Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

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Fight on: Cubs move past Silva-Ramirez dispute

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 12:05 p.m. Updated: 6:37 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. Alfonso Soriano walked into the clubhouse during Thursdays game with a big smile on his face.

Fight? Fight? he said. No? Ok!

Soriano is relentlessly upbeat, so you knew he wouldnt be shaken by any of this. But the Cubs have a first-year manager and are coming off a 75-87 season. Only four games into spring training, they already had what might be a defining moment.

The Cubs closed their clubhouse doors on Thursday morning to address the altercation between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez and the mental lapses that have plagued the entire group.

Manager Mike Quade ran a team meeting that wasnt aimed exclusively at Silva and Ramirez. The day before, the two teammates had to be separated in the dugout after Silva complained about the defense behind him.

Sometimes a little revolts not bad, Quade said. Im glad people were pissed off. We need to channel that anger at the opposition and within ourselves. (You) handle it the way (youre supposed to). I think we put that to bed. As far as Im concerned, we did, and then we move on.

If we were going to have everybody fighting that has made mistakes this spring, wed have the cage match of all-time.

Quade said Silva does not have any physical issues and will continue on his normal throwing schedule. The pitcher is trying to make the rotation but was sabotaged on Wednesday by three errors, including one by Ramirez, which led to a six-run first inning during a 12-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix.

Quade didnt want to go so far as to say that Ramirez was sticking up for his teammates, or that it showed flashes of leadership potential. But of all the crazy things that could happen to the Cubs this spring, Ramirez getting into a fight with a teammate would be one of the last things youd expect.

Its just the heat of the moment, Ramirez said Wednesday, sweeping it aside. I guarantee after you shower, you sit down and realize you made a mistake and that it shouldnt happen. Were going to be together for a long time in here, so we should be ok now.

It is part of a much wider problem. The Cubs had committed 14 errors through their first four Cactus League games. And it wasnt just anonymous players youll never see in Chicago. It was major pieces to the potential Opening Day lineup: Starlin Castro; Tyler Colvin; Carlos Pena; Blake DeWitt; and Jeff Baker.

Its not just about saying we need to clean up some of this stuff, Quade said. Its offering solutions and ideas that may help clean them up. And it doesnt mean it happens overnight, but we want to make damn sure people are committed to the work theyre doing.

Reinforcing the idea that the issues run deeper than just Silva and Ramirez, Quade did not meet with the players individually.

My sense was that things had settled down between the two of them, Quade said. I didnt feel it was that big an issue that I needed to have them both in the principals office. Theyre both veteran guys. They know whats going on. Im counting on them (to be) professionals. Theyll put it behind them. Lets go back to work.

Quade counted only one mistake during Thursdays 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers in which the Cubs generated 14 hits, Carlos Zambrano threw three scoreless innings and Braden Looper pitched in a game for the first time since 2009.

Earlier Quade had stood on a hill beyond right field at HoHoKam Park and watched the practice fields. He noticed a more focused approach. He had seen too many missed cutoff throws and base-running mistakes to let it go.

That little blow-up notwithstanding, it was time for me (to) say something about the sloppiness, not just the physical errors, but some of the mental errors, Quade said. I dont you think you walk through spring and then magically expect to turn it on and be a sharp club in these areas when the season starts.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

Cubs closing in on Aroldis Chapman deal with Yankees

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs are in the final stages of a blockbuster deal that could bring superstar closer Aroldis Chapman to Chicago and would involve sending elite shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres to the New York Yankees, a source familiar with the situation said Sunday night.

The exact details aren’t clear, but the talks reached a point where the Cubs pulled Torres from the lineup at advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach, at least sensing the strong possibility of a trade that would add a 105-mph closer to a first-place team that entered the year as World Series favorites.

Chapman began this season serving a 30-game suspension covered by Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy after a dispute with his girlfriend in South Florida last fall. In absorbing a supremely talented player with real baggage, the Cubs would have to believe in manager Joe Maddon’s personality and a strong clubhouse culture, figuring it might only be a two-month-plus rental before Chapman cashes in as a free agent. 

That incident scared the Cubs away during the offseason, when a Chapman trade between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers collapsed at the winter meetings as those police reports surfaced. The Yankees waited for the price to drop and acquired the flame-throwing closer at a discount. Chapman didn’t mind the spotlight in New York, converting 20-of-21 save opportunities and striking out 44 batters in 31-plus innings.

Torres is only 19 years old and a consensus top prospect, showing up in the midseason rankings on ESPN (No. 26), Baseball America (No. 27) and Baseball Prospectus (No. 34). The Cubs had signed Torres out of Venezuela during the summer of 2013, giving him a $1.7 million bonus and trying to stockpile enough assets to build a perennial contender. It sounds like it’s almost time to cash in one of those huge trade chips. 

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

Cubs score five runs in seventh to power past Brewers

MILWAUKEE – The franchise sensitive to being the other team in town is catching the Cubs at the worst possible time, another you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up story coming out of the White Sox clubhouse.

