Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

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Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 10:19 p.m. Updated: 12:40 a.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Matt Garza only blamed himself, though it would have been easy to look around and focus on what else went wrong.

Mike Quade tapped his fingers while sitting at the same table in the interview room. The manager didnt pretend to give a positive spin. He spit out words like awful and bad into the microphone.

You believe Garza when he says that personal statistics dont matter. He views his job as pitching deep into games and working late into October. But this has to be frustrating for someone so intensely competitive.

Garza is still waiting for his first win in a Cubs uniform after Mondays 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of an announced crowd of 37,417 that was much smaller than that on a miserable night at Wrigley Field.

We lost because I couldnt throw a ball to first base, Garza said afterward. I throw the ball to first base, its a 3-3 game and were still playing. This is the big leagues, man. You cant do anything like that.

Garza played back the fifth inning in his mind. It began with a bunt single and a walk before Garza brushed back Jonathan Herrera as he squared up to bunt.

Herrera responded by dropping a perfect bunt. Garza fielded it and threw the ball into the seats, where it ricocheted back onto the field. That opened up a two-run inning for the Rockies (15-7).

That goes right on my shoulders, Garza said.

Garza did not identify Starlin Castros three errors in the second inning as the turning point. He did not mention 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position or the 12 men left on base. It certainly bothered his manager.

If youre gonna get beat, youd at least not like to gift-wrap the damn thing for the opposition, Quade said. Its great to have talent (and) exciting kids, great to play like a son-of-gun. But if you cant execute (and) make plays (and) tack on a few runsyoure gonna get beat on a regular basis.

You out-hit a club 11-4 and you get beat by two runs I dont think you need to say much more than that.

The Cubs set a major-league record by hitting the .500 mark 10 times on the way to 10-10. Until Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano start clicking, they will win one game, lose another or worse.

Wed like to not be hanging around, Quade said. Wed like to be five, six over (.500), but I think I understand the reasons were not.

Weve hit the ball well, (but) we havent driven the ball out of the ballpark the way I think were going to. Does the weather have something to do with that? Sure, but it still goes back to getting our pitching straightened out. Im convinced of that.

The Cubs (10-12) watched Darwin Barney smack the first homer of his career, a two-run shot that landed in the left-field basket in the first inning. They also got a career night from Kosuke Fukudome, who had five hits and raised his on-base percentage to .571.

It wasnt nearly enough on a night with this many defensive breakdowns. It fell into the pattern for Garza (0-3, 4.11).

Garza notched 12 strikeouts and allowed 12 hits in his Cubs debut only to have closer Carlos Marmol lose the game in the ninth inning.

Combined the Cubs were outscored 11-0 in Garzas next two starts. Garza then threw six shutout innings last week, but had a victory taken away when Marmol blew another save before the Cubs won in extra innings.

Garza finished with another weird pitching line. He accounted for six innings, gave up three hits, struck out seven and walked only one. But he was charged with five runs one earned.

Hes definitely in form right now and its too bad we cant get the win for him, Barney said. When you got a guy like him on the mound thats an absolute competitor, you want to do everything in your power to help him out. He knows were behind him trying as hard as we can to pick him up.

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

Forget the analytics, Joe Maddon sends will-to-win message to Cubs: ‘Don’t forget the heartbeat’

Forget the analytics, Joe Maddon sends will-to-win message to Cubs: ‘Don’t forget the heartbeat’

MESA, Ariz. – To set the tone for 2017, the Cubs gathered in a theater on Saturday morning and watched highlights from their unforgettable playoff run last year. The clips showed that Giant comeback in San Francisco, the nearly perfect game at Wrigley Field that beat the Dodgers to capture the National League pennant and a World Series Game 7 for the ages in Cleveland.

“I would say that a high percentage of teams would have lost that game,” manager Joe Maddon said. “But we were able to regroup and come back, just based on the heartbeat. And I really wanted them to understand the heartbeat.”

That became Maddon’s primary message inside the Under Armour Performance Center as steady rain fell in Mesa, washing out the first full-squad workout and postponing the first wacky team-bonding exercise for this camp.

Maddon would never completely channel Hawk Harrelson’s will-to-win spirit and stand up and tell the room: Save it, nerds.

But in an industry where practically every team is fluent in analytics and searching for that next cutting edge, a data-savvy, open-minded manager wanted to recapture what led Jason Heyward to call a players-only meeting during the rain delay at Progressive Field, emphasizing what allowed the Cubs to survive 10 high-stress innings against the Indians.

“I think in our game today, the way it’s run on a lot of levels, it’s more about math than people sometimes,” Maddon said. “I want our guys to understand that we understand the heartbeat around here, so don’t forget the heartbeat.

“We won that game purely because of competitive natures and the fact that we wanted to win and the heartbeat was so good. It has nothing to do with statistical information, mechanics physically. It had everything to do with people.

“And I really want our guys to understand that, because we’re going to do all the other necessary work. We’re going to do all the math work. We’re going to do all the physical work. We’re going to do all the work. But at the end of the day, man, (when it’s) a different uniform than you, you compete. You try to beat that guy in the other uniform. Don’t forget that.”

