Cubs

Ignoring distractions, Wells focused on rotation

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Ignoring distractions, Wells focused on rotation

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011Posted: 9:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Randy Wells was never the hot prospect and he does not have a big contract. He can be his own worst critic. He would be perfectly content with not being noticed until his next start.

Wells is young, single and speaks his mind. He grew up in downstate Belleville, wears trucker hats and listens to country music. He got prescription glasses last year that kind of made him look like Ricky Wild Thing Vaughn from Major League.

Wells never wore them in a game and didnt find it nearly as amusing as the beat writers. He wants the focus to be on his game, which is why he considered shutting down his Twitter account. Instead he blocks his updates to a mass audience.

I just dont want it to be a distraction, Wells said. I dont want it to be like, Oh, I hear Wells Tweeted (this or that). For me to enjoy it personally is one thing and to have reporters ask me about it (is another). Its kind of like the glasses thing and the band thing and the songwriting thing last year. Its just like: How about you ask me about baseball?

Wells uses it to promote his favorite bands and read Chad Ochocinco. One list compiled by MLB.com has more than 100 major-league players with verified accounts.

Ryan Dempster uses it to promote his charitable foundation. Casey Coleman recently created one out of curiosity, but has backed off because he felt like too many people were trying to bait him into making a mistake.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell told Toronto reporters that ideally his players wouldnt use Twitter, though he wouldnt go so far as to ban it outright.

My own opinion is that for a player to get involved in that, they set themselves up for another distraction, Farrell was quoted as saying in the National Post. I cant mandate anything to them, but (would) probably advise them to just let it be.

Were not going to say they cant do it. But I think theyve got to be careful. If theyre going to engage in it, then they really need to be able to follow through on some of the things that might be put out there.

Farrells comments rippled through cyberspace this week. Thats just the way it works. Twitter unfairly made Jay Cutler and the Bears look bad, and it caused enough tension between Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox.

The Cubs will address this as part of their annual media-relations workshop with players. But theres no prohibition, just a reminder that you are representing the organization.

The Cubs have an official Twitter account with more than 11,000 followers. Several employees in the front office use the service to monitor the news.

In his first speech to the entire team last week, manager Mike Quade felt compelled to tell his players to look reporters in the eye and take the responsibility seriously because the medias a monster.

Wells feels like the media zoomed in on some of his struggles in the first inning and sometimes lost sight of his overall 2010 season.

Either way, the 28-year-old is trying to hang on to his spot in the rotation. Hell have to fend off 2008 first-round pick Andrew Cashner. And the Cubs are on the hook for 6 million of Carlos Silvas 11.5 million salary.

I like when you got to earn your keep, Wells said. Ive never been the kind of guy in my whole career thats had a spot to lose. Nobody goes into camp being like: Im going to be a starter at Triple-A.

Wells went 8-14 last season, but also made 32 starts and posted a respectable 4.26 ERA. It should not be discounted that he finished at 12-10 with a 3.05 ERA the year before, when he was the rookie success story.

The ending is unwritten. In a world of Twitter and Facebook, you can change the narrative very quickly.

When I say I lost a little focus last year, its nothing from a personal standpoint, Wells said. I meant that when things started tumbling, I didnt know how to step back and look inside myself and dig deeper.

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

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

 

Sosa went down and golfed a pitch out for his 36th homer on July 17, 1998. He smacked Marlins reliever Kirt Ojala's (who??) pitch just over the wall in center field at Pro Player Stadium for a 2-run shot that closed out the Cubs' scoring in a 6-1 victory.

 

The blast accounted for Sosa's 88th and 89th of the season. By comparison, Javy Baez currently leads the Cubs (and the National League) with 72 RBI on July 17, 2018.

 

Steve Trachsel tossed a complete game for the Cubs in the victory that day and Sosa finished with the only extra-base hits for either team (he also had a double).

 

Fun fact: Former Cub Ryan Dempster started the game for the Marlins, but lasted just 4.1 innings to run his season record to 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA.