Bears

Cubs Firm Up Minor-League Staffs

Cubs Firm Up Minor-League Staffs

Thursday Dec. 16, 2010
Posted: 1 p.m.

Tennessee AA
The Smokies announced that former major leaguer Brian Harper will be the teams manager for the 2011 season. Joining Harper on next years staff will be pitching coach Marty Mason, hitting coach Mariano Duncan and athletic trainer Nick Frangella.

Harper arrives to the Smokies after leading the San Francisco Giants Class A San Jose Giants to the 2010 California League Championship. He also spent two years in the Giants organization as its roving minor league catching instructor (2008-09). Prior to this time with the Giants, he was in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheims minor league system, managing its rookie league team in the Arizona League (2001-05) and the Class AAA Salt Lake Bees (2006-07).

Harpers major league career spanned from 1979-95 and included a World Series appearance with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 and World Series championship with Minnesota Twins in 1991. He hit .295 in 1,001 big league games and caught behind the plate for a total of seven teams.

Mason comes over from the Cardinals, where hes spent the last 25 years coaching. Prior to his most recent stint as the teams major league bullpen coach (2000-10), Mason coached in the Cardinals minor league system at Advanced-A St. Petersburg (1986-87, 1989), A-Savannah (1988), AA-Arkansas (1990-96), AAA-Louisville (1997) and AAA-Memphis (1998-99). He played in both the New York Yankees and Cardinals minor league systems from 1980-86.

Duncan has been in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization the past eight years, most recently as the teams first base coach since 2006. He also coached at AAA-Las Vegas (2005), AA-Jacksonville (2004) and for the teams rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League in 2003. Duncan is a 12-year major league veteran infielder (1985-97) and was a member of two World Series championship teams, the 1990 Cincinnati Reds and 1996 New York Yankees.

Athletic trainer Nick Frangella will return for a fourth season with the Smokies in 2011, his sixth overall in the Cubs' minor league system.

All three members of the Smokies 2010 staff will remain within the Cubs organization. Manager Bill Dancy will manage the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, while coaches Dennis Lewallyn and Tom Beyers have been promoted to minor league pitching coordinator and hitting coordinator, respectively.

Peoria A
The Peoria Chiefs announced the 2011 Chiefs field staff, which includes a pair of familiar faces. Manager Casey Kopitzke returns for a second season after leading the Chiefs to a 71-66 record in 2010. He will be joined by pitching coach Jeff Fassero, a Springfield, IL native and a former Cubs reliever, hitting coach Ricardo Medina who was with the Chiefs in 2005 and athletic trainer A.J. Larson.

We are excited to have Casey return to the Chiefs staff for 2011, said Chiefs President Rocky Vonachen. He did an outstanding job with a very young Chiefs team in 2010 and we are happy to welcome him and his family back to Central Illinois for another season. Its also exciting to have a Central Illinois native and former Cub hurler on our staff in Jeff Fassero and Ricardo Medina was a great Chiefs player in the early 1990s and was on our first staff back with the Cubs in 2005. Overall this is a great staff and we are looking forward to the start of the 2011 season.

Kopitzke, 32, has spent 12 seasons in the Cubs organization as a player, coach and manager. He led the Chiefs to a 71-66 overall record in 2010 with a third place finish in the first half. Under Kopitzkes leadership the Chiefs had the third best batting average in the Midwest League last season with a .266 mark.

This off-season he managed the Mesa Solar Sox in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Before joining the Chiefs, Kopitzke made his managerial debut in 2009 going 34-42 with the Boise Hawks of the Short Season-A Northwest League. Before managing the Hawks in 2009, Kopitzke served as the Cubs roving catching coordinator from 2007-2008 and made numerous stops in Peoria and other venues around the Midwest League to work with Chiefs catchers and hitters.

Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kopitzke was drafted by the Cubs in the 27th round in 1999 out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. A graduate of East DePere High School in Wisconsin, Kopitzke earned a bachelors degree in criminal justice from UW-Oshkosh in 2001. He and his wife Erin currently live in DePere, Wisconsin with a newborn son. He began his pro career as a catcher with Eugene in the Northwest League in 1999.

