan, IL: Steve, everybody is talking about Steven Strasburg. What is your take, as a former pitcher, on the phenom? Is he as good as advertised, the next Roger Clemens? Can this player put the Nationals on the map?
Steve Stone: Well the Nationals are already on the map because they play in Washington DC. They have some very good young players, Steven Strasburg being one of they. He is not as good as advertised, he might be better. Sox players were dazzled by his straight change which is most unusual for a guy that has a fast ball that tops out at 101. He has a knee-buckling curve ball and even a shorter breaking curve that he doesn't use quite as much. But what sets him apart from other flame throwers is a great, great change. With any pitcher you always have to use the term, if he stays healthy. Barring injuries, he is now and will continue to be one of the great new dominating pitchers in the year that has become the year of the pitcher. The Nationals have a couple other young players on the horizon including a young infielder by the name of Espinosa, no one has heard about but will in the not too distant future, Washington has a chance to be competitive in the National League East as soon as they get a couple pitchers back and make a deal for a starting pitcher or two.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."