Chicago Cubs

Steve Stone mailbag: Mike Quade's 2011 status

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Steve Stone mailbag: Mike Quade's 2011 status

Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2010
11:40 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer your questions about the White Sox's recent acquistion of Manny Ramirez, Mike Quade's 2011 staus and more!

Tony, Chicago -- What are your thoughts on the White Sox claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers? Don't you think they should be more focused on pitching than offense?

Steve Stone: You can't really choose who is going to go on waivers. If at the time, they knew Eric Threets was going to be lost to the club, there is a good chance or possible scenario, Brian Fuentes to be claimed before Minnesota. But that wasn't the case. Kenny didn't have the luxury to wait and because Threets was throwing very well and it's still believed Thornton is not injured badly, they went after a hitter.
Roman, Hobart, Ind. -- Now that Frank Thomas Day has come and gone, what are your favorite memories of the Big Hurt playing on the South Side?

Steve Stone: You have to understand I was not on the South Side for his career. I was doing some baseball on the other side of town and consequently because our games was, most of the time, completely different in time and time zones, I didn't get to see a great deal of his career. Safe to say, he was one of the great hitters of all time. When you ask me about the great recollections, that is Hawk's plate.

Kate, Chicago -- If Mike Quade ends the season on a winning note, what are his chances of returning next season to manage the Cubs?

Steve Stone: As far as his chances, I said I like him as a good solid baseball man. I believe he knows the game, he certainly pays his dues and understands the culture, but there isn't much I don't like. I think he could make a good manager; I don't think he should manage the Cubs next year but then again, I don't have the decision to make. I am thankful for that and wish him best of luck; he is a quality man. We will have to see what Hendry and Ricketts feel about Quade, but about the many worthy candidates for what I believe is the last and greatest sports challenge -- to win a world championship in the uniform of the Chicago Cubs. If you know someone 102 years old, they were just being born when the Cubs won their last one.
Tommy, Winfield -- What are your thoughts of Sammy Sosa's recent comments about the Cubs not caring about him?

Steve Stone: I think they are very accurate as far as Sammy is concerned. The sad part is, there are a lot of things said and done at the time that maybe, maybe some people felt later on that they shouldn't have said. I know that probably applies to Sammy. I would hope that applied to the Tribune Company. After the death of Harry Carry in February 1998, having been on that broadcast with Harry's grandson Chip, what we were selling was Sammy and the Ivy. The Cubs had a very good break in '98 and made it to the playoffs in the Wild Card, only to be knocked out by Atlanta. Up until 2003, they were not great years and Sammy was a big part of the show most of the time, and sometimes the whole show. He probably made them about 200 million. When a guy does that for you, he deserves a little more consideration as you shoved him out the door. With that being said, we can just go back and perhaps bring him back into the family. I know about his performance-enhancing, but many players with the same cloud over their head. I believe he was an intricate part of the past. I think he should be welcomed back into the family some where down the line. This opinion won't be shared by tons, but that's how i feel about the situation.

John, Chicago -- What has surprised you most this season in MLB?

Steve Stone: Its hard to pin down one thing, but if I were to delete everything as a whole, the most surprising team, the Padres. They have done a tremendous job with a low payroll team in a small amount of time in putting together a ball club that has all the marks of a team going to the playoffs. It's a magnificent story. The Rangers are a good story, but not quite as surprising being in a four-team division and as many stars on that team that they were able to put that race to bed in the West. Omar Vizquel having an opportunity to play a lot more than expected and play better than people thought he could play. If the Sox go on to win, he will be one impressive array of contributors and one of the most surprising. Starlin Castro is also a great story of the year as the Cubs are concerned. It appears he is going to be an excellent player. Don't worry about those errors, they happen. He is here to stay. In my estimation, he could become a truly great story on the north side of town.

Are Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 vs. Nationals?

Are Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 vs. Nationals?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Are the Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 against the Washington Nationals?

“I’m not even anywhere near that,” manager Joe Maddon said during Tuesday’s pregame media session with the Chicago media, immediately shifting his focus back to the decisions he would have to make that night – how hard to push catcher Willson Contreras coming off the disabled list, what the Cubs would get out of lefty Mike Montgomery, how the bullpen sets up – against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Players can do that kind of stuff. I don’t think managers can. Honestly, I don’t want to say I don’t care about that. I just don’t worry about that, because there’s nothing to worry about yet. Because first of all, he’s got to be well when he pitches, too.”

Arrieta had just completed a throwing session at Tropicana Field and declared himself ready to face the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday at Miller Park. That would be the Cy Young Award winner’s first start since suffering a Grade 1 right hamstring strain on Labor Day. It would set him up to face the St. Louis Cardinals next week at Busch Stadium and start Game 162 against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

“The plan is to be out there Thursday,” said Arrieta, who would be limited to 75-80 pitches against the Brewers and build from there, trying to recapture what made him the National League pitcher of the month for August. “The good thing is the arm strength is there – it’s remained there – and I actually feel better for maybe having a little bit of time off.

