The year in Cubs quotes: 'We stinks'

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The year in Cubs quotes: 'We stinks'

Everyone showed up at spring training in great shape, brimming with confidence and enjoying the Arizona sunshine. The Cubs were banking on a carryover effect from their strong finish to the 2010 season. What could possibly go wrong?

Some seven months later, Jim Hendry spends his time on golf courses, while Mike Quade is ready to go fishing, waiting for the next general manager to decide his fate.

No one would admit that they saw a 71-91 season coming. Heres how they watched it all unfold.
We fully expect to be in contention in the National League Central. (I) dont have any doubt we can do that. Hendry on the first day of camp, Feb. 13.

I want to talk about the good team that we have. I want to focus on this year and be a better player, a better pitcher. Thats what everybodys looking forward to. Carlos Zambrano, Feb. 14.

You have to understand how supplements work. They dont make you Superman. Steroids make you Superman. Marlon Byrd responding to his relationship with BALCO founder Victor Conte, detailed again on HBOs Real Sports, Feb. 16.
Im cured. I got approval from the psychologist that I can be by myself. Zambrano, Feb. 22.

Even in Little League I never got involved with a teammate like that. Im not a troublemaker. Put it that way. Aramis Ramirez on his dugout altercation with Carlos Silva, after the first inning of the fourth spring-training game, March 2.

No storybook ending, but I dont believe in those things anyway. Quade after an Opening Day loss to the Pirates, April 1.

Were going to see what were made of. Randy Wells after the Cubs announce Wells and Andrew Cashner will be going on the disabled list, April 6.

Believe me, the last thing that I want to do this year is disrespect the manager. Zambrano after storming off the mound before Quade could get there to take the ball from him, April 13.
I cant win. Hendry, knowing the media would run wild with speculation after he hugged Albert Pujols, May 10.

That was embarrassing and that (expletive) got to stop. Quade, minutes after holding a closed-door meeting with his team following a loss in Cincinnati, May 16.

If we havent reached rock bottom with this, were pretty damn close. Quade after another loss to the Reds, May 17.

It was good to kind of blow some steam off and have some fun and watch that guy run around naked. Koyie Hill after a streaker ran onto the field during a win in Miami, May 18.

Im blessed. Byrd, thankful that the fastball that smashed into his face the night before at Fenway Park didnt leave any permanent damage, May 22.

Whatever heat comes, bring it on. Quade, June 3.

We played like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team, for the owners, embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing. Thats the word here for this team. We should know better than this. We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a a good fastball hitter. We stinks. Zambrano after Carlos Marmol blew the save in a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, June 5.

(Bleep) the goat. Message on the back of T-shirts, June 14. (At least one player who regularly wore the shirt had no idea what the curse was all about, or how long it had been since the Cubs won the World Series.)

I have 100 percent confidence in Jim. Tom Ricketts, a little more than a month before the chairman fired Hendry, June 15.
Ive never bought into the (idea that) I should have a baseball guy to watch my baseball guy and his baseball guys. And then what do you get? A baseball guy to watch the baseball guy whos watching your baseball guy? Ricketts, defending team president Crane Kenney, June 15.

Sometimes the doctor is talking to you like when your wife is talking to you, youre like, Yeahyeahyeah but your mind is elsewhere. Zambrano, unable to explain the details of a back injury that landed him on the disabled list, July 1.

Hes better than me. Hall of Famer Ernie Banks after Starlin Castro was named to the All-Star team, July 3.

Were right where we need to be. Matt Garza after a comeback win in Washington left the Cubs 17 games under .500, July 7.

I was just mad because of my sore back I didnt get a tee time at Oakmont. Ryan Dempster, trying to brush off the shouting match he got into with Quade after the manager pulled him from the game, July 9.

When daddy tells you to do something, you do it. Hes the manager. You dont have to like it, but thats the decision. Hill, smoothing over the Dempster-Quade dugout argument in Pittsburgh, July 9.

Newsflash: Sometimes guys need a day here and there. Kerry Wood, insisting nothings wrong with him physically, July 24.

Im not a lunatic. Quade, believing his team can get back in the playoff race, even though they were 18 games under .500, July 26.

Change. Change. Change. A lot of change, a lot of changes to win. Zambrano, refusing to explain the changes he said he wants to see around this team, July 27.
Nobody has come forward to me from the team and said: We want to trade you. Jim hasnt talked to me about it. Whats the other guy? Kenney? Or the Ricketts nobody has talked to me about (this). Its only in the media. Its speculation that this team wants Ramirez. Ramirez during one of his many State of Ramirez updates, July 28.

(Its not like) if you didnt get something done by 3 p.m. today, this is a disaster. I dont put too much stock into that. The guys we kept for the most part are guys that still have a chance to be involved next year. Hendry, hours after the trade deadline, and nine days after Ricketts told him hed be fired, July 31.

Its going to be one of three things: Either Ronnie batting, Ronnie fielding or Ronnie with his hairpiece on fire. WGN Radios Pat Hughes before the unveiling of Ron Santos statue, Aug. 10.

