Cubs think Ian Stewart can put it all together

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Cubs think Ian Stewart can put it all together

MESA, Ariz. Three words have followed Ian Stewart from the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs used them to sell the trade to the media. Their new third baseman has other ideas. It wont really matter if he finally puts it all together.

I dont look at it as a change of scenery, Stewart said. In the early parts of the offseason, when my name was being thrown around, it was kind of upsetting to me, because I had grown up with them and I had been there for almost 10 years. I didnt go out of Colorado the way that I would have liked to or pictured it.

But when you hear a team like the Cubs, (a) storied franchise, and Theo Epstein (is) interested in you and they feel like you can do well, that just speaks volumes. It boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about the person (and) the type of player that you are.

The Cubs are betting that Stewart can approximate the player the experts thought he would become when he was coming out of high school in Orange County, California. The 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft will turn 27 on Opening Day. The clock is ticking.

At the winter meetings in Dallas, where everyone seemed to be chasing Albert Pujols rumors, the Cubs quietly worked on this deal.

One of the first moves of the Epstein administration was trading Tyler Colvin (another change-of-scenery candidate) and DJ LeMahieu for Stewart and pitcher Casey Weathers.

Stewart generated 25 homers and 70 RBI for the Rockies in 2009, before dropping to 18 and 61 the next season. He spent parts of last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and on the disabled list (right hamstring, left wrist) and didnt hit a single homer at the major-league level.

You just got to give him the at-bats and let him feel comfortable, manager Dale Sveum said. Just give him the job (and) let him know hes going to be out there every single day. Hes got incredible power and athleticism. He catches the ball. Hes a two-way player from the left side of the plate with power, which just doesnt come along every day, especially at third base.

If Jim Hendry were still general manager, the Cubs almost certainly would have brought back Aramis Ramirez, who never really connected with the fans and turned off some media members with his body language. But they were still talking about a Silver Slugger winner.

In Stewart, Epstein saw a player who should be in his prime and will be under club control for the next three seasons. If this works out, and Starlin Castro continues to develop, the Cubs wont have to worry about the left side of their infield.

He pretty much told me: Youre our third baseman. We want you (to) play every day, get all your at-bats, have a great year, go out and have fun, Stewart said. Just to hear that from a guy of his stature and his position with the team is very comforting. It just builds a lot of confidence.

To get a jump on the season, Stewart came to Arizona over the winter for a minicamp run by hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. No need to mention change of scenery. There is opportunity here. Everything is in place for Stewart to show that he belongs and that the Rockies were wrong.

I dont feel like now I can just sit back, Stewart said. Its definitely not a thing where I feel like I can just relax now. It gives me even a little more drive.

SportsTalk Live: Devid DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

SportsTalk Live: Devid DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

"Be sexy."

That was one of two rules manager Joe Maddon told David DeJesus when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him in 2013.

DeJesus appeared on SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss his time spent with Maddon in Tampa Bay.

"Just be yourself out there," DeJesus said of Maddon when the Rays traded for him. "I want you to have fun and I want you to just have that ora of 'just don't worry, just go out there and play.' It kept the whole team loose."

DeJesus also shared his thoughts on Maddon's questionable managerial decisions in the World Series.

Hear that, and more, in the video above.

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Sammy Sosa has stayed so far off the radar that his long-running absence from Cubs Convention didn't even come up during last weekend's Q&A session with ownership.

And the Cubs can't go viral all the time and dominate every offseason news cycle, with the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealing the election results on Wednesday and welcoming Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as part of its 2017 class.

But it's become out of sight, out of mind for Sosa, who barely crossed the 5-percent threshold (8.6) needed to remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for another year.

Sosa — a seven-time All Star, 1998 National League MVP and the franchise's all-time leader with 545 home runs (and 609 overall) — hadn't gained any traction at all during his first four years under BBWAA consideration, hovering between 12.5 and 6.6 percent.

It's complicated with Sosa, a diva personality who experienced a dramatic late-career renaissance and got named in a New York Times report that exposed him as one of the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 (during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey).

The Cubs have undergone a complete makeover since Sosa walked out in 2004, leaving him without many allies in the organization. It's nothing personal, but in the past the Ricketts family has hinted that Sosa could mend certain fences and fill in some of the blanks he once left open during an unconvincing performance in front of Congress.

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The Cubs brought Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg to meet President Barack Obama during their Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to the White House and keep adding former players to the front office. It's awkward after a World Series run where so many alumni showed up to do TV work, throw first pitches, spray champagne or simply watch a rare playoff game at Wrigley Field.

— If Sosa's looking for a roadmap, Manny Ramirez did his penance and cooperated with Major League Baseball to the point where Cubs president Theo Epstein shockingly hired him as a Triple-A Iowa player/coach in the middle of the 2014 season, something that would have been unthinkable during their clashes with the Boston Red Sox.

As a hitting consultant, Ramirez took a come-and-go-as-you-please arrangement, becoming a national story during the 2015 playoffs but largely staying away from the 2016 championship team, perhaps gearing up for his independent-ball comeback in Japan this year. Even after failing multiple drug tests, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation still finished at 23.8 percent in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.

— Lee Smith (34.2 percent) — a drafted-and-developed Cub and the franchise's all-time leader with 180 saves — didn't come close in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Smith had been grandfathered when the Hall of Fame narrowed the eligibility window to 10 years, possibly trying to squeeze Steroid Era symbols like Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent).

— This will make Cub fans feel old: Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time in 2018, when based off this year's returns Trevor Hoffman (74) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) should be building momentum toward the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.