Don't Underestimate the Cubs: They Can Make a Mess of Anything
After all these years, I should know better than to underestimate the Cubs' ability to screw things up, but each time they do, I am somehow sickened anew. This 10-week, all-expenses-paid farewell tour of the National League granted to Lou Piniella is just the latest example.
For weeks, for as long as the least intelligent fan among us has known that the Cubs had no prayer of reaching the post-season this year, players and management alike have cried out, "There's a ton of talent in this lockerroom. We're not out of this race until there's an 'X' next to our name in the standings!" That sort of drivel.
As of the other day, however, this never-say-die franchise is under the stewardship of a 66-year-old manager ("almost 67," Lou pointed out to us) who has looked disconnected from virtually the start of the season ("Look, fellas, I'm out of answers. I really am."). Jim Hendry explained that after a long, distinguished career as a player and World Series-winning manager, Lou "deserves" to go out on his own terms.
My question is, what do Cub fans deserve? Don't we at least deserve to see what would happen if this comically awful circus troupe might perform better if it sensed some urgency; if it was under the direction of someone driven by his own hunger to turn an interim manager title into something more lasting?
I'll answer my own question—we absolutely deserve that much.
Regarding the endorsement Jim Hendry received from the Chairman on the day of the Piniella press conference...
As Rob G. wrote in the comments, the fact that Hendry, whose teams have now failed to win a single post-season game in seven years, will now be hiring his third Cubs manager is frankly unbelievable. I have nothing else to add there.
Finally, regarding the Hall of Famer in the room...
I'm already tired of hearing Ryne Sandberg invoke his four years of service at Peoria and Des Moines as proof of his fitness for a job that has crushed managers with much more experience and much more impressive managerial resumés. Sandberg somehow conveys an air of entitlement and embarrassing desperation at the same time. I would love to see him NOT get the Cubs' job if only to learn for certain if the rest of Major League Baseball is as convinced of Sandberg's managerial potential as #23 is.
I suppose there's always that job in Baltimore.
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!!!!!!
given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.
i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.
Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?
He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.
My guess? Toronto.
PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.
Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?
Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.
Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.
Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.
While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.