Who's On Deck?
Saturday night I watched 14 innings of baseball at Principal Park, the same number it took the Iowa Cubs to sweep a doubleheader earlier in the week.The I-Cubs were down to their third-string first base coach by the time this one ended on a walk-off play at the plate with lightning crackling in the distance. Until then the highlight was my leaping grab of a hot dog burped up by the bazooka that scoots around the perimeter of the field on a golf cart between innings. I say burped because we were seated in the front row between the visiting dugout and the visiting bullpen. Maybe bunted would be a better verb.
The game broke from the box quickly before settling into a pitching duel. Sam Fuld played a first-inning single into a triple going for another highlight reel catch. Then in the bottom of the first he was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single. He plays like a kid and I enjoy watching him. The second out of that frame was a tag play at the plate after Ryne Sandberg appeared to change his mind from stop to go in the third base coaching box. Albuquerque seemed on their way to a 27- hit shutout.
During the long, scoreless middle portions of the game my mind wandered back and forth from the lackluster team in Chicago that was embarrassed [again] that afternoon to the hustling, grinding one getting dirty on the field in front of me. I gave some serious thought to the questions of whether or not Sandberg will or should be the next manager at Clark & Addison.
I threw out the fact that he doesn’t appear to have the best judgment as a traffic cop based on what I’ve witnessed firsthand. That won’t matter. What will?
Despite his chronic lack of charisma, his return to Chicago would be a PR plus. That might not have counted as much before no-shows started no-showing this year. It may be a slight factor in his favor now. His presence in Des Moines will not be able to trump bad weather and produce an attendance record here as I’d expected it would, but he is patient and accommodating with fans who line up for autographs before every home game. Even though no NL pennants flew at Wrigley Field during his playing days, his jersey number now does and will forever [will he wear it if he returns?]. He is revered there.
More critical is the direction the new ownership points the organization in after “Year One.” Payroll largesse hangs around this year’s lineups like a noose. To the extent some of that can be shed in a transition to a more homegrown, developing team of younger and hungrier players, Sandberg might make sense as a choice to continue working with players in the big leagues that played for him at different levels of the farm system.
I don’t see him as someone suited to massage the egos of temperamental prima donnas with guaranteed contracts, no trade clauses, personal coaches, etc. For all of his blandness, Sandberg offered some real insight into what makes him tick when he gave his induction speech at Cooperstown. He backed up the theme of those remarks when he signed on for another hitch in the bush leagues as a means of working his way back to the big time as a manager. I admire and share many of his feelings about respect for the game and the proper way to play it. But just because his managerial style seems to have played well in Peoria [and Tennessee and Des Moines where he has patiently guided a slow-starting team that lacks offensive muscle into first place] doesn’t mean it will in Chicago.
I remember when the Cubs hired Don Baylor and he announced some nonsense about how the players were to wear their uniforms and be on the field at attention for the National Anthem every day. At the time I cheered. Turned out that sort of stuff didn’t translate into a changing of the guard with the team pennants on the scoreboard pole.
I don’t know if Sandberg should be the Cubs’ next manager or not. I don’t even know if I want him to be. But I do think he has earned serious consideration next time the job comes open, whenever that happens to be. Just don't hire him to replace Mike Quade.
Yeah, Underwood impresses the internet scouts more than the opposing hitters. Blackburn and Williams have pitched well but they would be more interesting if they missed more bats.
Myrtle Beach has a couple of guys--Trevor Clifton and Jake Stinnett--worth keeping an eye on.
South Bend has the best record in the Midwest League but it's more about their bats than their starting pitching.
Thanks Steve, I always forget about that.
Maddon spins the wheel-o-lineups and Bryant is playing 1B.
The line-ups, by the way, appear in the Twitter box on the left and usually very soon after they are made available.
Looks like no Heyward or Rizzo in the lineup today.
HAGSAG: Kevonte Mitchell has shown some improvement in 2016. He takes a lot of walks, shows occasional power, and he's an athletic defender capable of making the big play in the OF.
However, he strikes out way too much, he doesn't always take the most-direct-route to get to balls hit into the air, and he sometimes runs himself into outs on the bases. He is still very raw.
E-MAN: I don't think Dallas Beeler has a long-term future with the Cubs, but (when healthy) he has gotten the call over the past couple of years as the "26th man" when the Cubs needed an extra starter in a doubleheader.
PHIL: Thanks for the wrap. A 2010 early-ish round Hendry draft pick, why do you surmise the new management team just doesn't cut bait on Beeler? Not shown that much as a starter. Does he have a power arm when right? Is he another Schlitter? Or, is he rosyer filler while the org waits out the lower-level arms to surpass him?
Ryan Kellogg is still a fringy prospect despite being very old for low-A. He's putting up very good numbers no matter who he's facihg.
Great article on Yosh and Nobe. Thanks for including it Trans.
Phil, it looks like Kevonte Mitchell has made some progress this Spring. Your thoughts please, thanks.
so far ryan williams (AAA) is the only system prospect on the "could be ready soon" horizon doing well...that said, he's not very exciting and he's assumed to be an end-rotation talent at best.
paul blackburn is getting great early returns in AA, but he's getting surprisingly low K numbers doing it. he throws lot of low/sinking stuff with good control...also assumed to be an end-rotation guy, but he's got room to be better, especially given his control as base to build on.
Speaking of pitching -- another ugly outing for Underwood at AA. Through 6 starts: 5.19 ERA, WHIP 1.69. Yikes!
Man, do we need starting pitching depth. Our best hopes are still hanging with AZ Phil in Arizona. Very scary.
jeebus... that's terrible.
*clap* *clap* *clap*
Thanks AZ. If you like him, I like him.
Awesome report, and good to see Beeler on his way back.
I'm also very happy to hear about the bi-level bump for Daniel Lewis. In the Name of Theo, he was the Last of the Full-Season Cuts, and There Will Be Blood for those who unnecessarily slow his development. Sure, he might end up in independent ball pitching for Lincoln. But if everything breaks right, he may even have a shot at joining up with the Gangs of Chicago. I wouldn't bet My Left Foot on it, though.