Kopitzke spent the 2000 season in the Midwest League with the Lansing Lugnuts hitting .224 with 22 RBI in 68 games. The following year he moved up to the Florida State League and hit .240 for Daytona. Kopitzke spent the 2002 and 2003 seasons with Double-A West Tennessee in the Southern League. In 2002 he hit .221 and in 2003 batted a career-best .261. He caught for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2004 hitting .215 with a homer and 17 RBI before going back to West Tennessee for the 2005 season. Kopitzke retired after the 2006 campaign in which he hit .239 in 30 games for Iowa.

Overall Kopitzke played in 495 Minor League games hitting .230 with two homers, 44 doubles, 122 RBI. He was known as a defensive catcher committing just 11 errors in 2,057 chances between 2002 and 2006.

Pitching coach Jeff Fassero is very familiar with Central Illinois having grown up in Springfield where he played high school and college baseball before embarking on a 16-year Major League career as a left-handed pitcher. The 37-year old is a 1981 graduate of Griffin High School in Springfield and he pitched two seasons at Lincoln Land Community College before transferring to the University of Mississippi. A 22nd round draft pick in the 1984 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Fassero pitched in the Midwest League with his hometown Springfield Cardinals in 1985 with a 4-8 record in 29 games. After reaching Triple-A with the Cardinals, Fassero was signed by the Montreal Expos as a free agent and he made his MLB debut in 1991. Fassero pitched six seasons with Montreal, mostly as a starter going 58-48. He was traded to Seattle after the 1996 season and went 33-35 in three years as a starter for the Mariners.

After making 23 starts for Boston in 2000, Fassero signed with the Cubs for the 2001 season and made 82 bullpen appearances, a franchise record for a left-handed pitcher. He was 4-4 with a 3.42 ERA, 12 saves and 25 holds. The following season Fassero was 5-6 with a 6.18 ERA in 57 outings before he was traded in August to the St. Louis Cardinals for two players to be named later. Both players ended up being former Chiefs in Jason Karnuth and Jared Blasdell. Fassero went 1-7 in 62 outings for the Cardinals in 2003 before making 12 starts in 40 games for the Colorado Rockies in 2004. Fassero finished his 16-year career with the San Francisco Giants making 48 appearances in 2005 and 10 more in 2006.

Overall he was 121-124 with a 4.11 ERA in 720 career outings for nine different teams. Fassero made 242 starts with 17 complete games and 25 saves. In 1996 he finished ninth in the National League Cy Young Award voting after going 15-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 34 starts for the Montreal Expos. He pitched in the playoffs with Seattle in 1997, Texas in 1999 and St. Louis in 2002 with a career 1.46 ERA in the post-season. Of his six post-season appearances, one was a start, a dominating win over Baltimore in the 1997 ALDS in which he allowed just one run on three hits over eight innings. He picked up two relief wins in the 2002 NLDS against Arizona without allowing an earned run. The 2011 season makes the second as a coach for Fassero in the Cubs organization as he worked on the Boise Hawks staff last season with a team ERA of 4.43.

Ricardo Medina returns to the Chiefs for the second time as a hitting coach, having served in the same position on Julio Garcias staff in 2005. In that return to the Cubs organization in 2005, Medina worked with future Major Leaguers Sam Fuld, Eric Patterson and Lou Montanez while also helping Ryan Harvey to a 24 home-run season. A 39-year-old native of Panama, Medina signed with the Cubs in 1989 and played in Peoria as a first and third baseman from 1991 to 1993. He finished his playing career with Advanced-A Daytona in 1994 and worked as a scout for the Boston Red Sox. As a player with the Chiefs, Medina hit .302 in 1991, .263 in 1992 and .254 in 1993. He had a career .991 fielding percentage at first base and collected 27 doubles in the 1992 season with 120 hits and 67 RBI in 125 games.

Medina is in the top 20 on the Chiefs career lists in RBI, at-bats, games played, plate appearances, hits, doubles, extra-base hits, total bases and walks. For the Cubs he has worked as a hitting coach with Mesa from 1999-2003, in Boise in 2004, 2006 and 2009 and he managed the Mesa team to a 27-29 record in 2007. Medina has also worked as a coach with the Panama National Team in numerous international tournaments including Olympic qualifiers, the World Cup and the World Baseball Classic.

