Cubs

Out of nowhere, Silva stays in the picture

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Out of nowhere, Silva stays in the picture

Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Posted: 7:48 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Carlos Silva viewed this as a last chance. He had no idea what was going to happen and still doesnt but he needed it for his state of mind.

Silva pulled his blue socks up to his knees on Wednesday, a different look for a pitcher who desperately hoped to change his luck. He normally wears his pants baggy, long around the cleats, which causes rips. He says hes not superstitious the only other available pair ran short.

A month from his 32nd birthday, Silva can be insecure, sensitive and emotional. The pressure to compete for a spot in the rotation has weighed on him heavily. And as the Cubs finished off a 3-1 victory over the Oakland As, a religious man stood in front of his locker and said: Thank God for this game. I know I can pitch.

The 9,061 fans at HoHoKam Park saw Silva make his case for the rotation. He stretched out to six innings and allowed only one run on three hits. He retired the final 10 batters he faced, and 17 of the final 18.

When I cross that line with high confidence, Silva said, when I feel strong, powerful in my mind, its like (a) whole different pitcher out there.

All of a sudden Silva looked nothing like the guy who allowed 26 runs 20 earned on 29 hits through his first 11.1 innings. After Wednesdays game, Silva had lowered his ERA from 15.88 to 10.90.

At times Silva blamed his defenders, which led to a dugout altercation with Aramis Ramirez, and rationalized it as balls just finding holes. But really opponents made it look like batting practice this spring.

On a sunny, 67-degree afternoon, Silva did what manager Mike Quade dared him to do: Make it tough on me.

Quade said a decision on the fifth starter wasnt set in stone. He mentioned that ideally it would be finalized before Saturday, when Andrew Cashner starts again and tries to extend beyond four innings for the first time this spring.

But if it took watching another Cashner audition, Quade said he was good with that. Two data points released Wednesday indirectly showed you where the Cubs are at with Silva and Cashner.

Forbes assessed the Cubs as baseballs fourth-most valuable franchise at 773 million, which represents a six percent increase from the year before. They are a big-market team with resources that must figure out what to do with the 13.5 million Silvas guaranteed.

Baseball America also unveiled its minor-league system rankings and slotted the Cubs at No. 16, a drop from the top tier because of the prospects it took to import Matt Garza from Tampa Bay. They are invested in the idea of the homegrown Cashner, a 2008 first-round pick and a billboard for how the organization wants to run.

Even Silva knew his time could be running out with the Cubs.

This is a business, Silva said. If Ive been pitching good and got traded, Im going to be ok, but I dont want to walk out the door the way I was pitching.

(If they said) we need to trade you because were not going to use you, we dont need you here (thats) tough. One of the greatest places to pitch is Chicago and I would love to be there.

Silva said hed be fine if the Cubs asked him to come out of the bullpen. But hes too proud to ignore the chance to make the rotation.

When you say something to me like: Youre in the competition for the fifth-starter (spot) Im going to kill people for (it).

Quade is not an old-school manager like Lou Piniella or Yogi Berra. But he sounded like one before Wednesdays game, when a reporter asked if Braden Looper was still in the mix.

Looper will relieve Garza on Thursday against the White Sox, his second straight appearance out of the bullpen, which shows the Cubs could be looking at him as a long man. It could be either Looper or Silva for a final bullpen spot.

Until youre gone, youre here, Quade said.

Everyone assumed Silva was a goner. But after this performance the manager had to admit: The plot thickens.

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

MLB Source: Cubs 'got fat and happy' after World Series, culture must change

MLB Source: Cubs 'got fat and happy' after World Series, culture must change

Fact: The 2019 Chicago Cubs wildly underachieved, finishing with an 84-78 record and finishing third in the NL’s Central division. Fact: The Chicago Cubs didn’t fail because they didn’t spend enough money. The Cubs were 2nd in all of baseball in payroll finishing behind only the Boston Red Sox. Both of those teams failed to make baseball’s postseason.
 
Fact: The Cubs front office has done a lousy job acquiring players since winning the 2016 World Series and they have done a poor job in developing quality, big league caliber pitching through their minor league system.

But, it is also a fact that former manager Joe Maddon allowed his comfort level with players interfere with how much he held them accountable and the result was a team that paid little attention to detail and spiraled out of contention. That's the mess Maddon left the Cubs.
 
The reasons the Cubs are struggling are not mutually exclusive. There is no singular reason why they have seen their window of contending for another World Series start to close. But, for people to blame everything on either a lack of spending by ownership or a lousy job by the front office misses a main factor in the Cubs decline.

Multiple sources told me the Cubs have had a lack of attention to detail over the past three years. One person in the organization said, “on the field we got fat and happy and that cannot be allowed to continue.”

When I asked the front office about this perception, Theo Epstein and other members of the Cubs' front office praised Maddon. They have not taken any shots at their World Series winning manager, a first class move when it would be easy to make him the scapegoat.

"Sometimes it's just time. We're going through some transitions in various levels of the organization and think change will be good for this group," Epstein said at the end of the 2019 season.
 
So what does a lack of accountability mean? How does that get fixed?

It starts with every player coming into camp in better physical condition than they ever have been before. The vibe at the recent Cubs Convention is that players are working exceptionally hard and it happened in concert with the player development, strength and conditioning staff that the Cubs have spent the past six months upgrading. Anthony Rizzo for one looked like he is in the best shape I remember him being in since he came to the Cubs.
 
Yes, the Epstein and Jed Hoyer led front office have to be much better in upgrading the roster. Epstein can walk into any room and set his three World Series championship rings on the table and lay out his vision for the future and every owner in baseball would sign up for his plan.

