Chicago Fire

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Cubs Need Run Producer

Friday, October 9th
CSNChicago.com

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Alex Rios, Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, and his picks for ALNL CY Young Awards.

Question from Sacramento, Chicago, IL: Hello Steve, what do u think Greg Walker will try to do with Alex Rios this off season? I've heard his stance is really horrible for a guy his size. I really feel bad for the guy, it seems like he is really trying out there. What can be done to fix his swing this off season?

Steve Stone: I dont think Greg Walker is going to do anything with Rios this off season. I think he will go back home to Puerto Rico. I think whatever work there is to be done will be done in spring training. The swing itself seems to be okay, but perhaps a little tweaking of the stance or the hand position as he moves down into his swing is something that Greg might want to deal with this spring. I think he will bounce back in 2010 but when he has had success with a batting style, it's hard to ask to change it. I believe in some minor tweaking instead a major overhaul will probably work the best.

Question from Bruce, Walkerton, Indiana: Hi Steve, to become more athletic and faster for next year, would someone like Nate McLouth be an answer to a Quentin, McLouth, Rios outfield? Then re-sign Podsednik as DH?

Steve Stone: Nate would certainly be a nice addition to the team but I dont think Atlanta will give him up after trading for him with the Pirates. When the White Sox inquired about him, Pittsburgh didnt want anything to do with him, which knowing the talent in the White Sox system makes me wonder about the wisdom of Neil Huntington, their new GM. As far as signing Podsednik for the DH, possibly but Ozzie said he will rotate DH's for next year. I dont think a one year contract for Podsednik would be a bad idea especially if it is incentive laden to guard against the injuries that he has suffered in the past. I think from a hitting standpoint, he had a remarkable three quarters of the season for the White Sox. When you factor in base running and defense, the total picture isnt quite as good but as a designated hitter as part of his job description, especially with a lack of a leadoff hitter that the Sox currently have, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Question from Charlie, Scottsdale, AZ: Geovany Soto had a tough year, but seemed to turn it around late. Do you see him as the Cubs starting catcher next season?

Steve Stone: Charlie from Scottsdale, Geovany Soto did have a rough year; as far as turning it around late, when you are hitting in the two teens, it's hard to say you turned it around. Yes I do see him as a starting catcher next year, however the Cubs have a decision to make. Either get Soto in terrific shape this offseason so he comes back and enjoys a kind of year like he did his rookie year, or let him gain as much as he wants to, suggest he hit his weight and then hope for a remarkable season. I prefer the former to the latter. The Cubs have said however that Soto didnt gain a lot of weight coming into this year which surprises me because everybody seems to believe that he looked a little more rotund after his stay at the World Baseball Classic. Im not saying that marijuana and brownies go hand in hand but I heard that sometimes, thats what happens.
Question from Lee, Chicago, IL: Derrek Lee has to be the Cubs team MVP right?

Steve Stone: Lee from Chicago, when the team doesnt go to the playoffs, there really is no reason to have a team MVP. Could they have not made it to the playoffs without Derrek Lee? I think so. Just like you could take anybody off the team and they still would not have made it to the playoffs. I believe he had a wonderful year especially when you factor in that much of the time he didnt have a lot of offensive support around him. But understand, dont assume he will have the same kind of year. Take Derrek back to his average year and you will realize like the Cubs do, you have to add one more solid run producing bat. Where have I heard that before? Oh, thats right, I heard that last year and so they added Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles for a combined total of 35 million dollars. That 35 million dollar obligation netted them for one full season; 45 runs batted in. So I suggest this year when they go out on the market to find a run producer, they actually find one who has averaged more than 50.7 runs batted in his entire career. I know this will surprise you, but Milton Bradley coming into last year averaged 50.7 runs batted in per season. He drove in 40 this year. What in the world made Jim Hendry believe that he was going to be a run producer seeing as the previous nine years he had never been one before. The irony is that when they signed Milton Bradley, less than one year ago, and I said that exact same thing, everybody said I was anti-Cub. I was a bitter former employee; that I was evaluating them for all the wrong reasons. I think it has born out over the course of the year that that particular assessment turned out to be fairly accurate. I hope Milton has a lot of luck with whatever team has the courage to take him on along with his 21 million dollars remaining in the two years he has left on his contract.
Question from Allen, Chicago, IL: Who do you think will win the ALNL Cy Young Award? Im going with Zack Greinke.

