The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

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The breaks of the game: Selig's state of play

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010
7:27 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

This week Bud Selig spoke with Tyler Colvin as the Cubs outfielder rested at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, recovering from the wound left in his chest by a shattered piece of a maple bat.

It remains to be seen whether all the headlines generated by Colvins freak injury will result in significant change. But the commissioner defended baseballs safety record on Friday at Wrigley Field, saying the industry has reduced broken bats by 50 percent across the past 20 years.

Every time a bat cracks, Selig said, its sent to Major League Baseball headquarters in New York, and then forwarded to researchers retained at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin to study the issue.

You watch something like the Tyler Colvin incident (and) it scares you, but were making progress, Selig said. Our experts think we may have some solutions, so hopefully this offseason we can really finish solving the problem. But progress has been made. We just need to do more.

Selig deflected part of the responsibility to the Major League Baseball Players Association, whose members like to use maple bats and figure to make it a negotiating point once the collective-bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season.

Selig pushed several items like expanding the playoff field to his offseason agenda during Fridays session with reporters that lasted nearly 13 minutes inside Wrigley Fields press box dining room.

(Im) the guy who brought (in) the wild card and took a lot of abuse, Selig said. Two or three years ago we had a special committee (and) I really thought we were going to increase it then. (But) the more we talked about it, the less desirable it became for a lot of reasons. However, this winter, its time to revisit that and we will.

The commissioner remains intrigued by the concept of expanded instant replay, but come October you shouldnt expect to see radical changes for the postseason. Hes brought it up for review, but is concerned about the pace of the game.

I know that some (in the media) would like us to do it for the playoffs, but if were going to do anything, were going to do it permanently, Selig said. If you play all year 162 games (in) six months you ought to play by the same rules when you get to the playoffs. But well take a look at it again. Im not averse (to it).

On Friday Selig toured Wrigley Field which he first visited as a kid in 1944 with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and he later dodged a question about the 2014 All-Star Game.

The Cubs have lobbied the commissioners office for the event which is expected to go to an American League city andor a new facility as a way to commemorate the stadiums 100th anniversary.

They didnt put you up to asking me that, did they? Selig said. There are a lot of people begging for All-Star Games.

Wrigley Field will pass the three-million mark in attendance on Saturday, but the vast stretches of empty seats have been noticeable this season.

Selig recognizes this, but projects that 73-plus million fans will go to a game in 2010. The former Milwaukee Brewers owner remembers when the average attendance for a franchise was around one million in the 1970s.

Look, here we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Selig said. I could bring a hundred economists and nobody (would disagree). This year the average team will draw 2.4 to 2.5 (million) with every game on television.

Overall were doing remarkably well. The game has never been stronger than it is today.

This season Selig points to the on-field success experienced by smaller-market contenders like Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Texas, Cincinnati and San Diego as evidence of the industrys health.

The safety of fans and players is one piece to a giant puzzle. Colvins rookie year is over, and hes said to be in decent shape. For Selig and his partners, the issue wont go away once Colvins at full strength.

With Tyler it was such a scary thing, but its not shocking because thats how bats are these days. You see (bats flying) all the time, Cubs pitcher Tom Gorzelanny said. We got a guy with a punctured lung at home right now. Its just a matter of time, so hopefully something can be done about that. Its frightening.

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

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.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.