Ricky Renteria is Outstanding

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I really thought that this was going to be a quiet off season. You know, get ready for Christmas, enjoying Thanksgiving(to my American friends) but suddenly it’s like the season never ended and the onslaught of Cubs news coming through.

It’s official.

Joe Maddon in. Ricky Renteria out.

There. As those words words spew from my fingertips, I still have mixed emotions. It is true that in Theo Epstein’s statement, “Rick deserved to come back for another season” This is true and yet, there wasn’t any other way to put the series of events down in another way. Theo Epstein and the organization did a great job in handling the awkward situation.

Monday is a new beginning.

In the manager’s circle there are three managers that any club would pursue in a heartbeat. Bruce Bochy, Buck Showalter and of course, Joe Maddon. It’s hard to dispute and I’m sure that people have their favourites, but my pick is definitely Joe Maddon.

There’s no question Rick will find work elsewhere. He’s got a growing reputation around the MLB and way back at the start of the season, I wrote that the Cubs were in good hands with Ricky.  So did the players.

“I believe he did a wonderful job with the circumstances he was presented with this past season,” pitcher Carlos Villanueva said Friday. “It is very hard to be evaluated after only one season managing, especially when your two best starters are traded away midseason.

Let’s face it, as much as Ricky Renteria improved the clubhouse and the record, the Cubs still did have their difficulties and growing pains, but he was well respected in the clubhouse, with the players and us, the fans.

In a way, Ricky did the job. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo turned into the marquee players that the organization wanted them to be. That is very good.

“He helped make them All-Stars along the way and did all that was asked of him and more,” Villanueva said. “There are things that happen that only the people who are in the clubhouse at times know of, but with all the challenges Renteria faced, he did great. Whoever gets him will have an outstanding baseball man.”

Believe it.

—Mark

Cubs Get Schooled By Cardinals

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The Cubs are looking like a great team but in yesterday’s loss they found the key ingredient that champions have which the Cubs still need to acquire.  A good come from behind victory.  The Cubs were up 5-0 in the 2nd inning when the Cardinals had to remind the North Siders that they still need some discipline. The Cubs went on to lose to St. Louis 9-6

“Our goal down the stretch is to break as many hearts as possible,” Carlos Villanueva said. “We play a lot of teams that are in contention now, and that’s how we’ll learn to win those games. We have a month left and we’ll see how we do.”

Even though they lost yesterday, you have to hand it to the Cubs they finished August with a 16-14 winning record, not bad at all.

Today marks the Wrigley Field debut of Jorge Soler. The rookie outfielder has made an impressive debut in August and looks to improve on his stellar numbers in September when the Cubs play the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I think everybody’s excited about all these guys,” manager Rick Renteria said of the Cubs prospects. “I’m sure there will be some enthusiasm and some desire to see Soler. They’ve been talked about a lot. I think people have been waiting anxiously to see part of the future, and rightfully so. These guys are pretty exciting players. We’re seeing it firsthand. Hopefully, Soler will have a good day, and people will be excited about what they see.”

It’s hard to believe that school’s just about in and there’s less than a month left in the baseball season but for the freshmen Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, class has started. It’s just a shame though that fans didn’t get a chance to see more of these future All Stars but we’ll take what we can get, right?

Theo Epstein has ruffled a lot of fans’ feathers when it comes to the “Cubs’ Way” preaching patience but we’re the ones eating crow when we see these guys hitting and running and you know, doing all those things that rookies do. Manny Ramirez a player coach? WTF?

“I learned a lot from Manny,” Soler said. “When I was with him in Iowa, he was always talking to me about hitting, about personal stuff, what I’m doing on the field, off the field. He’s a tremendous person. I always tried to be around him and tried to be the best I can.”

Sorry about that Theo.  What do you mean Baez isn’t going to get called up in April? Right again, Theo. There’s a reason the guy has won two World Series.

Believe it.

—Mark

For The Cubs, All Good Things—

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals

It’s kind of fitting that Jeff Samardzija was supposed to start yesterday but in the deal to the Athletics, the Cubs fell 13-0 to the Nationals yesterday. I have a theory though, now bear with me on this; Carlos Villanueva hasn’t been the same since the mustache came off. I don’t think the Cub’s loss was a result of Hamell and Samardzija being traded. It came down to the Mustache. The “Villan” was only on the mound for two and some change innings. He was no longer the Villan.