Tom Ricketts delivers state of Cubs address: Donald Trump, Steve Bartman, All-Star Game, global domination

Tom Ricketts delivers state of Cubs address: Donald Trump, Steve Bartman, All-Star Game, global domination

MESA, Ariz. – Chairman Tom Ricketts wants the Cubs to be known as one of the greatest sports franchises on the planet, a first-class brand synonymous with winning.

With that ideal in mind – and setting specific policy ideas or agendas aside – has the first month of the Donald Trump administration matched up with the organization’s values? 

“I don’t really know what that question was,” Ricketts said Saturday during his annual state-of-the-team news conference in Mesa.

It’s worth asking, because at this time last year, Trump cryptically threatened the Ricketts family on Twitter, and then later in spring training told The Washington Post editorial board that the family has done a “rotten job” running the team. Ultimately, the family’s right-wing influence shifted from a stop-Trump movement to helping bankroll the Republican nominee’s presidential campaign.      

Beyond ending the 108-year drought and finally winning the World Series, the Ricketts family laid out the planks of the franchise’s platform and has in many ways lived up to it: investing in high-character people; creating a vibrant corporate culture; being a good neighbor in Wrigleyville; and growing Cubs Charities.

Do those community concepts line up with the rhetoric coming out of the Trump White House?

“I don’t really know how to answer that,” Ricketts said. “I think the fact is that we do have a good culture at the Cubs. And I don’t think anything that the White House has done – or hasn’t done – has any impact on that at all.”   

Ricketts is a patient, big-picture executive who showed how to think beyond the next day’s headlines, giving the green light to modernizing the entire operation, upgrading the infrastructure in Chicago, Arizona and the Dominican Republic and allowing team president Theo Epstein to oversee a complete teardown and rebuild.

The Cubs are no longer defined by that history of losing, but on some level their brand is now also tangentially associated with an early-stage administration of alternative facts, Chicago-to-Afghanistan comparisons, the Muslim ban, the border wall, murky Russian connections and a Holocaust memorial statement that didn’t mention the Jewish people.

Ricketts posed for a photo with his two brothers and Trump at a black-tie inauguration event. Pete Ricketts, Nebraska’s Republican governor, posted it on his official Twitter account.

“Obviously, my brother Todd is a nominee for undersecretary of commerce, so he’s waiting for that process to play out,” Ricketts said. “My sister (Laura) was a bundler for Hillary Clinton. The family has different political views. Away from that, I don’t think anything that’s going on in D.C. has any impact on us right now at all.”

• Ricketts wasn’t certain if Todd would have to step down from the team’s board of directors to accept that Cabinet position: “I know there are the conflict of interest kind of things and ethics rules. He may have to. I’m not really sure. But he’s got to go through the nomination process first.”

• Ricketts addressed the team inside the theater in the Under Armour Performance Center, thanking the players for all their contributions on a rainy day that washed out the first full-squad workout.  

“I also said I think we have a unique opportunity to not only be considered one of the great sports teams in the U.S.,” said Ricketts, who recently returned from the Laureus Sports Awards in Monaco. “But I just got back from Europe and I think that our long-term goal should be (having us) considered one of the great sports organizations in the world.” 

• Up and down the chain of command, the Cubs believe they can be in that conversation, given their talent base, financial muscle and a stable ownership group that plans to control the team for generations (an arrangement that currently includes an equity stake in CSN Chicago).

“What separates a really good team from a truly great team is the consistency of results,” Ricketts said. “We’ve won one World Series. Hopefully, we’ll be in the mix again for many years to come.

“If you look at the Yankees of 15 years ago, the Patriots of today, they’re just always right in the mix. On the global side, you look at teams like Man U or Real Madrid or the All Blacks and they just set the standard for how people perform. And their team means something all over the world.

“I’d like to think that one day – if we’re consistent enough and if we win – that Cubs logo will mean something to people around the world. Not just a team that didn’t win for a long time.”   

• Amid the afterglow three months ago, Ricketts told USA Today that the Cubs would reach out to Steve Bartman at some point and try to come to an understanding after a foul ball during the 2003 National League Championship Series forced the fan into hiding.

“I personally haven’t,” Ricketts said. “The team was thinking about it. I’m not sure what they did or what they didn’t do, to be honest.”

• Ricketts will defer to Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer when it comes to Jake Arrieta’s countdown to free agency and how to negotiate with the Cy Young Award winner after this season.

“That’s a Theo and Jed decision,” Ricketts said. “They have the right perspective on (how) they have to put a great team on the field this year. But they also have a longer-term perspective in realizing that decisions that effect this year might hurt us in a few years.

“But I’ll leave it up to them. I imagine that they’ve got a strategy around that and they know what they want to do.”

• The competitive-balance-tax threshold – which the new collective bargaining agreement sets at $195 million this year – appears to be a kind of soft payroll ceiling for the Cubs moving forward.

“The way it’s structured, it can be very punitive if you just ignore it and just blow through it,” Ricketts said. “So we’ll be thoughtful and strategic about when we go over the tax and when we don’t. But I’ll leave that mostly up to Theo.”

• The Cubs are lobbying Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball officials to host the 2020 All-Star Game at a fully renovated Wrigley Field.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” Ricketts said. “I think that it would be great for the league, great for the game and it would be great for Chicago to have it at Wrigley Field. But nothing’s inevitable on that. There’s a process that we have to go through and hopefully at some point soon the commissioner will give us the nod.”