Stone's mailbag: Howry's return, Beckham's struggles

Stone's mailbag: Howry's return, Beckham's struggles

Friday, May 28, 2010
7:08 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Bob Howry, Freddy Garcia, and more!

Question from Kendra - Morris, IL: Steve....why in the world would the Cubs ever re-sign Howry? Are they looking to really get the bullpen's ERA to explode?
Steve Stone: I believe sometimes organizations will take a shot on a veteran pitcher who also happens to be a pretty good guy who was well liked the first time around with the team, and figured their other guys weren't getting the job done. They will take a shot, if it doesn't work out, most of what he is being paid is being paid by Arizona, and for them its a no-lose situation. You cant trust a pennant chase which is the way the
Cubs see this year playing out to rookies like Samardzija and they would rather add a veteran. There is no doubt his stuff is not what it once was, they are just hoping what he can give is better than what they have.

Question from David - La Grange, IL: Steve, do you think it's a good idea to bring up Andrew Cashner and pitch him as a setup guy?

Stone: So far the Cubs fancy him as a starter; I believe he would be very effective at the tail end of the bullpen. He will get to the majors, as far as the role is concerned, I am sure he would be as good a right handed setup man as they have. Bear in mind he has been used in the minors as a starter.

Question from Chris - Chicago, IL: Steve, a two-part question. First, do you see Freddy Garcia continuing to have quality starts through the rest of the year, and second, if Garcia does falter, can Daniel Hudson step in and be okay?
Stone: I think Freddy's stuff is a little short but he is long on heart and not afraid of anything. That being said, your 5th starter is usually there for a reason and cant throw as consistently well as the first 4 guys ahead of him. I cant tell if he will last all year but I think he is still a good addition. Over the long haul, I don't see his stuff stepping up. As far as Daniel, he is throwing it as well as he has all year and certainly will be one of the alternatives turned to if and when the situation dictates.

Question from Mike- Naperville, IL: Steve, should the White Sox consider sending Gordon Beckham to Triple-A?

Stone: If you have been watching, he has been hitting a whole lot better. He will be a very good player, but currently he is going through the growing pains that all but a select few go through. Mauer and Pujols didn't go through any, and are part of a small club who had big first years and continued on without any bumps in the road. He is a good
solid player, will hit a lot better than he does now, and I don't think sending him to the minors when he is getting every day bats in the majors would help him at all.

Question from Jay - Batavia, IL: Steve, what's your opinion on Sabermetric stats? Do you buy them at all?
Stone: I really believe that computers have a place in baseball and all of the stats currently employed by the computer people have some validity to them. One of the things a computer will never be able to do is tell you the size of a guys heart, quantity of intestinal fortitude he has, and will he be the same player for a contending team as he will be for a 4th, 5th, or 6th place team. There are a lot of players who thrive on teams that wont win. Put them on teams that can and will win and you will find that they just don't seem to play the same. When you look at the stats, they can only tell you what a player has done, what he has done in certain situations, what he has done against pitchers and other things computers do. It cant tell you if this guy is a pitcher, will he beat the Yankees in September if he is traded to the Rays or Boston?

The computer can only speculate on how a player will respond which is why very good scouts with experienced eyes should always have a place in the game and always be counted on heavily while evaluating a player. During my major league career, I played on some very bad teams, some very mediocre teams, some teams who were in it for a while who fell out and some exceptional teams, and I can tell you there are a lot of players that excel on those teams that end up 3rd 4th and 5th and because of that their stats look good, many of the Sabermetric categories, they are traded to teams that are in the race and they suddenly dissolve. That is where good old fashion scouting, knowing backgrounds, understanding his nightlife habits, which types of pitches he cant hit if he is a hitter, how difficult it is to get out quality hitters in a key situation; all of those things are difficult. A mixture of all the tools we have at hand now in baseball makes, to me, the most sense. There are a lot of young baseball executives raised with the idea that Sabermetrics is absolutely the way to go. I prefer a combination of good old world baseball evaluations along with the new world of computers. That combination seems to be able to get it done. Taking a look at good scouts sees what it does when the Twins have 5 everyday players that they developed for their own system and brought them to the major leagues.

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

Why Joe Maddon won’t tone down the stunts at Cubs camp

MESA, Ariz. – Joe Maddon teased reporters when pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona one week ago, promising the Cubs wouldn't tone down the gimmicks now that they're World Series champions: "We already have something planned for the first day that you might not want to miss."

A weekend of rain in Mesa postposed the first full-scale full-squad workout until Monday, and the wet grass meant the big reveal had to wait until Tuesday morning, when gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss drove a white Ferrari onto the field for the team's stretching session.