“Samardzija was here for a while and Hammel was a good guy here, but they’re gone now,” Villanueva said. “Tomorrow, other guys are going to come in, and they’re going to be our brothers here. You get forgotten quick. They’ll love those guys over there in Oakland now. When they leave, they’ll probably be sad for a couple days. But you’ve got to keep working because, ultimately, we are here to do a job.”

That job, Cubs fans, and there should be a support group for us who deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that this team goes through on a daily basis. We deal with a pledge by Theo Epstein that this is all part of the plan to be “Committed” and the “Cubs Way of Life” but for Dave at Cubs Crossings How long will that take? This year? Next Year? We’re patient folks us Cub’s fans but sometimes the frustration is well, frustrating that they should have a competitive team. That after 105 years No championship? That’s crazy, but I believe in Theo’s plan. It’s not for everyone but let’s face it, Samardzija had to go and now the torch is passed onto Jake Arrieta to lead the pitching staff with Travis Wood.

“I really feel there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Epstein said. “We appreciate our fans’ patience and we’re working extremely hard to reward them with a team they can be proud of for a long time at Wrigley Field. This group has a chance to stay together and our fans have a chance to get to know them, and not just for one or two years.”

There’s the rub. Fans want a team to stick around for a long time. The Cubs faithful need that and deserve that from the organization. Sure, it would be a quick fix to go out and spend gobs of money on a band aid solution but where will that lead? Soriano? Done it. Ramirez? Nope. Building from the ground up is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

Theo Epstein is a student of Sabermetrics or he just wants to be like Billy Beane. Changing the culture of the team and players coming into the organization respecting the history of the team and believing in the common goal will happen. Right now, thirty years old is ancient on the team. That’s exciting. The Cubs now have the best system in baseball and if a Wild Card doesn’t happen this year, and it’s highly unlikely, but not totally off base, then next year if players are called up then the Cubs will be there and good times will be back at Wrigley Field.

Believe It.

—Mark

Cubs Have Only One Thing Left To Do, “Win The Whole Thing”

I really didn’t see this one coming. Last night’s victory came down to the Duke of Welington Castillo and his three run rocker into the stands. A nice souvenir that one. 6-3

“Welington got a good fastball, got a pitch up to hit and did a nice job with it,” Rick Renteria said. “I don’t think he was thinking too much in terms of innings. I think he just wanted to get in there and do his job and he got a good pitch to handle, and he drove it out of the ballpark.”

There’s a question circulating from the bleachers and that is, “What are they going to do with Jose Veras?” I even heard that some people are yelling, “We want Marmol back!” No, I made that one up. Veras is 0-2 so what should the Cubs do? Yeah, it’s not even a month into the season so hopefully he can iron out the kinks, but if I were Renteria, I’d be keeping someone on standby.

The Cubs were lucky to squeeze out that victory, but they fought back which if anyone has anything nice to say about the 2014 edition of the North Siders is that they’re gutsy and similar to the 1988 Cleveland Indians with Ricky Vaughn on the mound. Wait a minute.

The fact that the Cubs took game one away from the much despised St. Louis Cardinals is a great victory that will carry forth into today’s matchup when Carlos “The Villain” Villanueva takes on the great Adam Wainwright. This is the key game in the series. Yesterday, I said that if the Cubs can take the series away from the Cardinals it would be a turning point for the team this year but really, if they can beat Wainwright then the Cubs, who are four games behind the surprising Brewers can remain in the hunt for the Central.

With Emilio Bonifacio’s amazing young season, the Cubs must decide what to do with Gold Glove winner, Darwin Barney. Do they trade him or keep him. All clichés point to Dancing With The One Who Got You There and Bonifacio is the guy this season so they’ve got to use him.

“I’m still getting used to finding ways to get myself prepared during the game,” Barney said. “In the past, off-days were to rest. Now, I have to find a way to be mentally prepared for that first at-bat, which could be a big at-bat in the game. For me, that’s the mindset I’m taking. I’ve got a ‘C’ on my chest, and we’re trying to win as many games as I can.”

Darwin Barney is quite a guy and he’ll help out the team any way he can.

—Mark

Villanueva Has Strong Start for Cubs

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The Cubs deserve a much needed day off today after an 8-3 dismantling of the woeful Phillies. Everything went right for the Cubs in the victory. Ryan Kalish collected three RBI’s, Emilio Bonifacio continued his quest to represent the Cubs at the All Star game and Carlos Villanueva had a stellar day on the mound for the Northsiders.

