Word on the Street: Cubs looking at Berkman?

Word on the Street: Cubs looking at Berkman?

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
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Cubs interested in signing Lance Berkman?

Looking to add some left-handed pop to their lineup without paying too much, Fox Sports writer Ken Rosenthal claims the Cubs are looking into former Houston Astros first baseman Lance Berkman. Berkman was primarily used at first base after being traded to the New York Yankees late in 2010, but says he wants to play the field again. (foxsports.com)
No arbitration offer for Pierzynski an interesting choice

The White Sox chose to offer salary arbitration to free agents Paul Konerko and J.J. Putz, but declined the option on A.J. Pierzynski and Manny Ramirez. While the Ramirez choice isn't shocking, the Pierzynski decision is a bit of a head-scratcher. How could declining to offer Pierzynski actually be beneficial for the White Sox and aid in the veteran's return to the South Side? (examiner.com)

Chicago home to "Hole of the Year"

Golf Digest's Ron Whitten handed out his 2010 awards in the December issue of the magazine and Chicago Highlands won big. Located in west suburban Westchester, the courses par-3 13th hole won the "Hole of the Year" award.

"It's shaped like a volcano ... blow it left, right, short or over the green, and the ball could roll 60 yards down. It's a giant chocolate drop of a hole, a pyramid of grass, the Iwo Jima of golf," wrote Whitten. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Scott Boras potentially in trouble with Players Union

Baseball super-agent Scott Boras, agent to some of the greatest players in the game over the last two decades including Alex Rodriguez, Greg Maddux, and Barry Bonds, may have violated the rules of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Boras is accused of providing tens of thousands of dollars of loans and payments to Dominican teenage prospects. According to the union's regulations, loans of more than 500 to players andor their families are prohibited unless the reason for the loan is disclosed to the players union.

The money obligates them to the agent, gives the agent leverage, and coerces the athlete to do what the agent wants because of fear of foreclosure or other adverse consequences for the athlete or the athletes family, said Mark S. Levinstein, a prominent sports lawyer who is a partner at the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly.

If found to be in violation of the union's rules, Boras could be subject to fines or even have his rights to represent players revoked. (The New York Times)
Vick featured on SI cover

Michael Vick has quickly become the most talked about player in the entire NFL, and this week Sports Illustrated is jumping on the bandwagon, featuring Vick on the cover of the this week's issue of the magazine. The cover, and the infamous jinx to those featured on it, add even more hype to this Sunday's Bears-Eagles game at Soldier Field. For their part, the Bears are convinced they can stop Vick.

"We believe in our defense and it's set up to play guys like him. We give him all the respect in the world, but our guys are excited about playing against not just Mike Vick, it's more than Michael Vick, the Philly offense. They have good skill guys all the way around," said coach Lovie Smith. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Heat flounder against Pacers, fall to 8-6

The star-studded Miami Heat, once the subject of talks as to whether or not they could best the 1995-96 Bulls NBA-record 72-10 regular season record, have lost their second consecutive game, bringing their season record to 8-6. Their most recent loss, a 93-77 dismantling at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, was the teams worst offensive performance of the year and came just hours after learning that they would lose their top reserve Udonis Haslem indefinitely due to a foot injury.

After their most recent loss, the Heat would have to go 64-4 for the remainder of the season to tie the Bulls' record. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

NFLPA writes to Quinn, Daley about potential lockout

The NFL Players Association's president Kevin Mawae wrote a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Richard Daley on Monday, warning the two of the massive amount of money that the state and city could lose if the NFL is locked out in 2011.