Iowa AAA
The Cubs announced Bill Dancy has been named manager of the Iowa Cubs for the 2011 season. Dancy ranks fourth among active Minor League Managers in wins with 1,604 total victories.

Dancy, 59, spent last season managing the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. He led Tennessee to Division titles in both the first and second half. The Smokies posted an 86-53 (.619) record, the best in the Southern League. The Florida native was also named the Double-A Southern League Manager of the Year.

Dancys managerial career began in 1979 with the Philadelphia Phillies organization at Class-A Spartanburg. He then managed at Peninsula (A, 1980-82), Reading (AA, 1983-84, 1988, 1994-95), Portland (AAA, 1985-86), Maine (AAA, 1987), ScrantonWilkes-Barre (AAA, 1989-91) and Clearwater (A, 1992-93, 1998-99). Dancy left the Phillies organization for two years to manage the Class AAA Richmond Braves (1996-97). He led Peninsula, Clearwater and Reading to league championships in 1980, 1983 and 1995 respectively, and has a 22-year minor league managerial career record of 1,604-1,467 (.522).

Dancy will be Iowas 17th manager since their affiliation with the Cubs began in 1981. He replaces Ryne Sandberg, now with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

In 2000 Dancy left managing to become an infield coordinator for the Phillies, and then served as the teams field coordinator from 2001-2004. After two years as the Phillies third base coach (2005-06), he was the teams field coordinator in 2007 and 2008. He spent 2009 in the Kansas City Royals organization.

Joining Dancy with Iowa are returning members Pitching Coach Mike Mason, Hitting Coach Von Joshua and Athletic Trainer Matt Johnson.

Mason begins his fourth season as pitching coach of the Iowa Cubs. It is his fourth year in the Cubs organization as he served as the Kansas City Royals minor league pitching coordinator in 2007 and as their Minor League Pitching Instructor for three seasons before that.

Joshua will return to the Iowa Cubs for his sixth year as hitting coach and his ninth year with the organization. Joshua is in his 28th season as a hitting coach in professional baseball. Joshua was named the Chicago Cubs hitting coach on June 14, 2009, replacing Gerald Perry.

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Is Marcus Mariota the most logical QB target for the Bears?

Chicago Bears fans are sick and tired of the quarterback conversation surrounding this team as we enter the most important two month stretch of the offseason. My Twitter timeline (and vicious replies) are evidence of that. 

Duly noted.

That said, it's an unavoidable truth that GM Ryan Pace has no choice but to do something at quarterback in free agency or the NFL Draft. The most diehard Mitch Trubisky fan has to admit that. The former second overall pick hasn't developed into a franchise player through three seasons under center, and while the optimist would argue there's still time for him to become that guy, the realist is who must prevail when it comes to roster construction.

Marcus Mariota may be the perfect compromise. He doesn't have a resume that will immediately threaten Trubisky in 2020, but his sneaky upside combined with his youth and overall skill set is an ideal combination that could make him a long-term answer if Trubisky fails in the short-term.

According to Sports Illustrated, Chicago -- and coach Matt Nagy -- would be an ideal destination for Mariota, even if there's an inherent conflict of interest because both Mariota and Trubisky are represented by the same agent.

There are coaches out there—cough, Chicago, cough—who could slide him in easily under the guise that Mariota is a high-quality backup and develop him into a weapon under center who could take over when the starter falters.

Mariota, like Trubisky, hasn't lived up to the hype that he entered the NFL with back in 2015 when he was the second overall pick of the Titans. He's logged 61 starts and a career record of 29-32. He's completed just under 63% of his 1,110 career pass attempts and has 76 touchdown passes to 44 interceptions.

His stat sheet isn't impressive. His on-field play, at times, hasn't been, either. But he'd be an ideal reclamation project that the Bears can sell as the perfect backup even if the hope is for him to emerge as a starter.