Now the bad news. Starlin Castro. He’s slowly playing a better game but his error on a chance for a double play, but bobbled the ball and the Phillies loaded the bases. These are things that can be fixed. If Rick Renteria hasn’t started pulling his hair out yet, he might start to.

Emilio Bonifacio made a nice grab and leap proving he’s no slouch on defence.

“That went from a moment of head down to a very excited, ‘I can’t believe we had somebody play there,'” Villanueva said of Bonifacio’s play in the fifth. “The inning before, we make an error, and the next inning, we have somebody there. It’s a crazy game. Today it worked for us. Sometimes you’re upset at the shift, sometimes nobody complains.”

In fact, it was hugs all around when Rick Renteria hugged Villanueva after his performance. I believe this is the right attitude the Cubs have to have in the dugout. Maybe not so much a huggy feely type, I mean C’mon, those, “Lovable losers” is going way too far, but maybe a positive feeling might help with player’s morale this season because as we know, this one’s going to be a very long one for sure.

“He’s a big hugger,” Villanueva said of the rookie manager. “He worked his magic on me.”

Jose Veras struggled in the closer role and almost cost it for the Cubs. It happens, at least this early in the season, but I’d prefer Pedro Strop in that role.

—Mark

Cubs Looking For First Home Win

Go Cubs Go!

Go Cubs Go!

It’s great to see Wrigley Field back. Sure the Cubs lost their home opener and things got slightly better yesterday in the 2-0 loss to the Phillies, but it’s stuff that we weren’t all ready expecting, right? We had a great day despite the Cubs loss. Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and the pride of Canada Fergie Jenkins singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game made it awesome. Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies provided the backbone and an excellent job as usual.

In particular, yesterdays loss had some shining spots for Emilio Bonifacio and Starlin Castro. Both Bonifacio and Castro had great days with Bonifacio getting two hits and Castro three hits. Is it time to brand them a nickname? Not yet.

The Cubs are a more exciting team this season than in a while. Bonifacio’s strength on base and Anthony Rizzo attempted bunting yesterday. The Cubs are trying to find ways to win, plain and simple.

“It’s OK if it’s a broken record — you keep repeating it and you keep talking about it,” Rick Renteria said. “You never stop talking about it until you start to understand it and get a good feel for it. A lot of it is more games, just keep getting in more games. I know we didn’t come up with a victory today, but for me, it was a ballgame we were in the whole way.”

Maybe the Cubs should use this season as a practice season for when the prospects come up? The Cubs have to cure that Runners In Scoring Position problem they have. There’s the broken record right there. Once they fix that problem, they might be contenders because they’ve got the talent and hey, it’s great seeing Starlin hitting the ball again. They’ll be singing a different tune.

Carlos Villanueva gets the start today.

Yup, “Baseball season is underway, so you better get ready…”

Believe it.

Mark

Cubs Need A Rusin To Believe

Happy Birthday Wrigley Field, you wear it well.

The Crosstown Classic started a little early this year. Yesterday it got heated up with the Cubs walloping the White Sox, 7-0. The unsung hero of the day was Cubs future utility guy, Luis Valbuena. He sent two into the stratosphere sending a message that this year’s Crosstown Classic will be owned by the Northsiders.

“I’m not really up on the White Sox-Cubbie history, even though I’ve heard it’s pretty intense, which is pretty cool,” Renteria said.

It’s very cool Rick and welcome to it. Having two teams in the same city is always exciting. It turns friends into rivals and President’s into comedians. When President Obama pinned the Medal of Freedom on Ernie Banks last November, he couldn’t help put a dig into the Cubs.

“Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs, as for his cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way,” he said. “That’s serious belief. That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect.”

Well, it’s going to take a lot more than optimism and faith for the Cubs to go all the way this year. The Cubs shouldn’t have too much trouble with the Chicago White Sucks this year(How’s that for a dig, Mr. President?) but the competition for the rotation has gotten more fierce with Chris Rusin after he had five scoreless innings while keeping the hits to a minimum.

“My confidence is very high,” Rusin said. “I had a great spring last year, too, but this year, to follow it up with another good spring, which is an important time for me, is big. I’ve just got to keep going, that’s all I can say about that.”

Which is just about all the Cubs can say about that. The rotation is up in the air with Samardzija trade rumours and Travis Wood, Jake Arrieta, Rusin and Carlos Villanueva all vying for a spot. The infield should be set if the Cubs do decide to ship out Darwin Barney and leave Mike Olt and Javier Baez in this year, but that rotation has to be figured out.

Believe It!

—Mark