“The idea is to be able to be out there the last game against Cincinnati – pretty much at full pitch count – and to be ready for the playoffs.”

Five days after that would be the beginning of the NL divisional round and what could be a classic playoff series between the defending champs and Dusty Baker’s Nationals. The Cubs started Jon Lester in Game 1 for all three playoff rounds during last year’s World Series run and their $155 million ace could open a Washington series with an extra day of rest.

“It’s inappropriate to talk about that now,” team president Theo Epstein said. “We have a lot of work to do, and those would be the guys that would help get us there in the first place. If you’re lucky enough to get into that situation, you’d just use all the factors. You guys all know – who’s going the best, who matches up the best, the most experienced – and we figure it out and go from there. But we’re still a good ways away from figuring that one out.”

Untouchable: Javier Baez showed why Cubs built around him during takeover at shortstop

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AP

Untouchable: Javier Baez showed why Cubs built around him during takeover at shortstop

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Imagine Javier Baez wearing a New York Mets uniform or playing in an empty Tropicana Field and where the Cubs would be without their backup shortstop.

The trade speculation still lingered into this season, even after Baez blossomed into a National League Championship Series co-MVP and a World Series champion. Maybe it was just out of habit since Theo Epstein’s front office spent years collecting hitters and planning to deal for pitching, or a perception issue for a prospect who wasn’t drafted by this regime and has a “flashiness” to his game that recently got this unfair, narrow-minded label from a Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster: “A difficult player for me to root for.”

But the Cubs never traded Baez to the Tampa Bay Rays for one of those starters who usually seems to be on the rumor mill – Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore – and that decision continues to look better and better in hindsight.   

Baez again showed why he is essentially untouchable while Addison Russell slowly recovered from a strained right foot and plantar fasciitis, starting 41 of 42 games at shortstop between Aug. 3 and Sept. 16 and hitting .282 with eight homers and 27 RBI during that stretch.  

Deep down, Baez still views himself as a shortstop – “yeah, for sure, if I get the (chance)” – while deferring to Russell (who was activated over the weekend) and understanding that the Cubs can again have an elite defensive unit when he moves back to second base.

“When I play short every day, obviously, I’m going to be ready for it and making all the adjustments to be there,” Baez said. “I do my best to help the team. Addie’s a big part of the team.”

Remember how shaky the defense looked up the middle when Russell missed the 2015 NLCS with a hamstring injury and the Mets swept the Cubs out of the playoffs?  

The Cubs created enough depth – and room to grow – to stash an All-Star shortstop on the disabled list on Aug. 4 and go from being a 57-50 team with a 1.5-game lead in the division to running a season-high 17 games over .500 heading into Tuesday night at The Trop.  

Even though Joe Maddon lobbied for Baez to make the Opening Day roster during his first post-Rays spring training in 2015, the manager also made a point to say he didn’t run an entitlement program.

Maddon would not anoint Baez as an everyday player heading into this season, even after he started all 17 games at second base during last year’s playoffs and starred for Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

“If you had done that with him two years ago, he would have buried himself,” Maddon said. “Absolutely. I don’t think he would have made the same adjustments at the plate. You would have seen a lot more mistakes on defense. You would have seen a lot more routine plays not handled routinely. You would not have seen the same base running. Even though he had it in his back pocket, I just think that he’s learned how to really pick his moments there, too. He wasn’t ready for all that.”

There is something to the idea of taking the good with the bad with Baez. Except there are no perfect players and so few have his mind-blowing combination of skills, love for the game and sixth sense for highlight-reel moments.    

“You don’t teach those things – that’s just God-given talent,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He’s been able to put it together. You see those plays. But the work that goes into it – as far as being in the right spot, having the right first step, anticipating the ball, things like that – all that kind of gets you the result.

“(It’s not only) making sure he’s making the routine plays, but he has the athleticism and the wherewithal to be able to make the spectacular plays as well.”

Instead of focusing on the tattoos or the hairstyles or a swing that can get out of control at times, remember that this is someone who already has 22 homers and 70 RBI in the middle of September – and a .791 OPS in his age-24 season that represents a 54-point jump from the year before – for an iconic team with World Series expectations.

“You could see there was a lot of stuff for Javy to iron out,” Maddon said. “He’s worked them out. It’s a lot of repetition. It’s a lot of good coaching. But it’s about the player himself, being able to make those adjustments. I honestly think his path has been a good one. And I think the way we did it last year was perfect.

“Everything’s happened as it should organically for him."