Cubs prepared to make last stand at Wrigley

Cubs prepared to make last stand at Wrigley
September 21, 2010, 1:13 am
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Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
8:14 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

In six days Wrigley Field will go dark until April 1, 2011. The front office has approximately 117 more innings left in this season to help it decide which pieces should be kept for the next Opening Day.

The San Francisco Giants will wake up Tuesday morning in first place in the National League West, though less than two games separate them from the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies within the division.

That will give some meaning to a three-game series that begins Tuesday night in a city that has moved on to the 2-0 Bears. The years final homestand ends with the St. Louis Cardinals, who could be mathematically eliminated by the weekend.

The goal is to again become playoff contenders, and general manager Jim Hendry has said that the Cubs are only a few moves away, though at this point its unclear what they will be or how much money he will have to spend.

The stronger you finish this year, the more positive things (can happen) next year, Ryan Dempster said. Thats why I think its important to go through the finish line and not to it, because a lot of good comes out of it.

Lets say you were one of the 41,306 fans walking out of the ballpark on April 12 and someone stopped you on Clark Street to tell you all this. After the 2010 home opener, would you take it?

Carlos Zambrano hasnt lost a game since June 25. Dempster is closing in on a 15-win season. Ted Lilly is nearing 30 starts and almost 200 innings with his surgically-repaired left shoulder.

Carlos Marmol has more strikeouts by far than any other reliever in baseball and could finish with close to 40 saves in his first full season as closer. Sean Marshall has developed into one of the best set-up men in baseball.

Alfonso Soriano hasnt spent any time on the disabled list this year. Marlon Byrd is an All-Star. Geovany Soto can put his offensive numbers up against any other catcher. Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation.

That of course isnt a complete view of the big picture. With all that has gone right, the Cubs (68-81) wont spend a single moment above .500 all season.

No one knows if that masks deeper flaws on this roster what if theres a drop-off in any of those areas next year? or maybe you can write-off Aramis Ramirez still hitting under .200 in July as a freak occurrence and bank on some of the 16 other rookies the Cubs used this season to show significant growth in 2011.

(Lets) just keep riding it out, Jeff Samardzija said. Trust me its better to end a season on a positive note than a negative note.

Soto and Colvin spent Mondays day off in separate hospitals roughly 1,300 miles apart. Soto underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in Chicago and is expected to be at full health by New Years Day. Colvin will remain in Miami for further observation after a broken maple bat punctured his chest cavity the day before.

That Colvin became such an integral part of this unpredictable season even though its now over for him will go down as one of its biggest surprises.

Pieces from teams that won two division titles were sold off to the Los Angeles Dodgers (Lilly, Ryan Theriot) and Atlanta Braves (Derrek Lee). Mike Fontenot will be back at Wrigley Field this week in a San Francisco uniform.

If you bought tickets months in advance hoping to see a team fighting for a playoff spot, then the Giants are as good as its going to get. And what might have been a farewell tour for Lou Piniella will instead be a homecoming for Mike Quade.

The Cubs are 17-7 since Quade took over for Piniella and that represents the best start by a Cubs manager in 78 years, since Charlie Grimm in 1932. They just finished an 8-1 road trip, something that had never happened before in club history.

You mean that dude in 32 didnt do that? Quade joked when relayed the stat.

Its hard to ignore the results, and just as difficult to make evaluations once the pressures off and the rosters expand in September.

But the pitching staff did post a 1.46 ERA on the nine-game trip. The veterans still seem very much engaged, and the young players have responded to a new voice. Taken together, that cant hurt Quades candidacy, though he wont say so publicly.

I got Oct. 3 on my mind to do the best job that we can do for the next two weeks, Quade said. Its foolish for me to go any further than that.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.