Cubs

Steve Stone's mailbag: The future of the Cubs and Sox

Steve Stone's mailbag: The future of the Cubs and Sox

Monday, June 28, 2010
3:11 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about the Cubs' future, A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Strasburg, and more!
Question from Jake R.-Highland Park, IL: Steve, as June nears its end it is becoming more and more apparent that the Cubs have little to no shot at making the playoffs. What would you do if you were the general manager of this team?

Steve Stone: First of all, far be it for me to give any suggestions to Jim Hendry because he runs his ball club and as many advisers that have certainly helped him over the years get in the position that he is in. The one thing ball club fans have to realize, the Cubs have obligated 9 players next year for 103 million dollars. There is a number of those players that have full no-trade clauses which makes it very difficult to move them.

Another factor that they have to deal with is the Carlos Zambrano issue and the millions owed to him and how best to resolve that. It is very rare for a baseball team to suspend one of their players, to have one team to suspend 2 players in 2 year is almost unheard of. While they were able to move Milton Bradley who is hitting a robust 205 for Seattle, one of the things I would be looking at, and this would be the only suggestion I would give Jim Hendry would be, while he is throwing the best baseball of his life, I would be looking to move Carlos Silva. Carlos has had a tremendous run of this half, been one of the most consistent, if not the most. Generally I take a great deal of heat for making predictions into the future on the health of various pitchers, I would say because Silva is very much overweight and starting to experience hamstring problems hamstring problems will eventually turn into back problems. While SIlva can still pass another team's physical and because I believe the Cubs owe him something along the lines of 7 million this year and another 12 next year, I would be looking to trade him assuming that the Cubs don't make a strong run before the All-Star break. Always better to trade a guy before he breaks down than to keep him until he is rendered unable to perform for you. As a couple of very good general managers who I have talked to, who have constantly reminded me, it is better to trade a guy a little to early than to hold onto him a little too late.

Question from Kristin P.-Dyer, IN: As a pitcher, how does it affect your mentality on the mound when you know that you probably wont be getting run support on a regular basis? Are the Cubs starters aware of the teams struggles at the plate, and does that create more pressure for them to pitch a gem?

Steve Stone: For the Cubs starters not to be aware of the team's struggles at the plate, they would have to be that great character from the song written by The Who about the deaf dumb and blind kid who sure plays a good pin ball. But that should and usually does not have any influence on a good pitcher. A good pitcher or a great pitcher doesn't really care how his team is struggling offensively because he feels that if his team gets one run, he will should out the other team. A good or great pitcher doesn't worry about what plays are made behind him or if his infield is going to hit or who he goes up against. The great pitcher thinks he will be better than that team on any other day; to go out without that mind set, you will go out with a self defeating prophecy.

David W.-Granger, IN: Steve, do you think that either Ozzie or Kenny will be let go during the season if the Sox continue to struggle? Does Jerry Reinsdorf owe either person anything because of the 2005 World Series victory?
Steve Stone: This question probably had a lot more relevance when they were struggling but they find themselves 1.5 games out of first and one game behind Detroit for second place. That being said, Jerry met with both Ozzie and Kenny separately during some of their more difficult times and said to both of them, time to fix this, put the squabbling to bed and get back to the business of baseball. Ozzie and Kenny, whenever it is that they happen to go out, will go out on their own terms. One has been a very successful Manager, the other a very successful General Manager and when the day comes when they can no longer do their particular job, most likely they will be gone. That day, however, is not anytime this year.

Andrew L.-Northbrook, IL: Steve, now that A.J. has his 10-and-5 rights do you still see the Sox trying to trade the veteran catcher, and if so, do you think A.J. would waive his no-trade clause if it would help the Sox build for the future?

Steve Stone: Again, this becomes a much more pertinent question when the sox found themselves 9.5 games in back of Minnesota but A.J. is hitting 242 which is 40 points below his lifetime average. He has a tremendous amount of value as calling pitches and going out every day he is called on. A.J. has his problems, driving in runs and throwing out base runners. I believe A.J. has a lot of value to a contending team because left handed catchers who play just about everyday have some value. A.J. being one of the smarter players on the team, I believe that the Sox at this point have no interest in trading him.

With 13 games left against Minnesota and 13 left against Detroit as well multiple series with Boston and Los Angeles, there is going to be ample time to see where this team fits in the AL Central and if it comes apparent that they are in the race, AJ stays. If it is apparent they are not in the race, A.J probably goes.

Max K.-Waukegan, IL: Steve, everybody is talking about Steven Strasburg. What is your take, as a former pitcher, on the phenom? Is he as good as advertised, the next Roger Clemens? Can this player put the Nationals on the map?
Steve Stone: Well the Nationals are already on the map because they play in Washington DC. They have some very good young players, Steven Strasburg being one of they. He is not as good as advertised, he might be better. Sox players were dazzled by his straight change which is most unusual for a guy that has a fast ball that tops out at 101. He has a knee-buckling curve ball and even a shorter breaking curve that he doesn't use quite as much. But what sets him apart from other flame throwers is a great, great change. With any pitcher you always have to use the term, if he stays healthy. Barring injuries, he is now and will continue to be one of the great new dominating pitchers in the year that has become the year of the pitcher. The Nationals have a couple other young players on the horizon including a young infielder by the name of Espinosa, no one has heard about but will in the not too distant future, Washington has a chance to be competitive in the National League East as soon as they get a couple pitchers back and make a deal for a starting pitcher or two.

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

Basket Slam: Wrigley's quirks come to Cubs' aid in walk-off win

The Wrigley Field basket has played a huge role in this week's Cubs-Reds series.

In Monday night's game, Cincinnati catcher Curt Casali hit a game-tying homer into the basket in the seventh inning of a game the Cubs went on to lose.

But the basket giveth and the basket also taketh away.

Tuesday night, it was Kyle Schwarber and the Cubs who were singing the praises of one of the strangest ballpark quirks in baseball.

Schwarber connected on a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning off Reds closer Raisel Iglesias, hitting a fly ball through the impossibly-humid air and into the basket in left-centerfield for a 4-3 Cubs win.

"Whoever thought about that basket — whenever that occurred — tell them, 'thank you,'" Joe Maddon said. "Although it did work against us [Monday]. When it works for you, it's awesome."

Schwarber has stood under the left-field basket many times with his back against the wall, thinking he might be able to make a play on a high fly ball only to see it settle into the wickets and turn into a chance for a Bleacher Bum to show off their arm. 

But is he a huge fan of the basket now that it worked in his favor?

"I guess so," Schwarber laughed. "Yesterday, it cost us, but today, it helped us out. It's just the factor of Wrigley Field. Happy it worked out today."

It was Schwarber's first career walk off RBI of any kind.

It was the Cubs' fourth walk-off homer of the season, but their first since May 11 when Willson Contreras called "game" on the Milwaukee Brewers. 

The Cubs are now 4-1 since the All-Star Break and hold a 2.5-game lead in the division.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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