Coleman's made a strong pitch for next job

274178.jpg

Coleman's made a strong pitch for next job

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010
12:15 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON This feels like the last few periods before school lets out for summer, the approximately 48 hours left in this Cubs season.

There was Carlos Zambrano on Friday afternoon posting a lineup card written in Japanese to the wall. And when someone pointed at the brace and questioned the mild left knee sprain, Kosuke Fukudome moonwalked across the room like Michael Jackson.

By Oct. 1, the Cubs and those around the team seemed a bit punch-drunk. While some of the players are already looking forward to flying from Houston to their offseason homes, Mike Quade is awaiting an answer on his future.

The Cubs manager for the moment hasnt scheduled any interviews with Jim Hendry yet. But the general manager is traveling with the team on this last road trip, and watched the Cubs secure a 2-0 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

I really am in a day-to-day mode, Quade said. I will manage here these three days and finish up. Im in no hurry to leave Chicago. I do want to catch (some) fish, but Ill be there for several days (and) that process will take care of itself.

Im flexible as can be. And when that conversation needs to happen, or if anybody needs me, Im always available, whether Im in Florida or whether Im in Chicago. (To) be honest, I havent concerned myself with that.

Quades resume includes a .657 winning percentage (23-12) since he replaced Lou Piniella, but he is not the only one auditioning. In front of 33,869 fans, Casey Coleman threw seven scoreless innings and had an RBI double to beat the Astros (75-85).

Its huge for the offseason, Coleman said. It just sets you up for a new fresh start next year, knowing that you can pitch here and (have gained) a lot of confidence in your teammates and coaches.

Coleman will report to Mesa, Ariz., as a different pitcher in February. Quiet and polite, he mostly kept to himself during his first spring-training camp with the major-league club. He was just trying to get acclimated, facing hitters like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

The 23-year-old rookie has now gone at least six innings in seven straight starts. Hes 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in the eight starts hes been given since the middle of August.

Hes done a heck of a job, Quade said. Ultimately, its about performance. I dont know how many people knew (who) Casey Coleman was eight weeks ago, (but) now hes got a special place in my heart because they know who he is now.

The Cubs staff has now thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings, and Coleman has tried to convince the front office that he should be part of it in 2011.

A rotation that could begin with Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster at the top will have Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wells on the next tier. Carlos Silva will have to address health concerns and Jeff Samardzija will be out of minor-league options.

So if others seemed distracted, this final start still mattered to Coleman. He pumped his fist after inducing an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fifth. Even if the pressures off, hes hoping someone will notice.

Every outing youre out there pitching for a job, no matter where it is (or) what team, Coleman said. You never know what can happen. It means a lot to (many) guys in this clubhouse and I knows it means a lot to Q.

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

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down 'slippery slope' with rules changes

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down 'slippery slope' with rules changes

MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant has led a charmed baseball life – Golden Spikes Award winner, Arizona Fall League MVP, consensus minor league player of the year, two-time All-Star, Hank Aaron Award winner, National League Rookie of the Year and MVP and World Series champion – all before his 25th birthday last month.

So, no, the Cubs superstar doesn't see the need for any dramatic overhaul to a sport that's desperately trying to connect with Bryant's demographic and keep up at a time when iPhones are killing everyone's attention spans and the entertainment options are endless.            

"I love the way it is," Bryant before Wednesday's workout at the Sloan Park complex.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred essentially fired a warning shot during Tuesday's Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore, threatening to unilaterally impose pace-of-play changes – think pitch clock, limited mound visits, new strike zone – for the 2018 season if the players' union doesn't cooperate.

The first reported difference is the traditional four-pitch intentional walk turning into a dugout signal, which seems to be more of a cosmetic change than an actual efficiency measure.

"You're in the box, you want to force someone to make a pitch," said Bryant, who remembered Anthony Rizzo’s 10th-inning matchup against Cleveland Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. "Just the World Series, for example, when 'Rizz' got intentionally walked. There were a couple that were low. What if the ball got away? That's huge. Especially in that type of situation – Game 7 of the World Series – you want to put pressure on the pitcher any way you can.

"It seems like it's not stressful at all, but any time you're not throwing at full effort for a pitcher, it seems like there's a chance that we could do damage on that."

That's actually Manfred's agenda in an age of grinding at-bats, specialized bullpens and defensive shifts – trying to create more action and eliminating some of the dead air more than simply cutting the length of games by a few minutes.

"The game's been the same to me since I was young, so I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Bryant said. "I think that's what makes our game great. It is a long game and we play 162 games a year and there's more strategy involved with it. I think it could be a slippery slope once you start changing all these things. 

