Cubs

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg talks Cubs teams of past and present

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Ryne Sandberg talks Cubs teams of past and present

Former Cub and Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg joins Luke Stuckmeyer on the latest Cubs Talk Podcast. Luke and Ryno discuss:

00:29 - Ryne talks about looking forward to the 2019 season.

01:29 - Sandberg on what changed for him as a player after his MVP season in 1984.

02:53 - Ryne talks about lineup consistency and how much the game has changed for players on a day-by-day basis since he was a player.

05:21 - Sandberg on being the highest paid player in baseball back in 1992, and how it affected his approach to the game.

07:01 - Ryne talks about Lee Smith being inducted to the Hall of Fame, some favorite memories of playing with Smith, and the importance of the bullpen in today's game.

08:39 - Sandberg on the impact assistant coaches can have on a big league team. Coaches were more hands-off when Ryne played, as opposed to the more involved role they tend to take with current players.

11:15 - Ryne talks about the 1984 team, and what the feeling was like leading up to that historic Cubs season.

13:04 -Sandberg remembers the Sutcliffe trade with the Indians in June of 1984.

14:44 - Ryne remembers "The Sandberg Game" from June 23, 1984. Even down to wind conditions and what type of pitches he saw from Bruce Sutter in the 9th and 10th innings.

17:28 - Sandberg on the impact "The Sandberg Game" had on the 1984 Cubs - and the franchise overall. Ryno also recalls the first time he noticed fans on rooftops across the street from Wrigley Field.

19:01 - Ryne talks about the talent on the current Cubs team, specifically Anthony Rizzo.

20:42 - Sandberg on the "unsung heroes" of the 1984 Cubs. Specifically Gary Matthews. Ryne credits "Sarge" with changing his career more than any other teammate.

21:54 - Ryne recalls the atmosphere and fans around Wrigley Field following the Cubs 13-0, game 1 win in the 1984 NLCS vs. San Diego.

22:34 - Sandberg on the difficulty of losing the NLCS to the Padres in 1984. He says it took him weeks to get over the shock that the '84 Cubs would not play in the World Series.

23:38 - Ryne remembers back to the very first Cubs Convention in 1986. Minus-20 degree wind chill and all.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Former Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel announces retirement

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USA TODAY

Former Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel announces retirement

A notable member of the 2016 Cubs is hanging up his spikes.

Saturday, former Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel announced that he is retiring from baseball. Hammel, 36, was pitching for the Rangers in spring training.

The move is somewhat surprising, as the Rangers announced Friday that Hammel made the team's Opening Day roster as a long reliever. 

Hammel joined the Cubs ahead of the 2014 season on a one-year contract, and he pitched to a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts. However, the Cubs traded him and Jeff Samardzija to the Athletics that July for Addison Russell.

Following the 2014 season, Hammel re-joined the Cubs on a two-year contract. He proved to be a durable starter in 2015 (3.74 ERA, 31 starts) and in 2016 (3.83 ERA, 30 starts). He made just two postseason starts (both in 2015), though, surrendering a combined seven runs in just 4 1/3 innings.

The Cubs elected not to re-sign Hammel after their 2016 championship season, leading the right-hander to join the Royals on a two-year deal. He struggled with the Royals, finishing with a 5.59 ERA in 71 games (50 starts).

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19 for '19: Do Cubs have enough in the bullpen?

19 for '19: Do Cubs have enough in the bullpen?

We're running down the top 19 questions surrounding the Cubs heading into Opening Day 2019.

Next up: Do the Cubs have enough in the bullpen to make another run at the World Series?

It’s 2999. Functioning civilization is but a distant memory, as the cities we once revered are now nothing but ashes and dust. You and your group of survivors are walking down the middle of freeway, littered with abandoned cars and overgrown weeds. Suddenly, movement! Down the ways some, a mysterious figure emerges. The figure approaches, and you cautiously hold your ground. You lock eyes, and after what feels like an eternity passes, the figure finally cries out:

“Kinda worried about the Cubs bullpen this year.”

No one likes their bullpen in March. No one really even likes their bullpen in April. The Cubs are no exception, though there’s reason for optimism — and you don’t even need to look *that* hard!

First, the obvious: right now, on March 23rd, the Cubs’ bullpen is an issue. Brandon Morrow continues to work towards his return from something yucky called an elbow debridement procedure, Xavier Cedeno/Tony Barnette are already out and Pedro Strop is a hard-maybe for Opening Day. Who knows what to expect from Brandon Kintzler and Brian Duensing. All of a sudden we’re at SIX bullpen arms without a sure bet, which is admittedly a bit alarming.