There’s an advantage for QB-needy teams here who don’t want to deal with the public courting of Tom Brady, who don’t want to sacrifice mobility by signing Philip Rivers, who don’t want to roll the dice on every snap by signing Jameis Winston, and who don’t have the trade capital or cap space to go after someone like Nick Foles or Derek Carr.

Chicago won't be able to get into a bidding war for the bigger names like Tom Brady or even Teddy Bridgewater because of their limited cap space. Mariota won't command nearly as much to sign, and he's likely to get nothing more than a one-year commitment from a team hoping he can be like the guy who replaced him, Ryan Tannehill.

Of all the quarterbacks who've been pegged as a possible option for the Bears, Mariota feels like the most logical and, more importantly, cheaper targets who realistically could be lining up as the Chicago's starter by Week 4 of the 2020 season.

Tributes to Kobe Bryant, city of Chicago highlight memorable All-Star Sunday

Tributes to Kobe Bryant, city of Chicago highlight memorable All-Star Sunday

The specter of Kobe Bryant was omnipresent throughout All-Star weekend. Too often, it felt that the city of Chicago was not. 

But both took center stage at the All-Star game itself on Sunday night. The result was poignant, powerful and downright enthralling.

Magic Johnson set the tone early with a eulogy to Bryant that elicited multiple, impassioned ‘Kobe!’ chants from the crowd. That gave way to South Side native Common seamlessly weaving a cadenced monologue dedicated to Chicago, Bryant and daughter Gigi, as images of city legends from Barack Obama to Michael Jordan to Hebru Brantley flashed across the screen. The United Center rippled with emotion from start to finish.

For Bryant, the homage was a culmination. For Chicago, it was an essential re-centering to cap a weekend that saw only one Bull participate in an event — Zach LaVine, who exited after round one of the 3-point shootout. After 32 years since last hosting, this city deserved its moment in the sun. That one delivered.

“Chicago held it down,” Anthony Davis said. “I think they showed the league and everyone around the world about our Chicago history, about the city. I think everyone enjoyed it and respects Chicago a little bit more.”

Of course, there was a game to play, too — and embedded within were moments of pure symbolism.

On the surface: Members of Team Giannis and Team LeBron donned No. 24 and No. 2, respectively, in honor of Bryant and Gigi. The final quarter of the game went untimed, a slog to 157 (24 points more than the 133 Team Giannis entered the period with, per the league’s new Elam-inspired format). 

Chicago charities — Chicago Scholars ($400,000) for Team LeBron, After School Matters ($100,000) for Giannis — also received a cumulative $500,000 over the course of the game. Seventy-nine assists between the two teams means $79,000 will go towards STEM research in the greater Chicago area, too.

But now, let’s get a little nebulous. 

That fourth quarter, after a familiarly lackluster previous three, was electric. The offenses were legitimately running plays, the defenses were scrapping. There was controversial officiating, sweat dripping, and charges and clutch blocks galore. By the end, you could cut the tension with a knife.

“It felt like playing in the league in a playoff game,” Davis said.

Forgive me this contrivance, but how fitting a finish to commemorate both this city and Bryant. A true grind-it-out, scratch-and-claw affair. And as epic a pickup run as you’re like to find.

Most poetic, then, was the winning bucket. Yes, it was a free-throw — an anticlimactic ending to a memorable night — but the man that took it, Davis, was both born and bred in Chicago, and currently reps the same purple and gold Bryant did for 20 seasons as a member of the Lakers. 

“It was a great feeling, to be back home,” Davis said. “And I’m happy I was able to be the one to knock down the free throw to seal the game.

“For our side to get a win, for Kob (Kobe), this whole weekend was honoring him. And I think the league did a great job of doing that.”

Davis went on to congratulate Kawhi Leonard, who tonight took home the first ever Kobe Bryant All-Star game MVP award. His 30 points led all scorers in the game.

“It’s very special,” Leonard said. “I had a relationship with him (Bryant). Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room… And just to be able to see Kobe’s name on there. It just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life. He did a lot for me.”

On Thursday, normalcy will return to the United Center in the form of the Bulls and Hornets. But this was a night no one will soon forget. Thank you, Chicago. Thank you, basketball.

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