Sveum wants to see more from offense


Sveum wants to see more from offense

When the Cubs let Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena walk in free agency this winter, it was apparent the 2012 team would struggle to score runs at times.

David DeJesus and Ian Stewart were acquired, but both were coming off down seasons and nobody knew what to expect from career minor-leaguer Bryan LaHair playing full-time at first base.

After putting up eight runs on Cy Young-caliber starters in back-to-back games last week, the Cubs then scored just 10 runs in the next five games, all losses. They entered play Friday averaging 3.5 runs per game on the season and sitting 24th in the majors in runs scored, a big reason for the 3-10 start and 1-5 road trip.

"Obviously, the record is what bothers you," manager Dale Sveum said. "I think being out of a couple games in St. Louis and just not swinging the bats after the first game in St. Louis with men in scoring position and driving the ball.

"We need to drive the ball out of the ballpark to score some runs. It was nice Thursday, Barney hit a three-run triple down the right-field line. We just need more of that. We need more doubles and scoring quick. It's hard to string hits together in the National League when you can pitch to the lineup and get down there and know the pitcher is coming up. Our top of our order needs to do some damage."

Unfortunately for Sveum's squad, Barney's hit in Friday's series finale against the Marlins was the only offense the Cubs were able to muster.

The Cubs entered play Friday 27th in the majors in slugging percentage with a .328 mark. Only Philadelphia, Oakland and Pittsburgh sported lower marks.

"We're a pretty aggressive team," Sveum said. "Slugging percentage happens early in the count. We need to get better pitches to hit early in the count if we're going to swing early. Especially when we're in fastball counts, we have to take advantage of those fastball counts and drive the ball to the middle of the field.

"The fact of the matter is we have to drive some balls in the gaps. That's what we have to get and when people are on base, we have to take advantage of that...It's a full effort from everybody. It's usually an extension of the top of the order."

Cubs not working on Anthony Rizzo contract extension this winter

Cubs not working on Anthony Rizzo contract extension this winter

For all the talks of possible contract extensions involving Cubs this offseason, first baseman Anthony Rizzo's name has been mentioned less than other core players.

Well, that's because the Cubs haven't approached Rizzo with an extension, according to ESPN's Jesse Rogers

"The Cubs have informed us that they will not be offering Anthony an extension at this time," Marc Pollack, Rizzo's agent, told Rogers.

Rizzo was seen as a logical candidate to get a new deal this winter. He's the face of the franchise and one of the team's most valuable players on the field and in the clubhouse. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer didn't comment on specifics, but he said Tuesday the organization is having extension talks with current players.

"We always take the position of not commenting on extensions, but are we having those discussions? Yes," Hoyer said at the Winter Meetings. "People focus so much on trades and free agent signings at these meetings, but all the agents are under the same roofs, also, and allows us to have those kinds of discussions. I'm not gonna specify who or what, but yeah certainly those conversations are ongoing."

If Rizzo isn't part of those discussions, shortstop Javier Báez is left as the most likely Cub to get extended this offseason. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras have been involved in incessant trade rumors, and according to Rogers, the Cubs haven't approached Kyle Schwarber with a new contract, to this point.

Rizzo is signed through 2020 and the Cubs have a team option on him for 2021 worth $16.5 million. But the Cubs will likely go into next season not knowing if Rizzo will be around after 2021, complicating the long-term picture of the franchise.

Pollack added that Rizzo is open to being a Cub for life, for what it's worth. 

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Mercy! Hawk Harrelson wins Ford Frick Award and joins the Hall of Fame

Mercy! Hawk Harrelson wins Ford Frick Award and joins the Hall of Fame

SAN DIEGO -- The Hawk is in the Hall.

Legendary White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson was announced as the winner of the Ford Frick Award on Wednesday, sending one of the most colorful characters in baseball history to Cooperstown forever.

Harrelson spent decades behind the mic for the White Sox, never leaving any doubt over how much passion he had for the South Siders. His love for the White Sox and the game in general shone through with every word he uttered, with so many of those words becoming part of baseball’s lexicon.

Be it iconic catchphrases like “You can put it on the board, yes!” and “He gone!” or memorable moments such as “You gotta be bleepin’ me!” and “Under the circumstances, that was the best catch I have ever seen!” everyone in Chicago has a favorite Hawk call. For multiple generations of fans, he was as closely associated with the franchise as anyone.

The Ford Frick Award honors excellence in broadcasting, and while his detractors might label him too much of a homer, there was never an attempt to mask that fact. Hawk’s broadcasts were for White Sox fans, and he accomplished what few broadcasters can claim to accomplish today: Watching his games was like watching the game at the bar, with fellow fans getting all riled up over every play.

There’s a great line from a baseball film that goes, “Baseball’s a game; games are supposed to be fun.” Hawk made games just that: fun. Whether he was going crazy over a White Sox win, his voice cracking while proclaiming that “our kids just will not quit,” or he was seething in anger, decrying one of the men in blue as “a disgrace to the umpiring profession,” he provided a level of entertainment that made games more enjoyable.

For many, being a White Sox fan includes adopting “Hawkisms” -- be they greatest hits or deep cuts -- as part of your daily routine. “Don’t stop now, boys” and “we need help” can be equally enjoyable rallying cries. And they all stem from the Hawk. He’s not just a man. He’s a language all his own.

That’s a Hall-of-Fame impact.

And now he’s been rewarded with this honor, a place in Cooperstown among the greats. For this writer, “deserving” to be a part of the Hall of Fame means being such an integral part of the game that you cannot tell the story of baseball without the person in question. You cannot tell the story of the game without slipping into a Hawk impression. You wouldn’t want to. It’s simply too much fun.


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