His lockers empty. I dont know where hes at. He walked out on 24 guys that are battling their ass off for him. I dont know where hes gone, what hes doing. I heard he might retire. Quade on Zambrano after his meltdown in Atlanta, Aug. 12.
We will respect his wishes and honor them and move forward. Hendry on Zambrano, Aug. 12.

Hes a big man, but I think mentally hes weak. Alfonso Soriano on Zambrano, Aug. 13.
You cant fight change. Its big business. Were here to win games and the last couple years we didnt win enough of them. Hendry, at the news conference announcing his firing, Aug. 19.

The sabermetric stuff is important. But its just a piece and were not running the baseball organization by a computer model. Ricketts, Aug. 19.

You cant release 25 guys. Somebody had to pay the price. Ramirez, Aug. 19.

You want somebody else? Marmol, laughing off speculation that there could be a new closer next season, Sept. 5.
This organization has an extreme desire to actually bring a championship here. As far as it may look at times, I see it coming. Carlos Pena, eternal optimist, Sept. 7.

Im not going to wax nostalgic. I plan to be back. And I plan to do a good job next year. Quade, stubborn optimist, before the seasons final home game, Sept. 21.

You can bring here whoever you think the best manager in the big leagues is I dont think its going to be any different. The bottom line is as players we didnt get it done. Ramirez, Sept. 27.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

How Cubs are setting the expectations for winter meetings

The billionaire owners and millionaire athletes wisely decided to not stop all that momentum after a World Series that beat the NFL’s “Sunday Night Football” in head-to-head TV ratings, attracted more than 40 million viewers for Game 7 and turned the 2016 Cubs into legends.

The owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war, crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should unleash teams that had been waiting to see the rules of engagement, spur the free-agent market, accelerate trade talks and ignite Major League Baseball’s signature offseason event.

The Cubs can go viral seemingly anywhere now – “Saturday Night Live,” Disney World, “The Tonight Show,” the Latin Grammys, an Indiana-North Carolina basketball game, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” – but don’t expect them to own the winter meetings this time.

As a $10 billion industry begins to descend upon National Harbor in Maryland on Sunday, Cubs officials won’t feel any of the urgency that fueled the spending spree that nearly totaled $290 million and helped end the 108-year drought.

“We said at the time that we did two offseasons worth of shopping in one offseason last year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “We really liked the talent available to us last offseason. It was a very good free-agent market. We felt like building upon a 97-win team that got to the NLCS but was swept. We wanted to improve some of the deficiencies on that club and really push forward.

“We were really aggressive with what we did last offseason. We told everyone at the time that we felt like we were kind of shopping for two offseasons.

“So with that in mind, I don’t expect nearly the activity we had a year ago.”

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Sensing the pitching market might erupt at that point, the Cubs pushed to close John Lackey’s two-year, $32 million deal in early December, before the winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, and Zack Greinke’s anticipated decision between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Hours after the Lackey news broke, the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the baseball world when word leaked out that Greinke had agreed to a six-year, $206 million megadeal.

The perfect storm brought Ben Zobrist to Chicago, once the Cubs finally engineered a Starlin Castro trade at the winter meetings, with the New York Yankees being the only team willing to absorb $38 million, give up a useful pitcher (Adam Warren) and take a chance on the former All-Star shortstop. Zobrist turned down $60 million guaranteed from the Giants and New York Mets, taking a four-year, $56 million deal and delivering a World Series MVP performance.

The opt-out clauses within Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184 million contract don’t seem so inviting anymore – and he said those weren’t important to him anyway – but he provided Gold Glove defense in right field, called that pivotal team meeting during the Game 7 rain delay in Cleveland and should rebound after the worst offensive season of his career.

The Cubs have no expectations that Dexter Fowler’s market will again crater to the point that he will accept a $13 million guarantee in spring training, moving on with a center-field timeshare between Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr.

“The bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” Hoyer said. “But I think that was done 12 months ago. It will be a quieter winter than last offseason.

“We’re always listening. If good ideas come to us – or we come up with good ideas – we’ll share them with other teams. But fans shouldn’t expect a flurry of things, because they got that 12 months ago.” 

Fans also won’t be getting crash courses on labor relations and lockout implications. A game that can be slow, boring and stuck in its ways can’t waste the energy and excitement that created crossover moments like LeBron James showing up at the United Center in a Cubs uniform.

“There’s no doubt that it was an amazing postseason all around,” Hoyer said. “Baseball really showed itself in the best possible light, ending with a Game 7 that we happened to win. But win or lose, that was one of the greatest games ever played. Baseball is certainly going to be on a high going into spring training.

“Baseball is definitely in a great place right now.”  

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

The Cubs signed Brian Duensing to a one-year, $2 million contract on Friday, placing a small bet on a lefty specialist who spent parts of last season on the Triple-A level but made a good enough impression during his 13-plus innings with the Baltimore Orioles.

As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. (As expected, the Cubs offered contracts to arbitration-eligible pitchers Arrieta, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm before Friday’s deadline. Their 40-man roster stands at 35 after non-tendering lefties Gerardo Concepcion and Zac Rosscup, right-hander Conor Mullee and infielder Christian Villanueva.)

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

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The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

Lefty reliever Brett Cecil getting a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals became another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline.

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.”