Kap: No LaMar for Cubs; Fleita contract heralded

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Kap: No LaMar for Cubs; Fleita contract heralded

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 5:38 p.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com Insider Follow @TheKapman
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Late Tuesday evening Twitter was ablaze with rumors that the Cubs had identified Chuck LaMar as perhaps their next general manager. That tweet from the Daily Heralds Barry Rozner started a chain of rumors that linked LaMar to Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken to Ryne Sandberg and had people believing a hiring was imminent.

As I started reading the tweets and texts that came my way I was stunned that people actually started to believe that LaMar was a viable candidate for the job. He was the GM in Tampa for eight seasons and had seven last place finishes. In addition, people that I spoke with Wednesday were not at all complimentary about his tenure or his ability to be a good fit in that job for the Cubs.

The truth of the matter is this: Chuck LaMar is not going to be the next general manager of the Chicago Cubs and his sudden resignation from the Philadelphia Phillies organization does not have any tie to the Cubs. LaMar could resurface in a job with the Atlanta Braves organization where he spent a good portion of his career, but he is not believed to be a GM candidate for any of the openings expected in baseball this winter. Wednesday afternoon he also confirmed to a Philadelphia broadcaster that we here at Comcast SportsNet know that he is not talking with the Cubs about any position.

In addition, while Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is taking heat for signing Oneri Fleita to a new four year contract as farm director, the people within baseball that I spoke with have praised Ricketts for hanging on to a very valued employee.

I have known Oneri for 20-plus years and he is as good as it gets. He is bilingual, which is a huge plus in his role, he put the entire Latin American operation together and that includes a network of scouts that will go with him wherever he goes," one GM candidate told me. "In addition, the Cubs new 50-acre facility in the Dominican Republic is being put together under his direction. So to lose him would be a major blow to the entire organization.

The other aspect of the Fleita extension that no one seems to be talking about is why people are so convinced that he will stay in his current role. He has a ton on his plate, so what is to say that his job description wont change once a new GM is hired? Couldnt a new GM tailor the revamped front office the way that he wants it and still have Fleita in a very important role with a different title?

Whatever his role is, it is obvious that he is a valued and trusted member of the front office and had he hit the open market he would have had a number of great offers. Instead, the Cubs were proactive and hung onto someone who is good. What a novel concept--hanging onto a good employee--and for that people are critical? That is ridiculous.

In addition, people in other organizations, and whose opinions I trust, are all telling me that they are chuckling at the perception that Ricketts hasn't taken his ownership duties seriously.

One NL West executive told me this: I wish I had an owner as committed as Tom Ricketts is. He spent 20 million on amateur signings and he is spending an unbelievable amount of money to build a state of the art academy in the Dominican Republic. We are all a little jealous of the commitment the Cubs have made to rebuild their organization.

Ricketts has traveled to every minor league affiliate, traveled to the draft and he has made it clear to every scout and coach in the organization that if they need anything to get the job done that he will see to it that they have everything they need to compete with anyone in the game.

Now, if you want to criticize the Cubs here is something worth criticizing them for: In another lost season they continue to play veteran players at the expense of youngsters who may or may not be a part of their future.

With Carlos Pena hitting .226, how can Mike Quade defend playing him regularly over Bryan LaHair, who may or may not be a prospect?

LaHair just put up ridiculous numbers in Triple-A, hitting .331 with 38 home runs and 109 RBIs. His 1.070 OPS was the highest of any player in baseball. I know he is 28 and he is not considered an elite prospect, but stranger things have happened than a 28-year-old finally making it big. How do you know if you dont give him a chance?

The same goes for Tyler Colvin and Tony Campana. Are they considered elite prospects? Probably not, but unless you play them regularly, how are you ever going to know?

David Kaplanpublishes his thoughts at The Kapman on CSNChicago.com every Monday,Wednesday, and Friday and whenever major news breaks. Follow him onTwitter @thekapman.

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs open series with Pirates tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Catch first pitch at 6 p.m. with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Kyle Hendricks (15-8, 2.06 ERA) vs. Chad Kuhl (5-3, 3.73 ERA)

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David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

David Ross helps Cubs edge Cardinals in regular season home finale

CHICAGO — David Ross got fired up when Cubs manager Joe Maddon walked to the mound with two out in the seventh inning, ready to argue for Jon Lester to stay in the game.

Maddon and Lester had a different plan.

"Joe looked at him and said 'Have you ever been a part of where the catcher gets taken out of the game before the pitcher?'" Lester said, describing the scene with a big grin. "You can just see him, it's like the kid at the candy store when you tell him he can pick out whatever he wants.

"It was just like the disbelief in his face and slams his mask back over his face and all he can say is 'I love you guys. I love you guys. I love you guys.'"

Ross then walked off to another standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 40,859 at Wrigley Field, part of a heartwarming Sunday night for the backup catcher in his last season. He also hit his 10th homer and teamed with Lester for another scoreless performance, helping the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It was an amazing night," Ross said.

Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored two runs as Chicago finished with a major league-best 57-24 home record. It's the most home wins for the Cubs since they went 58-19 at the West Side Grounds in 1910.

The Cardinals lost for the third time in four games, wasting a chance to improve their playoff positioning. They remain a half-game back of San Francisco for the second NL wild card after the Giants lost 4-3 at San Diego earlier in the day.

"I think we're in a good position right now," pitcher Carlos Martinez said through a translator. "I also think we have a great shot at winning the World Series."

Ross, Lester's regular catcher, was greeted with a long standing ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina walked halfway to the mound, forcing the unassuming Ross to take in the moment, and he took off his batting helmet to acknowledge the cheering crowd.

Ross then struck out, but he got another chance in the fifth and drove Martinez's second pitch over the wall in left for 1-0 lead. Ross clapped his hands as he rounded first on his 10th homer and the cheers continued after he reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call.

"It was just fitting that David would hit a home run, isn't it?" Maddon said. "I mean it had to have happened tonight."

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Lester (19-4), one of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander allowed three hits and walked one while improving to 10-0 with 1.34 ERA in his last 13 starts.

It was Lester's idea to pull Ross in the middle of an inning.

"He's like a brother to me and for him to give me that was pretty cool," Ross said.

The Cardinals pulled within one on Jhonny Peralta's two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Brandon Moss flied to center with runners on the corners. Willson Contreras responded with an RBI single in the bottom half and Aroldis Chapman worked the ninth for his 16th save with the NL Central champions and No. 36 on the year.

Martinez (15-9), pitching with a heavy heart after the death of Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked four.

"He had lots of juice," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It's probably the hardest sinker I've ever seen him throw. A couple of those were 97 (mph). He was locked in. He wanted it bad today, and he was good enough for us to win."