Garza talks stolen ALCS ring, future with Cubs


Garza talks stolen ALCS ring, future with Cubs

Matt Garza has remained in the headlines all winter. The trade rumors don't bother the Cubs pitcher, who's only 28 years old and already on his third team. He understands this is a business.

What stunned Garza was finding out that his 2008 American League championship ring was stolen from his California home in late January. The Fresno Bee reported that the diamond-studded ring was valued at 30,000 and engraved with his name. He earned it on the miracle Tampa Bay Rays team that went to the World Series one year after losing 96 games.

"Everything's still just kind of one big blur," Garza said over the phone. "Me and my wife went through the house and they really didn't take anything else of monetary value. (It) was more of the shock. That's kind of what got us just the sentimental value of those items that were taken. But we're just glad that no one got hurt and we're all safe. Those things can be replaced."

The Garza interview ran Tuesday on "Chicago Baseball Hot Stove." The day before, Garza spoke with CSNs Chuck Garfien while driving through California on the way to the Cubs complex in Arizona.

While the media constantly speculated about where he might be traded next, Garza had enjoyed spending most of the offseason with his family in the Chicago area. His mother had taken his grandparents by his Fresno County home when they discovered the break-in.

She walked around the backyard before going inside, Garza said, just to see how the landscapers have been doing and stuff like that, just checking out my house. And she noticed the back bay window was shattered. So they went through the front door (and) saw an attic open and she called the cops."

Garza developed into a first-round pick at Fresno State University and grew up in the area. He said he doesnt know whos responsible for the burglary.

I don't want to accuse anybody of anything, Garza said. It's just not the thing to do. You (make) one accusation and it just snowballs, so that can never be a good thing. I trust that neighbors (would) do what all neighbors do, and that's report (whatever they see). Neighbors have told me (before and) watched over my home. They're very (trustworthy) people.

"It's not like (the ring is) just going to pop up. I hope it would, that would be awesome. But they're doing their police work and (asking) questions. We've gone over many things, all the situations and scenarios.

Last week, Garza avoided an arbitration hearing and agreed to a one-year, 9.5 million deal, plus performance bonuses. He will also remain under club control for the 2013 season.

Theo Epstein has described Garza as exactly the type of pitcher youd like to build around, and mentioned the possibility of a contract extension, though its unclear just how far those talks progressed.

The Cubs president of baseball operations also has a five- to 10-year plan that might not exactly match Garzas timeline. Epstein once watched Garza eliminate the Boston Red Sox and win the 2008 ALCS MVP award. A proven playoff pitcher would be an attractive chip at the trade deadline this summer.

Does he want to be here long-term?

"Yeah, why not? Garza said. It's a great organization to play for, with a lot of history, a lot of tradition and there's great support from up top. What more can you ask for in an organization?

Everybody who comes to Chicago knows about the city. It's amazing. It's so diverse. There's so much you can teach (your kids here). The fans are some of the greatest. They're true diehard fans. To be a fan of a team that hasn't won in (103) years you can't say (much more than that). They're the most loyal fans in baseball.

Garza will likely begin the season in a Cubs uniform, on a team with almost no expectations, but its unclear where it will all end. A big-game pitcher has already been part of a team that shocked the world.

"There's a lot of excitement and buzz, Garza said. There (are) a lot of hungry, hungry, hungry young guys who want to show what they can do. And like I said back in January (at the Cubs Convention), with young kids a lot of things (can) happen. It's going to be a lot of fun to be down there and get things going.

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

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Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

CLEVELAND — As the New York Yankees marketed Andrew Miller this summer and prepared for their first sell-off in a generation, their demands started at either Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez — and the Cubs still would have been forced to throw in more talent to get the All-Star reliever.

This could be the fascinating what-if for this World Series. The Cleveland Indians paid the price, giving up a four-player package headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier (the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft) and left-hander Justus Sheffield (the No. 31 pick in the 2014 draft) to get what turned out to be the American League Championship Series MVP.

The Cubs didn’t make Schwarber untouchable because they thought he would be ready in time for the World Series, but he’s preparing to be their Game 1 designated hitter on Tuesday night at Progressive Field after a remarkable recovery from major surgery on his left knee.

“It was impossible to avoid some of the names — particularly the Cubs — (with) the year they were having,” Miller said. “Whether I wanted to avoid it or not I heard it. Guys in the clubhouse, our media was certainly bringing it to us.”

Even in other possible deals for pitching, the Cubs never came close to selling low on Baez, who broke out as the National League Championship Series co-MVP for his offensive production and defensive wizardry. 

Instead of getting Miller’s late-game dominance for three pennant races — and giving up five potential 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons with Schwarber — the Cubs closed a different blockbuster deal with the Yankees for a left-handed power arm.

The Cubs wanted Aroldis Chapman’s 100-mph fastball to get the last out of the World Series and would rationalize his 30-game suspension to begin this season under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. Already holding an age-22 All-Star shortstop in Addison Russell, the Cubs surrendered elite prospect Gleyber Torres.

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“Gleyber’s a good baseball player,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That kid’s going to be really good. So you have to give up something to get something. But also our guys felt if we got Aroldis this year, we’d have a chance to be sitting here and answering this question. And they were right.

“It’s an entirely different thing when you get a guy out there throwing 100 miles an hour. You feel pretty good about it, regardless of who is hitting. So he’s really a big part of why we’re doing this right now.”

Chapman has saved five playoff games — and become that reassuring ninth-inning presence at Wrigley Field — but he clearly responds better to a scripted role.

Miller has been untouchable during the postseason, throwing 11 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out 21 of the 41 batters he’s faced, giving Terry Francona even more freedom to manage a lights-out Cleveland bullpen.

“To be utilized like Miller,” Maddon said, “not everybody is cut from the same cloth mentally, either, or the ability to get loose and prepare. Andrew Miller — having done a variety of different things in the big leagues as a pitcher — is probably more suited to be able to be this guy that can get up in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth and warm up in a manner that gets him in the game both mentally and physically.

“Whereas Aroldis — if he wanted to do that — I think that would have had to be done from spring training. He’d have to differentiate his mindset. He’d have to have a different way to get ready. I do notice he throws a heavy baseball before he actually throws a regular baseball. That’s his routine.

“Whether you agree with it or not, that’s just the way it is. So with a guy like Aroldis — to ask him to attempt to dump his routine right now (and) do something else — I think you’re looking for failure right there.

“We stretched him to five outs the other night, which is a good thing, I thought. So now going forward he knows he can do that. But to just haphazardly throw him in the sixth, seventh or ninth, I think would be very difficult to do.”

Even in a World Series featuring historic droughts, Cy Young Award winners, MVP candidates and star managers, this October could come down to the bullpens shaped by deals with the Yankees.

“Both teams made aggressive trades,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Both teams are still standing. There’s something to that.”