The bearded man they call "Bussy" rocked sunglasses, a gold chain around his neck, brown dress shoes and the same navy blue windowpane suit he wore to the White House. The overarching message as Buss blew kisses and Cypress Hill's "(Rock) Superstar" and Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'" blasted from the sound system: Humility.

"I hope everyone gets the sarcasm involved," Maddon said.

So, uh, no, the Cubs aren't going to dial it back or turn the zoo animals away or worry about the target they proudly wore on their chest last year.

"I don't know if the mime's coming back or not," Maddon said during the welcome-to-camp press conference. "Could you do a mime two years in a row? I don't know if that's permissible under MLB rules somewhere. I don't think you can bring a mime back two years in a row.

"Magicians are OK. You can anticipate a lot of the same, absolutely."

Before rolling your eyes at a star manager who loves the spotlight, it's important to note that the stunts are largely Buss productions.

"A lot of times, I'm not even aware," Maddon said. "He just knows he's got my blessings. He knows he does not have to clear it with me, unless it's absolutely insane. It works pretty well this way."

While every Maddon dress-up theme trip doesn't get universal love in the clubhouse, Buss has a unique way of getting millionaires to pay attention, almost tricking them into doing work.

"He's got several well-endowed players on the team that support his histrionics," Maddon said.

[MORE CUBS: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field]

Since taking over this job in 2001, Buss has survived multiple ownership structures (Tribune Co., Sam Zell, Ricketts family) and the Andy MacPhail/Jim Hendry/Theo Epstein transitions in the front office, working for managers Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann (interim), Bruce Kimm (interim), Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria.

"He must have some good photographs, right?" Maddon said. "He's a different cat. He's a weapon."

Buss can clearly get along with almost any kind of personality. But it took Maddon – and the explosion of social media – to give him this kind of platform.

"No, nothing's changed, man," Maddon said. "It's all the same in regards to 'the same,' meaning the methods, the process. I just got aired out by one of our geek guys for not using the word ‘process.’ It’s true. Last year, I used the word ‘process’ often. I’m going to continue to use it a lot again this year.

"Why were we able to withstand the word 'pressure' and 'expectations' as well as we did last year? Because we weren't outcome-oriented. We were more oriented towards the process. Anybody in your job and your business – if you want to be outcome-oriented – you're going to find yourself in a lot of trouble just focusing on that word.

"It's all about the process. Our process shall remain the same, absolutely it shall. Hopefully, we're going to add or augment it in some ways that can be even more interesting and entertaining."

The irony is that the Cubs have repeatedly used outcome-based thinking in defending Maddon's decisions during the World Series. But the manager obviously deserves so much credit for creating an environment where this team could play loose and relaxed and not collapse under the weight of franchise history.

"Our guys are pretty much in charge of the whole thing," Maddon said. "I love the empowerment of the players. I love that they feel the freedom to be themselves. If they didn't, maybe Jason (Heyward) would not have gotten the guys together in a weight room in Cleveland after a bad moment.

"All those things matter. And you can't understand exactly which is more important than the other. So you just continue to attempt to do a lot of the same things. Process is important, man, and we're going to continue along that path."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred open to idea of Cubs hosting All-Star Game at renovated Wrigley Field

PHOENIX – Rob Manfred is open to the idea of an All-Star Game at a fully renovated Wrigley Field, but the Major League Baseball commissioner won't make any guarantees about the 2020 target date the Cubs have proposed in a joint lobbying effort with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office.

"I'm not going to get into specific years," Manfred said Tuesday during a Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore. "Because there's a number of clubs – we're fortunate – that have interest in particular years. And I don't want to say anything that would suggest that I'm anywhere near making a decision."

During last month's Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney expressed optimism in a Super Bowl-style bidding process, and not the old way of simply alternating the showcase event between the American and National leagues each year.

The Cubs will point to their starring role in a World Series that beat the NFL's "Sunday Night Football" in head-to-head TV ratings and saw more than 40 million people tune in for Game 7. By 2020, the $600 million Wrigleyville development is supposed to be finished, and Emanuel helped broker the deals that moved the NFL draft to Chicago the last two years after a long run at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

"I will say this: A renovated Wrigley Field would be a great location for an All-Star Game," Manfred said. "Chicago is a great city. And over time, we have tried to go to cities that would be great locations for the game – and to reward cities that had made substantial investments in either new or renovated facilities."

The Cubs still see potential roadblocks, needing City Hall's help with an increased security presence around an urban neighborhood ballpark that hasn't hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1990.

Kenney also acknowledged that All-Star Games have been used as bargaining chips in public negotiations in cities like Miami and Washington – Marlins Park (2017) and Nationals Park (2018) will make it four straight All-Star Games for NL stadiums – while the Ricketts family used private mechanisms to fund the project after striking out on other proposals.