Mawae claimed in the letter that if the NFL does not play in 2011, the city and state stand to lose as much as 160 million. (SB Nation Chicago)

Morandini to manage Phillies Class-A squad

Former Cubs second baseman Mickey Morandini was named Manager of the Phillies Class-A Williamsport Croscutters on Monday. Prior to taking the job with the Phillies, Morandini was a baseball coach at Valparaiso High School in northwest Indiana. Morandini played two years with the Cubs, including their 1998 season in which they won the National League wild card. (ChicagoBreakingSports)

Brett Anderson’s main takeaway from Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio

Brett Anderson’s main takeaway from Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio

MESA, Ariz. – The pitching section of The Cubs Way manual might not be spelled out this way, but it can be summed up in five words: Have 'em work with Boz.

Or at least that's how it sounds whenever the Cubs add another fading prospect or injury case, rolling the dice on raw stuff, change-of-scenery psychology and the wizardry of pitching coach Chris Bosio.

While the Theo Epstein administration is still waiting on the drafted-and-developed pitchers to put around the Wrigley Field marquee next to the images of sluggers Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs already have the infrastructure in place that helped turn Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young Award winner and transform Kyle Hendricks into an ERA leader.

One of Bosio's ongoing projects is Brett Anderson, who underwent surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, yet another injury in a career that hasn't lived up to his own expectations.

"It's one of those things where he's not trying to reinvent the wheel," Anderson said. "It's more trying to limit the pressure on my back and mild mechanical adjustments where I don't land on my heel as much and kind land on the ball of my foot or my toes, so it's not such a whiplash effect.

"He's had a good track record with health, especially the last couple years, and hopefully I can fall in line there, too."

Anderson made it through his first Cactus League outing, throwing a scoreless first inning during Monday's 4-4 tie with the White Sox in front of another sellout crowd at Sloan Park in Mesa. The Cubs are taking a calculated risk here with a one-year, $3.5 million that could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if Anderson makes 29 starts this season.

[MORE CUBS: How Ryan Dempster wound up on Team Canada for World Baseball Classic]

The Cubs can put the best defensive unit in the majors behind a lefty groundball pitcher and don't need to make a dramatic overhaul with a guy who grew up around the game. Anderson's father, Frank, is an assistant at the University of Houston and the former head coach at Oklahoma State University.

"I've been going to the field since I could walk and talk and annoy college kids," Anderson said. "I could take that one of two ways: I could get burnt out quick and kind of shy away from baseball. Or I could eat it up. Fortunately for me, I've eaten it up all the way through."

The entire question with Anderson revolves around health. He won 11 games for the Oakland A's in 2009 – finishing sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting – and hasn't topped that number since. There's been a Tommy John surgery and disabled-list time for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.

"If you dwell on the negative, you're going to worry yourself sick," Anderson said. "Pitching's fun – good, bad or indifferent – (so) you have to have a positive outlook, because otherwise you just walk around with a black cloud over your head."

The only other time Anderson hit the 30-start mark would be 2015, when he threw a career-high 180.1 innings, put up a 3.69 ERA and led the majors with a 66.7 groundball percentage. He couldn't repeat that performance with the Los Angeles Dodgers, accounting for 11.1 innings last year and not making the roster in either playoff round.

The "hybrid" fifth/sixth starter idea manager Joe Maddon floated sounds good in theory and we'll see how it works with Anderson and Mike Montgomery and a veteran rotation with strong opinions and clear ideas about routines. But the Dodgers needed 15 different starting pitchers to survive the 162-game marathon last year and seemed to run out of gas by the time the National League Championship Series returned to Wrigley Field.

"You can't have too much depth coming from where I was last year in L.A.," Anderson said. "We used so many starters. Obviously, that wasn't really the case here, which you can't really bank on year in and year out. But if I'm healthy, everything else will work itself out and I'll take my chances.”

Cubs: How Ryan Dempster wound up on Team Canada for World Baseball Classic

Cubs: How Ryan Dempster wound up on Team Canada for World Baseball Classic

MESA, Ariz. – During an escalating prank war, Ryan Dempster once arranged for a camera crew to shadow Will Ohman in spring training and sell the journeyman reliever on being the star in a TV special.

But Dempster isn't trying to punk anyone by playing for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic – even though he's almost 40 years old and hasn't pitched in a competitive environment since Game 1 of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park.