There’s plenty of silver lining, though. Kintzler looked much better with the Nationals early last season than he did with the Cubs, and is still an elite ground ball guy. Carl Edwards Jr. is going to get his strikeouts and Strop filled in admirably as the closer last year; even if he misses Opening Day, it sounds like he won’t be too far behind. Brad Brach was a sneaky good signing. A healthy, strike-throwing Tyler Chatwood is an intriguing long-man, and frees up Mike Montgomery and his elite groundball rate to be used more judiciously. Hell, even Allen Webster and Junichi Tazawa are turning heads in camp.

There’s a workable bullpen in there somewhere. How far a “workable bullpen” gets you in October is fair game for debate, but the Cubs have the arms to appease Joe Maddon and his anybody-pitch-at-anytime routine.

If the Cubs want an elite bullpen, the type that sucks the life out of teams after the 5th inning, it’ll be up to the Ricketts to revisit their favorite “we’re out of money” line from this offseason. Maybe Chatwood learns to throw strikes again, and maybe Morrow stays healthy. Kintzler could start breaking bats again and Duensing could be nails against lefties, and people would still be worried. Ultimately, the bullpen’s best case scenario still probably doesn’t preclude the team from shopping at the deadline.

Official prediction: The Cubs will enter the postseason with an established 7-8-9 routine, and one of those three pitchers is on another team’s roster right now.

-Cam Ellis

Bullpens have always been important to a Major League Baseball team's success, but the focus on relievers has never been higher than it is right now. Between the use of openers (which turns into a "bullpen day") and how teams utilize their relievers to shorten games in October, it's a hot-button issue every day now.

It's pretty tough to put together a solid season without a good bullpen and there's no bigger source of frustration for a clubhouse or a fanbase than having the lead late in a game and blowing it. 

All that being said, the Cubs bullpen entering 2019 might be the least inspiring group they've had for Opening Day in years and it's not just because of injuries (though that's a huge factor). 

In 2017, the Cubs left spring training with brand new closer Wade Davis in tow, plus veterans Brian Duensing and Koji Uehara. 

In 2018, it was Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and a full season of Justin Wilson.

This year, it's Brad Brach, Xavier Cedeno and Tony Barnette...and both Cedeno and Barnette are expected to miss Opening Day due to injury while Brach is getting over a bout of mono and fighting through a dip in velocity. Oh yeah, and Morrow is still hurt and will miss at least a month.

It's certainly not ideal, but there are worse bullpen situations out there among contending teams. Even the once-mighty Brewers are enduring adversity with their relief corps at the moment.

The Cubs certainly have question marks in their bullpen and while a shiny new toy like Craig Kimbrel would absolutely make things look a while lot better, there's no guarantee this current group is going to struggle. Cishek, Brach, Duensing, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler are all established veterans with a reliable track record and even amid his late-season struggles the last couple years, Carl Edwards Jr. has still posted very good numbers.

Edwards putting it all together would certainly make things run a lot smoother in Joe Maddon's bullpen. Remember, too, that Cishek looked like the MVP of the entire pitching staff last year before seemingly running into a wall in late August — he had a 1.68 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through Aug. 24.

The Cubs can't count on Morrow settling in as closer even when he returns in late-April/early-May given his long injury history and the key will be making sure he — and the rest of the bullpen — is healthy and firing on all cylinders down the stretch in what figures to be a dogfight in the NL. 

Plus, the Cubs finally have some young arms on the cusp of the big leagues who look like they may provide an in-season boost to the bullpen (Dakota Mekkes, Adbert Alzolay, etc.).

As Cam said, bullpens are impossible to predict in March. The Cubs felt great about their relievers in March 2017-18 and both units looked a whole lot different by the time September and October came along.

Could the Cubs have done more to bolster their bullpen this winter? Absolutely, and they probably should've given it's the clear weakness of the roster at the moment. But nobody knows how this will all play out over the next six months.

-Tony Andracki

The complete 19 for '19 series:

19. Who will be the Cubs' leadoff hitter?
18. Who's more likely to bounce back - Tyler Chatwood, Brian Duensing or Brandon Kintzler?
17. How different will Joe Maddon be in 2019?
16. Can Cubs keep off-field issues from being a distraction?
15. How can Cubs avoid a late-season fade again?
14. Is this the year young pitchers *finally* come up through the system to help in Chicago?
13. How much will Cubs be able to count on Brandon Morrow?
12. How does the Addison Russell situation shake out?
11. Will Willson Contreras fulfill his potential as the best catcher on the planet?
10. Will the offseason focus on leadership and accountability translate into the season?
9. Will payroll issues bleed into the season?
8. Will Javy Baez put up another MVP-caliber season?
7. Will Jon Lester and Cole Hamels win the battle against Father Time for another season?
6. What should we expect from Kris Bryant Revenge SZN?
5. Do the Cubs have enough in the bullpen?
4. What does Yu Darvish have in store for Year 2?
3. Are the Cubs the class of the NL Central?
2. Is the offense going to be significantly better in 2019?
1. How do the Cubs stay on-mission all year?

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