"The people you really need to ask are the fans. The diehard fans are going to be the ones who oppose more changes. They're the ones who pay to watch us play. Those are the opinions that you need."

In using this power in the new collective bargaining agreement as leverage, Manfred is looking at the future of a $10 billion industry, insisting the game isn't broken when more than 75 million people visited major-league stadiums last season.

But even Cubs manager Joe Maddon – who’s usually open-minded and in tune with these kind of big-picture ideas – doesn’t get the pace-of-play focus.

"I'm not privy to all the reasons why it's so important," Maddon said. "It just appears to be important for the people in New York. My job is not to make those decisions. My job is to ultimately make the Cubs play well again, etc., so there are certain things that I don’t quite understand.

"If I had more interior information maybe you could be more supportive of it. On the surface – I've talked about it in the past – I don't really understand the pace-of-game issues because I don't really pay attention to that. I'm just locked into managing the game. The nine innings go 2 hours and 15 minutes, or 3 hours and 20, as long as you win, I don’t care.

"That's where I come from, but there's something obviously larger than that that's really causing a lot of these discussions. Again, from my office, I don't necessarily know what that is. But I do know new normals may occur."  

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. – Joe Maddon teased reporters when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona one week ago, promising the Cubs wouldn't tone down the gimmicks now that they're World Series champions: "We already have something planned for the first day that you might not want to miss."

A weekend of rain in Mesa postposed the first full-scale full-squad workout until Monday, and the wet grass meant the big reveal had to wait until Tuesday morning, when gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss drove a white Ferrari onto the field for the team's stretching session.

The bearded man they call "Bussy" rocked sunglasses, a gold chain around his neck, brown dress shoes and the same navy blue windowpane suit he wore to the White House. The overarching message as Buss blew kisses and Cypress Hill's "(Rock) Superstar" and Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" blasted from the sound system: Humility.

"I hope everyone gets the sarcasm involved," Maddon said.

So, uh, no, the Cubs aren't going to dial it back or turn the zoo animals away or worry about the target they proudly wore on their chest last year.

"I don't know if the mime's coming back or not," Maddon said during the welcome-to-camp press conference. "Could you do a mime two years in a row? I don't know if that's permissible under MLB rules somewhere. I don't think you can bring a mime back two years in a row.

"Magicians are OK. You can anticipate a lot of the same, absolutely."

Before rolling your eyes at a star manager who loves the spotlight, it's important to note that the stunts are largely Buss productions.

"A lot of times, I'm not even aware," Maddon said. "He just knows he's got my blessings. He knows he does not have to clear it with me, unless it's absolutely insane. It works pretty well this way."

While every Maddon dress-up theme trip doesn't get universal love in the clubhouse, Buss has a unique way of getting millionaires to pay attention, almost tricking them into doing work.

"He's got several well-endowed players on the team that support his histrionics," Maddon said.

[MORE CUBS: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field]

Since taking over this job in 2001, Buss has survived multiple ownership structures (Tribune Co., Sam Zell, Ricketts family) and the Andy MacPhail/Jim Hendry/Theo Epstein transitions in the front office, working for managers Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann (interim), Bruce Kimm (interim), Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria.

"He must have some good photographs, right?" Maddon said. "He's a different cat. He's a weapon."

Buss can clearly get along with almost any kind of personality. But it took Maddon – and the explosion of social media – to give him this kind of platform.

"No, nothing's changed, man," Maddon said. "It's all the same in regards to 'the same,' meaning the methods, the process. I just got aired out by one of our geek guys for not using the word ‘process.’ It’s true. Last year, I used the word ‘process’ often. I’m going to continue to use it a lot again this year.

"Why were we able to withstand the word 'pressure' and 'expectations' as well as we did last year? Because we weren't outcome-oriented. We were more oriented towards the process. Anybody in your job and your business – if you want to be outcome-oriented – you're going to find yourself in a lot of trouble just focusing on that word.

"It's all about the process. Our process shall remain the same, absolutely it shall. Hopefully, we're going to add or augment it in some ways that can be even more interesting and entertaining."

The irony is that the Cubs have repeatedly used outcome-based thinking in defending Maddon's decisions during the World Series. But the manager obviously deserves so much credit for creating an environment where this team could play loose and relaxed and not collapse under the weight of franchise history.

"Our guys are pretty much in charge of the whole thing," Maddon said. "I love the empowerment of the players. I love that they feel the freedom to be themselves. If they didn't, maybe Jason (Heyward) would not have gotten the guys together in a weight room in Cleveland after a bad moment.

"All those things matter. And you can't understand exactly which is more important than the other. So you just continue to attempt to do a lot of the same things. Process is important, man, and we're going to continue along that path."