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.

Report: Aroldis Chapman returns to Yankees on five-year deal

Report: Aroldis Chapman returns to Yankees on five-year deal

After helping bring a World Series title back to the North Side, Aroldis Chapman is headed back to New York.

The former Cubs closer signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees, according to FOX's Ken Rosenthal.

He was acquired by the Cubs in July in exchange for pitcher Adam Warren and prospects Rashad Crawford, Billy McKinney and Gleyber Torres.

Chapman notched 36 saves and owned a 1.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and recorded 90 strikeouts across 26 2/3 innings with the Cubs during the regular season.

He appeared in 13 postseason contests, where he registered a 3.45 ERA,1.09 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Before making the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade with the New York Yankees, the Cubs checked in with the Kansas City Royals about Wade Davis and found the asking price to be Kyle Schwarber. 

The psychology and the supply-and-demand dynamics are different in July. Schwarber had been damaged goods, still recovering from major knee surgery and months away from his dramatic return in the World Series. Davis also could have impacted two pennants races for his new team instead of one.
 
By the time a $10 billion industry reconvened this week outside Washington, D.C., for the winter meetings, the small-market Royals could compromise with Jorge Soler, betting on his long-term upside and facing the reality that their World Series closer could have been part of a mass exodus of free agents after the 2017 season.

The Cubs also checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center knowing that Soler is a diminishing asset for a loaded team at a time when his best attribute – right-handed power – could be found on the free-agent market in sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo.  
     
“I think there’s some great baseball ahead for him,” team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday night after the Cubs finalized the Soler-for-Davis trade. “I think it’s more likely that he reaches his ceiling now than it was 24 hours ago, because he’s got a chance to play every day.” 

Soler became a top priority within the first weeks of the Epstein administration as Cubs officials scouted the Cuban defector in the Dominican Republic before Thanksgiving 2011, picturing him as a building block for future playoff teams at a renovated Wrigley Field. 

Even chairman Tom Ricketts met with Soler’s camp during a trip to the Dominican Republic before the Cubs won the bidding war and the prospect signed a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012. 

Years later, manager Joe Maddon would describe Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline, the kind of talent who would be drafted No. 1 overall if he had been born in South Florida. 

Soler showed flashes of superstar potential. He absolutely crushed the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2015 playoffs (2.341 OPS) and will get a well-deserved World Series ring. But he didn’t look like a complete player or an athlete the Cubs could count on to stay healthy, profiling more like a designated hitter in the American League.

“When George was playing sporadically, he became a little bit more of an all-or-nothing power threat,” Epstein said, “because it’s hard to get into a good rhythm and you’re not seeing pitches as much. You’re not recognizing spin the same way. 

“When he’s locked in, he can work really good at-bats. And he’s a hitter – not just a power hitter. So I think it’s more likely now that his potential gets unleashed at some point. We’re rooting for him.”

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Maybe Soler – who still hasn’t turned 25 yet – can avoid some of the leg injuries as a part-time DH and put it all together in Kansas City as the Royals try to balance the present, the future and their financial realities. But the Cubs are a win-now team that believes Davis could get them the final out of the 2017 World Series. 

An October legend (Schwarber) and a $184 million Gold Glove defender (Jason Heyward) would keep blocking Soler at the corner spots in Wrigley Field, where a National League MVP (Kris Bryant) and a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) can move away from the infield. Javier Baez is another versatile, well-rounded player who would continue to marginalize Soler. 

“It became tough for us,” Epstein said, “with Schwarber looking like he’s destined to play quite a bit of left field. Not ruling catching out as an option to some extent, but he’s going to play a lot of left field. 

“And with Javy’s emergence – and what that means for Zobrist’s possible role in the outfield as well at times – it just became tougher and tougher to see George getting regular at-bats with us. 

“We felt like he needed to play – and it would have been a tough fit.”

It would have been even tougher to trade a spare outfielder during his fourth season in the big leagues. Stashing Soler – who has 27 career homers in less than 700 big-league at-bats – at Triple-A Iowa wouldn’t have been the answer. 

The Cubs saw this day coming. Schwarber wrecked his knee in early April and Soler injured his hamstring two months later and wound up missing two months.

“He just couldn’t quite stay healthy enough,” Epstein said, “and kind of slumped at the wrong time and started to get hot right before he got hurt.

“That was kind of how we envisioned it: ‘Hey, if there’s an opportunity, this guy can take the job and run with it – and then we have an even more valuable trade chip – or we’ve got an everyday leftfielder/middle-of the-order bat.’ It just didn’t quite come together. 

“But I think this trade – despite that – recouped a lot of his value. It made sense for him, for us and for the Royals.”