But there is no short cut to fixing what ails the current edition of the Cubs. They have very little payroll flexibility and until the service time grievance of Kris Bryant is settled the Cubs cannot engage in substantive trade talks for him because they don’t know if they are trading one year or two years of team control.
 
And ownership has made a philosophical decision to reset the team’s luxury tax, so there is no magic pot of money Epstein and Hoyer can dip into to fix the multiple holes currently plaguing the roster.

New manager David Ross has to find a way to get more out of the roster than Joe Maddon did and that starts with holding his players far more accountable than Maddon did. When I questioned Maddon at the recent Winter Meetings about about dealing with his critics (most notably me) he said: “I am so self confident in what I do and how I do it, just because guys like you are wrong, I’m not gonna respond to that stuff when it happens.”
 
I neglected to tell Maddon during that interview that while I may have been hard on him at times, my primary criticism was that he did not hold his players accountable far too often. Maddon says I was wrong.

The Cubs effectively fired him and now he's the manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Maybe I wasn’t wrong. It sure seems like his bosses felt the same way.

Thank you for 2016 Joe. It was the thrill of a lifetime for all of Cubs Nation. It was time for a change too and that’s okay to admit.

Now it’s on Epstein, Hoyer and Ross to fix the Cubs without a bottomless pit of money. I hope they’re up to the task.

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Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

It’s quite fitting Andy Green’s introduction to Cubs Nation came at the team’s annual fan festival this weekend.

Green, whom the Cubs officially hired as bench coach in December, grew up a Reds fan in his native Lexington, Ky. It wasn’t long before his allegiances changed to one of Cincinnati’s geographic neighbors, however.

“I went to [former Reds ballpark Riverfront Stadium] as a kid at like 5, 6, 7, first time I saw big-league baseball,” Green told NBC Sports Chicago on Saturday. “But my mom took me up to Wrigley at 12 or 13. I was like ‘This is big-league baseball.’

“I switched over allegiances that time as a Cubs fan, watched Ryne Sandberg — Mark Grace was somebody who jumped off the page to me at that point in time. It was late 80s, early 90s.”

After four years managing the Padres, Green’s childhood fandom has come full circle. Now, he’s David Ross’ right-hand man, brought in to use his own experience managing to help the first-year manager adapt to his new position.

When Green took the helm in San Diego in 2016, the Padres were in the thick of a full-scale rebuild. He holds a 274-366 won-loss record, but that isn’t indicative of what he’s bringing to the Cubs dugout.

“Andy so far for me probably [has been] the biggest help for me in directing my thoughts, getting things organized, getting prepared,” Ross said Saturday at a coaching staff panel. “This guy has been through the season, the National League, knows the details of what it takes to lead.

“Obviously, his resume and what he’s done building a young group over in San Diego speaks for itself. Who he is as a person, Andy right off the bat probably [has] been the biggest help for me. Sends me text messages, emails about leading, about coaching. I can’t say enough about this guy, and I’m very blessed to have him next to me in every game. You guys are gonna see a great product, and a lot of my big decisions, I’ll have a great mind next to me helping me make those.”

Green said he’s spent the last few months learning what Ross’ vision is as a manager and how he intends to execute it going forward. Managing games and preparing for them are different beasts, but Green can already see the intangibles that could make Ross successful.

“He’s fun to work with, he’s hungry to win, he can hold people accountable and smile at the same time, which is an unbelievable skillset that I don’t have,” Green said of Ross. “People feel it when I come down on them. They feel love when he comes down on them. He just has that [relatability] that very few people do, and that’s incredibly impressive to me.”

Accountability has been the word of the offseason for the Cubs. After five seasons with Joe Maddon as manager, the club felt it was time for a new voice in the dugout. They hired Ross not only to try and make the team greater than the sum of its parts, but also hold players accountable, putting them in their place and using tough love when needed.

Ross will have a lot on his plate this season, so he'll rely on Green to lead in areas as needed and take a load off his plate.

“For [managers], there’s a large number of tasks that if you have a capable staff, you can just delegate and not even think about,” Green said. “I want to take that kind of stuff off his plate, stuff that doesn’t have to have the manager’s attention, because you can get some decision fatigue, because it’s amazing what comes at you in that seat.

“I know what that feels like, so every now and again, it’s nice to have somebody who doesn’t just have the answer but has the feelings that come with the answer. I’ve enjoyed it, and honestly, it’s a whatever he needs type thing. My vision on him is I’ve watched him do so much prep work this offseason getting ready for game decisions. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be great.”

It also helps that Green has four years of managing under his belt. Ross can learn from his successes in San Diego, but also learn from Green’s failures to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistakes common in new managers.

“It takes a little minute to know where the best answer is on the bench, and he’ll figure that out pretty quickly,” he said of Ross. “Executing the game decisions, you have to find out in time how he processes those things.

“I made a lot of mistakes. He can learn from my mistakes without having to make them himself. If you can share things in humility, a lot of times it keeps somebody else from repeating your mistakes. There’s things I messed up on, things I did well too. Kinda share those visions along the way and make certain the whole way that this is David Ross’ team and he’s leading this team and all I’m here to do is support and help him and help the players perform at their top level.”

Green spent four years with a losing club. He’s joining a Cubs team full of star players — which, as functioning infield coach on a team with Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, excites him. He wants to win now and believes Ross is the man to lead the way.

And, again, the lure of being a Chicago Cub was strong.

“The fan base is one that you’re fired up to go to work for and bring a winner to,” he said. “Whatever part I can play in that, I’m fired up to do it.”

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