While Chris Sale serves a five-game suspension for playing with scissors, the Cubs will start Jake Arrieta, the National League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

The perception will be hot-seat manager Robin Ventura has lost control over this White Sox season, while Manager of the Year Joe Maddon actually answered a question this weekend about how the Cubs might align their playoff rotation.

One week out from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the debates will be which players White Sox executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn should sell off, and which Cubs prospects Theo Epstein’s front office should put down to buy the big-ticket item for a World Series run.

Optics, marketing and promotional throwback jerseys aside, the Cubs also appear to be hitting their stride again after a much-needed vacation, winning their third straight series out of the All-Star break with Sunday afternoon’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  

The Cubs did it with their $155 million ace (Jon Lester) throwing only four innings, getting charged with four runs and giving up five walks and five stolen bases. The Cubs could also absorb one quarter of their All-Star infield (Addison Russell) leaving in the middle of the game with a left heel contusion.

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The Cubs stormed back with five runs in the seventh inning as MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo delivered the biggest swing, a bases-loaded, three-run double into right-center field off lefty reliever Will Smith. 

Three sellout crowds here over the weekend watched the Cubs welcome back All-Star leadoff guy Dexter Fowler to the top of the order, give the ball to six-time All-Star closer Joe Nathan in his return from a second Tommy John surgery and keep the St. Louis Cardinals seven games out of first place heading into Sunday night and what should be a gut check for the entire White Sox organization.

“I anticipate that same wonderful crosstown rivalry kind of atmosphere, which I love,” Maddon said. “It’s great for the city. It’s great for the sport. I don’t think fans really care much about records at that particular moment. They just care about your team winning.”

Cubs: Joe Maddon trolls White Sox and explains why trade rumors would bother Chris Sale

Cubs: Joe Maddon trolls White Sox and explains why trade rumors would bother Chris Sale

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs won’t walk onto U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night wearing black “Try Not To Cut” T-shirts with a scissors image replacing the manager’s iconic glasses. But Joe Maddon still couldn’t resist trolling the White Sox after Chris Sale’s temper tantrum.

With an AWOL pitcher, a manager on the hot seat and a front office under siege, the Cubs will see what they used to look like in a rivalry that sometimes brought out the worst in them.

This is Carlos Zambrano-level bizarre on the South Side, the White Sox suspending Sale for five days after their franchise player cut up 1976 throwback jerseys, creating a feeding frenzy in the middle of trade-deadline-rumor season. That speculation apparently bothered Sale, who got sent home before Saturday’s scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers, leaving the bullpen to cover for his unprofessionalism.

“It’s not easy,” Maddon said before Sunday’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. “Obviously, it’s only going to occur if your team’s struggling a bit. 

“If you’re doing well, that doesn’t happen. So you have the struggle of the group, and then a really good player being mentioned as a trade piece. From the manager’s perspective, it’s not as difficult as the player himself – and then the inter-politics of the clubhouse. That’s where it becomes more difficult. 

“You don’t even know what those conversations sound like and how that cuts at the fabric of what you’re attempting to do. No pun intended.”

Maddon’s presence as the team’s smirking ringmaster helps a rivalry that missed larger-than-life personalities like Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen. The Cubs won’t see Sale until Thursday night at Wrigley Field in this season’s fourth and final crosstown game between two franchises heading in opposite directions. 

“I know it was entertaining from a distance,” Maddon said. “I’m sure being in the organization not so much. And I get that. I’ve never heard that one before. 

“The dentist used to send us every six months things for a checkup. And I threw that away so my mom would not take me to the dentist. That’s the closest I could relate to what happened.”

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Maddon remembered the end of an era with the Tampa Bay Rays, when David Price got traded to the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal at the 2014 deadline. Within the next three months, Rays executive Andrew Friedman jumped for a president’s job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, triggering an escape clause in Maddon’s contract and giving Cubs fans a new costume for that Halloween. 

“It was hard for David,” Maddon said. “It really was difficult, especially if it’s your first organization. I think if you bounced (around) a little bit, it’s not so difficult. But if it’s your first time being included in trade conversations, it’s hard for the guy. 

“Regardless of knowing that you could end up in a good spot, or you’re going to be wanted, (because) there’s really actually a lot of positives attached to it. It’s still the negative – you might really like where you’re at, it’s your first organization, you have a lot of friendships. 

“Awkward. It’s an awkward feeling. You adjust. Everybody does. But there’s still all this unknown stuff that is unsettling.”

Like what the media circus and the fan atmospherics will be like during those two first two games at U.S. Cellular Field. So much for the White Sox bonding after Adam LaRoche’s retirement in the middle of spring training and using that money to reinvest at the trade deadline. Or Sale smoothing everything over after torching executive vice president Kenny Williams for the way he handled Drake LaRoche’s clubhouse access.

“I’m sure it will be entertaining,” Maddon said. “The South Siders have a wonderful sense of humor that we can definitely all appreciate.”