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.
Jake Arrieta gives up first inning run
For the first time in a year, 33 starts.
Old news, sorry if it's 3/44-
J-Hey being classy by repaying an old teammate:
With Paredes moving to 3B, how do you see playing time shaking out between him and Galindo? Do you think Galindo gets starts at 1B? Galindo is more of a prospect than Paniagua, right?
Phil, your knowledge of the Cubs Minor League system is unbelievable.
This kid would be a key piece in a trade for a pitcher, imo.
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!