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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

alzolay-620.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs split Crosstown and Adbert Alzolay is called up

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki check in from Wrigley Field after the Cubs split the first leg of the Crosstown Classic with the White Sox.

Kelly and Tony discuss the breaking news of top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay's promotion to the big leagues and what his role could be with the Cubs (2:15), and assess where the Cubs stand as they continue their long homestand, including the recent offensive downturn and Yu Darvish taking a step forward (7:30).

Cubs Talk Podcast

Subscribe:

Joe Maddon perplexed by the way baseballs are jumping this year: 'It's extraterrestrial'

cubs_et_baseballs_wrigley_maddon_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

Joe Maddon perplexed by the way baseballs are jumping this year: 'It's extraterrestrial'

On a mid-June night that felt more like the first week of April, the Cubs and White Sox combined for 2,029 feet of homers. 

As Leury Garcia hit Jon Lester's first pitch of the game 429 feet Wednesday evening, the reported temperature was in the mid 50s with winds blowing in from left field at 7 mph. That's not as chilly or windy as some of the games the Cubs have played this season, but it's still certainly not ideal hitting conditions at Wrigley Field.

Yet five home runs peppered the left and center field bleachers in the Cubs' 7-3 victory and prompted veteran manager Joe Maddon to bemuse about the way the ball is jumping around baseball today.

"Difficult conditions, but again — wind blowing in at a gale, it seemed, balls flying out easily," Maddon said after the game. "The home run that [James] McCann hit, my god, that just took off. You could actually see it from the field. You watch the flags [blowing in], it gets there, then all of a sudden it took off like a UFO. It stood still, then it took off. The first home run of the game, the first pitch, I mean my god, that ball went far. 

"I don't know what I'm witnessing. The way the ball is coming off the bat right now, it's extraterrestrial. It's like an ET kind of a thing going on out there. It's crazy. This is my fifth year here and I know what I've seen. Whenever the wind is blowing in like that, you don't see that. You don't see that."

Lester worked around those two homers from Garcia and McCann to pick up his 6th win, thanks in large part to the power supplied from his own teammates. Catcher Willson Contreras mashed his 14th and 15th homers of the season (after hitting only 10 all of last year) and David Bote smashed his 9th. 

Overall this season, the Cubs have been on an insane home run barrage, on pace to blow past the franchise mark for longballs in a year. Contreras reaching the 15-homer plateau puts five Cubs in that club this season. No other MLB team has more than three players who have reached that mark.

"I just know the ball's leaving," Maddon said. "I don't know if it's another year of maturity, but it's not just us. It's industry-wide. So it's hard to just say that we're the outlier with all this going on. I still want to see the better approach with runners in scoring position." 

Six weeks ago, Lester brought up the juiced baseball discussion after a start against the Marlins, saying he and other pitchers would like to know if MLB is juicing the baseballs. The league hasn't openly stated anything is different with the baseballs, though home runs are up at an astronomical rate across the board — in both the majors and Triple-A. And we haven't even gotten into the summer weather yet, when the ball really starts flying on warm evenings.

When asked for his thoughts on the baseballs Wednesday night, Lester shrugged it off.

"No comment," he said. "We can sit here and talk until we're blue in the face about the ball. It is what it is. Every pitcher in the big leagues has to pitch with it. You can comment on it all you want, but it just sounds like an excuse. I don't make excuses. Gotta make better pitches."