Steve Stone: Allen in Chicago I am thinking Chris Carpenter and Zach Greinke. The question is who do you have for MVP? I am thinking a tight race between Joe Mauer, Mark Teixiera and Derek Jeter. My vote would go to Derek Jeter however Joe Mauer will probably win it. In the National League, its Albert Puljos and nobodys in second place. Manager of the year, National League, Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies. American League, Joe Girardi, New York Yankees although Ron Gardiner will probably win it. I also believe that Mike Scioscia should be in line for kudos and might sneak in there because what he had to deal with, all the injuries, the death of Adenheart and all the challenges. But in a four team division, when the other teams arent that good, it's not that difficult to win. I just think that Mike is one of the best around. Executive of the year, National League Mozeliak. St. Louis Cardinals, looking eye to eye with the Chicago Cubs, Mozeliak added Matt Halladay, Mark DeRosa, and Julio Lugo. Jim Hendry added John Grebo, Jeff Baker and Tom Gorzelanny. Enough said. American league Executive of the year its easy when you have an open checkbook and you can spend 429 million dollars but you still have to respect Bryan Cashman for the addition of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixiera. It is one thing to talk about it, as so many other teams did, its another thing to get them. Couple that with the trade for Nick Swisher, turning out to be a very good one and Brian Cashman becomes the American League executive of the year. Rookie of the year in the National League I would say Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves although I am probably leaving out many good candidates but I am partial to pitchers and though I would love to say Gordon Beckham, I would say Rick Porcello of the Tigers will probably win rookie of the year. At 20 years old, what he did was absolutely remarkable.

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With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

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USA TODAY

With tougher games awaiting, Fire miss opportunity to gain ground in standings

Saturday got off to a good start for the Fire with New York City FC drawing at home, but the Fire were unable to gain ground in the race for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Not only did the Fire fail to gain ground, they lost ground. Philadelphia smashed the Fire 3-1 on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, leaving the Fire four points behind NYCFC for second and vulnerable to the chasing pack. Atlanta can pass the Fire for third place with a win against Montreal on Sunday, and still would have a game in hand.

Things don’t get any easier for the Fire with a trip at San Jose coming up on Wednesday. The Earthquakes are in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference and have one home loss this season.

While Philadelphia has won a majority of its home matches this season, it was the easiest of the three remaining road games on the Fire’s schedule. In addition to the trip to San Jose, the Fire close the regular season at Houston, another team in the playoff hunt that has just one home loss this year.

So Saturday wasn’t such a good day for the Fire.

The game marked the first start for defender Joao Meira since Aug. 16, but midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho missed once again. This was the third straight game Schweinsteiger missed and two straight for Juninho.

Philadelphia took the lead on a Chris Pontius header in the 10th minute and added goals in the second half by Pontius and C.J. Sapong to secure a three-goal lead. Luis Solignac, who came off the bench to replace David Accam in the 60th minute, provided the Fire with a consolation goal, but there wasn’t another to make things interesting in the final minutes.

With four games left in the regular season, the Fire have a pair of tricky games coming up with that trip to San Jose before a big one at home against NYCFC.

Justin Wilson isn’t running away from big moments with Cubs: ‘I want the ball’

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AP

Justin Wilson isn’t running away from big moments with Cubs: ‘I want the ball’

MILWAUKEE – The Cubs have tried to find lower-pressure spots for Justin Wilson to work on things and rebuild his confidence without publicly burying a lefty reliever they specifically targeted before the July 31 trade deadline.

Both manager Joe Maddon and team president Theo Epstein have given Wilson the vote of confidence, though the real test will be whether or not the Cubs actually trust him in the playoffs.

“It’s an open book of communication here,” Wilson said. “We talk. I’ve talked to them and said: ‘Hey, I’m going to get right. I want the ball. I just want to keep getting back out there.’”

Even after All-Star closer Wade Davis blew his first save in more than a year, the Cubs could find big-picture optimism about their bullpen because Wilson got four outs during Saturday’s 4-3 10-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

“How good was that?” Maddon said. “That’s really something looking forward. He made a nice adjustment out there. It looked really good from the side. If we get that out of him, that could be a huge difference-maker for us.”

That was the idea when the Cubs made Wilson their headliner in the package deal with catcher Alex Avila and reinforced the bullpen for another World Series run. Wilson closed for the Detroit Tigers, notching 13 saves for a bad team, putting up a 2.48 ERA in 42 appearances and shutting down left- and right-handed hitters.

Wilson – who gave up 16 walks in 40.1 innings for Detroit – allowed 16 walks and 17 hits through his first 14.1 innings as a Cub while putting up a 6.28 ERA.

On a smoking 88-degree afternoon and in front of a loud crowd of 44,067, Wilson faced the top four hitters in the Milwaukee lineup and unleashed 17 fastballs in a row, all of them buzzing around 95-97 mph across the seventh and eighth innings. Wilson struck out Eric Sogard and Neil Walker, forced Ryan Braun to fly out to left field and struck out Travis Shaw swinging.

With stuff like that, the magic number to clinch the National League Central title in the low single digits and another week left in the regular season, the Cubs hope Wilson can figure it out and become the late-inning weapon they envisioned.       

“Clearly, it hasn’t been the same for me from before the trade,” Wilson said. “I just want to keep pitching.”