Don't let the Harry Caray/Will Ferrell impersonations fool you. Dempster always had a different side to his personality, an edge that allowed him to recover from Tommy John surgery, transition from 30-save closer back to All-Star starter and throw nearly 2,400 innings in The Show.

Still, it sort of felt like a reality show or a time machine or a spin-off from a Kris Bryant Red Bull ad on Monday at Field 1, the most secluded spot to throw live batting practice at the Sloan Park complex. On a cool, gray day, Dempster looked the same with his reddish beard, glove waggle, white pinstriped pants and blue Nike cleats.

Before stepping into the batter's box, Cubs president Theo Epstein tried to talk a little trash with Dempster: "I know I can't hit big-league pitching, but I'll see if I can hit you."

Besides Epstein, the eclectic group of hitters included Tommy La Stella and minor-leaguer Todd Glaesmann. Dempster threw roughly 50 pitches to Lance Rymel, a former farm-system catcher who will manage a Dominican summer league team this year. The audience included one reporter, six fans, a group of curious Cubs staffers and reliever Jim Henderson, who is in camp on a minor-league deal and will also pitch for Team Canada.

"I'm not going to be disrespectful to the whole process," Dempster said. "I'm not just like playing in a beer league and then decide: 'Eh, I'll throw against the Dominican team. The U.S. looks like they're pretty stacked, but I'll be all right.' I know what it entails going into this.

"At the end of the day, I'm not so worried about velocity. I'm worried about command and my ability to change speeds. It has been pretty funny to see the reactions, and I can understand why people would see it as far-fetched. But I always liked a good challenge."

Dempster first hatched this idea during a Fourth of July vacation, somewhere around Sequoia National Park in California. The group included Ted Lilly – another pitcher who got by with guts and became a special assistant in Epstein's front office – and former bullpen catcher Corey Miller.

"I just said: 'For old times' sake, why don't I throw a side?'" Dempster recalled. "I thought for sure when I woke up the next day I wouldn't be able to lift my arm up. And it felt really good."

Dempster continued with a throwing program – even through a trip to Hawaii after the World Series – and contacted Greg Hamilton, the head coach and director of Baseball Canada. As a Cub, Dempster had been the one leading runs up Camelback Mountain and showing younger pitchers like Jeff Samardzija how to train for 200 innings.

"I wasn't sure if he was serious or not," said Epstein, who did make contact against Dempster. "And then when I figured out he meant it and had a plan, I knew he'd be fine, because he's such a hard worker and he's really smart. If he's going to put the time in to get ready, I knew he'd be fine. He'll be competitive, for sure."

Dempster understood how to put together his own program with a focus on his legs, strengthening his core and shoulder exercises. To be clear, this isn't setting the stage for a comeback, the way game-over closer Eric Gagne is hoping to use Team Canada as a launching pad (after not pitching in the big leagues since 2008).

"This is just a chance to represent my country," said Dempster, who grew up in British Columbia and played on junior national teams in the 1990s. "Sometimes – I'm not bored – but a challenge in life or an opportunity presents itself. (And) it's a good lesson to teach my kids: If you work hard at something, you can do (it) and hopefully it pays off."

Dempster went out on top as a World Series champion, walking away from $13.25 million rather than pitch for the Boston Red Sox in 2014. He signed on with MLB Network and rejoined the Cubs as a special assistant in baseball operations. If he had to pick a lane, it would probably be entertainment and building off his Cubs Convention late-night format and sketches like "The Newlywed Game" with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

But Dempster still needs a fix. The star-studded cast from the Dominican Republic – Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz – will be waiting on March 9 at Marlins Park.

"Major League Baseball, professional sports aren't a normal job," Dempster said. "How do you go from that extreme high, the adrenaline rush of going out there and pitching in front of 40-grand every day to…now what do you do that satisfies you? I'm trying to find that, make my way towards that. I feel like I will eventually get there."